THE LABEL (A TALE OF GROWING UP A BLACK WOMAN WITH ADHD)

I am a woman. I am an American of African descent. I am a Christian. I have a mental disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) along with social anxiety. I am an American Christian woman of African descent that happens to have ADHD and social anxiety. Now that we’ve gotten the Who out of the way I’d like to move onto the What as in what it was like to grow up with ADHD.

Well, I always felt as if something wasn’t right. It’s a bit like walking outside unknowingly without pants. Although, in that case you may not realize something is wrong usually someone is nice enough to tell you and chances are you won’t make it too far before noticing anyway. There were times I’d sit down to read and had no idea what was going on. I would read and re-read but it was as if nothing stuck. I remember being tired a lot and feeling as if I was never getting enough sleep.

It’s a well known fact in the African American and sometimes the Christian church community that you DON’T discuss troubles. Mental illness, physical health problems, anything that made us feel we were looked upon as less than are examples of such troubles. I was labeled “lazy” “defiant” “too sensitive” “not smart enough” “immature” “a procrastinator” “unruly” “stubborn” “forgetful” “odd” “weird”, etc. It got to a point I believed those negative words. I am just now getting to a place where I’m figuring out I’m NOT any of these things. I may appear as these things to some people but believe me in my case-looks are definitely deceiving. I try the best I can to get things done or started for that matter. Just because I’m not up to someone else’s standards doesn’t mean I’m any of the negative labels they may place on me.

Growing up I sometimes had trouble expressing myself properly and I’d occasionally say things that came out disrespectful or blunt. This got me into trouble more times than I care to disclose. I do recall a point where I was thought to be “really out of hand” so I was taken to a prayer meeting. I recall attendees gathering around and praying for me to improve. Now I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. In this particular situation there was something wrong that wouldn’t just go away with praying to God. I believe when you pray you shouldn’t be vague rather you should be detailed. Yes God knows your heart but you should be as specific as possible. If what would later be known as ADHD was unknown at the time it wouldn’t have been acknowledged anyway. See the conflict here?

Fast forward to when I was being tested for ADHD. It took so many tests and questions before I was diagnosed. I wasn’t thrilled to know something was wrong and it had a name.The last resort was to begin taking medication. I didn’t want to take them at first and am now at a place where I can comfortably take them without thinking of what someone else would say if they knew. The fact I’ve come to is: I take medication, I meditate/pray on God’s word, I get counseling-if this is what it takes for me to manage–it’s what it takes and my well-being is priority. I’m doing what’s best for me. A friend of mine always said that to me and those words have stuck with me like a literary tattoo.

My journey until now hasn’t been an easy one. I’d just like to send a message to children especially those that are African American with ADHD: You aren’t possessed, lazy, stupid, a failure, etc. You are a dreamer, smart, successful and doing the best you can. People may not understand you and may use whatever words [and perhaps some actions] they can to get you to become who they want you to be. It’s important that you hold on and not let go of who you are or who you want to become. You’re brain is wired differently than others and that’s okay. There are so many people that have also been negatively labeled and went on to contribute greatly to the world we live in. You are brilliant and strong–don’t allow anyone no matter who they are to get you believing or acting as if you are anything less than that. Continue doing your best, continue dreaming, pace yourself because rushing into things won’t necessarily get you where you want to go-for all you know it could derail your path. Take your time, pray, work as hard as you can without overdoing it, seek help if you need it, do the very best you can. There’s something I read once that stuck with me:

Good better best

Never let it rest

Until your good better

and your better best

I don’t wish to be just a label that someone can box in because I’m more than just this or that. Yes it’s important to find out the name of the problem/identify and acknowledge it but also address and discuss it as well. As difficult as it can be: try. You Can Do It!!!

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