Adding It Up: My Journey To An Adult ADHD Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with ADHD in October of 2020. It was, as diagnoses go, not very interesting because the whole lead-up was such a common story. But I was thinking about that and realized that that was probably a good reason to tell it. Some adults with ADHD have a pretty easy time figuring everything out, and this is fantastic. But for many others, diagnosis goes one of two ways. Either we will realize something is not working right, and ask questions, and people will tell us that ADHD is only a thing for hyperactive boys so there’s no way we have it and we just need to try harder, or we will just assume we are a mess and that’s our inherently flawed personality, until someday a boulder of enlightenment hits us on the head and we go seeking answers. . Even for those who have an easy time, the fact that they’re getting diagnosed in adulthood means that it was missed when they were young, and they’ve been going through life with a ton of challenges they didn’t have to have. No matter how the process goes, those of us not diagnosed in childhood are dealing with adult ADHD and the process of diagnosing it, and this is often a minefield of questions, judgment, and self doubt. (
The Diagnosis Came Late, But The Patterns Started Early
If anyone suspected ADHD when I was a kid, no one said anything about it to me. I wasn’t hyperactive, I liked school, and I actually did pretty well. I was really talkative but very well-behaved. I, like many women, didn’t show the signs stereotypically associated with ADHD, especially as a girl in the 90s. I mostly struggled with organization and motivation. I sometimes did my homework, but often didn’t. If I did an assignment I’d forget to turn it in., or bring it to school and lose it, only to discover it in my backpack three weeks later. This was a consistent thread all through school. . Life became a vicious cycle of not doing homework, or doing it and then losing/forgetting it, then having my teachers tell my parents about the massive amounts of missing work I had, then them coming home and yelling at me to catch up on my assignments, then me cramming months worth of work into just a few weeks, spending a lot of time crying and feeling really overwhelmed, and then finally catching up and promising that I would never let it happen again. But I did.
College was better. The volume of busywork got smaller and the classes got more interesting, which makes a huge difference for someone with ADHD. . I was still struggling though. To cope, I learned how to bullshit my way through discussions, and how to look really engaged during lectures while I was actually instant-messaging friends. I couldn’t stay focused in classes, but everyone else seemed to be able to manage it, so even though I was a dedicated student who loved my classes and my teachers, I assumed I was just a slacker and vowed to try harder. Do you see the pattern yet?
Grad school was a different chapter of the same book. Others could seemingly keep up with the massive workload, juggle five projects, and sit through three-hour lectures without issue. They weren’t completely taken out of commission when things got overwhelming. If they needed to work they complained, but then they just sat down and did it without having an existential crisis. I couldn’t do that. And it got worse once I got out of classes and started writing my dissertation. Suddenly my external structure was gone, and I completely fell apart. I would try to talk myself into working for days, and wouldn’t be able to sit down to get started. I so desperately wanted to, and couldn’t understand why the wanting didn’t make it any easier. Weeks would go by and nothing would get done, and I would be bingeing Netflix and hating myself. This giant project with a thousand tasks and few external deadlines and huge power over my life settled in, and it started slowly crushing me.
Rock Bottom: The Place To Finally Start Playing ‘Connect The Dots’
What I know now as ADHD paralysis started impacting the rest of my life. I had always been horrible at keeping up with chores, but I got worse. I ordered takeout most nights because even trying to figure out what to make for dinner and how to make it would leave me overwhelmed and stuck for hours until I gave up. My problems with executive functioning had always been there, but they hadn’t ever been this bad. I didn’t feel like a lazy person, but results indicated otherwise, even for things I wanted to do, so that had to be it. . But every time I tried harder, things fell apart more. Eventually the dissonance got so bad that I had to start entertaining the idea that I wasn’t just a horrible person with a list of moral failings, but maybe something else was going on.
And then the pandemic hit, and everything went to hell in a thousand ways. While the world was turning into a giant dumpster fire, so was my ability to exist as a functioning adult. My coping strategies totally collapsed, and for the first time, I was forced to acknowledge that something was really wrong, and I needed help. I kept telling myself it was anxiety, or something else, because I didn’t feel I’d ‘earned’ an ADHD diagnosis. I would be letting myself off too easy if I entertained the idea that this was a neurodevelopment issue instead of me just being a terrible lazy person.
The Penny Didn’t Drop, Someone Had To Throw It At Me
Peer support was what finally pushed me to reach out. My roommate started doing research for me, and was convinced of my diagnosis long before I was. And once I started to entertain the idea, I had many friends with ADHD who talked to me and helped me process, and validated this new part of my identity.
I have a lot of thoughts on the way we diagnose ADHD, especially in adults, so I’ll save the full breakdown of my experience for another post. But the short version is that I actually had a fairly easy time getting diagnosed and getting medication. I resisted it for a while, because again it seemed like I’d be giving myself a pass. But I finally gave in on a busy day when I was exhausted and knew I had a lot to do. And it was… incredible. ADHD medication doesn’t fix you. It is a tool. But when those pills kicked in that first day, I felt like I was flying, and it wasn’t because I was high. For the first time in I couldn’t say how long, I felt like I had enough focus and energy to get through the day. I worked a four-hour tutoring shift and didn’t need to immediately lay down for two hours. I was certain that I couldn’t take over the world, but that I could probably do a load of laundry and still have enough mental capacity to cook dinner. The way my life had been going, the idea of doing both those things in the same day was unbelievable.
Moving Forward After Diagnosis
I’d like to say that my life completely turned around right after that. But it didn’t. Internalizing an ADHD identity, and the impostor syndrome that can come with it is a process, just like any other healing. I still sometimes wonder if it was real, or if I’m just making excuses. But I’m working on letting myself accept it. I continue to seek out peer support; I share my experiences and listen to other people who have the same issues I do that I thought were only my own personal faults. And very slowly it sinks in. I’m not a failure. I don’t have to throw myself into a shame spiral every time I fall short, which was my previous reality. I have to take responsibility when I make mistakes, but instead of kicking myself in the face, I can give myself grace, and learn ways to try to do better next time, armed with strategies that actually work for my brain.
Now that I’ve got a diagnosis, I can work on reframing how I think about myself. My challenges are symptoms, not inherent personality deficiencies. My brain is wired differently, not broken, and as annoying as it often is, this is who I am and it’s okay. With the help of peers and my awesome therapist, I have begun the long process of rewriting my internal narrative to include much more self-compassion, and finding ways to work with my brain instead of against it.
If This Is You…
If any of this post resonated with you, I urge you to do some research. I am *not* a doctor, and I *cannot* offer any kind of diagnosis, or even specifically suggest one. But there are so many folks with ADHD who never got diagnosed, so if you see yourself in my story, it doesn’t do any harm to do some reading and to talk to some people. If you don’t know where to start, or are intimidated by the amount of information out there, there are some amazing pages for ADHD memes, where a lot of people have found themselves. Bonus, they’re also hilarious. I’m personally a fan of Jen Has ADHD, because it is a fabulous page and she is a fabulous human being who has built an amazing community of ADHDers.
Just remember that you deserve not to have to go through life on hard mode. Whether you have ADHD, or something else, you deserve to be loved and cared for, and to have your problems taken seriously. I hope you can find support; it’s a game-changer when you do. And know that I see you. I believe you. I’ve got you. If you have questions, or just want to talk, please reach out in the comments. I’ll answer what I can from a lived-experience perspective, and others might have information too. At the very least, the more people who comment, the more people who will realize they’re not alone.
Be Well, everyone.
Hello all. Today I’m not going to be specifically talking about ADHD, but rather one of my other constant companions, anxiety. We’ll get back to the ADHD content soon; I promise. I’m not rebranding the blog again. But I had some other stuff I wanted to talk about. Later this week, be expecting a post containing a Podcast, and possibly some other content that I’m working on.
This post came about while I was doom-scrolling through Facebook because I didn’t feel like getting off the couch, a favorite Saturday evening pastime. I happened across a post from a comedian I follow that caught my attention. For those of you who don’t know her, Aparna Nancherla is absolutely hysterical, and is also incredibly insightful about mental health. She makes her experiences with it a regular part of her routine, and is comfortable, ora as comfortable as any of us can be, with her anxiety and its role in her life. The comment she posted today was “You know how temperatures are classified as, ‘it’s 81 degrees but feels like 92’? I realized that anxiety does the same thing. For example, today my day is fine but it feels like doom is a thing that lives in my throat.” Something about this stuck with me as I continued scrolling and made me go back. And judging by the dozen or so comments on the post, I was not alone.
There are a lot of tricky things about anxiety, but one of the hardest is how deceptive it can be, both to us and to the people around us. For the person living with anxiety, on the days when it’s bad they can look around and know that everything is alright. The day is nice, work isn’t too bad. That doesn’t change the fact though that their insides are writhing, their palms are sweating, and functioning is nearly impossible. I’ve gone through this myself often. I’ve gotten up for work and felt like the sky was about to come crashing down on my head, even when there were no impending disasters or difficult situations looming ahead. I’ve almost called out of work because the sense of encroaching panic was so strong that the idea of leaving the house was unbearable. The fact that nothing was wrong didn’t change that. In fact, it made it worse. I don’t know about all of you reading this, but I prefer my emotions to match the outsides. If life is going okay, then I want to feel okay, at least most of the time. I’d settle for a day or two of funk, but that’s all. For the millions with mental health issues though, this is rarely the situation. The temperature is okay, but you feel like it’s the end of the world, and when you don’t understand why that’s happening, it’s disorienting and upsetting. It’s natural to desire an origin; we like them in our super hero movies, and we want them even more for our own emotions. When we don’t have them, it’s easy to start feeling very disconnected and out of control.
It also complicates our interactions with the people around us. When we feel panic, or depression that’s out of sync with how our life looks from the outside, usually one of two things happens. Either we express our anxieties and then are told that everything is okay and we ‘just shouldn’t worry’, which is maybe true but still unhelpful, or out of fear of this reaction, we go on pretending that everything is fine. This is a place where ‘fake it til you make it’ can be incredibly damaging. When we start trying to fake our way through a mental health crisis, we often push our limits. We don’t stop to take care of ourselves, we don’t ask for help, and we dismiss what our body is telling us about these limits. This, generally, leads to an eventual crash, because as another insightful person on Facebook today said, “if you don’t respect your limits, they won’t respect you” (I swear, I did other stuff today besides look at Facebook). Being able to understand our emotions, and then to express them, is the best option we have to ensure that we are caring for ourselves in a productive way. But anxiety, and many other mental health conditions make this very difficult to achieve. So we have to learn how to get what we need, even when we’re overheating.
For this reason, getting a diagnosis can be so important. For me, finding out I had generalized anxiety disorder about four years ago, and then that I had ADHD 6 months ago, made a world of difference. It didn’t make the anxiety stop, but it did give me a little more objectivity about what my brain was doing. It also gave me the vocabulary to talk to the people around me, so I had easier ways of explaining why I was not meshing with the rest of the world’s vibe. Watching your internal temperature spike to 92 when the world around you assumes everything is nice and relaxed in the low 80s can be really distressing, and the dissonance can draw a lot of blame from you and the people around you. But understanding why your inner self is broiling like a potato can make you feel like you have a little bit more control over the situation. It can also give you the chance to learn what actually helps you take the heat down. When you feel the thermometer rising, you can sit down for a meditation, go for a walk, take your meds if that’s a resource you have, or if we’re being really literal, go take a cold shower. Whatever you need to do, it’s easier to implement those strategies when you know what’s happening before you’ve reached the boiling point.
So, now, take a moment. Look at the world around you, then check your inner temperature. Do they match? If not, start by taking a breath. There’s nothing wrong with you, and it’s not going to be like this forever. Whether or not you have an actual anxiety disorder, this sort of thing can happen to us all, and it is never a mistake to set up self-care strategies for these kinds of situations. And if you do think you might have some kind of anxiety, reach out and talk to someone. You can start with a family member or friend, or you can seek the help of a therapist. Just find someone you can use to help you find that objectivity, whatever that looks like for you, and then you can work from there. Whatever you do, just remember to have compassion on yourself, and start by breathing. Stop clenching your jaw, take three deep breaths, go get a drink of water. It might not be okay right now, but eventually it will be.
Be well, everyone.
Captions and Accessibility: Facebook’s photo catastrophe,and what you need to know about alt-text
So the universe has a funny way of providing. I was sitting here this week, kinda stuck, having zero ideas about what my next blog post should talk about. ‘What do I even have to write about?’, I lamented to my cat. ‘All I have is complaints about strangers calling me inspirational, and long expositions about how I’m introverted and anxious. People aren’t going to keep reading about that!’. The cat was unmoved, and unhelpful. And then, bam, Facebook totally screwed the pooch and broke everything, in what I’m sure shall be known as the greatest photo catastrophe of this or any age. And thus was born, a blog post!
For those who live under a rock, or who actually spent their time outside yesterday, Facebook and Instagram users lost access to their photographs and videos for several hours. Where once timelines streamed with images of pets and food and new trendy vitamins,, there was only “one person, beard, indoor,” or “cat,” or “Jane Smith, cloud, outdoor.” Yes… they were left with nothing but THE ALT TEXT, the automatically generated terrible descriptions Facebook puts on photos to ‘help’ blind and visually impaired people! The horror! The weeping! The refreshing of tabs and the mashing of buttons! Civilizations came close to crumbling, I’m sure.
But guess what? This world-ending thing that happened to you? This is the daily reality of Facebook, for millions of users with visual impairments. The literally hundreds of millions of photos, gifs, memes, and other visual media that fly around Facebook and these other platforms on a daily basis are not accessible. And given the current high value status of visual media, this is a real problem. This is often how people share information, images of friends and family, memes, PSA’s for inclusion and equality… And all of it’s totally important, and, without intervention, totally inaccessible.
Okay, you say, that sucks. How about you just ask your friends and family, who know and love you, to put in picture captions? Facebook makes it super easy.
First, Facebook actually publicizes the feature that lets you do this incredibly poorly. And second… I do ask. We all do. Over, and over again. Sometimes people listen, more often they don’t. Or they listen for a feel-good day and then stop. And I’ve got news for you; it’s exhausting! Imagine the amount of ‘important’, or amusing, or enlightening, things you scroll past every day. Now, imagine having to stop to ask Every. Single. Poster. to describe their image for you. You feel annoying, you feel irritated, and you get tired. We all realize that half the time people are sharing without even really thinking. It’s quick, and often hardly seems important enough to post, much less describe. There’s no personal slight intended. I know this, most of us know this. And yet… it starts to feel like a slight. It feels like we don’t matter enough for someone to take the time to include us in the joke, or the moment, or the activism. Maybe it’s fine the first time, or the tenth time, even the fiftieth time, we keep trying to be understanding. But by the thousandth time… well, the understanding runs thin. We spend so much of our lives understanding, giving people passes because they didn’t know. And often they don’t know, and we should be patient. But you know, it would be nice for someone to return the favor, to do the thing, so that I have to do a little less being patient, and a little more sharing important life moments with you.
Some attempts have been made to help with this problem from on high. Back in 2016, Facebook had a cool idea to start adding image captions, to help out the folks that couldn’t see. It was neat; it’s always nice to be considered. Only one problem, as people finally witnessed, the captions are next to useless. If you post a picture of your cat laying on its back in a box with its paws adorably up in the air, I don’t think “cat” was the most important thing I was supposed to take from that. If you post a picture of your kid holding up his diploma in a field outside of school, “one person, outdoor,” is not really that relevant or distinguishing. I don’t want to demean the effort, because I always want to give credit to companies for trying. But really, with the state of image recognition these days, and with the bankroll of Facebook, I believe it’s not unfair to expect better. But often, when other folks drop the ball, that’s what we’re left with. “No image description available.”
Which brings us to yesterday. Guys, I have to admit it, me, on my high horse, I’m enjoying myself a little. Scratch that, a lot. I have literally said to other friends, in the past, “Wow, I wish someday I could convince everyone to just post crappy alt-text tags instead of real photos, to give people a taste of what I experience.” And it happened! Facebook gave me a pony! I feel like I’ve been given a good karmic joke, but, more importantly, I’ve been given an opportunity. Because for a little bit, people are looking up from their recently-restored images and paying attention. Writing this post is actually really nerve-wracking; I feel like I have one shot to get people to listen to me, and I don’t want to blow it. I so badly want you to listen to me, to all of us, who have been quietly, or loudly, pleading with you to let us be a part of your lives, your jokes, for years, and who have been ignored time and time again.
This isn’t the first time I’ve made a public plea like this, and I would love it if it’d be the last. I’m much more realistic than that. But if I could see some improvement… if a few more people would understand and follow through, that would be spectacular. I’ll take being ignored by like 20 fewer people… in the accessibility world, sadly, that’s a pretty good increase.
Now, I could go on about this for a really long time. Short-winded I am not. But I don’t want you all to wander away from me and my soap box before I finish talking. So rather than beat the dead horse of my point, I will leave you with the important highlights.
1. I understand that many of you never even realized this was a problem. You weren’t ignoring it, you were just unaware and didn’t know. That’s fine; I understand. Now, you know. So moving forward, you can be awesome, and the past will not be held against you at all. Just do the thing.
2. I know a lot of you who have heard this before and have forgotten feel bad. Every time I start shouting about this, I get many kind apologies. Again, it’s fine. Sometimes we don’t know things. Sometimes we forget things. Stuff happens. When it becomes not fine is if you apologize here and still keep doing what you were doing before. That’s when I get frustrated and want to cry or throw things. I’m not asking for an apology; I’m asking for action.
3. Facebook does a crap job of advertising how to add alt-text to your pictures. To be fair, I didn’t know how to do this either. So I provide for you, the results of my google:
Instructions for Facebook: https://www.lireo.com/how-to-add-alternative-text-to-facebook-photos/
Instructions for Instagram: https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-add-alt-text-instagram-posts/
Instructions for other sites like twitter: https://accessibility.umn.edu/tutorials/accessible-social-media
(I will caveat this one, I think they maybe go a little over the top with some of their suggestions. And they really seem to think blind people hate acronyms. I personally don’t mind them, so acronym away, as far as I’m concerned. Unless someone requests that you help them out by not. But at least this post has instructions on all the different platforms that let you add alt text in one place. Use your discretion for its other suggestions. I’m happy to take baby steps).
4. If, for whatever reason, you can’t add alt text to the picture, then just…type it in the normal text of your post. TBH, it’s probably faster, it’s usually just as informative, it doesn’t have a character limit, and you can do it in realtime instead of having to go back and edit. I don’t really care whether the description shows up on the photo, or if it shows up in the post. I just want the description.
That being said, and this is *important*, if you share a picture from someone else, this includes memes, pictures of text, comics, anything that’s not a picture you physically uploaded to Facebook,you *cannot* add alt-text to that. If you are going to provide a description, you *must* type it up as regular text. Alt-text only shows up for the photos *you* post. But if you add it to the things you upload, and someone shares it, then the alt-text will still be there, and the next blind person will be very grateful.
5. If you’re wondering what all needs a description/alt-text, the short answer: Everything. If it’s an image, whether that be a photo, a gif, a meme, a picture of text… if it’s not straight text, that has been typed in a Facebook post,it needs it. If someone didn’t type it, I get nothing about it. Facebook will tell me “this is text”. That is… decidedly unhelpful. People seem to be consistently confused about which things are inaccessible… it’s all of them. Just assume it’s all of them.
6. Finally, if you’re wondering how much detail to include in your descriptions, I can only give you my personal feelings. But generally, think about what makes the image worth sharing. I don’t necessarily need to know people’s clothes colors or that they’re standing next to a tree, unless those things are important to the point of the image. So think about what about it is funny, or interesting, or important, and describe that. And if there’s any text, just always assume you should write that up.
So, there’s the rant, and the instructions. I hope this was informative, and helpful. My intention here is not to guilt anyone; my intention is to tell you what’s up, in hopes that you’ll help the disability community going forward. Facebook and Instagram worked hard to fix your photo problems yesterday. No one on high is fixing them for us. We’re asking *you*. So don’t feel guilty and wallow, just caption your pictures. If you feel bad, captioning is the *best* apology you can give me. I, and so many others, want to be a part of your lives, and right now, we’re not. I’ve never even tried to use Instagram because I just assume no one is captioning and I am entirely unwelcome there. Whether your friends and family who are blind or visually impaired are part of your life on social media is your choice. You have a lot of power here, in either direction. So I’m just here to ask you to use it. Tell me, and your friends, and other people around you, that they matter to you.
Does it take more work? Yes. Do you maybe have to think about what you’re posting, and why? Yes. Is it more time consuming? Yes. You have to decide if we’re worth that trouble to you. I hope we are. And in exchange, I will be patient, when you forget, or don’t have time, or have to post the description later in the comments because days get hard. It will be mutual, and it will be better.
And if all that’s not enough to convince you, consider this…. If you guys caption better, if Facebook and Instagram break their pictures again, the awesome captions and alt-text you’ve gotten into the habit of leaving on everything you post will mean that you still get to enjoy some of the content while you wait. And wouldn’t that have been nice yesterday?
If you have questions about this, or other things related, please feel free to leave them in the comments. And please share this post around. I think this is a topic most people don’t know about, and I’d like to spread this information.
Alright, that’s really it, I promise. Thank you, truly, for sticking with me to the end of this post. For all those celebrating the fourth, enjoy yourselves happily and safely, and I’ll see y’all next time.
At Long Last: A podcast transcript!
So, three months is better than three years. We’re making progress. Today, I come to you with a transcript of the disability in teaching podcast I did back in February. It turns out that teaching two classes and dissertating was a little much for me and my anxiety issues, so this got back-burnered for a while. But at long last, for the sake of accessibility and obscuring my identity a little, I have a transcript done for you all to read.
You have a long post ahead, so please be patient, and read through if you have the time. My host and I are very chatty, but there are some good moments in there. And you know that if I, the under-confidence queen, think there’s some good stuff in there, it might actually be true.
Some technical notes before we begin: First, and foremost, a huge, huge thanks to Sarah Blake La’Rose, who did the transcription for this. She fit me into her super busy spring, and did a fantastic job. This would not have happened without her. I did some fiddling around with the final product for reasons unrelated to her transcription, so if there are any errors, they are mine, not hers. And if the flow of something doesn’t seem to connect, that is also not her fault, that is my fault for being bad at public speaking. You don’t realize how unorganized your thoughts are until you see them written down on paper.
Anyway, I think that’s all the technical stuff. I hope you can all follow this, and that you enjoy it, and share it around. I may still be willing to share the link to the audio in the future, because I think it sounds better in person, but we’ll see. For now, this transcript does a great job of communicating the essential points, and I hope folks will find it informative. So without further delay… “There Will be no visual aids: Disability and the classroom”!Continue reading
Please don’t make me talk. And, ironically, a podcast.
Learning how to ask for help is a big part of life, and even moreso if you have a disability. We’re taught from a young age, hopefully, that it is a necessary thing, and we learn as we get older that it is, often, a survival skill.
But guys sometimes it’s really, really hard.
I don’t mean it’s hard in the sense that I am so beautiful and independent that I think I don’t need it. Or even that I have difficulty accepting that I need people’s help, though this is sometimes the case. What I mean is that there are a number of factors, like shyness, introversion, embarrassment, fear, that make asking for help difficult on almost a physical level. Now, I think this is one of the your milage may very moments, because maybe this isn’t a problem for some people, who are comfortable and extroverted. And that’s fabulous for them. But consider this a PSA from your shy/introverted/nervous blind people, okay?
I have a very vivid memory from my childhood that helps illustrate this. When I was younger, I was given orientation and mobility training. It’s training most blind people receive at some point, to teach them how to get around, how to use a cane, how to cross the street without dying (it’s a skill you generally need to be taught if you don’t have the functioning eyeballs). Part of my training, as I got older, was to select a location in an unfamiliar place, and learn how to get myself there. This involved some internet research (it was the early 2000s, for some reason I feel like google just wasn’t there yet), calling places, and learning how to approach strangers on the street, if all else failed, to ask for directions. I. hated. it! I think about walking up to those people, or, if no one was around, pretending my teacher was a stranger, and even 15 years later, I feel my stomach curling in on itself. As someone who is both shy of strangers, and an introvert, they might as well have been asking me to start singing and dancing. And it wasn’t because anything bad ever happened to me. People were always happy to help. But it was a painful process for me. I wasn’t embarrassed that I needed help, I just didn’t want to have to engage with strangers.
That was something of an extreme case. As a teenager, I hated talking to strangers so much that I used to offer to pay for my friends’ fast food if they’d be willing to order for us. I *really* hated talking to people I didn’t know. But even now, as I’ve gotten older and arguably more confident, there are still times where I don’t want to ask. I don’t know if you understand the feeling of being a woman in her 30s, asking someone to take you to the restroom? It’s not great. Yes, everybody goes, and yes, you’ve had to ask where it is in your own life. But I’m pretty sure you’ve never had to ask anyone to take you there, or needed to ask a stranger where the tampon dispenser is (the non-standard layout of public restrooms is a passionate rant of mine, for another time)
All that to say, sometimes it’s hard to ask, and for reasons you might not think of. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, I’m having a bad day like everyone else, and I don’t want to talk to my good friends, much less a stranger, because I’m an introvert and I just don’t want to. Sometimes, I’m not in a good location, and I don’t feel safe seeking out a stranger. There are any number of reasons. And there is not necessarily anything you can do about this. So this post is not really a call to action. Sure, if someone looks lost, it’s okay to offer help, with an emphasis on *offer*. If they say they don’t want it, respect that; there are a number of reasons, like those listed above, and many others, that they just might not be able to cope with accepting your assistance in that moment. But on the flipside of that, try to take cues. If someone is looking closed off, or if they are doing everything possible to avoid metaphorical eye contact, just leave them to it, and wait. There is a difference between feeling unable to ask for help, and actually not wanting to. And if you hear about the latter, please don’t judge. I guess if there’s a call to action here, it’s that. If someone just didn’t have it in them to engage with a stranger, trust that they had a good reason, and let them do it.
We’re supposed to be well-trained in geting what we want and need. But sometimes things get in the way of that, and having someone who understands that can be really, really great. I know this post seems a little our of the norm for a teaching blog, but this has been something that’s been on my mind lately, especially after a conversation on how little we take things like introversion, shyness, etc, into account when talking about disability. Sometimes, the blindness is not the thing getting most in the way of doing stuff.
This, and many other things, are topics I will be covering in my… podcast. Yes, you heard that right. The introvert was on a podcast. I sat down with another grad student from our department and talked about blindness in teaching and academia, and about including folks with disabilities in the diversity conversation. I think it actually turned out pretty great. I’m not sure if I’ll post the actual thing here, as I still don’t know how much of my personal information I want on this blog. But I will post the main points, or a transcript, or something of that nature for sure.
Anyway, thank you for sitting through that strange and rambling post. I’m trying to be a better blogger here, which means sometimes writing long meandering things about topics that might only interest me. But as always, I appreciate you hanging around. Stay tuned for next time, when I will entirely flip sides on my personality, and talk about how a busy semester has caused me to go on the war path of accessibility, and how that’s something we should be pushing more. What can I say; I’m a walking, talking contradiction. Until then, thank you for reading. And please, if you see formatting errors here… just this once let them go. WordPress introduced a new post editor, and I hate it. But I’m learning how to work it out, and the next post will be prettier. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dissertation chapter to go weep over.
The brand-new Adjunctinthedark.com!
I am, despite all evidence to the contrary, still alive and kicking in blog-land. It hasn’t been *this* blog, but that is neither here nor there. I think of you guys often, and have missed you terribly. But guys grad school is super busy and it gets even busier once the coursework is *done* who knew?! So writing here has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside.
Or it had, until one of my colleagues asked me to be a guest speaker on our departmental podcast, where I was going to get a chance to talk about working in academia with a disability. This is super exciting to me, because, as y’all know, it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. And that podcast made me think that I should really pop back in here. And then my brain finally kicked into gear, and realized that I should be promoting the blog on the podcast. But I wanted to have something a bit nicer to promote. The cobwebs around here are pretty embarrassing. But I think the conversations I want to have here are really important, and so, in the best interests of the blog, I upgraded my WordPress a little, and thus, a domain name was born. Tell your friends, your family, your well-intentioned-but-missing-the-point coworkers… adjunctinthedark.com lives! (It may be going through some growing pains for the next few weeks, because I am bad at WordPress, but it still counts as living. Please be patient).
I want to promise that I’m going to develop a more consistent blog schedule, now that I’m paying money to maintain this, and will maybe even have an audience. And while I really do intend to do this, a trip through the archives today has shown me that, embarrassingly enough, I have made that promise no less than eight times. So, take it with the grain of salt that you obviously should, because my brand of dumpster-fire apparently never changes. But I’m going to try. I would really like this to become a good platform for the issues in higher education that affect the under-paid and under-represented, and also a place where my rampant and unappreciated sarcasm can be broadcast to the world.
So, if you’ve been here since the beginning, bless you and your descendants for hanging around. And if you’re new, welcome! I really, really hope to be talking to you on the regular, and I hope you’ll stick with me.
And because other things never change, please excuse me while I go lesson plan for my class…tomorrow.
Listen up: it’s time we talk about that inspiration porn.
There comes a time in every disability blogger’s life when the subject of inspiration must be addressed. We get one too many “nice” comments about how inspiring we are for putting on socks or getting up out of bed and going to work, and that’s it. Well ladies and gentlemen, this is that time. This is gonna be a long post, so buckle up.. But it is really important, so if you have the time/inclination, please hang in there. There may be cookies at the end (sorry there aren’t cookies at the end).
A disclaimer: I know you are not intending to be offensive. I know you are a nice person, and that you mean as well as well can be meant. You think you are being encouraging, and that impulse is very sweet. But you are still doing something wrong. It’s classic “best intentions” territory. But I am *not* trying to make you feel awful. Don’t go home and panic about all the people you’ve offended, and don’t be scared to compliment someone. This post isn’t intended to scold you; it’s intended to explain some things, and hopefully change the way you think about the way you speak to people.
Disclaimer 2: I started this blog mad yesterday. I finished/edited it all today when I was much calmer, but also not caffeinated. Words are hard. You have been warned.
Now, down to business. I offer this scenario for your consideration:
I am working in the computer lab at school, helping a student check in a laptop. He pauses, looks at me, and says “I’ve wanted to say this for a long time.” I stare back, and wonder if I’m about to get hit on by a student for the first time. He then follows this harbenger of doom with “I think what you do is really inspirational.”
I stare. I say a very awkward “thank you,” because I am confused and annoyed, because I know where this is going, and I’m too midwestern to stop it. He continues, clearly feeling very good about himself, “It’s just that most people in your position wouldn’t continue teaching.” I make a lame comment about needing to make money somehow, and he leaves, and I slam a few drawers in frustration.
Some of you will be outraged on my behalf, and some of you will be very confused about why I’m so upset. Didn’t he just give me a compliment? Shouldn’t I be happy that he thinks I’m inspirational? We live in a world that can make it hard for people with disabilities to succeed, and I’m doing a thing. And it’s not that you’re entirely wrong; this world does make my life difficult sometimes, and it throws crap at me that someone with functioning eyeballs doesn’t have to deal with. But really…we all have challenges that get in the way of living our lives, and people with disabilities are just muddling through like everybody else. So, if you’re confused, let me do some translating here. When he says “You’re so inspirational for teaching while blind” (paraphrased because I’m getting tired of typing out his comments), what I hear is:
“Because you can’t see, I expected that you’d be home somewhere having other people take care of you and/or would be in a job with much less responsibility. And you’re at a teaching job making money, and that’s super surprising, good for you for rising above my non-existent expectations, which I am entitled to have because I know you super well wait not at all.”
Someone is now inevitably saying “but he didn’t mean that! Can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt/can’t you just take the compliment that’s intended?” But here’s the thing. As in any two-way communication, how I perceive the comment is just as important as how it was meant. That’s…kind of a basic rule of talking to people. I’m 100% sure he meant to be complimentary. But he didn’t say I was good at my job, he didn’t say he respected my commitment, he didn’t say I was working hard. He said that I was inspirational because I was doing the job I was paid to do…at all. And I’m not even doing it well seriously guys I’m so behind on grading papers it’s ridiculous. And he’s not the first–people tell me this often. It’s never accompanied by praise for my skills or hard work; it stops at my eyeballs.
But that is the point I’m trying to make here. You should always compliment people; compliments make the sun come up and the flowers bloom. But think about what you’re complimenting them on, and how you’d take that compliment. “Good job for showing up for work.” “Good job for putting on clothes that match.” “Good job for arriving somewhere at a semi-reasonable time.” These are daily functions; they are…things people do. You would never compliment a random person with no disability on this; you would just expect it. So, though it probably sounds rude, I’m really not that grateful for compliments that basically congratulate me on getting out of bed. And I’m getting tired of thanking you for them like I enjoy them (hence this post).
….Okay I should clarify, if you find me inspirational for getting out of bed because you know grad school is hard and adulting is super freaking difficult and you’re impressed that a time-challenged introvert with an aversion to cleaning gets up and goes to work every day with clean clothes on, that compliment I will accept the crap out of because life is just stupidly difficult when you’re a mess and it’s about time someone recognized my daily challenges.
All I, and most people, are asking for, is just that you think about what you are saying. Someone I know once said “I’m proud of you for getting your PHD as a blind student.” What I hear, again, is “I had no expectations for you so good job.” And this wasn’t a stranger; this was someone I knew very, very well. And the spirit behind the comment was lovingly intended. But it hurt my feelings. Is it so hard to stop at “I’m super proud of you for getting your PHD?” That takes into account my skills and time, and makes me feel that my accomplishments are worth praise.
Like I said, if you’ve “inspirationed” all over someone before, don’t freak out. You’re not the only one, and you won’t be the last one. So I’m not asking you to feel guilty; I’m asking you to change. Start valuing my perception of what you say as much as you value saying it. Learn how to make someone feel proud, rather than ashamed, when you speak to them – because the rhetoric of “inspiration” does bring a great deal of shame with it. Praise people on their accomplishments, not on what they’ve “overcome,” because in most instances, you know nothing about them. And in the other ones you do know something about, 99% of the time, they want to hear they are doing a good job because they are…doing a good job, not in spite of something. Everyone wants to feel valued, and everyone wants to feel proud of what they do and who they are. So stop handing out the pity compliments and hollow praises, and start appreciating the people around you for the beautiful things they bring to your life just by being them. It’s really not a hard thing to do, and it changes so much.
That was a long one; if you’ve stuck with this post all the way to the end, thank you. And whoever you are, whatever you’ve said or not said, I still think you’re pretty awesome, because you let me have my say, and hopefully you’re at least thinking about it.
Now, if I don’t get some coffee in me, this Thursday is going to go very badly. So I’m gonna do that, and you should too. And who knows, maybe I’ll start blogging again, and not just raise up like a blogging zombie when something makes me mad.
Second semester of my first year in the doctorate program has just gotten underway as of this morning, so it seemed as good a time as any to pop up out of the churning waves, gasping and flailing, to attempt a more consistent blogging schedule. This semester I am no longer an adjunct in the dark; instead I am a writing tutor in the dark, so in theory there should be more time without all that pesky grading. But the title of gradstudentinthedark still firmly remains as an implied subtitle, so I’m sure there will be plenty of madness to fill these pages.
I am reassured of this fact by the following information:
-My house is an absolute mess.
-My countertops are invisible under a pile of dirty dishes and tins of tea.
-You could knit a rather nice sweater out of the amount of cat hair in my house.
-I just figured out my schedule…today, for the semester that started…today.
-I still don’t actually know what I’m supposed to do for the other half of my job.
-It’s the first Monday and I’m already upset I have to go to work tomorrow.
-…this is only the first day of the semester.
See? Plenty of chaos. Some of it might not even be whining. But writing tutoring is also a brand new experience, one which will bring me into contact with the ranks of students beyond my freshman composition classes. And there is just nothing about that that promises any sort of awful normality.
And speaking of sleep in the worst segue ever, this is a thing I should do. Because if you can’t be well-rested for Monday, tell it to bugger off and shoot for Tuesday instead.
A happy belated new-year for anyone still hanging around in the void-that-is-the-blog. I hope to bring you tales of strange chaos and utter madness soon.
The evals are in! *drum-roll*
The grading is done, the student complaints are over, and student evals are now in.
It wasn’t a good semester for me–I was disorganized, apathetic, and had my head off elsewhere for so much of it. I blame a lazy thyroid and the winter from hell, and the PHD program that promised a release from this drudgery, or at least better pay for it. But either way, I was not expecting good student comments. My disorganization frustrated them, and I can’t blame them in the slightest. I was never actually caught up on grading (sometime there will be a post about how much I loathe that particular activity), and my schedule frequently fell apart.
On the bright side, they weren’t the worst evals ever. I didn’t get rated 1 out of 5 or anything. They were critical where I expected them to be critical, and very kind where I had hoped they would be. Even when one is expecting to be raked over the coals, it’s nice to know that at least some parts of the class did something for someone.
But there were two winning factors that made the evals still kind of awesome.
1. No one made the “she was a blind professor, so it must have been hard, but…” insert good or bad thing here. This is always the most puzzling non-sequeter, and its absence was delightful.
2. The big one… someone complained that I graded their courses like an upper-level course! My grading was unfairly difficult, and I did not grade like it was a first-year course. I almost wept–I feel like a real teacher now!
As an aside, student you are a silly child–if I had graded all of you like upper-level students, not more than six of you would have passed. I have expectations, and those do not include coddling you until I think you’ve learned enough to start getting graded harder. Nothing is as motivating to an over-achiever than a well-deserved B.
All in all, I’m glad to see the back of the semester. I plan to blog, fill my mind with as much trashy adventure lit as I can get my grubby little paws on, and, oh yeah, probably find a place to live for the big August move.
See you all soon.