I made a mistake this morning. I woke up early, too early, and thought I would check out Facebook while I waited to drift back off to sleep. Instead of sleep I ended up with my blood boiling. My mother bear was awakened. My heart was pounding as my fingers madly typed. I tried, politely, to let a longtime friend of mine know that a meme she was sharing was shortsighted and diminished the experience of those that really do have ADHD, Bipolar, and depression.
While normally I just let memes and comments like this go, pass them quickly, ignoring them. Every once in a while one just hits the wrong nerve and I can't help but slap it down. Today this was the culprit. I considered putting the image in here so you could see it but to be honest - I don't want to give it any air time. But I will describe it to you. T the top it says in bold print: CHILDHOOD IS NOT A DISEASE. Followed by a split screen showing the 1980 and 2014 with the same set of pictures for three scenarios. It indicated that what was called daydreaming in the 80's is now called ADHD. What was called moodiness in the 80s is called Bipolar and what was a loner in the 80s is now called depression. That was pretty much it.
My attempt at a kind rebuke as answered. Really, she said, she does believe in these disorders, it's just the evil drug companies are to blame and over diagnosis and bad parenting that she's worried about and that's why she shared this particular meme. I went back and looked it again. Was there any mention of drug companies? No. Parenting addressed? No. Over diagnosis? Just in asking the question in subtext: "Do you think they over diagnose our children?"
What I held back in my first response came flying out in my second. Why? Because I am tired of holding my tongue and watching ignorance passed around and perpetuated! I fight that same ignorance, those same stereotypes, and myths at the forefront of the battle here on this blog and on my EverydayHealth.com blog shoulder to shoulder with other parents, teachers, friends, and family that know and understand.
I said to her...
"A young lady in our church committed suicide a couple months ago - while this meme would say there is no depression in youth - they're just loners. She battled depression every day for years. As for being a loner, she had many friends, truly everybody loved her, and was constantly surrounded by them. She was a student athlete, a straight A student, an active beautiful girl with a huge giving heart. She was about as far away from being a loner as you could possibly be. She didn't share her battle with depression with anyone but her parents. Her friends had no idea - why? Because of stupid stereotypes like this one.
You may feel that pharmaceutical companies are behind the increased diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar, and depression but those numbers are negligible compared to those that aren't. This meme does not address what you say is the issue at all. Maybe you would like to talk to this young girl’s mother, post this on her wall so she can see it or come spend a day with my kids - I'll hide the meds and you can see what their life is like without them. Maybe you would like to spend an hour or two talking to Rachel (our oldest daughter) about her feelings of inadequacy and failure from the years she went through school without a diagnosis or medication. Memes like this don't help - they don't correct wrongful diagnosis. They do, however, keep people from seeking help by perpetuating stereotypes and myths that these very real disorders are nothing.
As for these kids needing parenting not meds - I am a bad ass when it comes to parenting and guess what all the bad ass moves I have made, all the coping mechanisms I have taught and teach every day, all the nights I have sat up with a child that couldn't sleep because of insomnia or was fighting depression or anxiety have not once changed how their brains are wired and function. I can guarantee that I am not the exception to the rule in parenting - there are thousands of parents just like me that go way above and beyond to help their children with disabilities succeed. I know, I talk to them from all corners of the world, every day.
You can reason it however you want - this kind of crap that is passed around without any forethought perpetuates ignorance. Maybe you are fortunate enough to not have children with these issues in your life or maybe your're in denial - I don't know but regardless this meme is ignorant and shortsighted, it perpetuates outdated stereotypes and myths and it is harmful whether you believe in ADHD or not."
Here is the deal. While I am positive that there are kids that are diagnosed incorrectly I am also positive there are kids that aren't diagnosed at all that do have these disorders. I also believe that much of what we see as over diagnosis because of large increase in the numbers over the last several decades has to do with our increased understanding of the disorders and better diagnostic tools. For example, my husband wasn't diagnosed until he was an adult. He and many like him had ADHD but were never diagnosed. In that era only very extreme cases were. As for over medicating. I am sure it happens as well, but, there are also many kids that could benefit from medication but don't have it because of the stigma associated with it. Their parents are afraid to have them diagnosed, to medicate them, to get them help because of the stigma associated with these disorders.
We parents of kids with these disorders and others like them fight a daily battle of decision. We work hard to do the best for our kids often, like in our home, by combining as many therapies and treatments as we can find that will work. We fight that stigma, those stereotypes, that ignorance, every day and so do our kids. Why? Because other people, adults, and kids, are influenced by these kinds of ignorant memes that gets passed around the internet.
I am a strong willed person and heaven knows my kids are the same. They have an understanding far above their peers about these disorders, their disorders. They know what's entailed in them, how their brain functions differently. They understand not just from living it but they understand the biology of it. They stand up for themselves when peers or adults make ignorant statements like, "ADHD isn't real." As my son told one such naysayer, "Just because youdon't believe in the Sun doesn't mean it doesn't shine."
As his parent I really wish such ignorance would go away. I wish it wouldn't be "shared," "liked," or "retweeted." Enough already. Think before you post, STOP sharing ignorance.