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Mental Health at Wheaton: Pt. V – The Impulsive Mind

Every single one of us is unique, we are all different to some degree–but many of us do not fit into what is actually considered “normal.”  When I was six or seven years old I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.  What does that mean? Well, depending on the hour, day, month, or year of my life it can mean something completely different.  Before I begin delving into my attempt to articulate my experience, I must be clear: my story is not the story for those who have ADHD (or mental health struggles in general); there are many people diagnosed and undiagnosed from varying contexts. My story is one of mostly love and support amidst my struggles. Unfortunately, many do not have access to the resources they need nor the support structures required to survive with inexplicable difficulties. I hope this to can be empowering to you out there who too struggle;I pray it is not a self-congratulating ego boost (look what I’ve made it through!) or a pity party (oh my life is so difficult! wahhhh) because that is just worthless.

As the reader may be aware, there are still many questions revolving around the validity of ADHD. At various points in my life I have questioned my doctor’s diagnosis. Some people still say: “That just sounds like an issue every person has.” So I think: “Wait…EVERYONE deals with this? Yes…no…maybe. Then why do I have to take 30mg of metadate every day? Why did I have to spend years in developmental therapy simply to be able to piece reality together? Why do I feel like I’m insane a couple days every week?” In addition, accompanied with such questions, in the background of my mind I hear voices whispering, “ADHD is not real, it’s an excuse for undisciplined, immature, and hyperactive behavior, and doctors are diagnosing all the kids with it!” To which I say, “Wow, what insight you have about something you don’t know a thing about!” Or someone may ask, “You take medication? Doesn’t that change your personality to something you are not?” To be fair, these are legitimate questions to have because I would hate for me to become something I’m not, and honestly, for many people, medications can do more harm than good. For me, it took years to get used to the irritability and the aggressiveness that came with my medicine. But, without medication, I cannot think, read, or contemplate clearly, or even make sense of whatever I have to face on any given day. Also, I know there are doctors who have misdiagnosed children and adults with ADHD because it is a “disorder” that can be misinterpreted in an era of such distraction and information overload. However, that is a flimsy argument against ADHD’s legitimacy and it elevates the truth that it is very difficult to have ADHD in this era of distraction and information overload.

My childhood was strange. I was oftentimes confused about how to interact with peers, so I found myself befriending other socially awkward kids. I have no regrets about that because we had a good time; however, because we were different, we often faced trouble from other students. Isn’t it sad how we so often hurt those different than us? I admit that I am not innocent from this violence, in fact, in order to elevate my deflated self-esteem I would often join in the mockery of an autistic student. I thankfully had the opportunity a few years later to apologize to him, but my actions revealed to me a dark side I developed in order to fit in. I still struggle with this elevation game (that is present at Wheaton College!) but today I am working to oppose it. I fit in with the “misfits” because I am one. We are all misfits.

And you know what? We misfits contribute to the community. I want to fight the presupposition that ADHD is a curse on those who have it. In fact, I have found my ADHD to bring me joy at times. I firmly believe that we can be very creative and fun; yes, I am definitely biased…but we’re awesome. I want to celebrate the good that comes with my “disorder” such as the childlike imagination and creativity I still have because I never “grew up” or the hyperactivity that reminds us that we really shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

I do not think the Wheaton College community believes ADHD is a false exaggeration, but I do experience misunderstandings and, sometimes, mockery of the difficulties I face (such as the fact that I am easily confused). When I came to Wheaton College a couple years ago, I thought I was mostly in control of my mental health; in fact, I was not even considering it much. However, something hit me my sophomore year like nothing before. I had hardly any energy, I was negative about everything, particularly my future, I was depressed, anxious, and sadder than ever. Yes, many students go through a “sophomore slump,” but I went through something that still haunts me. Imagine waking up one day and all of your motor skills failing you, your ability to make sense of the world falling apart, and your emotions and desires going haywire. This state made being a student very difficult. I am still working out why such a thing happened but it gave me a new frame of mind that helped me make it through the even worse emotional breakdown I had when I came back from doing Wheaton in Chicago this January. I am not afraid to admit I am broken, messed up, and not “normal.” Being a student at Wheaton College is not easy. Though we need to work to build Christ’s kingdom with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, I want to remind you that we need to care for ourselves, Wheaton, or we won’t be able to walk alongside others who have been oppressed, hurt, and broken

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About the Author

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Jonathon Neumann recently graduated as a Communication and Theater major at Wheaton College. As a storyteller he loves to hear people's stories, including yours. He also likes acting, film-making, and collaborative ridiculousness.

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