I am a person with a disability. And despite my passion for advocating for other people with disabilities, I frequently don’t extend the same understanding, accommodation, and sensitivity to myself that I would as a matter of course extend to others.

I don’t have numbers of friends, although I adore almost all the people I know. I am the one who maybe talks a little too much, forgets things, loses things, and is very sensitive to your criticism. I struggle daily to get my time organized and my life managed.  

I am often the only person proud of me. I am often the only person who knows my true creativity, my ability to observe patterns in human interaction, my ability to see and mark injustice.  And I frequently have to resort to writing about them in order to communicate them effectively.

Because what many of you take for granted; the ability to remember appointments, names or dates, to keep together important papers or items, to regulate your emotional energy and output, and the luxury of no time pressure to get your thoughts and ideas voiced; are things that are an enormous struggle for me.

I have what is often called a “hidden” (secret, unseen, silent) disability. My disability is frequently dismissed as unimportant, imaginary, juvenile, and not worthy of mention as a disability.

Yet the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which protects people with disabilities specifically mentions mine as a disability; noting that it can have a severe effect on life quality, on productivity, and ability to perform normal life functions. I have lost  jobs, promotions, friends, and (heartbreakingly to me) the opportunities to advocate for others with disabilities BECAUSE OF my disability.

My disability causes me great stress and emotional pain. It takes enormous effort for me to perform daily tasks that others find quite easy.

I never get a pat on the back for being able to maintain the high level of productivity I do maintain. I never get kudos for the times I am able to articulate exactly what I need to. I am never applauded for the days when I perform up to and sometimes beyond the measure of other people.

I don’t tell people what its like to live with my disability; I often don’t declare it at all. I have only asked for accommodation for my disability twice; neither time was the request received well and in both cases I regretted asking.

There are some special strengths my disability has given me – if I am truly passionate about a project, I can work on it with an astonishingly high degree of precision and clarity. If I am knowledgeable and care about an issue, I can come up with more innovative and exciting ways to work with it or on it that anyone else in the room.  And my ideas won’t be impractical because I will have already thought out a process and a procedure, a way to market it, all the pros and cons – because I can think with lightning speed about things I know and understand.

I am great at a lot of the things I do. I am a passionate and powerful preacher, and I can craft a moving and effective sermon, even on the fly. I excel at creating and packaging social programs, at creating liturgies, and at advocating for justice. I can work out even the tiniest details of events and projects, make all the materials needed to "sell" it and my enthusiasm generates a lot of responding creativity in others.

Yes, I know you will have remarked the times when you were all discussing something and I seemed inattentive and wandering.  Yes, it’s true that I may have zoned out on you and I’m sorry it hurt your feelings. Yes, I know that I sometimes talk too much or interrupt other people or jump too quickly to the next idea. It’s not that I don’t like or care or respect you – I probably have an overwhelmingly urgent sense of what I need to communicate before it’s gone – forgotten.  And we were probably in a night meeting, which is my worst time because I am tired from regulating my attention and focus all day

I know I am a pain in the ass sometimes. But it is not a character flaw, or a personality weakness. I guess it's who I am.

When I have revealed my disability, I’ve been laughed at or minimized or marginalized. I’ve been told it’s all in my head (which is kind of punny.)  I’ve had people roll their eyes, or make a joke of it. I’ve had other people who say “Well I grew out of that,” or “I have that, it’s not an issue.” Well it is for me. I’m not whining. I am not trying to “get attention.” 

I've been told -- just get the right medication and that will take care of it. Yes, medication helps a lot. I have tried, believe me. I am currently involved in a nearly three year battle to get the medication I need to manage my symptoms. Because the insurance companies say my medication can be addictive, I have to battle my way to finding a therapist who will take my insurance and reassure them. Because the insurance companies say more children are initially diagnosed with my disorder than adults, most of the therapies and protocols focus on children’s needs, rather than mine.  Yet, the NIMH calls my disability “potentially severely debilitating with a negative impact on quality of life and achievement.”

Being LGBTQA is not a disability of course. When people who are LGBTQA “come out,” they reveal to the world what they know to be true about themselves. They declare that they are worthy of the love of others and of God and that they desire and deserve to be loved for exactly who they are.

So do I.  I guess this is my “coming out” story.

I have severe ADHD. In response to your three most likely questions:

  • ·         Yes, it is a real disability
  • ·         Yes, it affects me daily and I struggle with it daily
  • ·         Yes, I try to manage it with medication
    Thanks for “listening.”