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I Don't Fit the 'ADHD Stereotype' — but That's My Diagnosis

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In all my 19 years on this planet, the possibility that I may have ADHD never crossed my mind.

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So when I got my diagnosis earlier in the summer, I was shocked and had no idea what to do or say.

Many of us have that stereotyped view of kids with ADHD, right? That kid at the back of the class who’s disruptive and loud and misbehaved? Probably a boy?

I was never that kid. And when a psychiatrist first suggested I had ADHD, I dismissed it until he started to explain some of the symptoms more and I connected with the diagnosis. Actually, ADHD seemed plausible. I cried a lot and when I got my diagnosis, I cried even more.

Part of me still sees ADHD the way I always have — as something that makes you hyper, uncontrollable and loud. And from that stems ongoing doubts about whether I have ADHD. I believe this comes down to a lack of understanding and education where ADHD is concerned.

My diagnosis is combined ADHD — a mixture of the inattentive and hyperactive type. As per usual for me, it’s not black and white. I have traits of hyperactivity (fidgeting, getting out of my seat during work etc.) and traits of inattention (putting off tasks that take too much effort, forgetfulness etc.). I don’t wholly understand my diagnosis and dedicate a lot of my time to researching the ways I can help myself and understand a condition I didn’t know I had.

Other people’s reaction to my diagnosis was mixed. Most of my family were cool and supportive. I don’t have many friends, but the ones I had stood by me. Some people completely dismissed the idea.

“You don’t have ADHD!”

“You need to get a second opinion.”

When you doubt the diagnosis yourself, these comments can make life a thousand times worse. It’s clear that a lot of people see the “common” ADHD traits, but make the same assumptions I did and don’t see them in me. So therefore my diagnosis must be wrong, right?

I have tried to explain that ADHD primarily affects my cognition rather than my outward appearance. While my brain may be ticking all those ADHD boxes, I could just look like everyone else around me. But why should I bother explaining what goes on in my head if people will either not understand or deny what I feel? It’s not worth it.

I’m tired of constantly feeling like everyone else seems to know what’s going on in my head and I don’t. It’s surprising how many people around me are suddenly magically trained and qualified psychiatrists.

I have ADHD. The more I learn, the more I accept the diagnosis, but the harder it gets to sit and hold my tongue every time someone tells me I don’t have it or makes assumptions or clueless comments.

So the next time someone confides in you and tells you they have ADHD, don’t start picking apart their actions. If they don’t fit the stereotype in your opinion, don’t tell them this. The diagnosis probably didn’t come easy for them. Keep your judgments to yourself. And please remember that ADHD doesn’t just manifest in one way. I and many others don’t fit your stereotyped view of ADHD, but our diagnoses and struggles are still valid.

Image provided by contributor.

Originally published: November 8, 2018
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