Living with Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Did I remember to feed the cats this morning? Did I remember to take my medicine? Did I remember to change my birds cage? My mind races with all these questions and takes away my focus on what I should be focused on. Imagine. You are trying to get an assignment done. You know you need to get it done, and you know you can do it. But it seems like your mind keeps wandering off and you soon realize that you’ve wasted hours that could have been used to finish the assignment. You try to get back into focus yet your mind wanders again, and again until soon you have to rush to get it done, and risk doing poorly, if you get it done at all. Unfortunately, this is just one of many scenarios for people who have grown up and are living with ADHD.
But what is ADHD? Well, to start, ADHD is short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children. I myself was diagnosed at the age of 5 years old! Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to diagnose and many children are often misdiagnosed with either having it when they don’t, or not being diagnosed and treated when they do, or instead they are labeled as having behavior problems instead. ADHD is not just a disorder of childhood, many children never out grow it. It has even been estimated that over 8 million adults in the U.S. live with ADHD. But how do you know if you or someone you know has it? Well, the key symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity, constantly interupting, can't sit still, poor memory, and impulsivity. There are several tests that are used to find out if a person has ADHD, some of which include psychological testing and questionnaires for the parents.
But, once you do know you or someone else has it, what is the treatment? Most doctors often prescribe medications to help deal with the ADHD. Some of the medications include Amphetamines such as Adderall, Dexadrine, Ritalin, and Concerta. Counseling and Behavior Modificatation is another form of coping with the disorder. But even if you do comply with your doctor, take your medications, and talk to a psychiatrist and or a therapist, the person can still be very difficult to live with. As a person who has it, I can tell you that it is not easy to know you are different from everyone else. To know you have to be on medication the rest of your life because you’re considered different from society. Not only that, but ADHD doesn’t often come alone, there are usually other disorders to deal with, including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schitzoaffective disorder, touretts syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and sometimes even depression as the child gets older, as well as sleep problems, such as insomnia. I myself have some of the problems I just listed. But, it’s never as easy as just throwing in medication and expecting everything to go back to normal. The problem is, many people often give the person medication just to make life easier. But not being treated at all can be worse. Untreated adults often live with chaotic lifestyles, and often appear disorganized. Sometimes they even turn to non-prescription drugs and alcohol to as a way to cope. But at least knowing you have ADHD can be somewhat helpful. If you had it and you didn’t know, you would go throughout your life wondering why you were different from everyone else. Of course knowing you have it is still very hard, as I have said earlier.
When I was six years old I actually asked my mom when I would get a new brain because I knew I was different, having to take medication every day. Of course I also heard my parents talk about my ADHD a lot, but life went on. Growing up with ADHD for me was very hard at times and often frustrating, but for the most part I was sheltered and spoiled and treated like and other child. Sure I was more hyperactive than normal, and I liked to talk a lot but I usually lived with it just fine. That is until I started going to school. I was in Special ED classes because of my ADHD. At first I did like school very much, the first few grades were some of the best for me, but as I was in longer, it got to be harder and harder. That is to say, I enjoyed the schoolwork most times, especially creative writing and art class, since alot of people with ADHD are very creative, but I was often teased, bullied, and ridiculed for being different, and it only got worse as I went from grade to grade. Eventually I stopped liking school all together and would often get so stressed out at school that i'd end up having severe migraines. During my last few years of high school, I coped by going into a fantasy world. I'd imagine I was on the TV show Little House on the Prairie, i'd pretend to be best friends with Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was like my Idol. She knew how to treat people who were different and she knew not to make fun of them. I would sometimes read in class, or write a poem when I was supposed to be doing class work or paying attention, and the other kids hated it because I would never get in trouble or get detention for anything. I guess you could say I was a teacher’s pet back then. I didn’t really mean to, I just preferred adults over kids my age. I knew how to respect my elders, and if I wasn’t paying attention in class, at least I did it quietly unlike my louder classmates who simply acted out. But nothing helped, and I even ended up going to the school library instead of the lunch room because I hated how loud and annoying the kids were. And to me, high school graduation didn’t come soon enough. It was an escape for me, and very relieving to get out of such a miserable, horrible place.
But it doesn’t just stop there, because of growing up with ADHD, and having to deal with all the harassment in my school growing up, I didn’t exactly get out unscathed. My confidence was torn to pieces, and still is depending on the situation, and I often prefer to isolate myself in my room, rather then do anything. The worst part about my ADHD is that it takes away my self-reliance. I can practice all night for a test, but once I walk into the room to take the test, my mind works against me and I don't remember anything. I have learned not to rely on myself and in doing so I have taught others to do the same. Living with this makes it hard for me to relate to other people and I often feel like the odd girl out. You probably sometimes notice how I don’t usually talk to anyone or sometimes sit by myself at times. This is because to me, I find it hard to trust anyone, because I have been let down so many times. But I wilt when it comes to other people, I don’t know what to say, or how to approach other people because I worry that they wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway, or want me as a friend or think less of me. I still wonder why I got to be so ‘lucky’ as to be so different from everyone else, but when I do make friends I am usually very loyal to the end, and I always stick up for my friends.
With my ADHD comes another negative aspect in my life; anxiety. Anxiety, I believe, is one of the worst aspects of being myself and having ADHD. It prevents a normal sleep pattern, and causes me to have nightmares and refuses to let me enjoy anything to the fullest. While watching a movie, reading a book, scrapbooking, writing poetry or socializing, there is always something there, nagging at me, eating at me, telling me I will not forget. A chore? A bill I haven't paid yet? A forgotten assignment? All I know is that sometimes I cannot eat, sleep, or even function correctly until I know what it is and have completed it. The problem is, by then, there is already something else there. When I get especially anxious over something, my speech impediment tends to appear, and I start to stutter. When I was younger I never spoke; my mother always spoke for me. It took me nearly three years with speech lessons, but now I have nearly perfect pronunciation, as long as I don't get too stressed out or have an anxiety attack.
But ADHD can be a very broad topic and I could probably go on for hours and hours talking about it if I had the chance, yet there are those out there who believe and claim that it does not even exist. That it’s just something that was invented and or made up rather than discovered. And there is also a lot of controversy around the use of certain medications called stimulants for treating this. Some people are completely against the use of ADHD medication. I myself can’t drink coffee or mountain dew without the caffeine putting me to sleep somewhat. But most do agree it exists, and most of the controversy is around how to treat it. This is because some of the medications have a high risk of abuse. And some of them are to be used in extreme caution or not at all in small children.
But beyond the theories of treating it there are different theories as to what causes it. The most common ideas are being inherited from family members, chemical imbalance, brain changes, and head injury, poor nutrition, infections, vaccines, substance abuse during pregnancy, exposure to toxins in early childhood, and injury to the brain and brain disorders. One thing that is agreed, though is that too much sugar doesn't cause ADHD.
I could keep going on and on about causes of ADHD, but you probably have enough to think about. So, to wrap up and reiterate what I have just said, here are some facts. ADHD, while mostly thought of as a child’s disease, can still be very prominent in adults. Treatment is necessary, even if you don’t like it, and acceptance of it in yourself is very important for self esteem. You should also learn that it is not a crutch or a wall to abuse or hold back, or an excuse, but just a different way of thinking. If you do have it, treatment is available and there is hope that you can still have a normal life. I take Adderall XR for my ADHD and it works so well that I call it my miracle pill. For the first time in in my life I could actually focus and even hold down a job. Having ADHD means you have different strengths and weaknesses from other people, and in the end, there really is no such thing as normal.