I absolutely cannot stand when people misuse the letters ADD and ADHD. Attention Deficit Disorder is a very real disability that about 1 in 10 people deal with. Phrases like, “Oh he’s so ADHD” “I’m just having an ADD day” make me so angry. Why is there this perception that people who have ADD think about squirrels all the time? Here is your friendly reminder that disabilities are not adjectives; they are nouns. A diagnosis does not define a person.
I have been dealing with ADD for my entire life. When I was growing up, I legitimately thought that I was stupid. For the life of me, I could not stay focused on one thing in school. I was what they would call a day dreamer. When I got to college, I often chose not to go to class because there was nothing worse than sitting in a room full of people and not knowing what the hell was going on except that a dude on the other side of the room has been online shopping for pants and just bought some from JC Penny’s.
Here is what it is like to be a student and sit in class with untreated ADD: The teacher is talking. Those kids over there are talking about getting drunk this weekend. The heat just kicked on. What am I doing later today? I miss my dog. When was the last time I saw my sister? Can that kid not tap his pencil? Oh shit. What is the teacher saying? Focus. Really do it. Alright. We’re focusing on the teacher. Just take it one word at a time. Fuck it, she may as well be speaking Japanese I cannot comprehend a word she’s saying.
It is hard to explain what it’s like to have ADD to someone who has never experienced it. Normally wired brains come with a built-in screen that filters the things that don’t matter and help someone focus on what does matter. This screen helps a person ignore those kids talking in the corner, the heater, the buzzing of the lights, this lady chewing her gum, etc. I don’t have that screen in my brain. It all enters my brain and I have a hard time choosing what’s important.
Because I am missing this screen, all these thoughts sprint around freely in my brain. It’s like constantly hearing the dull roar of a middle school lunchroom filled with 400 students. I do my best to reach out and grab a thought, but I can’t hold onto it. I try to grab another one and it slips away. On my third attempt, I miss completely and all the thoughts disappear. The awful silence kicks in as I try to remember what I was attempting to focus on in the first place.
I’m not here to complain about the way my brain is wired, and I’m not saying that everyone experiences ADD in the same way that I experience it. In fact, I can almost guarantee that no one else has had the exact same experience with this disorder as I have had. I am here to do my best at helping others understand.
If we change the way people talk about ADD, we can change the way people think about ADD. If we change the way people think about ADD, we can create a more passionate and understanding world.