Five Reasons I Do Not Want to Write About ADHD

There are only two things you need to know about me to frame what I’m about to tell you:

First, I’m fifty-three years old.

Second, I almost certainly have been living with untreated ADHD for as long as I can remember.

If you’ve read any of my other work, you know that I write a lot about my own life. My most popular article is literally about “lessons I’ve learned.” It would make sense to think that this whole new reframing of my life through an ADHD lens would be a fertile field of ideas, stories, thoughts, and new essays.

Hell, I’ve always struggled to figure out what the over-arching theme of my writing is, and it turns out, the hidden secret was “Gray Is Trying to Compensate for Untreated ADHD.

Instead, I find myself incredibly reluctant to write about it.

Here’s why.

1. I’m ashamed.

I have written well over a thousand articles about personal development. I’ve explored meditation, journaling, sketchnoting, relationships, communication, all within a self-reflective context.

I’ve literally taught this stuff.

And I missed it. Some of my dearest friends have had ADHD for decades, and I thought I understood it. But somehow it never, not once, occurred to me that I might have it.

My personal development writer card should be revoked. What business do I have writing about anything, if I didn’t see this?

2. I’m angry.

Why didn’t anyone else notice this?

This anger is primarily directed at myself, as noted above. But there are very clear things from my earliest school records that point towards ADHD (“He seems to suffer from diarrhea of the mouth,” was a particularly gruesome term my first-grade teacher used to describe my inability to stop talking about things that interested me).

I hate being predictable. I used to take a sort of pride in my varied interests, my wildly tangled career path, my ability to do deep dives into subjects, my fascination with organizational systems.

Now I discover that all of those things are textbook ADHD symptoms. Most of them are compensatory mechanisms for the lack of dopamine transmitters in my brain.

Even my reframing of my life story and these emotions I’m writing about are common among adults diagnosed with ADHD. I feel like a cliché, and I hate it. With all the other writers about ADHD, spending time on it feels self-indulgent.

3. I’m scared.

I’m never going to get better.

I’m not going to find the perfect system of note-taking, the one career or partner or genre or hobby that I can just stick with. I’m not going to finally buckle down, try harder, get disciplined and become the normal productive human my parents wanted me to be.

That dream, that idea, has to be put away. My brain just doesn’t work like that. And I worry about what people will think about me if they know. I’m absolutely certain that some of you reading this are smirking and shaking your head, because you’re among the millions who believe that ADHD is just a made-up thing anyway.

Why would I want to write more about that, and open myself up to that kind of criticism? Am I sabotaging my future employment (and hey, I’ve got ADHD, it’s quite likely I’ll be on the job market again at some point) by admitting in public that my brain is broken?

4. I’m tired.

“It’s amazing how much ‘mature wisdom’ resembles being too tired.” – Robert Heinlein

At least I understand why I’m tired now. It’s not that I can’t function as a productive and responsible adult. It’s just that in the systems I live in it takes a lot of energy.

What would a life system that supported and even benefited from my ADHD look like? Well, hey, that’s a great idea for an essay! But no, I don’t want to write it, because I’m tired of trying yet another system, yet another routine, yet another notebook or app or creative habit.

I’ve done a lot in the half-century I’ve been alive, and this Big New Thing just makes me weary. I wanted to have things figured out by now, to be like my friends who are approaching retirement, secure in their paid-off homes and IRAs and investments.

The sheer volume of what I could write, what I should write, what I would write if I were to write about ADHD makes me unutterably weary.

5. I’m sad.

Think of the children.

My children, in particular. Who not only had to deal with my shifts in careers and lack of money sense as we grew up but also had to put up with my temper, my depressions, my difficulty sustaining relationships, and more.

Even worse, I passed it on. ADHD is genetic, and while I’m not a doctor, it’s pretty damn clear to me that they’ve got the same traits I did. My younger grandson is the only other person in my family with actual diagnosed ADHD — he’s been dealing with it for about 6 years now. We had a great talk about medications last time I drove him home; I really appreciated hearing his viewpoint.

But even though I didn’t know, it still feels like I failed them, both biologically and parentally. Much in the way the culture I grew up in — from my parents to my schooling to my social outlets — failed me. They didn’t know any better, and neither did I — but it’s failure, nonetheless.

There is so much grief about what might have been different in my life — easier, better, less painful — if I’d known about my ADHD earlier, and been given the tools to treat it and compensate for it.

That does not feel like a fun thing to write about.

And that is probably why I’m writing about it.

Sure, it’s just another person (and another cis het white guy, at that) writing about his experiences. First world problems, am I right?

But as much as I scream internally with anger as I hear others’ talk about their adult ADHD experience and see my own life reflected — I appreciate it. I envy those who were diagnosed in their 30’s or 40’s, because (from my perspective) they still have time.

Of course, from the perspective of the seventy-five year old in the video chat yesterday, I’ve still got a whole lot of time, too. And maybe there are worse things than trying to make it easier for people like I used to be — adults living with undiagnosed, untreated ADHD – to find common ground.

I don’t want to write about ADHD, because I don’t want to have ADHD.

But I do. So I will.

 


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