One of the few topics I really wanted to tackle when I started this blog was living life with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (more commonly known as ADHD). If you don’t know what ADHD is, Wikipedia is your friend. In a nutshell, ADHD is a neuropsychological disorder that leaves you with three basic symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. These three symptom groups manifest differently in different people, but I’ll give a quick rundown of what my symptoms are like on a bad day.
- Fidgety & Anxiousness – I get seriously antsy and fidgety if I am not doing something really engaging. I can get to the point where I get kind of agitated and easily annoyed.
- Chronic, Severe Boredom – Ain’t nobody experience boredom like somebody with ADHD! If something is not engaging my interest, I almost completely lack the ability to pay attention or engage in an activity.
- Difficulty Directing or Sustain Attention – This is probably the most frustrating of all, and it ties closely into #2. During times of severe ADHD, I have serious difficulty staying on task. I have the biggest struggle when I am doing desk work, such as writing or researching for my thesis. I can’t even tell you how many times I have sat down to read a paper or write an essay, and ended up at the end of the night having gained 3 levels on my Night Elf Hunter, drawn a picture, and read the entirety of my RSS newsfeeds. And that essay? Yeah, well I guess that’s what the night before the due date is for.
One of the most frustrating things about living with ADHD is that anytime I explain what its like to live with the disorder, I get a lot of “Oh, I know what that’s like.” or “Isn’t everyone like that?” This is super annoying, because it reminds me a lot of what people used to say to me in high school while I was still undiagnosed. “Everybody else can get it together. You’re just not trying hard enough. You need to learn how to study.” Blah blah blah. I understand the concept that people have the best intentions, really, I do. Its frustrating when people dismiss or diminish an ADHD diagnosis.
A few years ago, I gave a presentation about ADHD in a psychology class. Following the presentation, somebody asked the question, “I’ve heard that ADHD is more of a personality type, and that its not really a disorder.” Again, I totally get this mindset, and I actually see how it makes sense. People with ADHD are really good at hands on stuff, business/entrepreneurship, and the trades. The problem is that I’m not passionate and excited about those things. I don’t want to spend my life building things, I want to make a difference in the neuropsychology field. I want to help people with mental illness. I want to be a research authority. My ADHD really is more of a hinderance than a help when I sit down to write a scientific article outlining my research. Every time I sit down to write I dread it with the hatred of a thousand vampires on a California beach in the midday sun. I’m not going to let my disability define who I am. I am going to pursue my goals regardless of how janky my brain can be. There are ways to overcome ADHD, and I hope that this blog will help others to find the courage to go after what they want as well.