Christine's Experience With Dealing With Disbelief
A diagnosis of adult ADHD is something of a mixed blessing. You experience euphoria and relief at finally knowing there is a reason why you are the way you are, but it does not magically make the past better. And adding a gaggle of vocal disbelievers makes everything much more challenging.
I should know. I live with a slowly converting skeptic.
‘You can't have ADHD, you aren't a kid’
Happy to share the good news, I told everyone. I stood back, feeling as though I'd conquered the world (or at least answered the burning question of why I was so different) and waited for the congratulations to pour in.
I was shocked and hurt by the less-than-supportive responses.
My mistake was in assuming that everyone just understood that adults could have ADHD, too. That my diagnosis might be questioned, or even outright rejected, never occurred to me.
So how do you cope with the people who don’t believe you when the initial euphoria over knowing you aren't just crazy, lazy or forgetful is over?
Learn About Your Condition
It’s time to read. Yes, you. You may think you already know everything out there about adult ADHD, but you are mistaken.
Take the time to invest in yourself and really delve into the subject. There are numerous places to do so; you’re already at a great spot to start. CHADD, ADDittude, NIMH, even Wikipedia are other great resources full of the latest information — information that will help you when having to deal with the skeptical comments your diagnosis may bring.
Know Your Worth
What are your talents? What are your best qualities? Think of all you have to bring to the table and write those things down.
Having ADHD does not render these things null and void any more than being a diabetic or surviving a heart attack would. Knowing your worth as an individual can give you the confidence you’ll need to face down your critics.
Be a Lover, Not a Fighter
People will say what they will, you cannot stop them. We all know this. That’s life.
However, you do not have to let it affect you or change your perception of who and what you are. They cannot take away what you are not willing to give.
Nor does it mean that you can’t say anything in your defense. Remember the sticks and stones adage? When someone makes a disparaging remark about ADHD — and someone eventually will — take a breath. Then take another.
Try not to react out of anger. They may know very little about ADHD and are only sharing misinformation they have heard.
No matter how long you have lived with your diagnosis, you are almost certain to feel a pang when someone spouts something ignorant. Nevertheless, reacting with defensiveness and anger makes a situation that could have been diffused with a few words into something horrendous and embarrassing for all parties.
‘ADHD Isn’t Real’
So what do you say when someone tells you the condition you live with every day isn’t real? It depends.
If the comment comes from a close friend or family member, you can let them know that neuroscience has proved it exists. Use their facial expression to judge whether you take it further or let it drop.
Perhaps they aren’t yet ready for you to launch into a full-blown discussion of how a ‘normal’ brain functions vs. how an ADHD brain functions. And that’s okay. Sometimes, especially with those who have known you for most of your life, they need time to digest what you have told them. Be patient with them. No one likes being force-fed.
Find the Humor
Nothing can ease a situation better than humor. If the squirrel remark is tossed out, you can laugh and reply that (sigh) “Squirrels are lucky aren’t they? Never having to hear the same old jokes repeatedly. They might be onto something, huh?”
Humor can work magic. You successfully made your point, but in a way that elicits a grin instead of another insult or an escalation into something befitting The Jerry Springer Show. It’s my own best defense against rude and nasty comments and I use it often.
‘ADHD is Just an Excuse for Being a Screw Up’
But what if the person in question really believes ADHD is just an excuse for being lazy or flighty or unreliable?
I mentioned earlier that I live with a slow to convert skeptic. I can tell you from six years of hard lessons learned in the what not to do category, that talking and showing proof will not matter. Not when you’re talking to a man firmly anchored in the ‘actions speak louder than words’ camp.
What worked best in those early turbulent years, and still does, was taking many a deep breath and not giving in to my impulses to yell mean things at him out of anger and hurt feelings. I began working on and maintaining a daily routine, doing my best to be consistent and accountable for the things I said I'd do, and apologizing promptly when a mistake was made. It goes a long way.
I found out that it was his lack of trust that he could count on me to do what I said I would that bothered him most of all. He only admitted to this last year. Did I mention he is the strong, silent type?
For the one I love most to be my biggest critic was my worst nightmare and is becoming my biggest victory. I’ve not yet managed to completely convince him that ADHD isn’t a crutch, or an excuse to be trotted out over every little oopsie, but my not reacting so quickly and maintaining that day to day routine is winning him over to the dark side, slowly but surely.