I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the winter of my sophomore year of high school. Most people get flagged for ADHD when they are younger because they struggle with schoolwork or have trouble sitting still, but, because those were not the areas I needed the most support in, I went 16 years without knowing that my brain was different. When I first got diagnosed, I decided to go to the internet to find the information I was looking for. Not long after that, I got sucked into the world of “10 things people with ADHD do” or “Put a finger down: ADHD edition” videos on TikTok and pretty infographics about ADHD on Instagram.
At first, the immense amount of media on ADHD made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It made me feel like I was part of a community I had been mistakenly locked out of for most of my life, and it gave me a sense of relief. As I watched more videos and read more infographics however, I began to feel this pit in my stomach. Everything the media tells you about ADHD is the palatable part. They talk about struggling in school or tapping your fingers up and down or talking really fast. There are even videos that talk about “ADHD superpowers” and the “benefits” of having ADHD. Don’t get me wrong, I do struggle with tapping my fingers, and I talk really fast. Sometimes I even think that some parts of my ADHD aren’t so bad. The reason I got a pit in my stomach after a while is because I never saw videos or pretty infographics talking about the ugly parts of ADHD, the parts that aren’t relatable and don’t make you feel like a superhero. The parts that remind you that ADHD is still a mental illness.
I never see people talk about how astonishingly isolating ADHD makes you feel. The fact that your brain works differently than other people’s is an incredibly lonely experience, and there is no real way to ever get rid of that loneliness because you cannot change how your brain works. I never see people talk about how ADHD gives you so much anxiety. It doesn’t feel good to not be able to make yourself do things, even though you want to do them. I don’t see people talk about how I frequently struggle to keep my spaces and myself clean because I struggle to make myself do things that I don’t want to do. I don’t see people talk about how I struggle to take care of myself sometimes because I forget to eat a meal or I can’t sleep because my brain is going a mile a minute. I don’t see people talk about how I struggle for relationships because I struggle with social cues.
These are just some of the things I personally struggle with because of ADHD that people don’t want to relate to. ADHD is not a trend, it is a mental illness, and it is harmful and debilitating to the person like any other mental illness. Despite this, people have tried to convince me that ADHD is just using a fidget toy or not being able to focus in a boring class. The amount of times I have had people tell me they think they have ADHD because they exhibit a few “symptoms” they saw in a TikTok once is unreal, and if this is you, stop that.
We as a society need to stop romanticizing ADHD and invalidating the harmful and ugly effects it has on people who have it and their loved ones. Remember that all illnesses have ugly parts that aren’t as easy for us to talk about, and ADHD is no exception.