Recently, in the context of small private groups, I’ve spoken up more about my experience, and the challenges I face, in living, working, and running a business as a woman with ADHD.
I was first diagnosed almost 20 years ago, when I was still working as an attorney, but I didn’t talk about it much in public.
While the diagnosis fits, I’ve always resisted the label. First, anyone who has ADHD knows that there is no “deficit” of attention. Second, the idea of a “disorder” doesn’t sit well with me; I consider it a “diff-order” — a different order of my mind.
Also there is the shame that comes with dealing with any issue that sets us apart from the mainstream. Especially when it comes to issues that might seem to impact our productivity or fitness for our work.
People didn’t talk as openly about these issues, especially as they concerned adults in the workplace, when I was first diagnosed.
ADHD was — and often still is — seen as a thing that is specific to hyperactive boys. Because the condition manifests differently in girls, they are often not diagnosed until adulthood, if at all.
Although I thought I had fully accepted this part of myself, in reality what I did was develop a myriad of coping and compensation strategies to help me “pass” as neuro-typical.
As useful as my strategies are, I also know that trying to suppress ADHD is a denial of myself. There’s no half-in here; ADHD may create challenges for me, but it is also my superpower.
As I have learned more about my neuro-diversity, small groups have felt like a safe place for me to test the waters in sharing more openly about it.
The other day a woman from one of those communities reached out to tell me that things I had shared in our group deeply resonated with her.
She reminded me of something I had learned previously: when you allow yourself to be seen for who you are you can make a difference.
The Purim Connection
It’s no coincidence that this conversation with my new friend happened on the eve of Purim, which we celebrate today. This is one of the most important lessons of the Purim holiday.
When Esther becomes Queen, she keeps quiet about her nationality and religion. Behind the scenes, she works with her uncle Mordechai to report on palace intrigue.
Eventually, Mordechai pushes Esther to step forward and reveal her truth to the King, as a way to save her people from the fate of genocide pursuant to the decree issued by Haman, under the King’s authority.
He tells her that
If you will remain silent at this time, salvation will come to the Jews in some other way… But you and your legacy will be erased forever.
Approaching the King directly wasn’t an option for Esther: anyone who approached the King without being summoned risks death.
So what was she to do?
Like all good Queens, Esther had a strategy.
The story tells us that
Esther clothed herself regally, and she stood in the inner court of the king’s house, opposite the king’s house, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the royal palace, opposite the entrance of the house. And it came to pass when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she won favor in his eyes.
Once the King summoned her, Esther invited him to a banquet at which she petitioned for, and received, respite for her people. The story had a happy ending.
Esther knew she could use her voice and her platform to advocate for her people. And Esther knew that using her voice came second; the first step to being an advocate is to allow yourself to be seen.
Being Seen Gives You Standing
So it is with me, and with you. Whatever our calling in life, whoever we are here to serve, it’s not enough to advocate from the shadows. We must first be willing to come out of hiding and be seen in our truth, for who we are. Even in the struggle. Especially in the struggle.
For it’s the struggle that gives us the legs to stand on when using our voice to advocate for our people.