The next ADHD/squirrel joke I hear, I’m going to punch the person who said it right in the face. Same for “Oooooh shiny” or the “counting sheep/old McDonald” jokes. Stop it. You’re not funny. You’re not cute and quirky. You’re a jerk who makes people with ADHD feel like a joke. I’m very sure that what YOU suffer from is merely simple distractions. Everyone’s mind wanders from time to time that’s okay. It’s not “your ADHD kicking in” or whatever you want to call it. You don’t have “ADHD moments” You don’t have ADHD at all. So you wouldn’t know what it is. Well, here is what it’s ACTUALLY like.
ADHD can’t be turned off. ADHD doesn’t kick in. You can’t pick and choose.
ADHD is laying out everything you need for school the next day: Backpack, books, all clothes—right down to earrings and underwear, folders, pens, paper, pencils, laptop, everything, and forgetting to bring your house key with you.
ADHD is like sitting in class, listening to your professor speak about the French Revolution and suddenly finding yourself out in the hallway. You don’t know how you got there. You don’t remember getting up from your seat. No one saw you get up or leave, But when you notice you’re in the hallway, you rush back to your seat—again, no one noticed you left, no one noticed you came back in. You frantically look down at your notes. The last thing written was “French Fisherman’s Wives” but now the professor is talking about Kings. How did he get there? What happened in between? You don’t know, You were in the hallway, so you keep writing where you left off. Maybe you can ask your friends for the notes just ONE more time. Maybe they won’t roll their eyes at you and tell you to pay attention. You hope so. Without realizing it, while worrying about what your friends will say about your notes, you’ve stepped into the hallway again. You run back to your seat and stare straight ahead, watching the professor intently. Maybe by looking at him, you can listen better. He’s talking about that castle getting torn down by hand. You glance at your hands, thinking about how difficult it would be to tear down a stone castle. Did they use shovels or picks? Your nails aren’t nearly strong enough to tear through rock. They always bend backward on things when they’re too long. Actually. You need to cut them. Do that when you get home. Your nail clippers are…. Where? Uhm. You had them last a few days ago in your room. But then you cleaned. Were they in the bathroom? By the sink? You hear people get up around you. Class is over. You look down at your notes:
—French Fisherman’s Wives
– stormed castle
—King of France during ______A.D
—Castle torn down by villagers by hand (YIKES!)
An hour and a half’s worth of notes. This happens every day.
ADHD is having post-it notes EVERYWHERE in your house for quick note taking. ADHD is writing a post-it note reminding yourself to check your post-it notes.
ADHD is writing the most extensive, detailed, and organized list anyone has ever seen, just for waking up in the morning and starting your day.
ADHD is constantly hearing people tell you “just do it,” “Don’t be distracted,” “Just sit down and do your homework,” “You can’t keep ‘forgetting’ things,” “'Forgetting’ isn’t and excuse for not doing something,” and “I’m NOT telling you again.”
ADHD is having to ask “What?” after almost everything people say because you were wondering exactly how the locking mechanism on a car door works, or what words you can make out of the word 'Hyperbole.’
ADHD is going home after school and crying because your friend refused to give you the notes for history class.
ADHD is stressing because your Professor only extended the deadline by two days and told you that if you didn’t have it turned in by then you’d get a 0.
ADHD is looking helplessly at your notes, needed for the project, and realizing you have NO material to work with.
ADHD is seeing posts about “I have ADH- OOOH LOOK A SQUIRREL!” from your closest friends and family and realizing you problems are nothing but a joke to them.
ADHD is wishing desperately that you were “normal” and trying to fit in as much as possible.
Some days ADHD is feeling incredible and accomplished because you remembered to get the clothes out of the dryer while they were still warm.
ADHD is feeling terrible because you left your clothes in the washer too long and now they stink.
Some days ADHD is movement. You don’t care what kind. Bouncing, running, cleaning, writing, fiddling, twiddling, or squishing something, but you MUST do something. And not moving? You feel sick. You feel SO compelled to move. If you could just run around the building once, and yell loudly—you could focus. The urge would go away. You wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable and you could figure out x^2+ 2. But right now, YOU. MUST. MOVE. YOU. MUST. MOVE. But you’re not allowed. So you shift. You cross your legs, you wiggle your foot. You click your pen. Those are acceptable right? That’s more normal than yelling and running right? No. The person next to you is glaring. You stop clicking your pen. What else? What else? You bounce your foot. You like the little metallic noise the bar makes when your toe hits it. Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink. There. Better than yelling. But the clinking isn’t as quiet as you thought. Your neighbor glares. “CAN YOU STOP?!” She almost yells, annoyed. You want to tell her no. You can’t, actually. But you make yourself stop. You look at the board. X^2+2 has been erased. Solved ten minutes ago. You look at your paper. Maybe it’s in the back of the book. You look at the page and problem number. It’s an even numbered problem. The answer isn’t there. You spend the rest of the class trying to find a problem similar so you can solve for that stupid 24th letter.
These are only some of the things people with ADHD experience. What these people need is support. Not cheap shots taken at their expense. Not glares and eye rolls when they forgot something. They need encouragement. They need friends to help remind them of things. They need family members who encourage them praise them for accomplishments and offer gentle reminders. ADHD is real and needs to be treated as a disorder, not a joke. People with ADHD aren’t stupid or lazy. Most of us are highly intelligent. We don’t LIKE being late. We don’t ENJOY having to constantly ask people to repeat themselves. And by being made to feel bad about things, we stop asking for help and struggle all alone.