At age 17, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This has had a tremendous impact on every aspect of my life. Coming to terms with the fact that this is who I am and how I function has been a surprisingly relieving journey. Being diagnosed with ADHD explains so much to me about my past and how I have become my own unique self. It changes my organizational skills as well as the way I interact with people. I am able not only to understand myself better, but to communicate my ideas and emotions in much more effective ways.
Growing up I had always been extremely energetic, well spoken, and relatively uncensored. I would often interrupt, and I was constantly being told to stop talking in class. People often asked me to speak slower because they could not even begin to make out what I had said. On the other hand, I was also often asked to talk fast because people found it entertaining. Specific events and comments stick out in my mind to this day. For example I vividly remember one of my mother’s high school students referring to me as “the hyper one” of her kids. I had never heard the term before, and as my mother later explained it’s meaning to me, I knew it embodied my personality perfectly. I took it as a compliment. My high school track coach affectionately referred to me as “the energizer bunny” because I could just keep going and going. It was always assumed that I would grow up, slow down, and mellow out eventually. However as adolescence and adulthood appeared imminent, I was often struggling to keep up with the rest of my class even though I was a bright student. Silly mistakes kept me from reaching my academic potential. It then appeared evident that perhaps there was something amiss.
The end of my junior year was a busy point in my life plus I had two of my most challenging classes, Algebra II and Chemistry. I don’t mind a busy lifestyle; I have always preferred it actually. Yet it was all slowly beginning to catch up, as revealed in my grades. A family member had a friend with adult ADHD and began to pick up on many constant similarities. He one day suggested I get tested for ADHD. At first I was offended by the idea. I had no accurate knowledge on the subject and like any other teenager I simply wanted to be “normal”. Yet my mother and I did research on the subject and what we found described my life perfectly. I began to tear up and said, “Mom, that’s me.” We then scheduled an appointment with a counseling group where I was formally evaluated and diagnosed. In the end, I was immensely grateful for finally finding this missing piece of the puzzle.
I have learned that medication is only half of the solution. Becoming aware of others and how I operate differently has been equally as productive. I now realize how irritating it can be to be interrupted. I often find myself simply pushing a “pause button” in my mind to wait for an appropriate time to speak rather than simply blurting out my opinion. Now when I become upset or feel anxious I relax, analyze how I feel, take in the events occurring around me, make a possible connection, compose the most productive way to communicate to others, and reach a solution. This process was nearly impossible for me before my diagnosis. I notice so many little things now that I never did before. I raise my hand in class. I think through what I will say before I say it. I often find myself wanting to add something to a conversation, only to decide that it has no relevance, nor productiveness, and henceforth keep it to myself. It is as though I have finally been provided the filter that everyone else seemed to already possess.
Not only have I vastly improved my social skills, but my academics as well. Although I’m a bright person, I have been a notoriously poor test taker; however, during the last three weeks of my junior year I earned my best test grades. I have developed my own organizational skills and am able to stick to them. I have always been a bubbly person who thrives in social situations, yet now I am much less likely to embarrass myself or make tactless remarks. Part of me still wonders how much of my improvement is due to maturity, but I know that my life has vastly improved by finding the missing piece, my diagnosis of ADHD. It is not a hindrance, rather one part of who I am and I embrace it.
Note: The young woman who wrote this essay gave us permission to share her story but asked that her name not be used.