When you are a teen, being different can be awful. As a teen with ADHD, I know this first hand.
By the time I was 10, I was spending twice as many hours as my classmates to complete my assignments. My home life frequently felt like a battlefield. I felt stupid.
When I was 11, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It was a great relief to know why I was struggling, but having an ADHD diagnosis did not in and of itself resolve any of my challenges, it simply categorized and in some cases amplified them. As I soon learned, like most, I was prescribed some meds and then left to my own devices to understand, manage and adapt to my "disorder." It's because of this lack of support, compassion and understanding that I've become an advocate for this cause.
According to the CDC, I became one of six million children nationwide diagnosed with ADHD. It's an "invisible" disorder in that you can not see any symptoms. Explaining what it is like to have ADHD is like describing the scent of a rose to someone who has never seen a flower. Envision this: five teens line up to race the 1000 meters. Four of them wear shorts and sneakers and the fifth is wearing a hazmat suit and a 30-pound backpack. It should not surprise anyone that the fifth runner will not likely outpace the others. Now imagine the hazmat suit and the 30-pound backpack are transparent -- that is what it is like to have ADHD. Teens with ADHD often feel ashamed, stigmatized, embarrassed and isolated. Everyone wonders why we are not the fastest runner.
I am a runner with the backpack and I know I may never outpace my peers, but I have to run anyway -- life requires it. I could choose to give up or I can race knowing that I may not always win, but will certainly lose if I do not try. I choose to race.
Once I accepted my ADHD it became easier to cope with challenges and share my successes. Because I do not hide my ADHD, I do not feel shame in it. Others sadly do. This upset me greatly and at 15 I became an advocate for teens with ADHD.
I decided to write a free online guide specifically for teens with ADHD, since this was something I sorely needed, did not get from my physicians and could not find online or at the library. My guide, "Embracing Your ADHD," provides teens with a "roadmap" to help them understand, manage, accept and eventually thrive with their ADHD from a teen perspective. Writing the guide was an enormous task. I spent two years researching medical and scientific articles and attending seminars and lectures by distinguished scientists (who endorse my guide).
I formulated questionnaires and interviewed dozens of teens with ADHD so I could include their voices and perspectives as well as my own viewpoints. I turned this mountainous pile of information into a teen-friendly, easy-to-read and inviting guide while covering all of the major issues teens face.
"Embracing Your ADHD" is available free to ADDYTeens, parents, family, counselors, therapists and schools on my website, www.addyteen.com (I created the moniker "ADDYTeen" to represent every kid that has ADHD). My goal is that "Embracing Your ADHD" ignites a conversation among ADDYTeens worldwide and that Addyteen.com creates a sense of place where ADDYTeens can share their experiences. I hope my work inspires other ADDYTeens to help one another grow and thrive as unique individuals.
My guide will help you learn different ways to approach every part of your life and to see that you are not alone. In many ways, this post is my "coming out" party, my chance to stand up and be counted and be counted on. So to all of you ADDYTeens out there... shout out!
Together we are powerful and can lift a shame that we should not be experiencing. Download my guide, visit here and post a question or comment. I would love to hear about your experiences. How does ADHD make you feel? How do you cope? Have you too found a lack of support, compassion or understanding?
As ADDYTeens know, understanding, managing and coping with ADHD requires great determination and perseverance. Personally, facing my own limitations has only made me stronger and helped me to discover my natural gifts. My ADHD has given me purpose and clarity as I pursue my own goals. I have learned to embrace my own ADHD, and it has become the engine powering my journey to become a source of strength, inspiration and comfort to those feeling stuck or challenged by a difficult obstacle.