It was 2001; I was beginning first grade. I was diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder). I don’t remember actually being told that I had ADD. All I knew was that I was supposed to take this off-yellow pill every morning before school. It was not until I was assigned a project in the eighth grade about having ADD that I fully understood what it was. I have a learning disability and would receive accommodations such as extra time on tests and testing in a separate environment from the rest of the students. It also meant that I would have to do everything I possibly could to pay attention.
I hate to sound “basic,” but the ADD struggle is real. One third of children in
When someone has a physical disability, you can see it and understand why it hurts and why they are the way they are. ADD is a mental disability, so from the outside (unlike a physical disability) you cannot see it. It is so difficult to explain to people that do not have it what it feels like to have it.
I have been diagnosed with ADD for 15 years, now. I have gone through two different brands of medication, over five different doses and four different doctors. I felt like my whole life was one big science experiment.
I can remember the first time in college that I was confronted about having ADD like it was yesterday. It was the second week and I had finally made some friends. I was sitting down eating lunch and one of them asked why I was not eating much. I came out with the truth and responded, “I have ADD, so I am on Adderall and it suppresses my appetite.” I have never seen someone get so excited when I told them about my symptoms. He about jumped out of his chair and asked, “Can I buy some from you?!” I was kind of confused, I said, “No! I do not sell drugs and I actually need mine to function properly in society.” Welcome to college, Leslie.
Since then I have had a countless number of people ask me if I would sell my Adderall to them. Of course, I would always say no and they would respond, “You are so lucky to have ADD so you can get Adderall by a doctor.” Wait, what? Lucky? You must be on drugs. What part of having your brain not function normally is lucky? I did not sign up for it. I get distracted all the time over pointless things: I have a test tomorrow in biology that I have to study for tonight. Oh, tonight the "Bachelor" comes on. Remember that time you had to lock the door to watch it at home so nobody would come barging in and interrupt? Home, I miss home. I miss my pets. Oh, Claire! I still need to get her a harness to walk her. Is it weird to walk your cat? I don’t think so. My brain can go from what I have to do tonight to walking my cat. Yes, it makes life interesting, but can get annoying and frustrating.
Maybe people think I am lucky because when I take it I can concentrate for hours. Wrong. My brain does not function the same as yours unmedicated, so it will not function the same as yours when we are both medicated. When we take it we can focus, but that does not mean that it tells us exactly what we need to focus on. Sometimes when I take it, I end up deep cleaning everything in sight. My brain ends up becoming a DIY Pinterest board. I see everything that I have to do, but choose what I want to do.
Adderall, the most popular medication for ADD/ADHD, still acts like a drug for those of us that have it prescribed. I still get the negative side effects of the medication. I would be at school or out with friends around lunch time, they would go eat, but I was not hungry. They would always ask why I was not eating, thinking I was sick. But, no, I am fine; my medicine just suppresses my appetite. “Oh, my -- gosh, you are so lucky. It must be so easy to lose weight,” they would say. No, I’m not lucky, because I have this awkward conversation with people to try to explain that it is not true. “Do you hate me, you look like you have been mad all day.” It is just my face. I know I look mad and strung out on drugs. My drugs are prescribed but, yes, I will get mad if you do not stop asking me if I am OK because I am fine.
I know it sounds like I just bashed ADD and everything that deals with it, but others that do not have it will never fully understand what is going on in the brain and how our brain views the world. In all honestly, I love having ADD, and I would not have it any other way. ADD has made me who I am and plays a major key role in my personality. If it was not for it, I would not have the view on life that I have today. ADD is still a daily struggle for me, but I have learned to embrace the struggle, embrace the struggle to focus.