“Crazy Eddie” is a nickname one of my British school teachers gave me when I was attending primary school in West Africa, in an end of term review. I faked laughing along as I was mocked, as I had become accustomed to it, and beamed a deceitful smile. It became one of the few coping mechanisms I adopted while in denial. However, the embarrassment I used to face at that particular school was not always humoured like this.
A previous West African teacher felt they could embarrass me out of my condition, which of course made it worse. My father informed the teacher of my condition, which had been diagnosed as hyperactivity disorder when I was five. The teacher then broadcast it to the class in my presence. I was only 10 and it was the first time I had ever heard about this, as my parents did not inform me. Consequently, I became the “class idiot” and punchline by both teachers and pupils.
Following this, we returned to the United Kingdom, where I was born. I faced similar bullying by schoolmates and teachers alike. Gradually, I dreaded the thought of attending school. Of course, I never articulated any of this. I internalised the stigmatisation I received, and with my unrecognised conditions, it fuelled an unhealthy pattern of self stigmatisation. I didn’t like or respect myself, and it led to me tolerating and complying with a lot of abusive behaviour directed towards me. I also became unexplainably anti-social towards those around me, not being able to articulate what was troubling me.
As I matured, the embarrassments grew heavier and more evident. I’d remember back to when I was nicknamed “Crazy Eddie” as a child, and it seemed easier to laugh off without needing an explanation. Multiple exams were resat, I was let go from various jobs and I avoided social interaction wherever possible.
Then, I was diagnosed with depression as an adult. Later when I was out of work, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Post traumatic stress disorder. The most recent diagnosis has been Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The real shame behind these conditions isn’t mine.
It’s my belief that had the ADD been diagnosed when I was a child, alongside the H, the other co-morbidities may not have developed. All it boiled down to was that I have a shorter supply of blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex of my brain. This part controls primarily personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour.
After finding effective treatment, I began to simplify my condition this way. I became able to voice it towards those around me; my relationships became stronger and my other co-morbidities decreased.
One of my relatives once said ‘it is a shame’ that I have ADHD. I don’t feel the shame lies with me having this treatable condition. It lies with the people who used my condition against me, treated me abusively because of it and dismissed my various cries for help over the years.
A major part of overcoming all of this was embracing being “Crazy Eddie”, rather than feeling ashamed and angry about it. I then started to genuinely laugh and smile along with everybody else around me. I am now 34.