How I Navigated The Stigma Of ADD

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I’ve always felt that as a kid you are a shining example of authenticity. The interests and passions of the average child don’t know how to be put on the back burner. Quite the contrary, they grab the child’s mind, pull them forward, and often pass by the lesser interests that the child may or may not take to.

As a young kid, my interests, passions, and curiosities were strong. I can remember “nerding out” in school and at home. At home it was books about dinosaurs, being outside as much as possible (I had 100 acres of woods to call a back yard), pretending I was a star running back for the Washington Redskins, and being completely fascinated by my dads banjo. I was always a quiet and well-behaved kid who probably said “please” and “thank you” an annoyingly amount of times. I never had trouble making friends or getting good grades. I loved history and science, but loathed math. In all, I liked school. Because of this, it came to my surprise when I started being told I “suffered” from something called “Attention Deficit Disorder”, or “ADD”. To me, it seemed there was a lot of stuff that held my attention, but for some reason I was being told I was wrong for wanting to focus on it. Moving from history to math lessons, I was still asking questions about Thomas Jefferson and being punished for it. Whether I “suffered” from ADD or not, school was different now.

From late 4th to 8th grade, school was a place where I was continually told I was wrong and despite the encouragement of my parents, I believed it. ADD was a new big topic at the time and everyone had an opinion. School began to weigh heavy on me and I dreaded it. Despite all my hard work, my grades were bad, all the talk of ADD affected my focus, and above all I was completely stressed and exhausted. In a way, I felt like I had been pushed into a corner and couldn’t get out. I didn’t see school as a place that encouraged my strengths, or more importantly, built my confidence.

Thankfully, I had parents that always pushed me to look for my own voice and my own way of tackling challenges. While in the 8th grade, I decided I wouldn’t let myself be pushed into a corner any longer. Moving to high school, I enrolled in all honors and International Baccalaureate classes. It was difficult, but it was much easier to do well when refusing to be told I was a poor or difficult student. I also realized that by getting decent grades, I would be left alone and the pressures of school would be lessened. I graduated high school, finished with decent grades, but still had distaste for school.

While I had discovered my own way of navigating the stress, it served only as a way of getting through, and the pressure of school caused me to lose out on any opportunities to flourish. Yes, “getting through” can be a learning experience and empowering, especially if it means shaking the label of ADD and its associated stigmas, but it does nothing to encourage an appreciation for lifelong learning or bring out one’s passions. Casting aside “getting through”, here’s to being pushed to find your own voice, letting it flourish, and tackling your challenges.

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