Claire Zeffer, Opinion Editor
From my earliest memories, I’ve struggled to focus and battled procrastination like a devil on my shoulder. I’m petrified of failure but simultaneously have an impaired sense of time, a tendency to get sidetracked and an inability to start something unless the deadline is hours away.
At 13, I discovered my expert ability to pull everything together at the last minute. Although I performed well in school, I suffered as a result of my inability to concentrate and complete my work in a timely and organized manner.
I began working with psychiatrists and therapists for my mental health when I was 17, and I accepted my lack of focus and motivation as symptoms of my depression. However, during my first, and very stressful, semester of college, I started to worry there was something else going on.
I was easily distracted and consistently scatterbrained even in my happiest moments. No matter how hard I tried, I ended up overwhelmed and off track. My schoolwork would pile up, and I would get angry at myself for being unproductive, finding it impossible to understand why it was so difficult for me to accomplish things that seemed to come naturally to other people.
I finally got the courage to express this to my psychiatrist, who said it sounded like I was suffering from ADHD. I was relieved to hear there was an answer to the problems I was having, and I quickly came to terms with the diagnosis.
I fought to reframe my habits and even tried a brief stint on Adderall, but it didn’t make my day-to-day life any easier, and I still struggled to combat the routines and practices I was used to.
When I was hired as the Opinion Editor at The Temple News in May 2023, the first thing I did was stress about who my assistant would be. I knew the job would require a lot of collaboration, and I was terrified my ADHD habits and work style would make it difficult for my partner to write and edit with me.
I tried to imagine this individual, wondering how they would approach my process and if they would judge me for getting distracted or for procrastinating our shared work. At last, I received my onboarding email from the Editor-in-Chief, which read:
“Make sure to become acquainted with the other person on your team: Valeria Uribe (Assistant Opinion Editor).”
Valeria and I exchanged phone numbers and FaceTimed for the first time in June. We instantly got along; Val was sweet and funny, and we seemed to be on the same page about how we wanted to run the Opinion section. However, we hadn’t started working on anything yet, and I was still afraid our bond would be short-lived once we did.
A few nights after our first call, I was texting Val about how embarrassed I was to pitch essays, as I hated talking about my feelings and didn’t want anyone to perceive me as weak because of the experiences I was sharing.
Val begged me not to be embarrassed.
“I once wrote about my ADHD. People are always getting personal with the essays, and honestly those are the best ones,” Val texted back.
I was instantly flooded with a sense of relief and feelings of gratitude that Val would understand me, and I knew I would understand her. I told her I had ADHD, too, and although I joked that we were going to make an amazing procrastinating team, I really meant it.
Our ADHD habits may be unconventional, and, at times, undesirable, but they’ve also served as a strong foundation for us to connect, produce content and find solace in each other while navigating new and demanding responsibilities.
ADHD can make our lives more difficult in many ways, but I’m also learning to see it as a virtue. Val and I can work hard, fast and well under pressure, which often comes in handy in the newsroom environment.
Weeks full of editing, writing and interviewing seem daunting, but we always manage, and I’m so proud of the work we have done together in just a few months.
Working closely with Val not only brings me comfort but has taught me to be easier on myself in moments when I feel incapacitated by my ADHD. If I can be understanding of Val’s struggles, then there is no reason why I can’t do the same for myself.
Valeria Uribe, Assistant Opinion Editor
“Make sure to become acquainted with the other person on your team: Claire Zeffer (Opinion Editor).”
I opened this email on May 22, and that’s when reality sunk in. I had just been hired as Assistant Opinion Editor at The Temple News. After one year of contributing as a freelancer, I was going to be working with another person running an entire section of the paper.
I stared at Claire’s email address for a few minutes before forcing myself to reach out to her.
While I was waiting for her response, I tried to picture us working together, and I was terrified. I quickly envisioned my procrastination habits, poor communication abilities and forgetful tendencies getting in the way of our partnership.
I’ve had a hard time concentrating since I was little. I’ve never been able to sit and watch a movie without distraction, and deadlines have been my only motivation to do my schoolwork. When I was 14, I asked my parents to take me to a psychologist because I was sure something was wrong with me.
My parents initially dismissed my request, claiming I wasn’t struggling with anything because my grades were excellent and I was succeeding in school. They didn’t know I was only doing well in school because I craved academic validation and was overexerting myself to get everything done.
It looked like I had everything under control on the outside, but inside I was fighting to concentrate on even the smallest tasks. My undiagnosed ADHD exacerbated my anxiety disorder and led me to feel alone and misunderstood.
It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I was officially diagnosed with ADHD, and it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I thought things would improve from that point, but my symptoms never seemed to change.
My dad decided I shouldn’t go on ADHD medication, and because he pays for my medical insurance, there wasn’t much I could do.
As I get older, my symptoms seem to get worse; thoughts run through my head so fast I can barely keep up with them, and I continue to struggle with deadlines and starting assignments.
My worsening symptoms made me anxious that I wouldn’t be able to meet the expectations of the Opinion Editor and that my weird and messy habits would cause problems.
I thought Claire was really nice after we connected for the first time during the summer, but I was still worried. She seemed like she had everything under control, which made me feel even less prepared to take on my role as her assistant.
I was really struggling with my ADHD when we had to write our first set of story pitches for The Temple News. I couldn’t concentrate on the pitches, and I was having a hard time sitting still while working on it. It was almost midnight when I texted Claire and apologized to her.
I told her the pitches might read a little weird, and to bear with me. What I really wanted to say, though, was my brain was going so fast I could barely write a coherent sentence. I was ready for a condescending response or empty support, but Claire understood completely.
When I feel like ADHD is getting the best of me, I know I can text her and she will recognize what I’m going through. My anxiety tends to get worse when my ADHD is at its peak, but Claire’s support helps me calm down.
I also understand how Claire feels when she is struggling with her ADHD, and I know I can help her because I’ve experienced first-hand how it feels to try and fight against something you can’t control.
The truth is, my symptoms are not always improving, and even though I try, I struggle almost every day. Working with Claire has made me accept that I can still do great things while learning how to navigate life with ADHD, and it makes me feel less alone during stressful times.
I used to feel like my ADHD was always going to hold me back. However, when I see the content we have put out together as a team and how far we have come since we first started working together, I feel more confident about myself and my ability to cope with ADHD.