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'It's important to change the story and that's what TikTok was doing in raising awareness and educating people because ADHD doesn't present as just one thing.'

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Provided by Shelby Lewis
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Shelby Lewis is a recent alum of the University of Missouri. She spoke about her experience growing up with undiagnosed ADHD and her journey to finally getting diagnosed and treated as an adult.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Shelby Lewis: I hate to say that TikTok was the reason, but it wasn't until I started seeing videos about women in particular being under-diagnosed with ADHD and some of the symptoms that women display that aren't typically associated with ADHD, and I started recognizing those in myself.

Doctors had brought that up to my mom when I was a kid, but they said – or she didn't believe them, because she thought that, you know, ADHD was something that, you know, the little boy who bounces off the walls – and she didn't see that in me.

But I had a more internalized version and because I always got by really well in school, I just kind of flew under the radar to the point where it's just like, I couldn't keep doing that.

I internalized most of my symptoms. So, to someone who doesn't, I guess, to anyone around me, they wouldn't be able to tell because I got really good at just covering them up or hiding them. And I think that's something that a lot of women do.

"I think TikTok’s a really great platform to reach a larger audience, but I do see the issue with people self-diagnosing off of the things that they see on the internet, but I think it's a bigger opportunity to be aware of the kind of situations that are going on."
Shelby Lewis

So, I think in that regard, someone can seem super, you know, chill or laid back or like they wouldn't have something like this, but years of being undiagnosed allows them to learn how to mask it the best.

And you know, mirroring is something that people with ADHD tend to do, which is just, I guess, replicating the body language and mannerisms of the people that they're around so that they are perceived more as “normal,” and it's something that happens automatically. And it's something that I've noticed myself doing.

ADHD has kind of been told in the single story and that it's, you know – a jittery little boy who just can't sit still and doesn't get good grades – you know, even my mom kind of fell victim to that assumption, which was a bummer, because I went so long without being treated, and the same symptoms just aren't easily recognized in women.

I think that's a bigger issue in general, too. It's just women in the medical field and how they have to advocate for themselves more.

You know, all of these years, I always felt like there was something wrong with me, and I could never quite figure out what it was, and now that I have a handle on it, it makes things so much easier for me, but if I didn't see there was a community already online of women trying to raise awareness and educate people about it, I don't think I would have ever gotten diagnosed.

So, I think it's just important to change the story and that's kind of what TikTok was doing in raising awareness and educating people because ADHD doesn't present as just one thing. There's lots of different, I guess, symptoms that can go into it, and you know, I made straight A's all the time as a kid. So, they thought, you know, surface level – I was fine, everything was fine.

And I just wish that that wasn't one of the biggest indicators of a condition like ADHD because I have had it my whole life and I just was able to mask it pretty well.

I think TikTok’s a really great platform to reach a larger audience, but I do see the issue with people self-diagnosing off of the things that they see on the internet, but I think it's a bigger opportunity to be aware of the kind of situations that are going on and how they present themselves and yeah, people, what they choose to do with that information is up to them.

Leor Shomroni is a senior journalism student at the Missouri School of Journalism. He is a student reporter and producer at KBIA, currently working on Missouri Health Talks. He can be reached at ls37b@umsystem.edu.