To tell or not to tell? For me, for now, I have told the people I’m closest to who are affected by my ADHD and who can help me deal with it and can deal with me more effectively and happily with that knowledge. I do not tell co-workers, loose-lipped friends, or most other people in my life. A primary reason for this is my profession, which is notoriously…well, unwelcoming of ‘other’ in whatever form. I’m not saying this is OK – but I am determined, for now, not to personally shoulder this stigma professionally. Not yet.
I’m not ashamed of having ADHD, and I believe any stigma attached to having ADHD is unfair and uninformed. But the stigma exists all the same.
I keep saying ‘for now’ – not because I believe popular (or unpopular) prejudices about ADHD will change, although I hope they will. I say ‘for now’ because I know my complacency with keeping my ADHD hidden could change with another’s heartbeat.
Any biological child of mine is more likely to have ADHD. It is not a certainty, but it is a probability (as wanting children makes it more probable, but not certain, that I will have children).
I wouldn’t want my child to be ashamed of having ADHD, to feel the basic, unalterable wiring of her brain is a shameful secret to be hidden from the world.
Wouldn’t I be my child’s first example? Her first and lasting glimpse of how to handle this quirk of biology?
If I hide, wouldn’t that say I was ashamed of her?
I cannot ask a child to be braver than I; I cannot demand courage from another that I do not demand of myself.
Does this mean I must be open about my own ADHD before I even know whether I will have a child with ADHD? For my words of pride and strength to ring true, do I need to speak them before there is someone listening?
For now, at least, I choose to stay hidden, but not silent. I don’t have to tell people I have ADHD to challenge prejudice, ignorance, or negative comments.
Here are some interesting, thoughtful, or thought-provoking resources on the stigma of ADHD:
- NAMI StigmaBusters
- The ‘Own It’ Project (submissions through June 6, 2012)
- ‘Gigante’ (forthcoming documentary on Andres Torres)
- ADHD Awareness Week (October 2012)
- ADHD: Is Stigma Back in Style? (February 2012)
- 9 Myths, Misconceptions and Stereotypes About ADHD (June 2011)
- ADHD: The Stigma Is Gone (July 2010)
- Social Stigma Awaits Kids with ADHD (May 2007)
- Career Advice from Powerful ADHD and LD Executives (December/January 2005)
- Finding a Career that Works for You (undated)
- Myths and Misconceptions about ADHD: Science Over Cynicism (June 2003)
- Overcoming the ADHD Stigma (April/May 2003)
- ADD (ADHD) in the Workplace (from Kathleen G. Nadeau’s 1997 book)