The following post is about my learning disability. This is my writing raw, before I send it out for comments / edits. I am leaving it this way to show me unfiltered and unashamed.
This July, I was diagnosed with Moderate ADHD at almost 23 years old. While every case of ADHD is different, my disability affects me in a way that makes simple things difficult, like, remembering things or giving my full attention to tasks after I’ve already spent an extended period of time on them. I’m impulsive, which can be endearing or enraging depending on the situation. I’m extremely hyper and, if I’m not physically active enough during my day, I become overwhelming anxious with the amount of energy that is trapped in me. The diagnosis was not a shock to me and I volunteered for testing because I wanted to understand myself better. I had struggled with assignments all through school. I would edit my own papers for hours but some how they would be marked up in red when I got them back. Teachers and professors praised me that I was intelligent but careless. I was also incredibly forgetful. I was losing my phone at least two to four times a day because I just couldn’t remember where it was. I would forget to text people back for days (probably because I couldn’t find my phone…). While these sound like petty, little things, they manifest into something larger when you start to believe that you are stupid or lazy or thoughtless or an airhead. You begin to think that, instead of you are just different, that you are worth less than someone without your disability. You internalize it and you believe it.
Coming to terms with a disability makes you more aware of the abilism that perpetuates marginalization of people with disabilities. When I was coming out to people, I realized the amount of privilege an able-minded or able-bodied person has. While the diagnosis was no surprise for me, it was a bit of a jolt to a lot of my new and peripheral relationships. I do not look like the stereotypical image of a person with ADHD. First of all, I was diagnosed at 22 and I am a woman. Many people think ADHD and think hyperactive, prepubescent boy who can’t sit still in class. Second of all, I graduated with honors from a good school after completing a 100+ page thesis. People with learning disabilities can’t do that… Well, actually they can, they just have to somethings differently and work a lot harder. And when people don’t think that you “look” like the idea of a certain disability, they just tell you, “oh, you’re fine, it’s no big deal,” or “don’t go on medications,” or “you don’t have ADHD, come on!”
As with other privileges, those who do not have a disability tend to think that they can dictated how you see you disability or how you deal with it. Let me first say how patronizing this is. How do you, person without ADHD, get to tell me how to experience my disability? Why do you think that you have the right to tell me what is okay to do and what is not okay to do? Why do you get to tell me that it’s not a big deal? A disability does not negate someone’s agency to live her or his own life. This is MY disability. It is mine and mine alone. You don’t have to live with it – maneuver though an unaccommodating world. It’s however big a deal I want it to be. I get to make the calls around here about medications and therapy, not you.
And, yeah, some things are harder for me. I can’t edit my own work, nor can I remember to do something if I don’t write at least 3 notes. But my disability is not an excuse. It is reason why I might not fit into your narrow-minded ideas of what a person should be. And when I mention my disability, you don’t get to tell me I am making things up or that I should try harder or that I’m using it as a scapegoat. I have the right to discuss how I am different that you.
And while my ADHD makes somethings more challenging, like a 9-5 office job, there are a LOT of things that are extremely easy for me because of my disability. My high energy spills into everything I do and brings high levels of passion and excitement that inspires others. I’m the life of a party. I can make meaningful connections with people in short periods of time because my impulsiveness allows me to be incredibly open and honest. I can be physically active for hours (I’m serious… HOURS) and not get tired. I think I am awesome and my ADHD is a part of why I am so awesome.
So, yeah, I have a disability. I also have different abilities. And I get to define my experience.