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Op Eds

Affirming my ADHD: So What if I’m “Too Much”?

By Anuksha S. Wickramasinghe, Crimson Opinion Writer
Anuksha S. Wickramasinghe ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Mather House.

Welcome to the land of late-night conversations, where the hours blur into the peaceful quiet of stolen time. My suitemate and I are regular visitors here. I lounge in a common room chair in a position that undeniably constitutes an incorrect way to sit, with my gangly legs and statement red converse hanging off the chair’s chunky arms; my friend perches above our small wooden table. We are two islands in an archipelago, a dimension and a half away from our problem sets and papers.

As the lights in neighboring suites flicker off for the night, our light persists as we zip through a maze of topics: the dynamics of friend groups and “IRL socialization,” a Quizlet of the “We’re Not Really Strangers” questions, Thai insurance commercials, the absolute perfection of the boat scene in “Tangled,” why 2018 was definitively the worst year of my life, the instant cheese from Kraft mac and cheese.

Even though I’m sure our sleep schedules resent us, our conversations are a respite, where it doesn’t matter how many times I interrupt her, entirely derail us off of topics, lose my train of thought, or launch into a TED talk about a past or present hyper-fixation. Critically, in this world, hidden in Mather’s concrete jungle, there’s no need to be anyone but ourselves; no Harvard intros and small talk, no maintaining the front that we have it all together (honestly, I don’t think anyone does), and no self-editing.

As a perfectionist with ADHD, I learned from a young age to regulate my behavior to match my environment: to “mask” or “camouflage” my ADHD, toning myself down for the comfort of others and compensating for my deficits. To clarify, masking is not “being fake” nor inventing an entirely new alter ego; rather, it is a means of navigating territories not conducive to neurodivergencies like mine. And oftentimes, keeping up the masks can become second nature.

Especially with my late diagnosis of ADHD, I’ve had a complex relationship with my “quirks,” or rather, my ADHD traits: from easily zoning out to the corners of my mind, playful clumsiness (tumbling down half a flight of stairs and getting stuck in the Science Center revolving doors in the same day), my golden retriever energy, and eagerness in conversations and interactions, the list goes on and on. They’re traits that fundamentally make me who I am, and I’ve embraced them as an integral part of myself and how I relate to the world. They make me interesting, dramatic, and relatable — a perfect main character, if you will.

And yet, in worlds that demand near perfection, they make me imperfect and occasionally make me feel like no matter how hard I try, I simply may not be good enough. Even now, I all too often find myself carefully tuning the levels of how much of myself I display, with the dreadful doubt lingering — am I “too much?” Too talkative, too energetic, too chaotic?

But, so what if I’m “too much”?

Especially with October being ADHD Awareness Month, it’s time to redefine the rules, and by being my unapologetic, unregulated self, I’m able to find affirmation and authenticity in my neurodivergency. It’s a seemingly small but mighty act of reclamation on both a personal and societal level, as it breaks down stigma and builds up empathy in our connections and communities.

On a broader level, I’m fairly certain that we can all relate to the concept of adapting our behavior to a situation, at least to some degree. After all, social norms influence how we think and behave, even if we aren’t always consciously aware. This year, in particular, we are all transitioning to the Harvard community with a plethora of pandemic perspectives and experiences. It’s a new chapter for us all. As we traverse the treacherous terrains of academics, extracurriculars, social life, and everything outside and in between, we can redefine Harvard culture to be a bit more sympathetic towards who we are and who we have become.

We stand to gain so much more from being our authentic, genuine selves. If no one else, I — the guide of the land of late-night, the girl who wrote a comedy special to Harvard as part of her application — am always here to hear your story and laugh and cry by your side from sunset to sunrise.

Ultimately, the people worthy of you are those who are down to hear the story behind why you’re banned from your kitchen at home and your lecture series on the insights about mental health, self-growth, and affirmation from a musical comedy-drama that you binge-watched over the summer.

Everyone else? Well, maybe we’ll vote them off the island.

Anuksha S. Wickramasinghe ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Mather House.

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