Disordered: Thy Name is Teenager

This is a guest post by Sarah Malakoff at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis.
We’ve all heard the slew of acronyms used as diagnoses for teens: ADD, ADHD, ODD, OCD … But what do these acronyms mean to the people they label?
Adam Arnold, a psychotherapist and artistic director at Blank Slate Theatre, sought to answer that question by helping to write the play Disordered [thy name is teenager].
“I was surprised by the number of kids who came to me saying ‘Hi, I have ADHD, OCD … and, by the way, my name is Frank,” Arnold says. “My concern was that these mental illnesses, these labels, were taking over their identity. They were losing themselves to these illnesses. Our message is that ‘You may have these things but they don’t encompass who you are.’”
There is an upcoming opportunity to see acts from Disordered for free at the Not OUR Kids! Conference on Sunday, February 27, at Temple Israel (2324 Emerson Ave. S. Minneapolis). For more information on the conference and to register, click here.
Arnold guided the writing of Disordered with a group of teens, some of whom have performed the play. The piece is performed by teens who, in ways that are both emotional and hilarious, portray what it is like to live with these labels.
Suzie Cheng, one of the performers, says the play provides a better understanding of what teens might be struggling with.
“For teenagers, I think the biggest thing they take away from it is ‘Hey, there’s nothing wrong with me!’ … The play gives a better understanding of people they know or are going through themselves,” Cheng says. “For adults, it gives them our point of view.”
Arnold sees the play as a way to educate and empower audiences of all ages.
“What’s been really meaningful for me, that when we perform this for teachers, professionals, other adults, that there’s some conviction, it seems,” he says. “People say ‘I didn’t realize that when I do this to teens or treat them this way, that it affected them like that. I should change how I approach this.’”
Teenaged and adult audience members have lauded the play as an eye-opening experience.
One parent commented: “As a parent, I really appreciate Disordered [thy name is teenager]. Our children face so much more than past generations, and we as parents need to be in reality about it. Every parent needs to see this.”

Watch a video about Disordered [thy name is teenager] here: