Wall of text incoming about my experiences with ADHD.
I received my ADHD diagnosis in 1989. My PE teacher at the time complained to my parents that I had trouble paying attention and showed extreme hyperactivity. During PE, also known as PHYSICAL EDUCATION. I remember her complaint. The activity for the day consisted of hitting two sticks together to the rhythm of some music. This probably bored my six-year-old self. After a brief meeting with a doctor, I received a prescription for Ritalin, which I took every school-day for the next 8 years. I did not receive therapy. Because of my teacher’s complaint on my extreme hyperactivity (she was an older woman who hated kids (according to my childlike memory and opinions of her at the time)), I received a very high dosage for my age. My mother recently told me that I became the most depressed child she’d ever seen, and that I’d cry for no reason I could give. My dosage lowered very quickly to average levels.
When I hit 8th grade, I grew fed-up with it (yay rebellious teenagers!) and informed my parents I would no longer be taking my meds, as I felt depressed. I also had no appetite and had trouble making friends, due to me pretty much being a zombie.
The weeks that followed resulted in an almost complete shift in my mannerisms and mood. I became more outspoken, friendlier, and started making friends faster. My grades also dropped from A’s to B’s (or lower. C is for Credit), but my parents were alright with that, as I became an all-around happy and social person. They regretted the medication, and I didn’t even hesitate to forgive them. They couldn’t have known what the pills were doing to me, and they were just trying their best to help me. I know that for a fact.
However, I also didn’t know what the pills were doing to me. Because my very young diagnosis, I never really understood that the pills did, unknowingly, work as intended. But nobody figured it out because I quit the pills right at puberty, so many assumed the new changes in my personality and appetite were normal alongside the hair in places where none grew.
In High-School, I had extreme difficulty memorizing facts. Concepts and theories, I could get. Asking me to name all the parts of a dissected Star Fish (“Uh… is that a clavicle? What do you mean ‘No?'”)? Failure. Time-travel paradoxes and the ideas of alternate timelines and universes? No issues (there is a timeline where Marty McFly just vanishes from his parent’s house and is never seen again by anyone). I digress, as I’ve (surprisingly) lost track of what I meant to talk about. So I suffered through History, some Math, Biology, and Chemistry. However, in more creative and critical thinking classes like English? I started doing much better (this is subjective, as I actually sucked at English until my Senior year with a brilliant teacher (Thank you, Mrs. Stovall!)). But I never noticed that I did something odd in those classes, something that (looking back) I finally understand: I read. Not an earth-shattering revelation, but bear with me. I read books for fun during lectures. While the teacher talked, I had some book in my lap, be it a Star Wars novel or a crime-thriller (my sophomore English teacher often told me I scared her because not most teenagers would choose Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon as light reading material). I would focus on the book instead of the teacher, yet the teacher’s words went into my brain more than the book. I found myself becoming distracted by the lesson, and paying more attention to it than the other classes where I HAD to stare at the slides and try to focus on what the teacher would say, and then walk away clueless as to what a mole of a chemical actually meant (I’m still kind of vague on this).
Go forward again to college. I took my first history class online, and found that the teacher put as much effort into the class as I did. The textbook had an online website with multiple choice questions for each chapter. During the first test (which required taking at a testing center on campus), I realized the professor straight up copied the questions from the website and just rearranged the order of them. No change of wording, no trick questions, 100% plagiarized test. I sold my book and proceeded to make a 90 in the class after only memorizing the review questions(a 100 required a 6-page essay, which I wouldn’t do because I sold my book).
The above sounds random, but it’s a lead-in.
The following semester meant taking the follow-up to that history class, only in person. No more online shenanigans.
And I suffered. I could not focus or concentrate. I took extensive notes of dates, people, places, and whatever I could. I read the assigned chapters at least once a night (something that helped immensely, but not enough). I conceded my chances of a high B in that class and started struggling for a passing grade, before thinking of dropping the class.
And then I started doing very well. Amazing turn-around, according to my professor. She asked me what habits I’d adopted to improve so much.
I adopted a bad habit.
Instead of paying attention, I just started listening to music and trying to just absorb as much as possible from the book, but I always played it softly and only in one ear.
And I suddenly learned everything. She distracted me from my music, and somehow that stuck in my brain. I realize now that I’d mimicked my high-school behavior with distracting myself from the distraction.
And that’s also when I knew my PE Teacher called it from the first few weeks of knowing me. I did, in fact, have ADD.
As a kid, I didn’t know what the pills did for me. I just knew the side-effects were ruining my life.
I’m thirty now. And I can not focus anymore. My motivations, my ambitions, my plans for the future? I never stick with them. I don’t stress out, because nothing seems important enough to worry about. I graduated high school without medication, but that’s because high school is simple. College, though? 10 years. 8 switched majors. No clue on what I should be doing with my life. I think I only graduated because I finally convinced myself that not graduating and owing them $50K is a stupid thing to do, so I just pushed through it. But right now? Nothing drives me. I wake up, I dick around, I go to sleep.
And it’s been happening for months. I can’t stay on one project long enough to complete it. I have three projects sitting, at 99% ready to go, and I know that after this post, I’ll probably play Minecraft. I don’t ride my bike anymore, I don’t exercise anymore, and I’m depressed that I’m not more bothered by my lack of drive. I’m not depressed that I stopped doing things I said I’d do, I’m depressed that I don’t care more about stopping.
I constantly seek distractions, now. I can’t even watch TV without doing something else on my laptop. If I’m just sitting, trying to watch something, I become anxious and stop focusing on the show I’m watching. I’m almost done with season 2 of Deadwood, and I only know the names of 3 characters, tops. And I only know their names because I played with my phone during those episodes. I do stick with the “Distract from the distraction” method for getting things done. The only issue now is starting it. Completely apathetic, I never start now.
I’ve taken at least 5 breaks in this post to sort music files I’m not even listening to, I just remembered that they were out of place. And now that they’re in their right places, I won’t look at them for months. I’ve moved on.
I’m sick of it. I can no longer function like this. It’s not too late for me. So, with a lot of heavy decisions on my part, a weighing of pros and cons, and telling my pride to stick it, I’ve decided to finally talk to someone about this: all of you. And, possibly, a therapist.
And then something surprising happened. Something I did not expect.
When I voiced my fears and my decision to some people I know, an astounding number responded with anger (some very close friends and family fully supported my decision, making me love them more): at me and at therapists. Far too many said I just needed to stop being lazy and that I should save my money because there’s nothing wrong with me. Others even said ADD isn’t even a real disorder (I don’t listen to their opinions).
And that fucking hurt.
I’m not trying to garner attention for myself. This is not a pity party I’m throwing. I can get attention other ways (which I’ll mention later if I remember).
I feel like, that, when someone mentions ADD or ADHD, it has this stigma of being “just for kids.” Hell, I thought of it that way for years. The other thing is that I feel like many people are incredibly uninformed of the debilitating effects it has on life. One hears “learning disability” and thinks “Well, that should only matter in school.” It doesn’t. A learning disability makes school difficult. It also makes every fucking thing I try to do more difficult than it has to be. A learning disability is not an inability to memorize facts or pay attention. It is not one thing. It is a combination of many, many frustrating and hateful things that make my head spin when I try to do ANYTHING. Focusing on one thing that’s important to me is almost something I can not do anymore. I just now realized I needed to put some soup I bought in the fridge for tomorrow, despite that being my plan for it an hour ago (it’s still good).
Why does this hurt? Because I feel like many of my friends just don’t understand my head. Many think “Oh, just change your habits,” and everything will finally work out in the end.
I’ve been trying to change my habits for ten years. I’ve tried everything I can. You can not believe the fury that explodes behind my eyes when someone tells me “just get a calender and use it every day” as I think of the many planners and lists I’ve made and not stuck to. I can even see my tiny notebook I carried with me for a month to jot out ideas. It has maybe 8 entries, and it’s on the floor, where it’s been since October. There’s lists on my computer of things I need to do. These lists are years old, and I’ve still not done those things. Most of them are irrelevant. But I’ve tried everything I can to change habits, and I just don’t care enough to stick to them. I feel nothing. No guilt, no shame, just a general sense of “meh,” about productivity. And that that’s all I feel is what infuriates me, but not enough to do anything about it.
Others think therapy will fuck up my brain with bullshit and nonsense. I am hesitant to believe them, and wonder of their animosity towards mental health professionals.
But the thing that hurt the most? I actually got called a lazy asshole, looking for an excuse for my laziness. As if I want to revel in it. As if I can finally say “It’s OK that I’m a lazy, unproductive non-member of society! I have a note from the doctor!” A few people even told me “just get a job you hate, so you’ll get a better one.” I know myself. If I get a job I hate, I’ll definitely quit very soon. I don’t think along the lines of “If something sucks, improve it!” I think “If something sucks, get rid of that thing.”
I’ve been called lazy all my life. As far as I know, I am lazy. Why wouldn’t I be? I have no drive or ambition or motivation to accomplish anything. I must be lazy.
…but what if I’m not? What if? Think of all I could accomplish. That is something I would love. I would love to work to my full potential, oversee projects to completion, have something that I’m proud of, or have my life be god damn normal, for once.
So why should I not talk to someone? Why shouldn’t I stop avoiding my problems and get some help? WHY SHOULDN’T I?
The worst that happens? Nothing can be done by anyone but me, and that’s the same path I’ve been on for years. I go back to struggling, but I know it’s my only choice if I want to change. But I have closure, and might try harder.
The best that happens?
My life works. That’s the outcome. My non-functioning, non-motivated, non-prioritizing life becomes normal.
It is one goal I can’t get out of my head. I’m fully focused on it. And I won’t stop this one.
Don’t worry about me. I’m confident, and I’m sure I’ve made the right decision to schedule a talk with someone who can hopefully help.
As soon as I get around to it. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Probably next week. If I feel like it.
Oh, and for the record? Here’s basically my train of thought while writing this.
My feet hurt, I should take off my shoes (shoes are still on). If I tilt my head, then the nostril will unclog. I’m hot. My face itches. C’mere, kitty! What time is it? Oh, it’s earlier than I thought. Why is there so much trash on my desk? What time is it? Oh, I just checked. Did I brush my teeth (followed by staring into space before realizing I don’t brush my teeth normally at 7 pm)? Ok, take my shoes off (still on). Ugh, the ice in my drink melted and now it tastes bad. Wait, what books are these stacked on my desk? When did I last buy gummi bears? Check email, yeah still nothing but ads, which is all I get anyway, so why do I have 4 email accounts still? Yup, drink still tastes bad.
Why wouldn’t I want to make that shit stop? 🙂