Each week, 34-year-old Jessica McCabe exudes confidence and cheer as she reaches out to others through the screen on her YouTube channel, “How to ADHD.”
But it wasn’t always that way. As a tween, McCabe began struggling socially and at school, and her grades and confidence plummeted. Bullied by her peers at school, she had challenges at home, too. She told TODAY Parents, “I couldn’t manage my emotions. I wasn’t hyperactive; more the shy, fidgety, daydreamer type, so I wasn’t disruptive in class. But homework was an issue and my grades were suffering.”
McCabe’s mom knew this wasn’t “normal,” and began seeking out help for her daughter. Visits to her doctor and then a psychiatrist resulted in an ADHD diagnosis for McCabe at age 12, and she was soon put on the now often-maligned drug Ritalin.
These days, parents who medicate their kids for these problems are often judged, but McCabe maintains that for her, Ritalin was a saving grace. “I remember my GPA going up a full point without me even trying. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything differently, just that the effort I was putting in suddenly… worked,” she said. “I could focus, I remembered things. I was more energetic and outgoing.”
As an adult, Jessica reaches out to others with unique brains like hers and offers tips and strategies for success with ADHD on her YouTube channel and Facebook page “How to ADHD.” A recent video and Facebook post she did as a letter to her mom who “drugged” her has gone viral—and for good reason! Her powerful letter, below, has been shared over 3,000 times on Facebook and viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube. She says:
What I want to say to my mom, who “drugged” me:
Thank you. Thank you for listening when I told you I was struggling. Thank you for standing up for me when my dad tried to dismiss what I was dealing with as “normal.” I now understand ADHD is highly genetic and it’s likely he felt that way because he had ADHD himself.
Thank you for taking me to get a proper evaluation so I understand my brain’s differences and don’t feel like it’s just all my fault. Thank you for taking me to a psychiatrist, month after month, to get a new prescription. I know you were busy, and yet I never ran out of medication because you took the time to take me to every appointment.
Thank you for ignoring the people who judged you. I know there were many.
Thank you for understanding that there was a difference between my sister occasionally forgetting her homework and me losing or forgetting something almost every day. Thank you for understanding that while all children can be fidgety or impulsive or get distracted, I struggled way more than the other kids my age. I now understand it’s because ADHD brains develop differently. You didn’t know that, you hadn’t done the research I have, but you listened to me when I told you I needed help.
Because of you, I got the treatment I needed, I did better in school, I felt more confident and able to reach my potential. Because of you, I never had to self medicate like so many ADHDers I know. I never sank into depression. I never gave up on myself. I never felt misunderstood. You understood. You believed me. And when you did, when you took me to a doctor who could explain to me what was happening in my brain, you took away so much shame.
Jessica McCabe and her mom, Rebecca. Photo: Jessica McCabe
As a mom to two kids (out of three) that aren’t entirely typical, McCabe’s letter truly moved me! It certainly motivated me to go with my gut instincts in combination with professional opinions on what they need. McCabe says she will be forever grateful that her mom fought through the stigma associated with having a child who was “different”: “All I know is she fought for us, and there was a lot of resistance at times. But I’m so grateful she did. It may have taken me awhile to find my path, but if she hadn’t gotten me treatment when I was younger I can’t say for sure I ever would have.”