As someone who has very severe, pretty noticeable ADD/ADHD, I’ve faced some unique challenges in my time. Although I was not diagnosed until rather recently, I have struggled with this part of me for my whole life. ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder- in short, I am mentally and medically completely unable to focus. Throughout my education, I’ve made pretty good grades despite my teachers always complaining of my “daydreaming” appearance. My experiences have made me aware of just how oblivious neurotypical individuals are to what having ADD is actually like. So I made a list of 5 things that most of you probably didn’t know about ADD.
1. Don’t count on me to remember something unless you see me write it down (Agendas are a lifesaver)
One thing that commonly tags along with ADD is an incredibly short term memory. Although, when it comes to important events I’m sharp as a tack so don’t think you can get away with getting on my bad side cause there is NO WAY I’m going to forget that. But for the little things? If I don’t pull out my agenda and write it down you can just forget it. Literally. Speaking of agendas, if you have issues remembering stuff because you also suffer from short term memory, agendas are actually perfect. I don’t just write down what I need to get done but also things I want to remember. A planner provides the space for quotes, ideas, assignments, and a place for doodling to reduce anxiety. I would be completely academically useless without my agenda. For an example and inspiration, I’ll include a few pictures of how I use my personal agenda.
2. Just because I have to do something differently, doesn’t mean it won’t be as good
This is something that many individuals with all sorts of learning/mental disabilities experience, not just people with ADD. Sometimes when I am given a task, trying to do it in the same manner as my neurotypical counterparts would be nearly impossible and incredibly time consuming. But this doesn’t mean I’m stupid or incapable. Often, a quick adjustment will do the trick and I’ll complete the task in no time, maybe even faster than everyone else. This takes no effort from anyone else but myself, so just sit back and let me do what I need to do. Trust me, I’ll do everything in my ability to prevent inconveniencing anyone as I make the necessary adjustments.
3. Interrupting me is the worst possible thing you can do. Really.
Because ADD makes it hard to begin with to maintain a steady train of thought, If I’m interrupted, I will 99.9% of the time forget everything I was saying and become very frustrated. When someone talks over me or does anything to interrupt my train of thought, it is like I was writing a paper and they grabbed my pen and threw it across the room. And then spilled water all over the paper. Frustrating right? I often experience a rage response to this; especially when the people who interrupt me one, know about my ADD, and two, have been reminded more than once about not talking over me. If you don’t know, it’s fine! I’ll let you know and remind you for next time. But still interrupting me after countless times is like saying “I know you lose your train of thought when I speak over you but I don’t care. Your opinion or story is not important to me.”
And besides, It’s rude to interrupt anyone regardless of who they are!
4. Medicine doesn’t fix everything, and immediate results don’t exist
When I first started taking medicine to help me focus and treat my other symptoms of ADD, for some reason I expected to be magically cured and never have to deal with my condition ever again. Wrong. Starting medicine was a beast of its own, messing with my anxiety and heart rate, and destroying my appetite. It was no fun and nothing like what I had expected. This aside, different medicines have different side affects so I can only speak for myself. My focus didn’t really start to improve until about a week of taking my medicine and even now, my short-term memory is still a problem. Don’t get me wrong, medicine DOES help and has GREATLY improved my cognitive functions, but expecting it to fix everything without any extra effort from myself is just unreasonable.
(And of course, always consult with a doctor or psychiatrist to determine the best course of action for yourself.)
5. ADD/ADHD can affect personality and reactions to social situations
The core characteristic of ADD/ADHD is not being able to focus, but many individuals believe that it only applies to the academic world. In fact, the inability to focus can also affect social aspects of a person’s life. Upon learning that I have ADD, the daughter of my mother’s friend (who also has ADD), expressed that she was not suprised and “could tell from my eyes.” When my mom told me what she had said I was incredibly confused. My eyes? I had never noticed anything different about them. Finally it dawn on me that I just couldn’t seem to maintain eye contact with people. I’m not a shy person and I’m extremely extroverted but I just couldn’t seem to hold eye contact when in conversation. As it turns out, that too, is a symptom of ADD/ADHD. Who knew!
Going back to after I started taking medicine, I began to realize a growth in my overall empathy for others. In general, I tended to be a rather self centered (not necessarily in a bad way… well, maybe) and couldn’t bring myself to connect with others’ misfortunes. But for some reason, as my concentration and focus increased, so did my willingness to go out of my way for others and my empathy for situations I was not involved in grew. Although I wasn’t expecting this change and didn’t mind my previous demeanor, I’m quite pleased and pleasantly suprised by this “upgrade”.
Even now I’m still discovering little things about having ADD/ADHD that I have never noticed before about myself. Having a condition like this is a learning experience everyday and I’m thankful. I guess there is a silver lining to all situations…
Until next post,