Although I did well throughout school, I always felt like I had to work so much harder than everyone else.
My first semester in college was a disaster. Coming from a rigorous high school where I worked all the time, college offered me a lot more free time and a lot less structure. It was like a dream … until I struggled with the reality of too much free time and too little structure.
I was in my early 30s and already working as an attorney when I was diagnosed with ADHD. On one hand, it put a lot of struggles from my past and present into better context for me.
But it also made me feel like I was the victim of a condition that had no cure.
For a long time, I’ve rejected ADHD, thinking I could overpower it by working harder. Part of my path of self-acceptance is learning to embrace all of myself. So it’s time to embrace ADHD rather than try to overcome it or hide it away.
The struggle is real, and it’s important to illuminate it.
That said, I don’t have to accept the presumptions and myths around this condition.
My biggest problem with ADHD is the label. Specifically, two troubling words: Deficit and Disorder.
Rejecting the Concept of ADHD as a “Disorder”
“Disorder” implies that there’s one accepted way of being, that there’s a “normal” we should all fit into, and if we don’t something is wrong with us. Perhaps this is why I’ve spent most of my life wondering “what’s wrong with me?”
Who gets to decide what “normal” looks like?
ADHD isn’t a “disorder;” it reflects a different type of order.
I like the concept of neurodiversity, which was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer and American journalist Harvey Blume in the late 1990s. Neurodiversity refers to
variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions.
Neurodiversity recognizes that conditions like ADHD come with gifts as well as challenges.
The Myth of ADHD as a “Deficit” of Attention
I never considered myself to have a “deficit” of attention. I have attention for things that interest me or entertain me. And sometimes I can zone in and focus for hours on something, losing track of time and everything else around me. This is hyperfocus — known as the superpower of ADHD.
I prefer to think of ADHD as “Attention Direction Difficulty,” which is more descriptive of what it feels like for me. Rather than a deficit of attention, I often feel like I’m lacking a filter that tells me where to direct my attention.
In other words, it’s a challenge of focus.