Do I Have ADHD? Or Am I ADHD?

At the core of stigma is ignorance, not just about what ADHD is, but also what it means.  As I learned more and started to realize how much of my life had been driven or sabotaged by this hidden disorder, a fundamental question arose.

Do I have ADHD, or I am ADHD? I discussed this with Dr. Anthony Rostain in an interview I was fortunate to have with him.  A few snippets of that interview have appeared in some of our videos, but I wanted you to hear it all.

If you missed it, PART 1 of the interview can be found here.

PART 2 of the interview is below, or listen to the audio version here –

Keep in mind that the following is a transcript of our conversation. It’s a dialog but with most of my questions removed, and there will be more to come.  



Having ADHD vs. Being ADHD

Dr. Rostain:

I remember one time a patient, a very thoughtful man, he was working as a physician’s assistant and he was a really talented guy but he never could get into medical school because his grades weren’t good enough because he had ADS, never diagnosed.  

He finally figured it out after his son was diagnosed and came to see me.  We went through it very carefully and we discussed all the reasons why he might have it.

At one point he came back and he said to me – now I don’t understand whether what you’re telling me is that I have ADHD or I am ADHD.

In that statement was a very important conflict he was experiencing.

If you say to somebody, well you have ADHD it’s like you have poor vision, just wear your glasses. Or, you have diabetes take your insulin.  That’s easy for people to buy.  Okay?  Yeah okay, I’ll just take the medication and I’ll go to cognitive therapy, or take some organizational skills classes, or communication classes with my spouse.

But it’s more than that you see, because if what ADHD really is, is about how you construct the world, and how you experience your life, then it isn’t that easy. Right? Because then are you trading off some things you like? Like being spontaneous or thinking outside the box?

Understanding ADHD

This is what we got into, this conversation, and I get it in into it all the time.  What does it mean to you now that I’ve told you this. And that’s the step that’s missing a lot.  It’s not just what is going on with you, but now you tell me, what does it mean to you? And that dialogue is I think important for people to have with their clinicians, because then the doctor can hear – oh it means that you are feeling inferior because every time you take that pill it’s a reminder that you’re not as good without it.  Okay, well then, let’s talk about that.

You see, it’s not about – hey you have ADHD and everything is fine. It’s, you have ADHD, now you have another way to explain what’s going on with you, but you have a new set of challenges then. Right? How do I fit the old view of myself with this new view of myself?

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