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My A.D.D. Is As Real As I Am, Pt. 1


This is not a post I wanted to write, for a number of reasons. I'll get to a few of them later. But the main reason is because I know I'm probably opening myself up to a lot of stuff I'd rather not deal with. But if there's one thing I've learned over decades as a gay activist is that it's important and empowering to come out. If you don't other people just tell your story as they see fit.

As long-time reader to Alternet, I've sighed and shook my head every time I read an article asserting that ADD/ADHD is "not real," "a myth," or a "made-up ailment" created to boost big pharma 's profits. I wondered if the writers knew anyone living with ADD/ADHD, lived with it themselves, and why I saw so few posts offering another perspective.

Then I realized that, as a sometime contributor to Alternet, I had remained silent for too long.

So, in the spirit of ADHD Awareness Week (which, of course, was last week) , I'm coming out.

According to the CDC, about 5.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007. Up to 9% of school age children, and about 4.5% of the adult population have ADHD or ADD. There are millions of faces of ADHD, and I'm one of them.

Ten years ago, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. At the time, I was on the verge of what would be another nosedive in a life that seemed to be one long slow-dance with failure, depression, and anxiety. ; I was just a couple of weeks away from being fired from yet another job. I knew the cycle well enough that by then that I could see the writing on the wall. Try as I might, there wasn't anything I could do to stop it. And I did try.

Don't Know Much About ADHD History

One of the things I hear most often from people who don't "believe in" ADHD is that it has "only been an issue within the last decade or so." This usually follows or is followed by claims that ADHD is a conspiracy of "genocide against black boys" (I've actually heard this) a "conspiracy to make men docile" (I've heard this too), or a "big pharma conspiracy to get us all addicted to their psychiatric drugs." I wrote a post in response to all of this and more a few years ago, which included an ADHD history lesson.

Where to begin? First of all, we’re not talking about “high-energy children” that have just had too much Kool-Aid. And it hasn’t “only been an issue within the last decade or so.” Under one name or another, the characteristics known today as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder have been associated with each other, observed and recorded for over 95 years.

1902 – Dr. Still, a British doctor, documented cases involving impulsiveness. He called it “Defect of Moral Control.” He did believe, however, that this was a medical diagnosis, rather than a spiritual one.

“Deficit Moral Control.” Kinda has a nice, nearly Puritanical ring. Doesn’t it? Unfortunately, many people haven’t even gotten as far in their understanding of ADD/ADHD as Dr. Still’s 1902 assessment. Anyway, it became known as “Post-Encephalitic Behavior Disorder” around 1922, was called “brain damaged syndrome” for a while, got treated with stimulants as early as 1937, and then came Ritalin around 1956. The point is, ADD/ADHD is not a phantom condition that didn’t exist until it was invented in the 80′s.