Beyond ADHD Author Jeff Emmerson speaking with a parent at a book signing in 2017.

Thank you, ADHD (Mis)Diagnosis: You Taught Me a Ton, I Admit

Well, a 5-year journey has come to an end for me. It’s time to move on from speaking about ADHD – the diagnostic process, over-diagnosing concerns, misdiagnosing worries, under-diagnosing issues and the rampant misuse of stimulant medication in western society.

What began with my own diagnosis after a suicide attempt in 2011 has evolved into the realization that the term “ADHD” is thrown around like it’s a joke in society…in sitcoms, groups of teens and even parents…”You’re so ADD (or ADHD”) and other sadly rushed, often ignorant (by ignorant, I simply mean a lack of knowledge) statements. I’m also horrified with how rampantly people are misusing stimulant drugs (and some doctors are prescribing them without digging deeper into root causes for symptoms).

What began as a hallelujah moment for me when first diagnosed became a scapegoat of sorts – simply take a pill and be better, right?

Wrong. Horribly wrong.

But this isn’t just about me. This is about a society taking band-aid drugs to help itself cope and in many cases, try to “get ahead.” I used to use anabolic steroids back in the 1990’s (briefly, thank God), so I understand the desire, but the way society is headed in both rushed diagnosing and prescribing in millions of cases (once you realize the shortages in proper specialists and just how widespread general practitioner prescribing is without any initial consults with psychiatrists, psychologist and the like, it becomes clear how severe this is, especially in the U.S. and Canada, as I personally experienced) has driven me into wanting to move on from this specific topic, recognizing that it’s an ocean of opinions, justifications for behavior and statements like “the meds help me,” even without proper, thorough assessments in millions of cases, and in those who illegally use stimulants.

I want to support everyone with this, and I’m a very driven person when it comes to wanting to empower others, but I need to do it in other ways. The ADHD realm is so full of subjective opinions in a world where these symptoms are cropping up more and more for MANY reasons that I realize something much bigger is happening here:

We’re collectively drugging ourselves to try and cope with issues that are much larger in society. – I get that. I understand that western society is pressured, that nutrition is lacking, people are losing sleep (44% of America gets less than 6 hours a night, according to National Geographic Television) and that competitiveness is at an all-time high in society, forcing people to stay awake longer, try to do more work to keep their jobs and stay afloat….all that stuff. Believe me – I get the macro, “big picture.” I always have very intuitively.

Frankly, there are other diagnoses/labels that arise acutely and chronically as a result of such a society (how many people do you know on antidepressant and/or anxiety meds?), but ADHD is one of the faultiest, most stigmatized & misunderstood catch-phrases these days.

There’s a Distressing Bigger Picture Here, Once We Open Our Eyes

As far as rampant stimulant use, it’s “just behind the opiates,” according to a physician in the recent Netflix documentary Take Your Pills, which absolutely horrified me and made me decide to leave the ADHD realm, due to the ocean of controversy, misuse of stimulant meds & the bigger picture with these symptoms in general. I know that I can help in other ways, regardless of what someone’s diagnosis is or the meds they might be on (for whatever reason they’re on them).

I simply got tired of trying to show people from all walks of life how to dig deeper and not rush a damn diagnosis of ADHD, like mine was (and it took weeks for mine, but very little was ruled out!). In hindsight, this has been incredibly fucking angering, seeing how rushed assessments are by often well-meaning people in the field who just don’t have enough support.

Pardon my swearing, but THAT is how the ignorance in society around ADHD has made me feel many times. I realize that things take time to evolve, but I feel like I’m swimming upstream in a big-pharma/media-supported wave of “take your pills” propaganda that is, frankly, an insult to our collective intelligence.

Moving On with Hope, Driven By The Need for Positive Support

Back to empowering, inspiring and supporting people across the board in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling infuriated and like I’m simply feeding the pharmaceutical machine. I do realize that meds help some folks, but Jesus, we need to dig deeper, not buying into a “medicated culture” like it should  be the norm.

That’s called collective sickness, dependency & a lack of self-empowered leadership. We’re better than this (and again, I’m speaking for the majority, not the moderate to severe minority who need psych meds to survive).

While this wasn’t a “pretty” read, I hope it ruffles some feathers & gets some support. Do I have all the answers? Of course not. I do speak the truth when it comes to the need to take our lives back and teach kids and adults a new mindset (and fund/support holistic programs in society to help people thrive and adapt to new innovations).

Not Just Pills, Damn it! Teach SKILLS!

I’ll always advocate for holistic healthcare that isn’t just in a hospital or doctor’s office being prescribed psych meds. We need to TEACH PEOPLE SKILLS, not just how to take pills. We also need to support de-prescribing whenever possible. Meds don’t need to be automatically permanent, but we simply aren’t taught that!

I digress. Onward and forward! Empowerment and support also means addressing the truth and learning ways to work through it with a growth mindset.

Onward with fist raised tightly,

Jeff