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In part I of this post, we described three of the reasons black people are reluctant to accept the reality of the ADHD diagnosis. Part II brings the conclusion.
4. Conformity, or being rated as “black enough” is supposed to be your primary goal.
I want to meet the black police. Or the black board, Senate, caucus or coven that makes these rules. This particular part of being black has always frustrated me, mostly because I never seem to fall safely within the black enough parameters. I gave up years ago, but even when I would try it seems like a system that is set up to control me. Mainly because it is. If I want to listen to country or rock music, own a pet, wear certain styles of clothing, follow a political party or even worship God in a different way, many blacks will scold, shame and ridicule me back into line ( or in my case, into offended silence). With enough of these experiences, I quickly became able to define “what black people do” as whatever I felt like doing at that time. After all, Ray Charles was inspired by country music. Ike Turner, regardless of his other issues, was one of the pioneers of the sound that became rock and roll. Jimi Hendrix frequently lamented the lack of black people who could get into what he played. Dennis Rodman scandalized black people with his wild hair and wilder behavior off court in the 1990’s. Trailblazers in medicine, education and science have similar experiences with this inner prejudice.
Many blacks just don’t believe in mental illness, for aforementioned reasons. If you try to tell them about your experiences, prepare to get hit with the dreaded “trying to act white.” If we as black people fear anything, it is this accusation. It takes a particularly strong person to push past these assumptions and prejudices to take care of him or her self. People should know that when they blow someone off and give them these foolish reasons, they are dooming them to be alone during a period when they are vulnerable and most in need of support.
There is also fear when you separate yourself from the crowd for a very good reason: if you stand out you draw attention to yourself, and by extension the rest of the black population. Oftentimes when the news comes on, and a particularly heinous story comes on, many of us will say to each other “please, don’t let him be black!” Instead of being judged individually we are often considered the representatives for our entire race. We are expected to know “how black people feel” about things, we’re also often told “you’re not like other black people” or “you don’t act like a typical black person,” a feeling that never ceases to make a person wonder: “what do these people think of me, and what are they saying when I am not around?” It is bad enough to be different but you definitely don’t want to show any of your negative qualities around white people. What one of us does affects how the next black person they encounter will be received, so we are taught to avoid anything that might be considered an embarrassment. Your mental illness? You know where that falls, definitely off-limits and taboo.
5. Lack of Education/Awareness
It is amazing how little you can know about a subject if you choose not to acknowledge it. Many black women today who are suffering from depression go untreated because that woman may see suffering as an ordinary part of her existence, and nothing to be concerned with. Our men often go untreated completely. When I received my diagnosis with ADHD, I thought everyone would be so excited for me; at long last I had found the answer to what I had been missing. I wasn’t lazy or lacking in motivation, I had a problem that education and treatment could resolve. My family members might have it to. After all, ADHD is extremely inheritable. You have the same risk of inheriting this disorder from a parent as you do their eye color. If you think getting people to see YOUR diagnosis is hard, imagine trying to convince them that they too seem to suffer from the disorder. I have listened to relatives dance around their obvious ADHD symptoms by saying, “I’m alright, I’ve learned to deal with x,y and z.” “That’s alright for you, but not everybody wants to go down that path,” I was chided on more than one occasion. I became so frustrated that I gave up. If people choose to remain in ignorance rather than admit they have a problem that has a solution, there is very little that can be done.
This road is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards you will experience are limited. Untreated ADHD can lead to a life of frustration and unrealized potential. I encourage you today, no matter what race you are: if you think you have ADHD, get a professional to assess you. You owe it to yourself. If you don’t want to take medicine don’t; this disorder can be managed a variety of ways. Just don’t suffer in silence. Consider this little corner of the web a place where you can come and get the burden of ridicule off your shoulders. Send me an email, leave a comment. Once I was all alone in this struggle too. You can make it; black, white, purple, pink or grey!
Until next time,
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