I was diagnosed with ADHD before the books ever started using the phrase. Many people do not realize that the condition was noticed and written about not only in the 1700s, but there are references to the symptoms dating as far back as Ancient Greece. Our society is still somehow wired to reward the accepted societal norms in people, as those of us who have struggled all our lives with neurodivergence live with every day. I like to joke with my children that they should tell people that they are neurodivergent the next time someone gets nasty and asks, “What’s wrong with you?” Keep the bullies on their toes, I suppose. *Smile*
Having ADHD as an adult is far worse in my opinion. However, I say that as someone who has lived with it for a half century. I was woefully misunderstood as a child, and my parents, as well as my extended family, were quite unkind to me when it came to my differences. My treatment by them is not lost on me when I get frustrated with my own children’s reactions and behaviors. I need to remind myself that patience and understanding need to come first. In my youth, I was dismissed, mocked and bullied for my differences, and to this day, find myself quite the introvert, choosing solitude over forced social interaction. This is obviously counterproductive, as I love to go places, travel and do things.
ADHD falls into a spectrum of neurodiversity. As you can see in the graphic, ADHD falls in with quite an array of cognitive differences. My youngest lives with Autism, ADHD, Intellectual Disability and some pretty serious anxiety. My second youngest lives with Autism, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder (managed for many years now thank goodness) and Intellectual Disability. His depression and anxiety are also long-managed through medication. They both live what can be somewhat described as average lives. My son graduated from high school, a school I was extremely fortunate to have had him placed into in 6th year. He graduated in 2015, and has held a job since, now working full-time, with benefits, and is even enjoying his first paid vacation this week. NONE of that would have been possible without years of fighting, clawing, screaming and working endlessly to secure all of the things that made this journey possible. NO ONE makes it easy; not insurance companies, school systems, nor the government. I just never gave up.
I have never taken medication for my ADHD, and sometimes I wonder if my life would have been different if I had. I know that my parents were offered to put me on Ritalin (or whatever the brand name was back then) back in the day, but they bought into the “not going to give my child a stimulant when they are already hyper enough” crowd of misinformation. It seems conspiracy theories were rampant even back then when it came to the good these medications could do. Today, I write for profit, am finishing up my novel, and consider myself to be good at writing, proud of my talent. One of my first jobs out of high school was writing resumes professionally, often being asked by CEOs where I got my degree. “On the stage at my high school graduation” usually caught them off guard. HA. I’ve been offered medication a few times in my life, by therapists. When I was in therapy for my extreme trauma after the death of my abusive husband and both parents in a short period of time, I declined medication. The anxiety medication I took seemed to be working, allowing me to sleep and at least have some semblance of functioning. So, over time, I just adapted and now don’t bother with it. I guess I’ll never know what it could have done for me.
If medication works for you, that’s awesome. I’m happy to know people in my life who take ADHD medication and it helps them, both children and adults. For me, I try to manage everything with, in the simplest of all solutions, lists. Every morning, I come down to my little work area with my coffee, a notepad and pen. On the list, I write down everything I wish to accomplish. I don’t put things down like eating or showering, etc. Those things are automatic. However, for my son, I suggest he put everything on the list. He is quite forgetful, and will often need reminders for everyday activities. I try to establish routines, and keep lists of items I need to order, food I need to get, and odd projects that don’t come along often, like getting the oil changed. If the day ends and I don’t accomplish everything, I make sure to keep that day’s list there, ready to be amended for the next day. It’s a system that works for me.
My youngest, is the digital-only child in the house. A lot of people lament the constant use of phones, but for her, it’s a lifesaver. After her major concussion in early 2020 (great start to THAT hell of a year), she had and has great difficulty remembering things. She sets alarms on her phone as her list of things to do. I cannot tell you how proud I am of her, when she is up at 6 AM, in the shower, making her breakfast, and ready to leave on time for her job. I don’t tell her how much these skills will help her later on, when she’s on her own and needs to manage her schedule. I taught her to cook many years ago, and she is quite adept at making many meals from scratch, and she truly enjoys it.
So, I truly believe that you don’t need medication for every person with ADHD, but it sure helps. She is going to see a psychiatrist later this month, in addition to her regular talk therapist, in order to see if medication can help her inability to focus and retain information. With her senior year approaching in a few weeks, she wants to make sure that if she needs medication to help her, she gets it. I feel that her self-advocacy will take her places, and I encourage it. I do everything in my power not to be that “helicopter parent” as best I can.
I’m not sure how I made it this far without meds, but I think that so much time has passed that I will never add them in to my routine. I am also very grateful they are available for so many who need it. ADHD is a journey, and one that morphs and changes over the years. While I joke that I dropped the “H” a long time ago, I wonder if that is just masked by apathy with the world right now. I hope that the H comes back when it’s time to explore the world again one day.