ADD is one of those conditions that is akin to the reject of all mental disorders. I say that affectionately, as I have suffered from it for the entirety of my life. I can function, but often I feel like I’m living in my own sitcom (you know, the way characters jump from one unrelated funny joke or scenario to the next). I used to resent that ADD was a part of me, and though it took a few years, I finally embraced the quirks and airheadedness that often accompanies the chaos in my brain.
I didn’t get diagnosed until I had almost reached adulthood, but looking back on my childhood now, I had all the indications. Relationally and in my day-to-day life, my ADD didn’t show itself except in my forgetfulness and the fact that I was easily distracted. Where it affected me most was in school. I was a well-behaved kid, which seemed like a contradiction to the fact that my grades were often average or very poor. I had teachers call me lazy, as well as my parents. I began to think that was who I was, part of my identity—I was lazy—which didn’t make sense to me, because when something genuinely interested me, I worked very hard at learning everything I could and would focus 100% on that one thing.
I hate taking medication. I hate the idea of being dependent on a little pill for anything. I will suffer through headaches and the curse of woman-dom without ibuprofen and feel like Xena the Warrior Princess at the end: “Rah!!! I endured PMS without a single painkiller! Fear me!” When it was suggested that I take medication for my ADD, I resisted. I had operated fine for 19 years. If I did indeed have the disorder, I wasn’t going to use it as an excuse; I wasn’t going to use medication as a crutch. At my mom’s insistence, though, I agreed to give Adderall a chance. At the time, while I was in college, I remember calling her in tears because I had studied hard for three tests and failed one of them and almost failed the other two. It felt like no matter how hard I studied, I couldn’t retain information. I missed things in class because by the time I processed enough to write down what the professor said, he or she was already talking about something else. When I started taking Adderall, I remembered thinking, “Hmm…I don’t feel any different. I bet this isn’t even working.” I didn’t notice a difference physically, so I thought the experiment had failed.
Until one day, I realized I had been taking 4 pages of notes instead of my customary 2 lines. In every class. My test grades jumped from Ds and Cs to As. By the end of the semester, I finally felt my grades reflected my efforts. I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore, and I was grateful that I’d given Adderall a chance. I finally felt normal, wondering if I was finally experiencing the world the way everyone else did.
And that was what made me hesitant again. I am not perfect, but I’ve always endeavored to be a good person—to do what was right, to seek forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong. I have always been a dreamer, and whether I’m ever successful or not, I’ve always wanted to inspire others to pursue their own dreams. I don’t believe you are ever too old; I don’t believe you’ve made too many mistakes or that you don’t have what it takes. I don’t let what people think about me change me (does what others think about me bother me sometimes? Yes, of course. But I don’t let it change my personality or traits). I have always been accepting of myself and most of my flaws and have always trusted that God would use me whether I was a lump of coal or a diamond. Taking the Adderall changed me. It made me more observant and alert; it made me more pensive and more particular about the thoughts I chose to verbalize. None of those are bad things at all, and I don’t regret the benefits I reaped…but I chose not to take the medication on weekends. I also chose to live without it once I left college. Talkative or not, forgetful or not, ADD or not, all those things were still a part of me. They were the quirks, the habits that made people say, “That’s Stephanie,” whether it was out of frustration or amusement.
I haven’t taken Adderall in eight years. Somedays, I laugh and enjoy making other people laugh at my articulated unbridled thoughts. Other days, I feel like my head is filled with white noise and I need to be left alone to keep from getting overwhelmed. I’ve found that music helps me a lot, with Classical helping me the most on my worst days. As an author, ADD aids my imagination in leaps and bounds, while at the same time, it hinders me by keeping me fighting constant distractions. Some days, whether by ADD or writer’s block, I can only manage to write a sentence or two. Other days, I can write pages. Either way, I never count it as a loss or time wasted. As long as I have put my best foot forward, that one sentence is a success.
I intend to take Adderall once I start school again. Though I embrace who I am without it, I can’t ignore who I am with it, either. I do need the extra help sometimes and I’m not ashamed of that anymore.
What I hoped to accomplish by sharing this part of my life with you is to:
A) Be careful and conscientious of your words. I was labelled as “lazy”. Parts of me very well may be, but laziness is an action. It is not mine or anyone else’s identity. If I’d chosen to embrace that word as a part of who I was, I might not have ever discovered the truth. I might have used it as a justification for why I did poorly in school instead of being encouraged that there was a way to fix it.
B) Don’t dismiss health conditions you may not physically see. I have been told by a few people that I do not have ADD—that ADD is a fake term used by doctors to force medication on people. I am not easily offended, but that offends me. I can’t count the tears that I’ve shed in the past over the frustration that sometimes, I just cannot focus. Though you may not be able to experience my brain and its peculiar ways firsthand, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem—it just means I’ve adapted in spite of it.
C) The people who can empathize with me are cheering after point B, but here’s another unwanted truth: Don’t let yourself use any disorder or condition as an excuse. Having ADD does not make me more or less exceptional than the next person. I still had to study hard, I still have to hold down jobs and treat people kindly whether they understand my daily struggles or not. I also do not use it as an excuse from myself to myself; when it comes to my writing, I have made a vow to write at least one sentence a day. It sounds easy, but there are days it absolutely is not. Small steps are still progress, and I have to remind myself of that everyday. I can choose to look at my ADD as a curse, or I can take pleasure in the fact that small victories for most people are huge victories to me!
And D) Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” My struggles have made me unique, and as long as I remain in Him, God will use this to bring glory to Himself. I am not defective; I am different, but God still expects the same thing out of me that He does everyone else—to turn to Him instead of being ashamed of my weaknesses. As the lyrics in a song I wrote years ago says: “The clarity my imperfections undo, were made to shine as reflections of You.”
You are loved and you are not alone in the struggle. Don’t be ashamed of what makes you you. Don’t be ashamed of getting help if you need it, like I was. Get convicted, though, if you let it stop you from living, if you let it stop you from trying, if you let it stop you from being who you were made to be—an imperfect person made to bring Him glory.
Moses had a stuttering problem, but God chose him to be the one to confront Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt. You and I have no excuse, either.
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