Who to Tell About Your ADHD

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Whenever I’m struggling to come up with a topic to write about I invariably am led to a problem I’m currently dealing with. So first off, thanks for being my sounding board, and in return you’re welcome to any knowledge I find as I continue on this ADHD journey of mine. Today’s topic is about your circle of trust when it comes to your ADHD.

I’m coming up on four months since the day my therapist suggested that I had ADHD and I can confidently say that fewer than 10 people who know me know I have ADHD. About half are family, others are my therapist, doctor, and perhaps one or two folks online.

I’ve actually got a list of 15 more people that I intend to tell, including more family members, current and former employers, and others who are or were close friends. But I haven’t shared this with anyone new since I made a series of calls to a few family members a month or two ago. I seem to be stuck. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad thing. My circle is small and I trust it. If it were to expand, I may quickly hit that critical mass of people who have “the knowledge,” at which point I might as well be “out,” though I am not ready for that stage yet.

I ran a Twitter poll a couple of months ago asking who others had told, and the results varied pretty greatly:

What this says to me is that who you tell is entirely up to you and the circumstances you are in. There is no right answer here except what is right for you. So let’s look together at things to consider regarding sharing or not sharing.

Why shouldn’t you increase your circle of trust?

My quick answer to that is it’s not necessarily necessary. No one has a “right” to know you have ADHD. As of this moment I’ve mostly reserved sharing it on a “need to know” basis, and it turns out there are very few people who legitimately need to know. The people I have included so far are the ones I trust implicitly to 1) be supportive, and 2) not share with others.

Work is my other big reason for not sharing. Everyone’s situation is different. And you might think that working in education a lot of folks would understand ADHD and be more accepting of it. But there is plenty of ignorance to go around, even in public education, and I have worked for some employers who might screen you out of the application process because your name came up associated with ADHD on a Google search. It’s not ethical, but I know it happens.

The last reason I can think of is just a lack of preparedness on my own part. This whole thing is so new to me still and I’m working on figuring out so much still. When I do start sharing more broadly, I want to be able to do so with knowledge and confidence.

Why should you increase your circle of trust?

The first and easiest reason to share is if there’s a real need. When I first started taking meds, I was worried about what side effects might start showing up, and more specifically, that I might not notice some changes in myself. So I found one person at work who I trust and shared with them that I have ADHD and was beginning medication for it. They have been a valuable resource to me as I began meds and have had meds adjustments. Also in this group of “others who need to know” I would typically include adults who live with you and medical professionals who treat you.

You may find that you have a real need to disclose that you have ADHD to your employer or to your school or university. This would be if you require workplace or educational accommodations because ADHD significantly impacts your work or academic performance. Though I have clearly seen an impact of ADHD in my work, I am trying to gauge what accommodations might be needed after I have made improvements through therapy and medication. Trying to decide if workplace accommodations are right for you? This article from CHADD is a great place to start.

The last reason to share that you have ADHD with someone is simply so that you can be truly known and hopefully understood by those around you. I don’t like feeling that I have to “hide” part of myself and I honestly look forward to the day when I can call up old friends and even old employers and share what I’ve discovered. I want to shout, “See? I found out there’s a really good reason for everything! I have ADHD!!” When I think about that day, I get goosebumps.

So why don’t I share now?

As I said, my own diagnosis is relatively new and I’m not quite ready. But beyond that, creating ADHDsurprise has given me a powerful gift. I can speak freely, honestly, and candidly about my problems. I can tell you about how my ADHD has hurt me and others in my life. How it has impacted work and home. I can share embarrassing stories and real, unfiltered examples of struggles from my life because they are not tied to me right now.

Ironically, if I put my real name on this blog, it would mean the content would become less real, or at least more guarded. I’d have to be constantly looking over my shoulder and wondering what employer, friend, or family member is reading along and takes offense or has some other problem with what I’ve posted.

So for now, I feel that I’m providing something to the ADHD community that is real and also keeps me safe. I hope one day I can simply “be” and not have to worry about it. But for now, I’m happy to share what I’m learning as I’m learning it, and I hope it helps you too.

What about you? Who have you told? Who would you like to tell? If everyone knows you have ADHD already, how does that feel? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter.


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