What You’re Reading About ADHD Could Be Dangerous

There is a lot of information online about ADHD, and many of it can hurt us or may not apply to us. How can we take care of ourselves?

By Laly Steel

October 12, 2020

“Where to start?” After receiving our diagnose, many of us find that doctors don’t know enough; so, we start googleling for articles, searching on YouTube for a five or ten minute video that can explain it all; we begin following the ADHD hashtag on social networks, retweeting and reposting every time we feel, “This is totally me!” We may even take a course…

I did it all, and I learned I should have follow my doctor’s guidance sooner than I had because: not everything that’s out there is accurate and, also, it may not applies to us.  

Thus, I thought about reflecting on what we are reading, how it can have a bad impact on us and how we can take care of ourselves.

Learning on Our Own

If we want to learn how to master our ADHD brain, we’d start by learning what’s happening up there; do you agree? Then, if we want to learn how an ADHD brain is different, first we’d need to know how any brain works; right? That’s how I started; digging about the parts of the brain, on recognised websites.

I wanted to find “one” image that would give me the whole picture; instead, I found a lot of different classifications and many of those had even another take; for instance: one of those divides the brain in two or three parts according the human evolution, and it says that the “limbic” part is the oldest. Exhausted, I asked Dr. K about it and he said, “No; forget about it; it’s a theory; read this.”

  • He gave me a list of Med Journals to search for papers (which I’ll post asap in the Guide)
  • One the first books he lent me was “The Power of Neurodiversity” by Thomas Armstrong PhD; very enlightening;
  • Then I started taking classes of neuroscience with him (lucky me, this psychiatrist specialises in neuroscience and ADHD, and he is a Professor)

And about those papers…. When I started my treatment, one of the side effects I used to have was blurred vision. One day it got so bad that I went straight to PubMed and I found that the methylphenidate could cause glaucoma in children with ADHD. I freaked out, told my doctor and started directing all my executive functions to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

My doctor said, “Wait; stay calm; try quitting them if you wish until you see the ophthalmologist; still, your PTSD may be causing those side effects; try to avoid stress; remember to drink plenty of water.” And he asked, “What did you read?” And I said, “I know the study has seven subjects, but still!”

“Seven.” Or so…, I can’t remember… But, you get the point, right?

Taking ADHD Courses

Recently I spent all my savings, U$S 675 (which in Argentina feels like over a hundred percent more) [1] on an ADHD course “approved by the International Coach Federation (ICF);” that seems extremely serious and trustworthy, right? Well…

At the “Simply ADHD” course offered by ADDCA, I received a manual from which I read: “The brain takes in incredible amounts of information from our senses, the environment, our interactions, feelings, and memories.” I went nuts; how could a course that trains ADHD coaches can say this? That’s Biology 101! The brain only receives information from our senses!

Then I read, “The mind is the essence of our being, (…) or the commander of our command center who can pause, make thoughtful decisions, and take thoughtful action. Our mind resides in and around the brain (…)” I laughed. I mentioned this “concept of the mind” (which is a psychological theory,) to Dr. K and he went like, “Don’t even…”

Following #ADHD on Social Networks

There are a lot of well-known Twitter accounts from ADHD advocates, saying what ADHD is; they share their struggles: they give us a great dose of motivation but also, make a lot of people believe ADHD is the same for everyone.

We are so much alike, that when we read another neurodivergent saying the same things in the exact way we say it, we believe, “Who am I? Am I clone? Do I even have a personality?”

You do. You do have a personality; ADHD may define a lot of your behavior, but it doesn’t make you equal to every other neurodivergent. Your upbringing, your own values, your own strength; these are the things that shape who you are at the end of the day. How you manage your ADHD shape your neurodivergent nature.

A Humble Advice

Living with ADHD is quite a challenge, and the discovery path we take to understand it is very difficult; we are learning about neuroscience! But above all, what we discover can hurt us, bring us down if we don’t count with the proper guidance; and this guidance, must come from our doctor.

There are great books; Russel A. Barkley and Thomas E. Brown are, for instance, the two most recognised authors on ADHD; but, each of them have their own vision; they even have their own “list” of executive functions. Why is that? Because no one has agreed yet on which the executive functions are.

So, here is my humble advice (besides, of course, finding a doctor who can guide you)

  • If you find what it seems to be a nice research study, pay attention to the methods they’ve used and how many patients have participated; then, search for another one and “ask your doctor.”
  • If you’re taking a course, please don’t make the mistake I made and check who’s behind that course; the people who instructed me at ADDCA are coaches (not doctors, not specialists in neuroscience, not professors).
  • Bear in mind that the research on ADHD is in diapers; question everything; double check with your doctor;
  • When you read something on social media or an online magazine: check the author’s profile; and above all, ask yourself how do you feel about it; does it apply to you? It may not.

As I said before,

“ADHD may define a lot of your behavior, but it doesn’t make you equal to every other neurodivergent. Your upbringing, your own values, your own strength; these are the things that shape who you are at the end of the day. How you manage your ADHD shape your neurodivergent nature.”

I Take It Like My Horoscope

I don’t believe in horoscopes… but I do wonder, “If the moon has influence over the tides and the human body is mostly water, it could influence us too.” For that reason, I never paid much attention to the zodiac horoscope; but the Chinese one …, something about it got me hooked.

Twenty years ago I went to the book signing of Ludovica Squirru, a recognized Argentinian author of the Chinese horoscope; and what she said, changed my whole perspective. She said something like,

“This is what the starts have aligned for you, but it doesn’t mean this is going to happen to you. A horoscope should be seen as a guide; if it says we’re going to lack of money on September, save for September!”

That is how I take everything I read on ADHD. If I read my brain has a challenge when it comes to its the executive functions, I wonder, “How does this apply to me?” For example: everybody says we all have a lot of problems with our “organization skills;” but I never had an issue with it.

… That could be thanks to the nuns in School or due to my military father who is the epitome of what an organized person is; I don’t know… but I’m the Marie Kondo of my dopamine (with a current help of that thing called “Ritalin”; I must give it a lot of credit these days.)

It’s said that we are wired to see the good in people; so, I’d say trust no one until you corroborate they are worth your trust.

And remember that even though you have a neurodiverse nature, you’re still unique; wonderfully unique.

Notes

[1] A dollar in Argentina is over 150 pesos; thus, my wallet payed for that course what in the US would be over six thousand dollars.

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