Friday, October 15, 2010

Andrew's example

So often people try to tell us what we are capable of based on what they see or don't see. They judge our abilities based on our diagnoses. That is if they even believe the diagnosis in the first place and then they try to box people in with that diagnosis. They try to categorize and box us into neat little categories, so that they have control over us. I watched this video on the social network called disability resource exchange. It is a very good example of a group of people, people with down syndrome, who are frequently judged as retarded, hopeless, with out potential and what not. Yet, this young man has everything he needs to be a brilliant, successful, creative, contributing member of society. He has parents, who believe in him and have worked diligently with him to develop ordinary skills, he has attended mainstream high school, has learned to play piano and the drums, he participates in sports every day and he can socialize with ordinary peers as well as his peers, who also have downs syndrome. So much for a man, who is "retarded", "developmentally delayed", or "hopeless". This young man is anything but these things. He can read, he can learn, he can socialize, he can achieve anything he wants.

So can those of us with ADD/ADHD, with depression, bipolar, learning disabilities, OCD, physical challenges, mental challenges, chronic medical conditions. I have been diagnosed with multiple types of ADD/ADHD as outlined by Dr. Daniel Amen in his book Healing ADD. I have also been diagnosed with depression and have some learning disabilities. I was born with what most people would call "multiple birth defects". Some people would say that I have no special gifts from all that I've had to deal with, but I feel I do. I have come to cherish my differences and have learned how to work with what I've got. Anything can be taken as a gift or a curse, as a positive or a negative, but that is a choice we make and can make. Treating our challenges doesn't eliminate our challenges, it merely makes it possible to turn them into gifts and assets rather than deficits and curses.

I have been through 5 hand surgeries, have been treating my ADHD for nearly a decade now, treating my depression actively for half a decade, worked with an ADHD/ADD coach for several years and doctor who does both pharmacology and therapy. I still have the hand I was born with and I still have the ADHD, the mood related stuff and the learning challenges. I still have my birth challenges and I still have my attentional challenges. I don't feel cursed at all, in fact I feel blessed; blessed with understanding of what makes us human, with what matters most, what my capabilities really are. Perhaps being different doesn't make one more creative, but I'd argue it makes us develop our creativity further than we would if we didn't have those underlying challenges. How else do you achieve excellence and overcome but through a positive out look on life. My right hand is just as useful as my ADHD is. It takes a large amount of creativity and courage and tenacity to overcome these challenges even in the face of naysayers. It takes courage to keep trying long after others would have given up. It takes courage and bravery to be positive even when our past is riddled with pain, darkness, and shortcomings.

I feel I have accomplished so much more valuable achievements because of my journey through my challenges. I wouldn't trade my experience in for anything. Why should I fold up and die just because the "experts" think I should? Yes, I may continue to have difficulty throwing out the bottle caps to my soda, but I have made a positive difference in the lives of others. I have managed to become successful, I have managed to become well respected by others, I have managed to cope with less than ideal living conditions. I am proud of who I am and what I've accomplished. And so should you be proud of what you've managed to achieve. Don't let any one cast a negative blanket over you and tell you how you should feel about having ADHD or any other challenge you might have.

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