I got good grades in school, but it wasn’t because I worked hard and studied and applied myself. It was because I knew how to be invisible so that I didn’t get called on in class, I had an intuitive ability to figure out the correct answers on multiple choice tests, and I could bullshit my way through an essay. I never felt like I’d applied myself 100% on anything I ever did, even the 80-plus page novel I handed in for a creative writing assignment in grammar school (which I’d already been writing on my own), because I felt like it needed editing and the plot was weak. I was lucky I did as well as I did because I was easily distracted, I made careless mistakes, I had trouble following instructions, I procrastinated like it was my job. I was a model terrible student, and all of my bad habits followed me right through to my adult life.
At some point it occurred to me that maybe I had ADD, and I took an online quiz which said, yep, you certainly do, but online quizzes tell you that everything is wrong with you, so you don’t necessarily go searching for psychiatric help because of them. It wasn’t until I realized that I suffer from mild bipolar disorder (I always mention the mild because it is actually pretty different from full-blown bipolar disorder) and my psychiatrist, in the course of treating me, screened me for ADHD, that I found out that I officially have ADHD without the H, or old-school ADD.
She asked me if I wanted to do anything about it. I said, Let’s focus on the bipolar, and hey, maybe it’ll get better once that’s out of the way. And when that medication started to work and I started to come out of my mild depression, I did become more productive, so that was cool. But I was still easily distracted, still made careless mistakes (which is a problem is a detail-oriented job like mine), still did all those lovely little ADD things. So I bought a bunch of ADD books and even read one of them, and I made schedules like I’ve been doing for years and I didn’t follow them and I set alarms to remind me to stay on track and I still wandered off into emails and websites when I was supposed to be working and I still made careless mistakes and said things without thinking and all that fun stuff.
After it seemed like the bipolar medication was working pretty well, my psychiatrist came back to the ADD, and I had to face the truth: I couldn’t accept my ADD as a medical condition. I know that ADHD is a real and legitimate disorder. I didn’t question the validity of ADHD or ADD. I questioned the validity of my ADD. My whole life I had thought of myself as scatterbrained, lazy, disorganized, a procrastinator. This wasn’t a disorder, something outside of my control. It was a flaw in my personality, something that I could control if I just tried hard enough, and I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough.
I think the hardest part, the part that made it most difficult for me to deal with the diagnosis, was the hyperfocus. When conditions are right, I can focus on a good book or on writing or even a good movie or TV show to the point where the rest of the world disappears. It’s pretty much the same as flow. But since I can focus on things that are fun or engaging, shouldn’t I also be able to focus on things that are boring? Other people can focus on difficult tasks or conversations (I can’t even concentrate on conversations with people I want to talk to!). Why can’t I?
Because there’s something wrong with me. And it’s not my fault.
I think it’s going to take a long time for me to accept that, but for now I’m trying to move on despite my reluctance. I’ve been taking Adderall for about a week and I’ve actually accomplished things, reasonable, normal things. I haven’t cleaned the house from top to bottom but I’ve done the laundry and the finances. I haven’t single-handedly done six months’ worth of work, but I’ve cleaned out my email inbox. I didn’t finish my novel, but I did a good amount of writing. And this is my first non-ROW80 blog post in four months. This is apparently what I’m capable of. I still have to decide to actually do a project, but once I start, I know I have a good chance of finishing it, and finishing it in a reasonable amount of time because I won’t go wandering off for an hour looking at Facebook or my email. I can still get distracted, and I still have trouble following a schedule, but I feel like now I have a chance. I may never be able to put in that 100%, but maybe now I can put in 90 or 95%. Even 85% would be an improvement. And if I try hard enough, maybe someday I’ll be able to accept that this is okay, that I’m not cheating, I’m not using medication to make myself better than everyone else, but to make myself the same. To make myself normal. I used to want to be special. I still do, just in a good way. A functional way. Hopefully this will help get me there.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.