We all know at least one of them. At least someone growing up with you in school was the rebellious hyper-kid who would know the rules, watch the teacher draw out stricter lines, then casually walk all over them in hilariously shocking ways. They were the kids that seemed to have a blatant disregard for order and reputation, soon to clamber up the social ranks as ‘the funny kid’. That or they were the obvious outcast, which in my very public school, wasn’t the case. My friend Nick ”suffers” from attention deficit hyperactive disorder and is a classic example of someone who acts disorderly. I remember he let off a fart bomb in maths class without seemingly batting an eyelid, jumped off one of our city’s biggest bridges into the water in the early hours and was always seen flailing around in his birthday suit. That of course is just a glimpse of it and yea, of course he’s daring, but I still don’t see anything wrong with him, nothing more than just the intelligent, fun-loving kid that I grew up with through school.
Jake is repelled by structure, orthodoxy and is rivalled by routine. He normally “can’t be arsed” to shower, brush his teeth and even eat on a regular basis. He struggles to sleep, if any or at all. Shakes like Ozzy, smokes like a fiend and commonly compromises his uni work for drinking and random shenanigans. His impulsive and obsessive nature binds his wrists in this phenomenal rat race as he slowly chips away at his employability. But for all the things that he apparently is not; he is also a tireless musician, strumming his electric and acoustic guitar until his calloused up fingers become unbearable. His focus is music. His outlet is music. His heroes are musicians. His missed school days are spent ruthlessly indulging in musical instruments and melodies. He never had the patience to learn how to read music properly, but lo and behold he can surely produce it. Music is the one thing that he can tune into, with immense clarity, with immense purpose, and constantly. People call it passion. Some might call it talent. But mostly – they call it failure.
Even though I have to force Jake to go to the dentist, consume something other than biscuits, tea and coffee and to check his emails; I often wonder what would happen to him if he fell in line and took medication. Would he still be the same exuberant and artistically lovable Jake that we all know and cherish, or would he turn into seemingly lobotomized person as common as the next? Would his new-found sleeping patterns and ability to concentrate sway him towards being more acceptably fitting for society’s commands? Or would his personality still shine through. Would it guide him to formulate a more proactive approach in his musical endeavour rather than blatantly dreaming to become a ‘rock star’ proportionate to Jimmy Hendrix? Or would he become a docile failure to himself, numbing his natural eccentric fervour to make room for those socially acceptable and mundane ‘follow the line’ tendencies. Would his chemical make-up subtly shift and subside under a layer of psychological fine-tuning, where a slither of his personality gets willingly swept under the rug before being labelled as ‘destructive by nature’. And for what exactly? To fit in?… to succeed. Where does that leave a 23 year-old in society where individualism is obviously discouraged, no matter how much they tell you to ‘be different’ and to ‘be yourself’.
Only the brave, aloof or stupid seem to break away from social trends and dance to their own beat. But when you ‘Dare to be a Daniel’ and exercise your intellectual freedom; society sees it as undesirable, ideologically criminal, antisocially selfish and just straight out dangerous. Now if you’re born into a society where order and discipline is needed to succeed from childhood, till pretty much when you’re six feet under, well then yes, ADHD would be seen as a disorder or as I prefer to think of it as more of a massive disadvantage rather. As well as many other mental health disorders, where you draw the line on what is a debilitating disorder and what is just a variant type of personality. Aren’t all of these following symptoms present in all of us at some point? They do mention that it’s largely not understood… well that’s because we invented it! Psychologists combed through our genetic makeup, gave everything a label, organised our personalities into ‘types’ and even down to something called ‘The Big Five’. This just means now people can mix n match a diagnosis based on society’s idealism’s as easy as a personalised salad on your lunch break.
Just like the shy puppy in the litter, there has always been the naturally restless one, the anxious one, the excited one and the very energetic one. And if you still don’t see humans as the same as animals for whatever reason – there’s still always the deaf, dumb and blind ones too. It’s just nature’s way of supporting diversity, where change is the only constant and accidents create life.
- a short attention span
- being easily distracted
- making careless mistakes, for example in schoolwork
- appearing forgetful or losing things
- being unable to stick at tasks that are tedious or time consuming
- being unable to listen to or carry out instructions
- being unable to concentrate
- constantly changing activity or task
- having difficulty organising tasks
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- constantly fidgeting
- being unable to settle to tasks
- excessive physical movement
- excessive talking
- being unable to wait for a turn
- acting without thinking
- interrupting conversations
- little or no sense of danger
- carelessness and lack of attention to detail
- continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
- poor organisational skills
- inability to focus or prioritise
- continually losing or misplacing things
- restlessness and edginess
- difficulty keeping quiet and speaking out of turn
- blurting responses, and poor social timing when talking to others
- often interrupting others
- mood swings
- irritability and a quick temper
- inability to deal with stress
- extreme impatience
- taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others
My father labelled me ‘scatter-brain’ as a young girl and yes I can tick the majority of the boxes above. Whether or not I’ve got ADHD is debatable, even though one doctor said I probably did but didn’t want to medicate me. Getting ready to go anywhere can be a drawn-out task, which can either be entertaining or frustrating for others to watch me in action. Two dimensions away I will still scurry from room to room eternally searching, checking, stopping and starting in a focused frenzy. The mental fogginess makes you distant and detached. One day so certain and the next so elusive. One day so anxious and the next so optimistic. Vacant gazing and pondering is my forte, whether it was out the class window or mid-conversation. Focus is challenging in the realm of the unwavering muddled mind where I find myself tirelessly analyzing, thinking, evaluating, structuring ideas and planning my next move. These thoughts take priority in my day, so channelling the madness in my radio static mind is difficult to say the least. But….. as much as it hinders, it’s me, all of it. The moody, careless, fanatical, empathetic, rebellious, fearless, enduring side to my nature overlaps with what they would tell me is a disorder.
Controversy clouds this diagnosis and so it should. Critics have summed up ADHD as a medical condition where those at the active end of the population are seen as ‘problems’. Where obedience and order are strictly reinforced values in society, medically defining these traits takes away the blame from those who are actually the root the problem. Although extensive genetic tests have taken place, no single gene with a significant contribution to this disorder has been identified… of course.