The lie we need to stop telling women about ADHD

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Girls are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The general consensus is this is because for boys this tends to manifest in hyperactivity, which is much more noticeable to parents and teachers than inattentiveness, the type of symptom most common in girls. Luckily, as awareness spreads (albeit sometimes at a seemingly glacial pace), more and more women are eventually finding out the distress they’ve dealt with for their whole lives has a neurological explanation, and it’s called ADHD.

The long-delayed moment of diagnosis is often held up as a new beginning for the diagnosed. But while being diagnosed may very well be the most significant event in an ADHDer’s life, it’s not the be-all, end-all everybody makes it out to be. No, ADHD diagnosis is a new beginning — just not of pure, wholesale relief forever after. Instead, it’s the beginning of a life of newfound clarity about enduring struggles, for enduring they indeed are: Even if she starts an ADHD treatment regimen, pharmacological or otherwise, post-diagnosis, the ADHD woman faces an uphill battle that will continue for the rest of her life.

Nobody ever seems to talk about the extreme fallibility of ADHD medications, at least those currently on the market. In truth, ADHD is often treatment-refractory or treatment-resistant, meaning an ADHD medication may only have potency in a given person for a limited period of time, if at all. Now, there are two primary classes of CNS stimulant medications: amphetamine, aka Adderall, and methylphenidate, aka Ritalin. Most people respond better to one type of stimulant than the other. But many people, for whatever reason, don’t get symptom relief from either.

Moreover, you can have the most positive response possible to a given medication, but still not experience complete ADHD symptom relief, even temporarily. Unfortunately, the neurotypical expect us ADHDers to perform at their neurotypical levels if we’ve been “lucky enough” to be diagnosed and treated. Promised patience tends to run dry.

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This is particularly unfortunate for women, who earn the censure of society for displaying ADHD symptoms that tend to be revered in men. For instance, a man who doesn’t follow directions is deemed an “out-of-the-box thinker,” while a woman gets a reputation for recklessness. And a man who speaks out of turn is viewed as assertive; a woman, lacking self-control.

On top of that, women are tacitly expected to assume and maintain responsibility not only for themselves but also their entire household, both in its upkeep and of its members. Many women discover their ADHD at some point during or after their child’s diagnostic process. The upshot is these women being responsible for a higher than average degree of care for children with ADHD when they, in fact, need to expend extra effort just to take care of themselves. 

Just to put it into perspective, for you, I’ve been aware of and received treatment for my ADHD since early childhood, yet even I have to strive every single day just to avoid falling behind. Getting ahead, excelling almost always feels like a pipe dream — this, despite the fact that I’m on the highest possible dosage of all of my medications; not to mention, I live with my parents, rent-free! 

All of this is to say, it’s time to infuse a little honesty into the adulthood-diagnosis narrative, especially for women. We need to stop leading these ADHDers to believe everything is going to be OK because frankly, it’s highly unlikely that will turn out to be 100 percent true. Again, this is in large part because of the tacit mandate to fulfill traditional gender roles. As Kathleen Nadeau, one of the foremost experts on women and ADHD, explains,

Society has a certain set of expectations we place on women and ADHD often makes them harder to accomplish. … They are supposed to be the organizer, planner, and primary parent at home. Women are expected to remember birthdays and anniversaries and do laundry and keep track of events. That is all hard for someone with ADHD.

Honesty, it seems to me, is what’s called for here — honesty and compassion. And in that vein, there’s also a great need to reconfigure the typical response to a newly diagnosed ADHD woman, which right now is something to the effect of, “Congratulations! You have ADHD. Good luck!”

In this day and age, that kind of MO is unrealistic, and as such, utterly unhelpful.

Is Twitter the next big thing in ADHD diagnosis?

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Yesterday, I received my daily Google Alert email update for the search terms “attention deficit.” I’ve had this set up for several years, but I must admit, I don’t often check it; I can offer no better excuse than that it is rather hard to keep abreast of daily news about attention deficit if you suffer chronically from it. In any case, this time, something compelled me to read through the headlines compiled in the email, and one caught my attention (no pun intended): “Searching for ADHD in a Million Tweets.” It states: 

After analyzing 1.3 million tweets written by nearly 1,400 Twitter users, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created a machine learning model that can predict which of the site’s users are affected by attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). […] Researchers monitored Twitter users with self-reported ADHD, comparing them to a set written by age- and gender-matched controls. The team then used various machine learning models to search for patterns in the two sets of tweets.

It might come as a surprise to you, my readers, but I must say, I find the whole thing terribly problematic. Why? Because it fails to take into account the fact that there are as many manifestations of ADHD as people living with it. The effects of ADHD in the life of one person may be entirely different from that of another.

For example, Lyle Ungar, one of the study co-authors, was quoted as saying, “I didn’t realize how common it was for patients to use marijuana to treat their symptoms, so you see people talking more about dope and weed.” But in contrast to these ADHDers, I avoid pot like the plague, not wanting to be any more dumbed down than I already am.

Meanwhile, according to the abstract of the article accompanying the research, published Nov. 8 in the Journal of Attention Disorders, “Users with ADHD are found to be less agreeable, more open, to post more often, and to use more negations, hedging, and swear words. Posts are suggestive of themes of emotional dysregulation, self-criticism, substance abuse, and exhaustion.” It seems to me the way these results have been reported is liable to reify negative stereotypes associated with ADHD. 

ADHD: not ‘one-size-fits-all’

I commend anyone wishing to shed light on ADHD, which after all is still arcane to most people who neither live with it or know someone who does. Also, for the record, I’m well aware of the inherent value of the internet, and social media, in particular, having minored in communication studies as an undergrad at the University of Oregon.

Even so, this research is misguided. It assumes there is one, and only one, kind of life ADHDers live, regardless of gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, etc. 

True, some health outcomes are more likely for people with ADHD. Depression, eating disorders, and self-injury are among a slew of comorbidities, or co-occurring conditions, in ADHD women, for instance. But therein lies the salient point: These aspects are common in ADHD women, specifically. As Devon Frye notes in a blog post on ADDitude, “men with ADHD are more likely to have substance-abuse problems while women with ADHD are more likely to have personality or mood disorders.”

Thinking outside the ADHD box

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Far from demarginalizing ADHDers, the reasoning driving this research homogenizes the ADHD experience. I love the idea of a group of researchers at an Ivy-League institution setting out to make things easier for people who may have ADHD. This is especially so because Ungar has said while ADHD is less well studied than conditions like depression, “Understanding the components that people have or don’t have, the range of coping mechanisms that people use all leads to a better understanding of the condition.”

What we really need

What people with ADHD — those who have been diagnosed with it, those who suspect they have it, and especially, perhaps, those who live with it unknowingly — really need is for the medical community to realize there is no one, singular ADHD experience.

Yes, this does make it harder to single out people who are likely to have undiagnosed, and thus, untreated ADHD. Yes, this does mean there would need to be a concerted effort to map all tweets from studied ADHDers, and not just those that appear so frequently as to be acceptable to make generalizations about said ADHDers.

But the effect — newfound insight into ADHD in all its countless iterations — would be well worth it.

 

7 things that DO NOT make you a bad feminist

Between 2015 and 2017, I was a graduate student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies master’s degree program at Oregon State University. This was one of the most important experiences of my life, primarily because it gave me the strong foundation in the feminist knowledge that I knew I would need if I wanted to become a successful feminist blogger. Yet I also derived essential benefits from the experience insofar as it revealed to me how exclusive modern feminism can be. But as the great bell hooks reminds us, Feminism Is for Everybody.

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1. Being heterosexual

At some point in this long battle for gender equality, we got confused and assumed that meant that female-identified people who love and/or want to bang people of the male persuasion must exist in opposition to the cause of feminism. If the logic here is that it is because men are part of the problem, well, that’s as sexist as the problem itself. 

2. Being privileged

As an upper-middle-class (as long as I live with my parents, anyway) Caucasian, I’m privileged. I know that. What I don’t know, however, is why this has led people in the past to assume I’m “part of the problem.” Those who are not of color and are of wealth have perpetrated some abominable atrocities. But that doesn’t mean all people sharing one or both of these traits must automatically be taken as the enemy. A lot of us have our hearts in the right place and are eager to learn from people who are differently oppressed and work together with them to make things better. The need for sexual equality knows no income or skin color.

3. Being monogamous

Sexual liberation has been a critical element in feminism since the dawn of the second wave. But somewhere along the way, being sexually liberated became a requirement to join the feminist cause, and moreover, the definition of sexual liberation seemed to shift to exclude long-term, single-partner relationships, especially relationships with men (see above). But I call bullshit. True sexual liberation means feeling free to engage in whatever type of sexual activity you want (as long as it’s consensual) without worrying about how others will perceive it. It doesn’t matter if it takes place in the context of a committed relationship. 

4. Being cisgender

Shaving your legs, wearing makeup, or being in any way “feminine” whatsoever is NOT mutually exclusive with being a card-carrying feminist. True feminists realize gender roles are human-made, and so resisting freaking out over whether you’re conforming to said gender roles, by realizing certain traits are merely artificially coded “feminine” or “masculine,” is as feminist an act as I can imagine. As Martha Rampton of Pacific University’s Center for Gender Equity notes,

An aspect of third wave feminism that mystified the mothers of the earlier feminist movement was the readoption by young feminists of the very lip-stick, high-heels, and cleavage proudly exposed by low cut necklines that the first two phases of the movement identified with male oppression.

5. Wanting to get married

I’ve just about had it with the argument that a quote-unquote real feminist activist can’t dream of someday saying “I do.” Whatever your gender identity or the gender identity of your chosen spouse, the institution of marriage has the potential to be extremely feminist. After all, marriage, at its best, is about two people coming together as equals and promising to honor and love each other; and equality is feminism manifest. 

6. Wanting to have kids

It’s okay to want to tie the knot. The same goes for the desire to procreate. Motherhood isn’t inherently feminist, despite what some proponents of breastfeeding might have you believe; but it isn’t actively un-feminist, either: Most of the professors I studied under at OSU are parents, and let me tell you, they’re all veritable paragons of feminism. So, yes, I want to be a mom. I also want to shatter the patriarchy. Luckily for me, a feminist can do both.

7. Wanting to beat men at their own game

Second-wave feminists “rejected the ideal of inclusion because … they would only be vying for inclusion in a world built on men’s values.” This MO has continued to dominate mainstream feminism ever since. But while I am loath to tell anyone to “lean in,” let me just say there is nothing at all wrong with wanting to work in the same institutions as men, e.g., a traditional workplace, and surpass them in excellence. It’s totally OK to wish and demand that there be space for us women in the world we live in now.

Otherwise, in my humble opinion, we’re just letting those who benefit from the patriarchy off the hook.

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7 tried-and-true tricks for traveling with ADHD

ADHD profoundly affects many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Travel is no different. But luckily, after years and years, I’ve learned how to minimize the fallout of ADHD-induced, travel-related trials and tribulations. And with the holiday travel season drawing ever closer, I thought I’d share seven of my foolproof methods.

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1. Invest in a large suitcase.

Pro tip: As long as a suitcase weighs less than 50 pounds, you may check it like any other bag. So instead of trying to be someone you’re not and attempting to squeeze two weeks’ worth of luggage into one medium-sized suitcase, go big or stay home! And if you really want to ‘go the extra mile’ with your ADHD-proof luggage, choose a suitcase that’s indestructible, like this stylish pink one

2. Pack everything you’ll need — AND everything you MIGHT need.

We ADHDers have a reputation for being underprepared — a reputation that isn’t ENTIRELY unwarranted. That said, if you’re anything like me, you tend to overcompensate by overpacking — and then later, trying to thwart everyone’s judgment that you’re a pack rat, ending up underpacking. All things considered, I think it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. Don’t you?

3. Do a packing dry run.

 As early as possible before the start of your vacation, gather all of the items you’ve decided on after reading tip #2 and try packing them in the suitcase purchased after reading tip #1. Granted, some things, like your toothbrush or your medications, can’t be packed until day-of. However, you can TEMPORARILY pack them, and you should; you need to verify that your luggage hasn’t exceeded that 50-pound weight limit. To do that, you first need to weigh yourself. Then, pick up your full suitcase and step on the bathroom scale again. Finally, subtract your weight from the weight of you and your luggage. After that, you can adjust your packing list accordingly. 

4. Spring for TSA Pre✓

As the Transportation Security Administration website boasts, with a five-year, $85 membership, “you can fly through security and don’t need to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets.” I know, I know: Not everyone can afford this. But if you CAN pay for this option, then by all means, for the love of all that is good and holy, DO.

5. Set up a mobile boarding pass in addition to printing one out.

It would surprise me very much if I were the only person with ADHD ever to misplace a printable boarding pass while en route to a flight gate. Those damn little pieces of paper are just WAITING for us to lose them! Phones, on the other hand, are much harder to lose track of, if for no other reason than that you can track them using GPS. Avail yourself of these technological innovations — you’ll be glad you did.

6. Pack your medications in your carry-on — NEVER a checked bag.

Inevitably, luggage sometimes gets lost; and it can be days before its owner reunites with it. If you make the mistake of packing your ADHD medications in the said checked bag, you could face multiple days sans pharmacological symptom control. Granted, my ADHD is particularly severe; nevertheless, I think I speak for all other ADHDers when I say having to go neurologically ‘au naturale’ for even a single day can be pretty much the worst thing imaginable. 

7. Treat yourself and pay for some Wi-Fi time — BEFORE the day of your flight.

When I was preparing to fly to Washington, D.C. to visit my boyfriend last month, I surprised myself by getting everything together ahead of time — or so I thought. On the day before my flight, I received an email trying to entice me into paying $16 for a day’s worth of in-flight Wi-Fi. I smugly chaffed at forking over so much money for web access when I had already downloaded four e-books on my iPad that could be read without an internet connection. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was on the plane and in the air that I remembered something: It’s impossible for me to concentrate on reading while flying due to the cacophonous sounds coming from every direction on the airplane. Suddenly, I was stuck in the sky for three-plus hours sans any entertainment. And as it turned out, Delta Airlines doubles its prices to for a full day of Wi-Fi once the day of the flight has arrived. In the end, I just bit the bullet and shelling out $6 for an hour online.

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That’s really the salient point: Something WILL go wrong, no matter how many fail-safes you’ve devised. The key is to expect it. And above all, you have to have a sense of humor about problems while peregrinating. Otherwise, your ADHD may keep you from enjoying yourself.

…Bon voyage!

It’s OK to know your own limit if you have ADHD.

I always hear people talking sympathetically about how ADHD makes it harder to do certain things. But despite that apparent understanding of my disability, the neurotypical party line seems to be that we ADHDers need to keep pushing ourselves to our “full potential,” and that we will be able to do more if we try.

The problem is, neurologically speaking, ADHD makes the very act of trying a challenge in and of itself. 

Double trouble

To quote the abstract of an article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in 2011, “disruption of the dopamine reward pathway is associated with motivation deficits in ADHD adults, which may contribute to attention deficits.” In other words, a hiccup in the nervous system of a person born with ADHD results in difficulty paying attention, AND trouble getting motivated to OVERCOME this challenge.

Think about this for a second: Wouldn’t it be sufficiently sucky to have impaired attention OR motivation? Wouldn’t either be enough on its own to have a deleterious impact, in both the short term and the long run for someone who, like any of us, is, after all, only human? I think we can all agree the appropriate answer would be ‘Oh my god, yes.’

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Below average

And neurotypical people don’t seem to realize just how VULNERABLE being unmotivated can make you. Decades and decades after the birth of the American Dream, at least in the U.S., Western society continues to value a healthy work ethic above perhaps any other quality. So, it’s one thing to realize you lack the motivation to clean the kitchen, and decide to hold off on doing it tomorrow in the privacy of your apartment; faltering in this way in public, meanwhile, exposes you to the censure of your friends, family, colleagues, etc. It feels sort of like literally everybody else in the world is giving you side-eye.

Furthermore, this problem isn’t confined to questions of productivity; sometimes, even maintaining the ability to go about what to an outsider looks like ordinary daily life can be a significant struggle as well.

Do I speak from personal experience? You bet I do.

Reality check

Between Oct. 25 and Nov. 8, I was visiting my boyfriend in Washington, D.C., where he’s in grad school. Washington is actually a lot like Portland; it’s big on public transportation. But it and I have always had a fraught relationship; the sequencing involved in navigating transit infrastructure is a sizable challenge for me. However, in D.C., I didn’t have an alternate means of transportation, i.e., my car.

Anyway, after a week of walking whenever outside my boyfriend’s apartment, I admitted to myself it was time: I had to take the bus. Unfortunately, this happened to coincide with me discovering that my pharmacist had not given me a full 28 days’ worth of my immediate-release Focalin when I went to fill my prescription for the month. Long story short, I was undermedicated and faced with a task that would require a tremendous amount of effort on my best day, on what was, in fact, my worst.

After about two hours, I managed to work up the motivation to input the information on my iPhone necessary for Siri to guide me to the bus and tell me what to do once I got on it. But to my utter lack of surprise, I was unable to find the bus stop and realized I would have missed the bus even if I had been able to pinpoint where to get on it.

I knew what my parents and my boyfriend would tell me to do: figure out where the stop was and wait for the right bus, or walk to an entirely different stop if necessary. But at that moment, I knew making even that tiny extra effort was totally and completely beyond my abilities. So although it was far more expensive than the bus would have been, I ordered a Lyft. 

It’s inherently empowering to cease pretending to be in denial about yourself and what you’re capable of. The politically correct response to others pushing you to find more motivation within yourself is to express appreciation for their confidence and a plucky resolve to prove them right. However, I’ve had ADHD all my life, so the extent of my neurological stamina has long since revealed itself to me. I know what I can and can’t do. More importantly, I’m AWARE that I can’t do what I can’t do, and I understand WHY I can’t, as well. I and all people with ADHD deserve to live life authentically, limitations and all.

And that is just what I intend, from now on, to do.

 

If it’s not comprehensive, it’s not really sex education.

In a recent post, I reported that since the inauguration of Donald Trump (shudder), the federal budget for sex education has been heavily favoring abstinence-based programming, and I said exposure to sex education based on abstinence is the worst thing for anyone whose parents want them to practice safe sex. I realize that sounds like a pretty outrageous claim, so it seems prudent for me to show my work here. 

A brief history of sex education in the U.S.

The following is an adapted version of a timeline of the history of sex education that I composed as part of a journalistic research project I completed during my freshman year of college at the University of Oregon:

  • 1981: Republican senators Jeremiah Denton and Orrin Hatch sponsored the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), which was designed to prevent premarital teen pregnancy through quote-unquote family-centered programs to promote chastity and self-discipline. The statute emphasized so-called religious, charitable organizations. In the opinion of many religious and human rights groups, this inherent fusion of church and state flouts the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1986: A group of priests and activists challenge the AFLA.
  • 1993: The AFLA is ruled unconstitutional.
  • 1994: Social conservative Representative John Doolittle unsuccessfully proposes limiting the content of HIV-prevention and sexuality education in school-based programs, indicating to conservative groups that to make headway in abstinence policy, it will be necessary “to circumvent the federal laws by restricting, and shaping, education programs through health policy and funding…without drawing Congressional or public debate.”
  • 1996: During the final version of welfare reform debates, Congressmen Ernest Istook and Tom Coburn persuade Speaker Newt Gingrich to include $50 million annual federal funding for an abstinence-only-until-marriage program (Title V).
  • 1998: The ruling deeming the AFLA unconstitutional has expired, paving the way for an eight-point, (a)-(h) definition of abstinence education, requiring states that accept federal funds to match every four federal dollars with three-state raised dollars and to teach abstinence only. 
  • January 2001–January 2009: Federal abstinence-only sex education (AOSE) funding doubles under the George W. Bush administration, peaking at $1.76 billion.
  • Spring 2009: Half the states have rejected Title V funds, and President Barack Obama calls for the elimination of AOSE programs.

Comprehensive sex ed > AOSE

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It’s more effective at delaying teen sexual debut.

Studies show that teens who receive comprehensive sexuality education are more likely to have sex for the first time later in life. According to a publication of Advocates for Youth*, “Evaluations of comprehensive sex education and HIV/ STI prevention programs show that they do not increase rates of sexual initiation, do not lower the age at which youth initiate sex, and do not increase the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners among sexually active youth.” Teens exposed to AOSE, on the other hand, tend to have sex earlier and are less likely to practice safe sex when they do (see below).

It’s more effective at teaching teens to practice safe sex.

Comprehensive sex ed has been proven to be more effective at teaching teens to engage in behaviors that reduce the likelihood of spreading sexually transmitted diseases: According to a fact sheet of the CDC, “Research shows that well-designed and well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs can decrease sexual risk behaviors among students,” including delaying first sexual intercourse; reducing the number of sex partners; decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex; and increasing condom use. 

It’s more effective at preventing teen pregnancy.

There’s an abundance of evidence that when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, comprehensive sex ed is the way to go. This is because it includes discussions of contraceptive use (see above). Unfortunately, according to a September 2017 fact sheet by the Guttmacher Institute, “Many sexually experienced adolescents … did not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex; fewer received instruction about where to get birth control.”

It isn’t heteronormative.

Modern comprehensive sex ed incorporates discussions of sex beyond just male-female intercourse. AOSE, by contrast, provides an incomplete version of a practical sexual education to the 52 percent of teens who don’t identify as “exclusively heterosexual.” 

It teaches teens that sex isn’t wrong or shameful, but a a simple ‘fact of life.’

Last but not least, as Amie Newman of Our Bodies, Ourselves puts it, “Young women who are exposed only to “just say no” programs learn little or nothing about what it means to find pleasure in sex and in their own bodies.”

What lies ahead for American sex ed

As I mentioned, sex education (or rather, a lack thereof) under the Trump administration has been seriously lacking in evidence-based, effective because comprehensive, sex education. If this isn’t rectified, the Republican Party will have more welfare mothers to deal with and a more exhausted public health budget for its citizens’ HIV/STI treatment. And since virtually every aspect of Trump’s public persona flies in the face of Christian goodness or any religious influence, it would be in his best interest to bring back the Obama-era sex ed days — and fast. 

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In this post, I cite articles from the websites of pro-comprehensive sex ed advocacy groups. While I’m aware that such groups can’t be taken as credible sources on their own, their claims are supported by scientific evidence, the citations of which are included in said articles.

7 things about ADHD I wish I had always known (ADHD Awareness Month post #6)

This is the sixth and final post in my series on ADHD Awareness Month. But rest assured, although the series is wrapping up, I’ll still be publishing writings on ADHD-related issues; just not necessarily so many per month. — DRD


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Having lived with ADHD for as long as I can remember — and even longer — I’ve learned a few valuable lessons about my disability the hard way; I’ve done my share of learning by doing. I can’t help but feel that my life would have been a lot easier if I had known said lessons from day one. I hope that someone out there reads this and they — or their child — can benefit from my experience. Read on!

1. People will tell you to go easy on yourself, but still, expect you to be ‘on.’

I’ve found that even if you tell your manager, for example, that you have ADHD, and he claims to understand that this makes you function differently, his understanding nevertheless flies out the window when you have a deadline to make but quite clearly aren’t going to be able to. 

2. ADHD has nothing to do with your personality or morality.

I spent a horrifying number of years of my life feeling guilty — often, despite not having done anything wrong. And even when I did err, I was convinced that whatever act of misbehaving I had committed was evidence that my character left something wanting. Moreover, I was sure that with the right resolve, I could ameliorate this situation and become a better (read: less ADHD) person. I don’t think I’ll ever stop regretting this now that I’ve realized how wrong I was back then. I’ll never get back the time I wasted feeling guilty for nonexistent or out-of-my-control incidences of ADHD-ness. Don’t make my mistake.

3. You shouldn’t necessarily believe teachers who say, “Oh, I’m so ADD too!”

I was diagnosed relatively young, back in pre-k; meaning that I knew I had ADHD — and all of my teachers knew it too — for all 12 years of my lower education. And I swear, every single year a new teacher would tell me upon learning of my ADHD diagnosis, “OH, that’s totally fine, I’m really ADD too.” Unfortunately, that usually turned out to mean, “I don’t understand ADHD at all, but I think I’ll bond with you by saying I have it and referring to it in the pejorative.” Over the years, I heard many teachers say a lot of stupid, cruel things without seeming even to give it a second thought, but that is not ADHD. There’s a difference between wanting to think before you act and not being able to, and just deciding that you’re so wise, you never need to think twice. In the end, only one of my teachers ever turned out to have ADHD, my AP World History teacher during my senior year of college. How did I know he had it, and that he was the only one of my teachers who did? One day I was sitting in his classroom at the end of lunch when he walked in, looked around his desk, and announced that he just realized he had lost a pair of Bruce Springsteen tickets. I’m totally serious. But you know what? He was also one of the best teachers I ever had. 

4. Medications may “last” 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean you will.

Here’s a fun (by which I mean, not fun at all) fact: Even if the prescribing information for an ADHD medication says it lasts up to 12 hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use all 12 of those hours effectively. You see, even when medicated, people with ADHD have to expend more energy to complete tasks that seem to take our neurotypical counterparts no time at all. Do that for a full workday, and the remaining man-made focus you have left in your nervous system via medication is reduced to the equivalent of potential energy,  never getting used. (This is a lesson I’ve started learning literally in the last few weeks.)

5. Stimulant medication isn’t the be-all, end-all. 

From ages 5 through 22, I was on some form of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (aka Ritalin). For over 5 years now, I’ve been taking both an immediate-release dosage and extended-release dosage of dexmethylphenidate (aka Focalin). I first went on Focalin because when I was a senior in college, I discovered, to my horror, that my medication did not seem to be working anymore. Like, at all. That’s when I went on Focalin. But just two years later, I again ceased to feel medicated enough on a day-to-day basis. It was then that my PCP put me on bupropion (aka Forfivo), which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Later, I also started taking guanfacine (aka Intuniv), a non-stimulant ADHD medication initially formulated to treat hypertension. As it turned out, for me, at least, these Forfivo and Intuniv were the magic bullets of ADHD treatment regimens. 

6. Coffee is your friend.

During my ‘bad concentration’ time of the month, and especially toward the end of it, my verbal acuity temporarily goes out the window. Somehow, this always seemed to happen *right* when I had a big paper due imminently (like, in two days, or even sooner). One day, in desperation, I did some Hail-Mary googling, seeking confirmation that yes, in fact, coffee does help ADHD people concentrate. According to a post published recently on ADDitude, it “arouses the central nervous system by stimulating the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and by blocking the absorption of adenosine, which induces sleep.” I’ve found that a Starbucks frappuccino with a shot of espresso enables me to write even when my medications are at their least potent. Pardon the pun, but I really do think you should give it a ‘shot!’

7. ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. People should be ashamed to think it is.

…Self-explanatory!

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