Do you ever feel like you have too many thoughts? That your thoughts are going so fast, that it’s hard to even grasp onto one at a time? And no, not because you drank a little too much coffee or caffeinated soda - it’s simply how your brain functions. For someone with Attention Deficit Disorder (or ADD), like myself, this is what it feels like 24/7.
Growing up, I never really noticed anything different about myself, I thought I was just like any other kid. I enjoyed daydreaming. A lot. My mind always seemed to be off in another world. I wasn't the best at listening, whether that meant in class or just during a one-on-one conversation. I’d often interrupt whoever I was conversing with saying, “Wait, what did you just say? Sorry, I was distracted.” I also was (and am) always late. I don’t mean to be. I daydream and get distracted by the littlest things and suddenly I’m five minutes late to wherever or whatever it is I’m supposed to be at. I also liked to tap my feet in class under my desk when daydreaming wasn't entertaining enough. I quickly suppressed this habit after having a few teachers getting annoyed with my little tap dances and snapping, “Emma!” Whoops. Despite knowing these things about myself, I didn’t realize that these weren’t traits everybody has.
I did pretty well in elementary and middle school, but as the years went by and I entered high school, I started noticing something wasn’t right. The harder assignments and longer school days completely drained me. When it came time to sit and do my homework, I just couldn’t. Sometimes I would forget to do the assignment, or if I did do the assignment I would forget to hand them in. My mind and thoughts were always drifting to places they shouldn’t be, making it incredibly difficult to focus on simple day-to-day tasks. Assignments that should have taken a half hour took me over an hour and don’t even get me started on writing papers. I remember asking my mom for studying tips, and she advised me to sit and write notecards, then study them for a few hours. A few hours?! I couldn’t even fathom it. To me, it seemed impossible.
As high school classes got more difficult, my grades began to slip. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t doing as well as I knew I could be doing. My sophomore year of high school, I went to see a therapist. In the first meeting, she had me fill out a questionnaire for ADD/ADHD. The questionnaire asked questions like, “How often do you have difficulty remembering appointments or obligations?” or “How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work?”. Besides the questions were columns titled, “Never,” “Rarely,” “Sometimes,” “Often,” or “Very Often,” and you checked whichever applied to you. Once I filled out the questionnaire, I was shocked to find that I had answered almost ever question with “Often” or “Very Often.” I thought everyone had these difficulties, but apparently I was wrong.
I was then diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and suddenly life made a lot more sense. I now knew that the problems and challenges I faced because of my ADD didn’t apply to everyone like I thought they did, which was some sort of relief to me. It meant that no, I wasn’t stupid or incapable - my brain just doesn’t exactly work like everyone else’s. I was suddenly faced with the new challenge of dealing with my diagnosis and working to treat it. I worked with my doctors and therapist to treat my ADD, and surely my grades started rising and reflecting the grades I always knew I could get.
The diagnosis provided me an answer to the part of myself that had always seemed “not quite right." There’s definitely a stigma that follows people with ADD/ADHD, and while having ADD does cause challenges in my life, I’ve managed to work with it so that it doesn't completely inhibit or negatively influence my everyday life. I don’t think of my ADD as a flaw. When writing this article I asked my mom if she had ever noticed any ADD-like traits in me as a kid, since I had never really noticed anything until reflecting on my childhood self now. She said how she and my dad, teachers, and the moms of my childhood friends noticed my “daydreaminess," but shrugged it off as a “quirk.” It is a bit of a quirk, I suppose, and that’s how I like to look at it.