Coming out with ADD feels sometimes a lot like coming out the closet. There is the same nervousness when I’m about to tell, the same vulnerability and question in my mind if the person will think differently of me. Unlike with coming out as having a girlfriend, however, people often feel a need to contradict me when I tell them I have adult ADD and offer their own theories about what could be going on with me. So I have created a small guide for What to (not) say if someone tells you they have been diagnosed with ADD.
1) Don’t say that this is a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical industry to over-medicate me.
I am aware that ADD can be over-diagnosed in schools. I am aware of the pharmaceutical industry’s love of placing profit over people.This response doesn’t help me at all, and is very patronising for is suggests that I am a blinded sucker who hasn’t devoted careful and pained thinking to all of these matters. If I am choosing to communicate that I have the diagnosis of ADD, it is because I have chosen to accept this diagnosis.
2) Don’t tell me that “everyone” is distracted sometimes, and that this is just part of my personality.
Very similar to response 1., this suggests that I have foolishly run off to medicate myself with no real basis or thought. It also puts me in the awkward and difficult position of having to defend myself to you and “prove” my diagnosis. Very similar I think to the “you’re not depressed, you’re a bit blue” response. Its shit.
3) Don’t start suggesting cures unless I ASK you for advice. Believe me, no one spends more time thinking about how to treat what is going on with them than the one experiencing the condition. I have chosen which coaches/peers/blogs/websites to consult. Your telling me to down cod-liver oil while swimming 6 laps every mornign isn’t going to help me.
And now for the DO:
DO respond sensitively and recognise that I have chosen to tell you something I feel vulnerable about.
DO ask questions. Things like “how does this affect you?”, “what was the process that led you to seek psychological counselling?” and “how is it going?” are all great questions. They all show me that you respect my judgement, and are interested and want to find out more about my experience.
DO ask how you can help.