Some people just do not understand the concept of neurodevelopmental conditions. To be fair, I’m diagnosed with one, and have been studying them for three years, yet I still find them hard to wrap my head around. It still hurts, though, to feel misunderstood.
Here are five hyperbolized archetypes of “ADHD-Doubters” that you might encounter in college. They are conglomerations, exaggerations, and expansions of my personal experiences.
1. The Ignorant Friend
The most common doubter you will encounter. Your diagnosis does not make sense to your Ignorant Friend. Maybe you were acquaintances for a long time before he eventually found out that you have ADHD, and his picture of ADHD does not fit with his perception of you. He asks you some offensive questions about it – questions which make it clear that he thinks your diagnosis is merely an exaggerated reaction to “being a kid”. You’re disappointed, but you understand that he can’t see into your head. Depending on the friendship, you either arrange a heart-to-heart and try to get him to understand, or else accept the limitations of the friendship and never bring up ADHD again.
2. The Condescending Significant Other
A painful manifestation of ADHD doubt is when another person attributes ADHD symptoms to your personal character. In the context of romantic relationships (or even close friendships), this misconception can be toxic. Beware of the Significant Other who views you as someone to be “taken care of”. If you detect this sentiment, a serious conversation is needed. If the conversation doesn’t stick, evacuate immediately! Few things are more disempowering than a partner who views you as incompetent.
3. The Competitor
One night, you’ve invited friends over for a small party, and the conversations get personal. When you share that you take medication for your attention deficit, she suddenly oozes bitter jealousy. This ADHD-Doubter wishes she could take Adderall because she is trying to get into law school and needs to maintain her GPA. She seems to have concluded that since you are not visibly or catastrophically “disabled”, your are gaming the system by taking Adderall. You shrug, “Well, the doctor says I need it,” then quickly change the subject.
4. The Puritan Roommate
Freshman year, you are crammed into a dorm room the Dursleys would have reserved for Harry Potter. It’s a new space, new routine, new everything, and you find it disorienting. Your rigid-minded roommate believes that efficient adaptation to college simply requires self-discipline and hard work. In many ways, you envy him, and for many reasons, he resents you. The main point of tension: everything on his side of the room is at a right angle, while you have a more, um, “intuitive” system. Not wanting to be disrespectful (or perceived as such), you work to maintain a tidy living space. You apologize when you make mistakes. You might stay friends with the Puritan but you do not room together next year.
5. The Benevolent Professor
When having a deep talk with your favorite Professor about your future, you mention that your experiences navigating life with ADHD have really shaped you as a person. She is incredulous. “You have ADD? But you’re engaged during class.” You explain that you’ve learned how to compensate. Plus, you love her class, so it’s easier to pay attention in it. From her praise about “growing up”, “overcoming ADHD”, or “getting through it”, you realize she does not understand the idea that ADHD will always be a part of you.
Navigating college life with ADHD is going to lead to some misunderstandings. Sometimes you meet people whose brains don’t understand your brain. When this happens, it can hurt to feel misunderstood. But having an extraordinary brain is so worth it.
© Maggie Pecsok, 2017