Crushing the Stereotype of ADHD in Girls
by Lindsey Taft
When people think of children with ADHD they think of rambunctious kids who cannot sit still, never pay attention, or stay in their seats, basically a terror of a child. When I was diagnosed with ADHD at age twelve I did none of these things. I like to think I was a good child, I tried to follow directions, except my version of those directions always seemed to be wrong. I tried writing down the directions but that didn’t seem to work either. I was always messing up. Misunderstanding things all of the time and always being the last to know the truth. It felt like I was constantly the butt of some elaborate practical joke.
The H in ADHD stands for hyperactivity, what they don’t say is that this is a symptom more common in boys, the stereotypical kind of activities. Squirming in their seats, being too loud, or getting up and moving without being asked to. When I was first diagnosed the doctor explained that girls experience this hyperactivity as well but differently. For us its twirling our hair or biting a pencil, more subtle activities which is why it’s not commonly picked up on.
As I’ve gotten older the hyperactivity is less in my body and more in my brain. People with ADHD think differently while everyone else has a one track mind and can focus on one thing our brains have several trains of thought going at once. It’s not just “getting distracted.” Trying to sleep at night is ridiculous because my brain is so noisy because it sees everything, not just what I’m supposed to be looking at. So millions of soundbites, thoughts, scenarios, memories play out in my mind all at once in no coherent order. It’s even worse when it’s quiet because then I’m forced to focus on that.
I was prescribed medication to help me focus in school. It didn’t necessarily solve all of my problems, I find it hard to begin tasks but once I do the medication helps me remain focused until the job is done. When I’m off it I have more forgetful moments. I’ll open my phone and log on to Tumblr without thinking even though I originally was going to check my bank account. I won’t remember that until ten to twenty minutes later sometimes even an hour. What the meds help me do mostly is remain more alert. The world gets a little less fuzzy and more in focus.
Having ADHD isn’t all bad though multitasking can become a bit of a skill. Especially when there are several things going on at once. At my part time job I have to keep an eye on certain things for safety’s sake and I spot things that no one else notices. Sometimes solving certain puzzles are easier because your brain umps around so much that you can stumble on a short cut and come up with a solution before anyone else. You can’t say that it doesn’t encourage out of the box thinking.
The thing with ADHD is that it’s not as simple as “not paying attention” our brains just move faster and sometimes we need to learn to slow them down in order to keep up with those around us. We are not the loud, obnoxious, problem child who would rather wander the classroom than sit still. And we are not the person who doesn’t know when it’s their turn to speak and blurts out whatever’s in their head.
ADHD can be quiet, it can be subtle, it just needs to be seen.