I knew what ADHD was in the 2nd grade – when I was originally diagnosed.
At that point, I thought it just meant that I had trouble focusing in class. Also, at that point, I had really no idea what “trouble focusing in class” meant – other than getting ridiculed by my 2nd grade teacher for speaking too much. I was put on medication, and I didn’t worry about it again.
I was outgoing, energetic, impulsive, annoying, loud, rude when I didn’t mean to be, a spitfire – a good friend, a difficult child, a spirited child, a little girl full of lots of energy, ideas, and love.
ADHD, as I have learned more as I have grown, is better explained through the means by which it is diagnosed – which are narratives, stories, incidents of repeated behavior that correspond with the traits of having an ADHD brain. Standing alone, these incidents paint reoccurring pictures of misunderstandings, annoyance, everyday adjectives everyday individuals would use to describe a nuisance. It is the repetition of these narratives, the continuum of the threads used to weave the pieces together – that not only aids in the diagnosis of ADHD, but explains what life with ADHD is like.
The older I have gotten, the more concerned and frustrated I have become with explaining towards others what ADHD actually feels like. I have tried metaphors, I have researched scholarly journals, googled famous success stories, advocated for Adderall – all in an attempt to normalize what I was diagnosed with some long, long time ago. My focus hyper-focus has been on overdrive, and I had no idea how, why, or when it started, all I knew is that I didn’t think ADHD was a big deal at all – and I wanted everyone else to agree with me. I had spent my young adolescent life having been called: annoying, rude, obnoxious, hyper, loud, impulsive, lazy – I cannot count how many times I’ve been told that I can’t keep saying I’m sorry, urged to stop apologizing, encouraged to just try harder; study more, let it go, buckle down.
See the thing about me is that I am outgoing, impulsive, quick to jump to conclusions, impatient, driven erratically, hyperaware of the world about me and the opinions of those in it, excitable, reactive, and annoying. I am also overly empathetic, warm, caring and friendly at all costs, positive, hopeful, friendly, creative, innovative, funny, selfless, intuitive in many senses – hyper aware of emotions of my peers, intelligent, motivated, and resilient.
I am all of those things, and a lot of those are because I have ADHD.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized ADHD is more than just not being able to focus in class, cannot usually become outgrown, and cannot be scared away by 20 milligrams of Amphetamine Salts.
However, it also wasn’t until now that I decided having ADHD is nothing to be embarrassed of, or ashamed of, or willing of being wished away – ADHD is inherently a part of my brain, it has shaped me into the person that I am, and the person that I will be. I’m done whispering about it.
ADHD is a legitimate brain disorder that affects more people than you’ve probably ever thought about. To quote Dr. Edward M. Hallowell,
“The old moral model dies hard… Under this model, the cure for depression is to cheer up. The cure for anxiety is to suck it up. And the cure for ADD is to try harder. While trying harder helps just about everything, telling someone with ADD to try harder is no more helpful than telling someone who is nearsighted to squint harder. It missed the biological point.”
21 is a funny and scary age, you feel so old and so young – so little and so large, and, at the core, so confused when asked what you really want to do with your life. At the personal point I am currently, a semester away from my undergraduate graduation – I can’t begin to count the amount of hours I have spent wondering what my mark will be on this world – where I should sow my seeds, what I should make of myself as an adult.
Up until now, when I have a problem that I’ve become extremely torn over, I listen to my gut. Now regardless of whether this is my gut, or God, or my impulsivity from my ADHD, I feel like I should write this. This, being my story. Little cases, little instances of my life that until now, I didn’t realize were peppered with a disorder that sets me back at the same time as setting me apart. Personally, I have found comfort in fully understanding the name of a disorder that has stuck to me my entire life – hopefully, somebody out there can read what I’ve written, and feel some comfort, too.
For now, I hope you enjoy 🙂