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Mental Health: ADHD Misconceptions and Challenges with Investigative Journalist Gabrielle Alexandra Smith



This debut episode is DMV Daily’s discussion with International Journalist Gabrielle Alexandra Smith about how mental health is viewed through the eyes of the young person. Smith takes us back to what and how she viewed mental health while growing up, ADHD, and challenges that come along with ADHD.
DMVDaily: Welcome to the first episode of our Mental Health campaign in support of Black Mental Health Awareness Month. 
Smith: Here we are not just going to talk about the black culture. In addition, there will be a talk about other cultures as well. I just want this to be clear.
DMVDaily: What was your viewpoint of mental health as a child? 
Smith: What age range?
DMVDaily: From the age of when you gained recognition of things, people, and society.
Smith: I would say that is elementary through middle school. Honestly, I grew up around mental health. This was in my personal spaces and also walking out on the streets with chaperones. I was not aware of the term “mental health.” However, looking back, I remember seeing the definitions of the term.  I also was not aware of the terms yet. I remember seeing the definitions of Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression, and OCD. My inner conscience said, “Do the opposite of whatever they are doing.” The opposite would be society’s way of “normal.” This is how I lived.
DMVDaily: So, listening to your inner conscience is how you allowed it to not affect you?
Smith: Yes. When you grow up around dysfunction, I believe it comes out in two ways: creative or dysfunctional. Think about most of the visual artists who grew up in dysfunctional homes. They turned to art to help bring out their emotions. This is also in classical music as well.  On the other hand, the dysfunction outlet can be jail time, sex, drugs, money addiction, and more. Human beings have issues that they are dealing with in life. There is no one that can honestly tell me they do not. It might be more than another person’s issue. It is how you deal with it. I choose art.
DMVDaily: Why art?
Smith: I saw the effects and outcomes of how not choosing art had on an individual. Before I was aware of what was positive and negative, the outcomes were not very pleasing or rewarding.
DMVDaily: In a previous interview, you told us you had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Do you think having ADHD has anything to do with the choice of your outlet from being around mental health? 
Smith: To be clear, a person must be diagnosed with ADHD. I am saying this because people are wanting to have ADHD and all of a sudden saying they have it. It does not work like this.  To answer your question, I would say yes. A lot of people do not understand how the ADHD mind works. This is why there are so many misconceptions about mental health. The average brain, which is the normal brain processes data no faster than 60 bits per second. The ADHD brain is a lot faster than 60. This is extremely fast. Also, the ADHD mind has a creative component to it that a normal brain does not have. This explains a lot for me. If I do not have ADHD, then my life would be different. I have encountered people who lack creativity. I believe you are either born with it or not. It is this simple. It should be natural. You should not have to take a class on it.
DMVDaily: Wow, this is interesting. There are misconceptions about ADHD. It is confusing why it is a part of the mental health list.
Smith: During the 1960s, it became ADHD. Before, it was called HYperkinetic ImpulseDisorder.
DMVDaily: Interesting. Tell us about any indifferences you have faced with ADHD?
Smith: Having ADHD was a 16-year-old secret. No one knew since elementary school. No one at Duke Ellington knew. I was bullied by teachers in elementary school. From this moment, I just decided to keep it a secret. I never forgot I had it.  I come off very mature and disciplined, which is not normal behavior for someone with ADHD. I self-trained myself. My mind races a lot. It is definitely going faster than 60. I feel the racing. It feels like a car that is going 100 mph.  Some people tell me, “slow down.” These are the wrong words to tell a person with ADHD. This does not register. Anyone that knows me professionally or personally, knows me to move or do business very fast. I move in ways that people with a normal brain cannot move in. The things a person can do in a month can take me less than a week to do. It just can. I am not a procrastinator. However, most people with ADHD are considered procrastinators.
DMVDaily: I have heard this before about people with ADHD. Most people with ADHD are geniuses. What are your weaknesses when it comes to ADHD?
Smith: It is hard for me to balance having a social life and business or career life. It is a serious challenge. I pick business and career. I view things in a different way such as English Literature as Mathematics. This can be seen as “weird.” It works for me.
DMVDaily: Interesting. For me, I can balance both. It seems as if it would be easy. 
Smith: I know. When I tell people, they do not believe me. This is because I am a great multitasker. Not when it comes to career and social life. I am too busy with a social life, to be honest.  Wait, only when the two blend together. When it blends together, then it is beautiful.
DMVDaily: What is exactly hard about it? 
Smith: I do not understand how having a friend who is not in your line of work or business person makes any sense. I am not saying everyone has to be in the same line of life. They can at least be under the umbrella. I am not judging a person. People decide on different paths and directions in their lives. I would say that there becomes a dichotomous component to these different lives.  I should not be around people who see me as the biggest news in the building. This means I am in the wrong building. I do not want to be the biggest thing in the building. If I am, then I am at the wrong place. See, people think of me as someone who wants validation. There is no need for me wanting validation, LOL. This is a smack in the face because I clearly do not need it. I do not lack confidence. I am clear and sure of who I am and what I contribute to the world or the people around me. I speak in a lot of metaphors.
DMVDaily: You make sense. A lot of the things you say goes over people’s heads. It is not your fault though. You are a deep thinker, which is good. Most people do not have the platform you have. Most people have not even accomplished what you have. We are not even getting to your age. Not a lot of people with mental health can have this discussion with us. A random person with mental health cannot. They are not privy to it. You are. You also have to look at it from their point of view.  Your accomplishments put you in a different arena and box. This might be a box you did not plan on building, however, it is there. We see it, but you might not see it.
Smith: I do not see it until I talk to someone who is a regular person.
DMVDaily: Exactly. Not a lot of people get to express themselves like you are not. You cannot do it and not be judged. You are already internationally known. This discussion only helps you, not hurt you. It will hurt them because they are not in your arena. 
Smith: I understand. Sounds like these two arenas should not be in the same room because it causes miscommunications.  To bring it to a close for this episode, ADHD is very misinformed in the black culture and other cultures. Everything is online. Parents, guardians, and family members should start to understand the diagnosis of their close ones rather than judge and say ignorant comments. This will start the change in the representation in all communities.