I was a junior in high school when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I struggled paying attention in school, during conversations with my peers and had hyperactive tendencies and forgetfulness.
I wished I was diagnosed sooner because I constantly struggled to find the motivation to complete everyday tasks but knowing what caused these challenges may have helped develop healthy habits and validate my struggles from ADHD. I couldn’t complete schoolwork, go to class or clean my room. Even getting out of bed was an occasional struggle.
Throughout my childhood, I played piano and if I performed in front of a crowd, I would worry about playing perfectly. The pressure caused me to make mistakes — destroying my confidence.
ADHD affects my writing and test-taking abilities because I tend to make mistakes when I have trouble focusing, which causes anxiety and beating myself up over my capabilities.
Before my freshman year of college, I’d already developed a level of independence from becoming more mature and going to therapy. I completed school assignments on time, chatted with friends, managed a busy schedule and maintained cleanliness. However, I was apprehensive that being thrown into a new environment at college would increase my anxiety and affect my independence and ability to live up to my potential.
When the year started, I became so overwhelmed with the adjustment that I felt I wasn’t emotionally present when socializing or learning. My ADHD medication, which I began taking in September 2021, suppressed my mood and confidence which made me less sociable when I was with friends.
I’ve always been very sensitive to ADHD medications. The first time I ever took my medication I was overstimulated by how hyper-focused I was, but then I emotionally crashed when it wore off at the end of the day. I lost weight from my suppressed appetite and constantly felt moody.
I switched medications six times within two years until I realized in college that I didn’t want to continue taking it every day because of how negatively it affected my mental health. The harsh side effects in addition to transitioning into a new environment were too much for me to balance mentally.
I started to wean myself off medication – only taking it when necessary – and discovered that practicing self-improvement and being patient with myself supplemented the medication. This allowed me to sustain a more organized, productive lifestyle that specifically worked for me because I wasn’t as hard on myself.
At college, I yearned to be more organized because I knew I had the potential to live a structured lifestyle and thought it would make me feel accomplished.
I prioritized schoolwork instead of socializing. I found a spot at the library where I could focus best, started exercising more and made healthy choices with my eating. I became more organized than ever before by making my bed and writing in my planner.
Becoming independent is important, but I still wanted to be socially involved. I recognized my passion for writing and started writing freelance for The Temple News.
College is known to be intimidating and a big adjustment for anyone, but those with mental disabilities may struggle with the transition more than others. I took note of the strategies that worked for me in the past and I tried my best to apply them to my everyday life as much as possible, while also staying patient with myself if some things didn’t get done on time.
Through all the fluctuating medication, consistently talking about my feelings and observing myself in social settings, I realized ADHD is a significant part of my personality. With attention deficit, I can still be free, smile and make others laugh as my most authentic self.
It’s normal to be fearful that mental disorders may impede self-confidence and independence but accepting my mental disability as a positive part of who I am helped me explore my individuality in healthy ways. Going to college gave me the perfect opportunity to understand and embrace my ADHD and along that journey, create healthy habits and gain independence.