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When I Discovered My Parents Hid My Disability From Me

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Growing up, I never felt like I was good enough. I struggled with self image, grades, cleanliness, social anxiety/awkwardness, and so on. This may seem like typical kid or teen behavior, but I was different.

I tried hard in school, yet never had good grades. I never understood why my room was always so messy, as it seemed to get like that without me even trying. I felt extremely awkward around other kids my age but couldn’t help my personality quirks. I knew I was different than others, but I never understood why. My home life contributed to this more than I realized as a kid.

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My parents constantly berated me for being a “difficult child.” They constantly compared me to others my age and commented on how much better they did in many areas. This created an extremely frustrating mental conflict as I knew I was trying my best at all times. But when I tried to express this to my parents, they never believed me.

Whenever I came home with bad grades, which was often, I would not hear the end of it. “You’re ‘stupid.’ You’re unmotivated. You’re lacking. You’re not trying hard enough. You could do better.” My mom started monitoring my grades daily and would punish me for anything below a C. It was torture. School was boring, but I definitely tried really hard to get good grades. I would often forget to do homework and fail to complete projects on time, which would wreak havoc on my grades. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to get my stuff done, so I wrongfully believed everything my parents told me.

Whenever my room was messy, which was again a lot, it was like a living hell. “You’re lazy. You’re a pig. You will never be able to live on your own. You’re disgusting.” My parents were clean freaks so they would constantly get on me about cleaning my room. I would try, but get so sidetracked and distracted without even realizing it in the process. This led to making my parents even more mad and they would punish me for not going fast enough. I mean, it did just take me an hour to clean one small section of my room — so they must be right. I believed their hurtful words again.

I had a hard time regulating my emotions as a kid. I got frustrated extremely easily, cried over everything, would have emotional outbursts, could never control my anger and was extremely sensitive. All this combined with knowing how hard I try while simultaneously thinking my parents must be right about me was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I constantly fought with my parents over everything. The whole “no one understands me” cliche teen thing was on a whole new level for me. No one understood me — at least that’s how it seemed.

Around freshman year I became very good friend with a guy; we’ll call him Gage. Gage was like me in a lot of ways and we bonded very fast and very close. Something about him matched with me in a very personal way but I never could put my finger on why. We both got excited easily, could talk for hours from one subject to the next without stopping, always wanted to adventure, and shared similar mindsets on things.

Eventually, Gage opened up to me about his struggle with ADHD. He was diagnosed as a kid and took medication to help with it. At first I didn’t think much of it. I had heard of ADHD but never did any extensive reading on it. But the more I was around Gage, something clicked. We were exactly alike.

I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. I couldn’t have ADHD; that seems like too easy of an explanation. After all, my parents told me about myself; I know why I’m like this.

However, during my junior year of high school I was crying in math class one day because no matter how hard I tried to focus on the lesson, I just couldn’t. It was beyond my control and math was not my strong suit to begin with, so I knew I was destined to fail. My math teacher pulled me aside to see what was wrong. After I explained myself, she told me that it sounds like I have ADHD and I should talk to someone.

All the same feelings came up about ADHD. I just was so unsure of myself. Claiming to have ADHD was not light. I felt like I was jumping to conclusions and making up excuses for myself. Despite these feelings, I took it upon myself to research ADHD when I got home.

The symptom list shocked me. I never had seen something that fit me so well. I was starting to open up to the idea that I have ADHD, though I was still slightly skeptical.

I sought resources my school had available; I needed a second opinion from someone who knew what they were talking about. The behavioral specialist told me I meet the requirements to be diagnosed with ADHD.

I honestly felt such relief. Finally I have some sort of answer to a lot of things I’ve never understood. I built up the courage to bring it up to my mom — big mistake.

I texted her and told her I think I might have ADHD and gave her a list of reasons why. She blew up on me. She said things like “You don’t have ADHD, that’s ridiculous! How can you sit there and do your makeup for 45 minutes straight yet have no focus? What, does your teacher think she’s some sort of psychiatrist?”

I was devastated. I thought my mom might open up to the idea, but instead she completely shot me down. She made me cry with everything she said to me. But I didn’t let her words faze me.

When I turned 18 I got myself health insurance, got ADHD testing and was finally diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder combined presence. I got put on medication and was finally able to feel like I could function on a day-to-day basis. It was the best feeling ever in my life.

One day, I confronted my mom about her abusive response to my suspicions before getting diagnosed. What she said next horrified me. She told me she hid the fact that I had ADHD from me my entire life over fear of my getting hooked on stimulant medication. Her best friend abused Adderall and became heavily dependent on it. I found out a lot of people in my family have ADHD, and it runs on her side.

I was lied to all those years over irrational fears fueled by false stigmas. I was furious. I still am. But I finally realized my parents’ hurtful words were meaningless, because I have a disability and I can’t help it. I have ADHD and I’m not going to be ashamed of it.

Getty image by Mladen Zivkovic.

Originally published: January 7, 2019
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