This little boy is my ADHD cheerleader.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at the late age of 24 when I was in library graduate school. While this was something I struggled with my entire life, I had never been able to put an exact diagnostic to what was “wrong” with me. Being diagnosed, accepting, and embracing my ADHD was a blessing and allowed me to understand why I was different. This different-ness (yes, I made up a word) isn’t a curse, it really is what makes me — and others with ADHD — very special.
Women with ADHD are often not overlooked at a young age. This article from Additute Magazine really sums up the issue: many women are not diagnosed (or diagnosed late) because us ladies express hyper-activity much different than boys. We express it through being overly social and other less disruptive ways (for example forgetfulness or failure to finish assignments). Many women go their whole lives untreated; this results in low self-esteem and often substance abuse problems as a way of self-medicating.
From an early age I was always very dreamy, social, unfocused, and ditzy — but smart. I have lost my wallet and phones more times than I can remember. I have never been good at testing or reading, often find myself drifting away into thoughts, day dreams, and anxieties. I have so much energy I was often called “annoying” because I couldn’t stop talking, jumping around, and being excited. School was difficult for me and I was drawn to fields like the arts where I could use my hands. While I did ok in school, I had to work much hard than other people just to accomplish homework assignments. To be honest, I have entire courses in high school and college I was not mentally “present” for. Yet, I was creative and full of ideas. I was a happy kid with tons of friends and did well enough in school to not gain attention from teachers. Privately, I was struggling with self-esteem issues and hating how different I felt than everyone else around me.
I found ways to unknowingly cope with ADHD while growing up. I kept lists of everything I thought and everything I had to do because I learned I would not remember anything 2 minutes prior to the thought. I wrote down every homework assignment and my planners became my life line to success. However, I discovered in my first semester at graduate school I could not be succeed with these constant distractions and I sought help. This need for help was highlighted by my boyfriend in our first years living together. I realized as we cleaned he could stay in one spot and do the dishes while I was literally running from room to room fulfilling very thought I had as they arrived in my head. It hit me like a ton of bricks: why can he stay in one spot and I literally CAN’T? I tried and I felt anxious and cloudy.
Help came in the form of a little pill called Ritalin.
How Meds Help Me
I was very hesitant at first, but I have had nothing but a good experience with ADHD medications. I was prescribed a very low dosage of Ritalin and have stuck with this dosage because it doesn’t make my heart race and I feel like myself. The first day I took Ritalin I remember feeling very clear. Like, fucking clear. My thoughts slowed down and I realized all these years I have been living in a cloud. A dreamy little cloud that enabled me from being present in my life. The next day I went to work and realized I had done one project for 2 hours straight! I cannot tell you what a miracle this is. I had never before sat down on the computer and focused solely on one thing. It was the most amazing feeling in the world — I remember thinking, “is this what my friends feel? Do they go through their daily lives like this?”
I don’t take my medication daily, but I do sometimes take it for work/school related assignments and extremely social atmospheres where I know I will get overwhelmed and end up talking myself into a corner. I can function well without it, but it is nice to have when I need to conform to the focus-driven world of today. My story is a success story: I finished my degree with a 4.0 and even wrote a 100+ page thesis.
Love Yourself — Embrace ADHD
If you are struggling with ADHD as an adult, I really have come to see what an amazing gift it is. We think differently and that makes us very special and a great addition to society. We are idea people and can make multitasking our bitch. Learn those things that make you unique and embrace them professionally and socially. In the fabulous book Delivered from Distraction, I read something that changed how I see ADHD: if we lived in a different time — i.e. the days of hunting and gathering — us ADHD people would be the most successful, diligent hunters. We have short attention spans and are impulsive which allows for “hyperfocus” under the correct circumstances. It is the hunter vs. farmer theory; we are the hunters. The world we live in is adapted for farmer mind-sets, but we can still thrive if we accept that we are different and can bring a different viewpoint the world around us.
I hope this can help someone out there struggling with ADHD and if they should take medications.