The stigma of ADHD

Photo by Jessica Wade

Madeline Miller

I bought my second planner of the year today. Do not ask me where the first one is. I do not know.

I do know that I only used it once even though I loved it and, quite honestly, needed it.
My scattered thoughts and disorganized mind have never let me consistently use an organizational tool. I am going to try again, though.

It is just what happens when you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I was diagnosed in fourth grade and put on a drug called Focalin. It is a stimulant, much like Ritalin and Adderal, but it is less frequently prescribed.

After a few years of experimenta-tion with dosages, I found just the right one for me. However, even before the perfect dose came, my grades took a dramatic turn for the better. By the end of fourth grade, I was reading at a college level.

But I am not in fourth grade anymore. Now I am an adult, and I still have ADHD. I always will.

I am a grown woman with a condition usually associated with young boys. And every single day, it presents unique challenges.

Focusing on class is nearly impossible on a bad day. To combat this, I take my medication and sit in the front of the class. I take my notes by hand no matter how sore I get. It helps me remember the material when I inevitably forget to study.

Focus is not the only problem girls with ADHD face. Disorders like sensory processing disorder are so often comorbid with ADHD, it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

Sensory processing disorder, for me, is an inability to handle loud noises. I also seek out certain textures and avoid being touched. Scents give me headaches if I smell them for too long.

We are not taken as seriously as boys with the same condition. This often leads to anxiety and depression.

We feel rejected by neuro-typical students, and we suffer emotional damage from the rejection. We feel nervous about doing poorly on schoolwork or forgetting to do
something important, so we constantly live on edge.

At some points, my anxiety has manifested itself as an inability to swallow food. I lived off of meal replacement shakes, green smoothies from Naked and apple juice.

The medications aren’t all fun and games either. If you are on the wrong dose or the wrong type, you end up as a zombie or bouncing of the walls. They can cause loss of appetite and a huge crash when they wear off.

If you are goofing off when they kick in, you can become hyper focused on whatever activity it is you are doing instead of the work you should be doing.

One of the worst parts about being a grown woman with ADHD is no one ever believes me the first time. It becomes a competition to prove my disorder. People will think because I am smart or an adult or quiet that I could not possibly have a problem at all.

But I do. It is a part of who I am, as encoded in my DNA as my blue eyes and detached ear lobes. And it will continue to affect my life and my classwork whether I let it or not.