ADHD doesn’t define me

An ADHD diagnosis helped a student find that their academic struggles doesn’t define their ability.


I remember glancing down at the most recent “D” on my math test in high school. I thought that I had done my best. I genuinely thought I wouldn’t do any better, and that I was destined to always receive these grades.

Things like time management, concentration, retaining information, short-term memory and finishing work on time seemed impossible and I had such poor self-esteem and anxiety as a result.

But soon after, I started to question whether it was about my ability: maybe I’m not lazy, careless or disinterested in learning. Maybe there was something holding me back from succeeding. 

This thought drove me to the internet and I printed out a list of symptoms for  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I highlighted all that applied to me. I learned that ADHD is a brain condition that led to frequent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, and finally all of my difficulties in school were starting to make sense.

Later, I reached out to a therapist and I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. 

A diagnosis can be a negative experience, but for me, it was a huge sigh of relief. 

I finally understood why I am the way I am. It was reassuring to know that all of my struggles were due to neurological imbalances and not character flaws. 

I was different, not broken. 

For so much of my childhood, I lived my life apologetically, as if my existence was somehow a burden. I believed I was incompetent and destined for failure, and my grades would never improve.

With the help of medication and weekly therapy, I was able to bring my GPA up from 2.9 to 3.65, and I started to feel good about myself and my intelligence.

I also learned that success looks different for everyone, and that academic grades aren’t the only achievement that matters.

My first semester after transferring to Temple I took a journalism and society course. Although I started off well, I got overwhelmed towards the end and actually failed the class. It was a familiar feeling, having struggled academically my whole life, yet it hurt nevertheless.

But I knew I could do better so I pushed myself to retake the class. In doing so, I fell in love with journalism. I worked really hard to focus on studying despite my ADHD.

I finished the class with a B+ and I am proud of myself for that.

It’s been 12 years since my diagnosis. I’ve been rebuilding my self esteem and learning to work with my brain. Today, I am in love with all the gifts that ADHD has given me and although I have weaknesses, I can succeed.

I might not get an award for doing my homework and getting better grades, but I’m proud of myself, and that’s what’s most important.

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