Inhale Exhale College Edition Issue 3

You Are Not a Disorder

As a Mental Health practitioner and former middle school and high school guidance counselor, I notice too often young adults suffering from what I call Productivity Anxiety. It’s due to an environment and society that for at least the past 25 years has been attempting to diagnose our children with labels and disorders in order to be able to treat/fix them for what ails them.

What this has created is a generation of young people who are either overachievers and perfectionists filled with anxiety or cynical underachievers who are depressed or suicidal. 

Both are suffering from Not Enough Syndrome: an inner voice driving you that says you are simply not going to amount to anything unless you fo A, B, or C. 

Perfectionist; “One day I will be enough if only I try harder to be better.”


Underachiever; “I’ve never been good enough at anything so why bother.”

Misdiagnosing young children, some as early as age 3, with an improper diagnosis or disorder can scar a child for life. Science is just beginning to uncover the impact of medications on the developing brain and the slow down of the prefrontal cortex from prescribing incorrectly during early childhood development well into early adolescence, critical times of brain development. 

When I was born in the 60s, the education system was only beginning to understand different ways of learning. Once we discovered that everyone learns in different ways it became increasingly more difficult to teach the masses. To have everyone conform to the learning standards imposed very early on by schools looking to produce the best and brightest. While other schools without the funding lacked the means to identify and support what was holding their students back. Education became about academics, diagnosis and crisis management instead of children. 

Children were “encouraged” to do more in the name of being more and getting more. 

I learned much later in life that I have dyslexia, which is now considered a “learning challenge.” I spent many years thinking I was not smart enough to keep up with my peers, go to college or ever get an advanced degree. Would knowing I had a learning “disability” have made my road easier? Or would I have lived under a label that I learned “differently” than everybody else, which isn’t seen as a positive thing? 

I labeled myself as “incapable” and spent years of self-discovery to get and accept that I do learn differently and think differently because I AM different. We are ALL different and being “weird” or different from the norms set by society shouldn’t mean there’s something wrong with you that needs fixing. 

Knowing you have a way of learning that perhaps would be best nurtured in a specialized and loving environment that encourages those differences could lead to children believing that everyone is a gifted learner in some way.

If I had been pulled out of the classroom for learning support, would that have made a difference? Or would I have felt excluded and separated from my peers; something I already felt, and now being removed out of the classroom to present clear evidence of it? 

It’s hard to say. And I’ll never know either way. What I do know is, it doesn’t matter how I learn, or how I see the world, or how the world sees me. What does matter is how I show up for everyone who learns differently- which is everyone- and for the right to be exactly as you were born to be before society and the environment and the system designed to educate you, got a hold of you. 

And that’s my point of view. 

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