Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), unfortunately, has a “bad-boy” image – you know, annoying primary school boys who yell and throw chairs.
It’s for this reason it wasn’t super surprising that embattled federal politician Andrew Laming would think a perfectly timed fluff-piece on his recent ADHD diagnosis could subtly smooth over his woes.
Those woes being allegations of taking ‘upskirt’ photos (which Laming claims were pictures of a woman fitting stock into a fridge), allegations of online harassment, and other claims of him verbally abusing people. #JustADHDThings, I guess.
News.com.au’s article on the matter elevated ADHD’s bad-boy brand to that of a misbehaved man. A man with mysterious unnamed friends and colleagues who claimed the diagnosis explains why Laming “is a dickhead”.
As many adults with ADHD have said in response to News.com.au’s article, the condition doesn’t make you unable to control your actions.
When neurodivergence is used to explain misbehaviour, neurodivergent people tend to divorce themselves from the person who made those justifications.
We question the legitimacy of their diagnosis, and we make an effort to say that we upstanding neurodivergent people aren’t like them.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 24, and like Laming, I agree that it was a lightbulb moment.
I remember being overwhelmed with emotion the first time I took ADHD medication because I was finally able to think in a straight line.
I remember thinking, “how did people not see that I had ADHD when I was a kid?”
However, ADHD doesn’t make you more or less prone to being a shitty dude.
So much of Laming’s coming out relates to the damaging image of ADHD as sparkling naughtiness. This misconception labels kids who need support and act out in class as “unteachable”, and it overlooks other symptoms ADHDers exhibit.
I was exactly the kind of ADHD kid who would be overlooked; I was well behaved, enthusiastic, got good grades, and never threw chairs.
But I was disorganised, I struggled with deadlines, and my reports usually said that I was smart, but should apply myself more.
My diagnosis helped me understand why I struggled with organisation, executive function and remembering to put lids back on things. An ADHD diagnosis shouldn’t, however, explain why you are a “dickhead”.
I acknowledge Mr Laming said his diagnosis wasn’t an excuse for his misbehaviour, but I don’t take that seriously. When politicians and powerful figures open up about being neurodivergent, we need to ask, “why are you telling us now?”
People like Laming or Don Burke (who in 2017 used self-diagnosed autism to evade accountability over sexual harassment allegations, which he denied) don’t speak up about their diagnoses (or suspected diagnoses) during the good times. They do it when they are covering their arses.
They don’t aim to reach out to others who may be struggling with being neurodivergent, they don’t give advice and they don’t strive to be a role model.
They don’t aim to destigmatise their conditions; they rely on the misconceptions of their condition to avoid accountability.
They try to bring us down with them, and fuck them for even trying.
Julia Kanapathippillai is a Canberra-based writer. You can follow them on Twitter @juliapillai.