Recently I sought a diagnosis for ADHD from the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing for my bipolar disorder and anxiety. I’d been mulling on this possible diagnosis for months because I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t merely the difficulties of grad school flaring my anxiety and thus causing other issues. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think about my childhood and how ADHD could have possibly affected it. Apparently boys and girls can express it differently, so I never struggled with staying still when I needed to (but I also do believe in elementary school we received plenty of movement). I was a well-behaved student who made good grades and never ended up in detention, ISS, or was ever suspended. I was very chatty and hyperactive when allowed to be and sometimes looked like I was paying attention but wasn’t and so daydreamed a lot and was a mess of anxiety and an absolute perfectionist, all things I never realized ADHD caused. No matter how many times my parents told me I just needed to do my best, my best was never good enough.
Sometimes you can go your whole life having this thing, slipping under the radar, because it doesn’t majorly affect your life just yet. But there were other things, too. I was messy as a child and still am. My desk would be crammed with garbage, as would my locker. I’d only clean it out when demanded, but I did love having a clean desk afterward. But it’d wind up messy again. My room was always a tornado. My mom would force me to clean it. Sometimes I’d be so sick of the mess I’d clean it, but it’d wind up messy again–and I tried so hard for it to not end up that way! I never had an explanation. I could sometimes be a little bit too much for my friends because of my hyperactivity, and I even had a boy dump me because he said I was too hyper. My handwriting is abysmal, and the one time I tried so hard to clean it up still wasn’t good enough when my teacher looked at me and asked, “Is this the best you can do?” Yes, that’s really the best I can do. Don’t even get me started on my childish cursive.
I’ve made peace with my terrible handwriting, but I do envy my peers with beautiful flourishes that I will never have no matter how hard I try. So I didn’t even know dysgraphia was a thing. I’m just grateful everything is typed now for the most part.
I have a temper, though I’m good at hiding it, and some things make me explosively impatient, like goniometry of the hand, anything to do with driving, sometimes video games. And of course my executive functioning is crap. The only thing that can force me to do boring tasks is stress, which isn’t fun. I can work well under stress, but I hate it. And the only reason I can think of as to why I did so well my first term of PT school unmedicated is stress and a combination of caffeine, which helps to mildly increase my focus, but is enough that I feel more in control of my attention span. I consumed caffeine every single day that I was studying for finals and didn’t struggle too much with staying still.
Let’s not even talk about anxiety. The reason I even started considering ADHD was because the anxiety was so atrocious/intense that my mind shut down, I disconnected from myself, and it took a while for me to feel connected to the world once again. My dad recommended PTA school instead, but the good thing about me is that despite seemingly unbeatable odds, I will never give up. It’s like I’m some sort of magical girl who made a wish to Kyubey about not wanting to give up, and bam! it’s neither mentally nor physically possible for me to do so. Plus, my brother received a diagnosis a few years ago, so my likelihood of having it shot up and he got through grad school. I know my breed of grad school is very different since it’s a clinical doctorate, meaning you’re taking more credit hours per term, but I put too much work in prior to starting. It’d be a failure on my part to give up.
This diagnosis greatly affected my ability to enjoy my first term, to enjoy the process of learning. It affected my marriage because I spent too much time studying because of my lack of focus, so I did not call my husband as much as I should have. It really began to mess things up, so I knew it was time to seek help and start medication. Plus, I took all screens available online, with the results being that I have a moderate case of it.
Thanks to my bipolar, my pdoc is hesitant starting me on stimulants, so I’m on a non-stimulant, which will take weeks to fully work.
I honestly can’t wait until it does. I have a co-worker with ADHD as well who told me that problems like anxiety can sometimes be taken care of through ADHD treatment. It makes me wonder if my anxiety is a separate thing or has been an ADHD thing this whole time. I know it doesn’t matter, of course. Anxiety is anxiety.
I know medication isn’t a quick fix, but I question who I really am now. I do like having more energy than the average person, as the type of energy people seek through coffee in energy drinks is something I naturally have. But it’s not that controlled. I want calm energy. How will I be under the influence of medication? Will the world start to make sense? Will I finally have more control over my emotions? Will I be able to tackle grad school with confidence rather than being terrified at the start of each new term? Will I want to stay on meds, or do I only need them at this point in my life?
I suppose we’ll see. I’m putting a lot of hope in this medication being the right one for me.