I’d just like to clarify that I don’t like to think of my mental illness as a “mental illness” because it would mean that it’s something bad. It’s not something bad, it’s just something different.
Before I get into the intricacies; hi there, I have ADHD. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It’s classified as a mental illness because initially, the ones who studied it thought that it was a condition that the brain could be “cured” from. But research in the past decades shows that ADHD is basically a brain that is wired differently. And being different isn’t an illness. But then again, we live in a world where being different often gets you bullied, censored or ostracised.
If I were to describe ADHD in a nutshell, I would say that it’s like having a Ferrari with bicycle brakes. It’s a hella powerful car, but dangerous unless you’re able to get the right brakes for it. ADHD makes it hard for me to concentrate on one task at a time and for long periods of time. It makes me easily distracted. And also the inability to focus affects my hearing, and I often miss out on a lot of what people say. Because my brain is wired a different way, that means that I literally think in a different way, so hello getting called “weird” and “crazy”.
Most people write off ADHD as a “white people problem” or “kuzviitisa” because the concept of mental health is one that we’re really struggling to come to terms with and accept exists in Africa and particularly in Zimbabwe.
But don’t be mistaken; regardless of the negatives that I go through because of ADHD, I wouldn’t want to be any other way. Like everything else in this world, ADHD has its definite perks. ADHD people tend to be very right-brained, making us very creative and often intelligent. I always have thousands of thoughts running through my head all the time (which can be irritating when you want to go to sleep, but then again who needs movies when you have an entire cinema in your mind?). It also gives me loads of energy to the point that I have to just get up and do things sometimes.
Before this becomes an article about the pros and cons of ADHD, I just want to get this out in the clear. I’m human. I’m no different from you. I wake up in the morning by the grace of God, need to eat and perform all of life’s other duties. But this world has not really given people like me a place to be able to live yet. Having an ADHD brain means that my brain is neurotypical which is a fancy way to say that my brain is wired differently from most people out there. That means that you have special needs when it comes to learning how to focus, how to adult, how to interact and because people like me are not visible…or should I say acknowledged. We are forever labelled “crazy, lazy and weird” when we’re really aliens trying to function in a human world.
I’m kidding, I’m not an alien. I’m human and every human deserves a place in this world and for this world to not make its life harder for any reason. We seem to understand this in race, religion, sexuality, gender, but we’re so lost when it comes to mental health.
The information that you often first get about ADHD comes from mental health professionals who teach you how to “live with” or “handle” people with ADHD as if you’re some animal at the zoo that needs special instructions or will go on a rampage. I guess this is not just an issue with ADHD but with every person who has a chronic mental “illness”. You can’t help but feel like you’re slightly less human or considered less human than everyone else.
But then, there are those lovely people who accept you just as you are. My friends who are patient with me when I lose my phone in my hand, who join in when I have an intense need to do cartwheels in the middle of the road and give me a supportive push and thumbs up when I try to implement a few hundred of the thousands of ideas in my head. They remind me I have a place in this world and that being different isn’t a bad thing.
I will admit that for the neurotypical people (yes, you normies you), I may be a lot to handle. That’s what my sister (not blood sister but bestie-promoted-to-sister) said to me one day “that I’m hard to handle sometimes but worth it”. It may surprise you to know that I find neurotypical people hard to handle too sometimes because I literally don’t understand how they think as much as they don’t understand how much I think. The difference is that I have to conform to the neurotypical world or die (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get what I mean). But because of my friends I’ve realised that I don’t really need to conform, but be unapologetically me so that one day the world people with ADHD and other mental conditions won’t need to learn how to navigate in society because society will already have a place for us.
Tanatswa Taruvinga is a quintessential Gen Zer. She doesn’t like to define herself, she just is, so if you really want to get to know her follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tanatswaforever. She tries to be as real and unfiltered as possible. Also, check out her creative blog wotsonyourmind.wordpress.com