Most of us, during the first months of the quarantine, directed our “organization skills” to … clean up the house! I did it too. But my objective, as Amy Cuddy says, was to “Fake it until I make it;” in the midst of a surreal world, I needed to hold on to my dream of moving to New York for good; so I got ready for that, categorizing the things I wanted to keep and getting rid of the “OMG what did I keep this bus ticket from 1983?.”
That process turned out helping me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I began finding my old journals and letters from friends and, with them, re-discovering the role ADHD played in my life. Many of the letters say, “I love you even though you’re crazy sometimes; I love you even though sometimes you’re a weirdo; thank you for helping me.” And my journals…, well, they are “dark.”
Then I found a paper sheet from 1999, which in the front says in big letters: “Don’t speak; don’t eat; don’t cry;” and on the back, it has a list of the reasons why I shouldn’t “speak, eat or cry…”, in case I’d forget why I was so miserable.
That, was a sad and disturbing coping mechanism from an undiagnosed ADHD teenage girl, who was already keeping a big secret; she had been sexually abused at seven years old and had learned how to keep a smile on her face, get good grades and – probably above all – how to “be a good girl.”
“Don’t speak.” In 1992 I found my father with a woman, who was not my mother of course; I was 12 years old. Broken, confused and desperate to say something, one day I went over my godmother’s and told her what had happen; she said, “Don’t tell your mother; you are going to hurt her; they are going to get a divorce.” Thus, since “I” was going to hurt her, I kept my mouth shut.
The truth came out in a scene of a soap opera that goes beyond the scope of this post, and my mother kicked out my father for a brief period of time; then they got back together to start the part of my life I’d like to call, “Krammer Vs. Krammer, without a child insight.”
I became invisible… so I started “oversharing” with my friends and even the new people I’d meet; when my mother realized what I was doing, she said, “this happened to me; you have no business in telling other people what’s happening in our house.” Since that had happened to her, I kept my mouth shut.
“Don’t eat.” By 1999, my house was a battle field and I was still invisible; I was out as much as I could; going to Law School in the morning, hanging out with friends and playing sports; I even started attending another University at night (a free one) to get also a degree in International Affairs.
Then one day… I stopped smiling, and I didn’t get up from bed. A psychiatrist diagnosed me with depression, chronic stress and anorexia nervosa; and I told him, “but I don’t want to get thinner;” he replied, “you’re counting calories because you feel your life is out of control, and this makes you feel that you’re controlling something.” That was also the time when he said, “You’re hyperactive; but you’re doing well in Law School, right?”
And “Don’t cry.” Do I need to explain this one? How sick I was of people telling me ‘why are you crying, again?’”
In case you’re wondering, I did ask for help; in 1992/93 I asked my parents to take me to the therapist, but after a couple of sessions I ended up feeling I was talking to a dumb dog; so I said, “I’ll take it from here,” and started taking piano lessons. My father happily payed for the keyboard of guilt, and my mother was happy that her perfect little girl wasn’t “crazy.” Everybody was pleased… Good girl!
I never look back and wonder, “what if I had been properly diagnosed, treated for ADHD,” because back in those days “hyperactive children” were kids with bad behavior doing poorly in School… And I was good girl, with plenty of friends and doing great at everything …; except for the fact that I was literally dying in silence.
So, I forgive the society and doctors of the time… But, to those of our times? I won’t. Even though the research on ADHD is still its early stage, we know enough to start helping our girls; we know they will live to please and tend to hold back their pain; we know the “men’s world” we’re living in – and in which, sadly, we’ll do for a while – weights the tons of a planet in the back of our girls… and even of us, women.
Girls are still being undiagnosed; the stigma is still here. Check on twitter for the hashtag ADHD or threads on the subject, and you’ll see teenagers saying their parents don’t want them to get a diagnose!
Therefore, it’s up to us … – women with ADHD and ADHD parents – to get educated; to research and learn diligently; to find a good doctor that could guide us in this journey. Most of us know it… And most of us know how this quest can make us feel defeated more than once; but bear in mind that everyday we try, is a day we don’t lose.
This is extremely difficult but it’s doable. Neurodivergent girls deserve the extra tools they need to build a fulfilled, happy and purposeful life. They deserve to be diagnosed, to be understood; to be loved without buts. They deserve to be able to “speak, eat and cry.”
If you don’t know how to recognise an ADHD girl, search for the joyful and chatty girl in the room; she’ll be showing a new scar like a trophy, sharing things most people believe she shouldn’t be sharing and she’ll be saying, “Let’s do something! Let’s play! Let’s dance!”
You’ll see her talking like an old soul, coming up with a line that is going to shake the fundamentals of your adulthood… And then you’ll see her worried about her doll’s clothing and you’ll think, “Never mind, she is just a child.”… Except that she is not, but she is…
Highly creative, she won’t be shy to share how big her dreams are… So, don’t pull her down…Let her, help her try all the things she wants to try, because she is looking for that one thing that will make her shine… But she is probably not aware of that; because she lives in the midst of waves of deep emotions and big impulses, while thousands of thoughts and doubts take her on an endless rollercoaster ride that leave her exhausted.
An ADHD girl, in this world, is like coal under pressure. She is a diamond in the making… Wouldn’t you want her to shine, now?
Thank you for reading ?♾
Laly York. B.Ed. Lawyer. Writer / Researcher. ADHD advocate
Developer and author of the blogs "Neurodivergent", "NKOTB" and "Laly's."