Having lived with ADHD for as long as I can remember, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons about my disability the hard way; I’ve done my share of learning by doing. I can’t help but feel that my life would have been a lot easier if I had known said lessons from day one. I hope that someone out there reads this and they — or their child — can benefit from my experience. Read on!
- People will tell you to go easy on yourself, but still, expect you to be ‘on.’
I’ve found that even if you tell your manager, for example, that you have ADHD, and he claims to understand that this makes you function differently, his understanding nevertheless flies out the window when you have a deadline to make but quite clearly aren’t going to be able to.
- ADHD has nothing to do with your personality or morality.
I spent a horrifying number of years of my life feeling guilty — often, despite not having done anything wrong. And even when I did err, I was convinced that whatever act of misbehaving I had committed was evidence that my character left something wanting. Moreover, I was sure that with the right resolve, I could ameliorate this situation and become a better (read: less ADHD) person. I don’t think I’ll ever stop regretting this now that I’ve realized how wrong I was back then. I’ll never get back the time I wasted feeling guilty for nonexistent or out-of-my-control incidences of ADHD-ness. Don’t make my mistake.
- You shouldn’t necessarily believe teachers who say, “Oh, I’m so ADD too!”
I was diagnosed relatively young, back in pre-k; meaning that I knew I had ADHD — and all of my teachers knew it too — for all 12 years of my lower education. And I swear, every single year a new teacher would tell me upon learning of my ADHD diagnosis, “OH, that’s totally fine, I’m really ADD too.” Unfortunately, that usually turned out to mean, “I don’t understand ADHD at all, but I think I’ll bond with you by saying I have it and referring to it in the pejorative.” Over the years, I heard many teachers say a lot of stupid, cruel things without seeming even to give it a second thought, but that is not ADHD. There’s a difference between wanting to think before you act and not being able to, and just deciding that you’re so wise, you never need to think twice. In the end, only one of my teachers ever turned out to have ADHD, my AP World History teacher during my senior year of college. How did I know he had it, and that he was the only one of my teachers who did? One day I was sitting in his classroom at the end of lunch when he walked in, looked around his desk, and announced that he just realized he had lost a pair of Bruce Springsteen tickets. I’m totally serious. But you know what? He was also one of the best teachers I ever had.
- Medications may “last” 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean you will.
Here’s a fun (by which I mean, not fun at all) fact: Even if the prescribing information for an ADHD medication says it lasts up to 12 hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use all 12 of those hours effectively. You see, even when medicated, people with ADHD have to expend more energy to complete tasks that seem to take our neurotypical counterparts no time at all. Do that for a full workday, and the remaining man-made focus you have left for your nervous system via medication is reduced to the equivalent of potential energy, never getting used. (This is a lesson I’ve started learning literally in the last few weeks.)
- Stimulant medication isn’t the be-all, end-all.
From ages 5 through 22, I was on some form of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (aka Ritalin). For over 5 years now, I’ve been taking both an immediate-release dosage and extended-release dosage of dexmethylphenidate (aka Focalin). I first went on Focalin because when I was a senior in college, I discovered, to my horror, that my medication did not seem to be working anymore. Like, at all. That’s when I went on Focalin. But just two years later, I again ceased to feel medicated enough on a day-to-day basis. It was then that my PCP put me on bupropion (aka Forfivo), which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Later, I also started taking guanfacine (aka Intuniv), a non-stimulant ADHD medication initially formulated to treat hypertension. As it turned out, for me, at least, these Forfivo and Intuniv were the magic bullets of ADHD treatment regimens.
- Coffee is your friend.
During my ‘bad concentration’ time of the month, and especially toward the end of it, my verbal acuity temporarily goes out the window. Somehow, this always seemed to happen *right* when I had a big paper due imminently (like, in two days, or even sooner). One day, in desperation, I did some Hail-Mary googling, seeking confirmation that yes, in fact, coffee does help ADHD people concentrate. According to a post published recently on ADDitude, it “arouses the central nervous system by stimulating the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and by blocking the absorption of adenosine, which induces sleep.” I’ve found that a Starbucks Frappuccino with a shot of espresso enables me to write even when my medications are at their least potent. Pardon the pun, but I really do think you should give it a ‘shot!’
- ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. People should be ashamed to think it is.
(Photos courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net) Modified on Canva http://www.canva.com