What It's Like to Have ADHD
"Are you sure you have ADHD?" Yes. "Everyone has ADHD nowadays." Not true. "You must be in it for the pills." Yeah, no. "My cousin/uncle/sister had it and tried acupuncture/veganism/ meditation, and now they're totally OK!" Congrats. "Are you sure you just aren't lazy?" I am lazy. Also, I have ADHD.
What you read above is my reality and the reality of so many others. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in the sixth grade and have been on medication ever since. While I try not to let my ADHD define me, there is no way around explaining how much it has shaped me. But first, let's start with what ADHD is.
ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. To simplify it, people with ADHD's brains are working overtime and can't stop. Or, as my doctor put it "race car brain, bicycle brakes." People with ADHD are impulsive, fidgety, and easily distracted. It's chronic—meaning, it's continuous and long-lasting—and can be treated with medication as well as holistic measures (like therapy).
Now that you know what it is, let me tell you how it affects me. I can't sit still. I have zero filter. I'm a procrastinator. I'm anxious, loud, excitable, moody, random, and above all, passionate. I'm passionate about civil rights, politics, and changing the world. I could talk for hours about these subjects, but put a math problem in front of me, and I zone out in seconds. Before I was diagnosed, teachers didn't know what to do with me. I'd read in the back of the class, silent and still. And then when something that didn't capture my attention came along, I was a fidgety mess. This severely impacted my grades and self-esteem. I thought that I was the problem, that if I just tried harder, it would get better. It didn't, so my mom asked my doctor to have me tested for ADHD.
My father also has ADHD and my doctor could see the same symptoms in the two of us. The results came back as a resounding yes. That was the day everything changed. I was placed on medication to help me focus, and plans were made with the school to accommodate me. When I first went to school on my meds, it was a whole new world. Instead of moving in fast motion, everything a blur—it was slowed. The medication also helped my mood, stabilizing it in a way that made me feel better. I'm still moody and do get mad, but it's not as constant as it was. Everyone who knew me before I started my medication will say the same thing: "It changed everything for the better."
I'm not a superhuman now, by any means. I still fidget, zone out, have horrible executive functioning skills, and am a ball of emotions. Starting medication wasn't a way to make my parents' lives easier or for me to do better in school; it was the only way I would be able to make it through my life without becoming a train wreck. With the medication came yearly meetings in which my teachers all talk about me (fun, I know), and the constant ignorance of the fact that ADHD is a mental illness and deserves to be treated as such.
I didn't get diagnosed for the medication (though it is one of the highest abused prescription medications), or for the special treatment in school. The best thing someone could do for someone with ADHD is not to offer an opinion, but to listen. Listen to us rant about how stupid it is that we're treated weirdly, listen to us talk about what we're passionate about. Lend a hand when we need it.
We're here. We're real.
By Lilli Frame, 15