DEALING WITH OTHERS
by Rick Green
When first diagnosed, most ADHD adults feel relief. You want to tell everyone; friends, family, even strangers.
The joyous glow of revelation lasts right up until someone sneers, "You're just lazy!"
Most of us are stunned into silence by such statements. I know I was. Because I knew this was genetic. Hard wired. Neurology.
Later, of course, we think up all the clever things we should have said: "Would you say that if it was cancer?" Or worse,we buy into their nonsense, cancel our Doctor's appointment, chuck our new ADHD books... and return to a life of struggle.
Understand... no one knows much about ADHD, even experts. While filming our humorous documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, an ADHD specialist from NYU told us medicine is in its "toddlerhood" in understanding ADHD. So why should your loved ones be expected to know much?
So before you burst into tears, throw punches or cut someone out of your will, here's another option. Rehearsed rebuttals!
I've come up with 'clever responses' to five cruel comments you'll face from idio... er, uh, from unenlightened folks.
First up is one they hurl at you in a firm, superior tone.
"I don't believe in ADHD."
Stay calm. Breathe. Nod. Raise your eyebrows as if to say, "Interesting!". Smile, and ask sweetly, ""Really? Which of the D.S.M. IV Criteria do you disagree with? All 18 or just the 9 symptoms from the Impulsive/Hyperactive spectrum?"
Then wait expectantly. Works like magic!
Let them stumble and mumble, then look sweetly sympathetic, "I'm sorry, I thought you had a strong opinion because you actually knew what it was. Listen, scientists have done almost four thousand studies about ADHD. Let me send you a few hundred to look over so we can talk further."
Unfortunately, the more you humiliate them, the more they resist. Better to just ask about the DSM-IV.
The second attack is trickier.
"ADHD? You're just lazy."
Pause. Count to ten. (Okay, you have ADHD, count to three...) then ask, "Do you think I'm lazy? Because, I feel I work very hard, struggling with simple things you do easily. And it's funny some things most people struggle with, I can do easily."
Often, they'll realize you aren't lazy. You just aren't getting things accomplished. Activity vs. Productivity.
The next verbal slap is nasty.
You're just stupid."
Best answer? "Maybe. But if I am, I'm a stupid person who has ADHD. Funny thing, Einstein and many other famous people with ADHD failed at school and were labeled retarded or slow. In fact, 50% of gifted kids have ADHD." Then walk away, find a quite spot and decide if you need someone like this in your life.
Number 4 is a hummer: "You can focus when you want to!"
Or, "If it's something you like, you focus just fine."
Disarm them with, "Yeah! I know! Wild, isn't it?! It's called hyper-focusing. When my ADHD mind switches on, I can focus far longer than most people. But often not on the right thing or for the right amount of time." Then give an example, "Like the day before a big presentation, I spent nine hours starting a stamp collection!" And laugh at yourself.
Finally, here's one you'll frequently face.
"It's just an excuse for liberal parents and lazy teachers to avoid imposing discipline."
Grit your teeth, smile and say, "I know! That's what everyone thinks. Especially, the ignorant, opinionated morons!" Okay, scratch that. "I know, that's what I thought. But of course, self discipline comes from within." Then end with an example from your life, "My sister, with the same parents but no ADHD, has self discipline up the wazoo. And yet, unlike me, she's terrified of public speaking." Or whatever.
They may respond, "Well, in my day, if we were bad, we got the strap until we learned to behave."
Nod, look sympathetic and say, "Thank goodness we don't brutalize our kids like that anymore! Imagine your boss giving you the strap in front of your coworkers. Thank goodness all those studies have proven that kind of discipline doesn't work."
Try not to add, "In fact, doing that probably causes kids to grow up into bitter, narrow-minded, cold-hearted, self-righteous jerks."
Rick Green, a well-known Canadian comedian/writer/actor, has ADHD. The creative force behind www.TotallyADD.com, Rick shares his hilarious and often-pointed observations about living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to liberate fellow ADHDers from the fear, shame and stigma of ADHD and help them create a life they love.