My most recent burst of transformational growth came in the form of an ADHD diagnosis. This came as a surprise, as usually ADHD is diagnosed at a much younger age, when symptoms become apparent in the classroom. I was diagnosed at 21, as a senior in college, an odd time to adjust to something that so profoundly affects every aspect of your life. But that’s why it gave me the opportunity to experience not only personal growth, but a transformation. To transform, almost every aspect of your life must change- some in bigger ways, and some smaller. It sounds daunting, but when you tip the first domino, the rest will follow. It’s scary, but risks are necessary for growth. What felt like my first risk was the choice to finally ask my doctor about ADHD.
In the months before I decided to bring it up to my doctor, I had frustrated friends vent to me about their own ADHD symptoms- and they sounded a little too familiar. My doctor started asking me follow up questions, and taking notes. A lot of notes. Afterwards, he nodded and gently suggested I start on medication. A week later, I felt more normal than I’d ever felt in my life. Suddenly, in my Spanish class, I could really hear what my professor was saying. It’s a hard feeling to describe, especially after years of believing I was just a spacey person or feeling like a bad student. Instead of my professor calling on me and having the realization that I had no idea what he had just been talking about, he called on me and I responded quickly in Spanish. (He always seemed pleasantly surprised by this. “Bien, Ella! Correcto!”). I was able to sit down and focus, powering through assignments which used to feel impossible to complete. I didn’t feel like I needed to take 20 minutes or more to focus, only to tear myself away with frustration a half hour afterwards. It no longer felt like I was constantly fighting with myself.
While I spent the overwhelming majority of my academic career feeling enormous guilt for what I considered to be unfortunate personal traits- forgetfulness, spaciness, etc., and struggling to compensate for them. Now I have an explanation. The hours I had spent dragging myself through my homework, at my worst forcing myself to do 5 minutes of work with a 20 minute break afterwards, made sense. And while I had already been compensating for tendencies I had enormous guilt for, now I was able to have an explanation. My diagnosis has given me the opportunity to know myself better. Not only did it explain years of behavior I had chalked up to teenage hormones, but it also gave me the power to grow into myself even more. After starting my medication, I applied for dozens of internships- a task I had previously written off to those students who also have 4.0 GPAs and seemed otherwise “perfect”- and after a couple of interviews, was offered my current position at Find Your Power. I started procrastinating less, making calls and appointments and sending emails at the thought instead of putting it off until later.
All of this is not to say that I don’t still struggle with my symptoms. The cruel joke of ADHD medication is that you have to remember to take it. I still forget some days, and don’t realize what I’ve done until I’m halfway through my day and staring at a page for minutes before realizing I haven’t read a word. It wears off in the afternoons or evenings, when I sometimes let myself unfocus instead of taking my second dose, which might keep me up when I try to go to bed. No matter what, there are always going to be days that are worse than others. No one’s path to transformational growth is a straight line.
My ADHD can be a weakness. Sometimes a huge one! But when you know your own weaknesses, you can accept and compensate for them. What’s yours? Maybe you, like me, have been waving away the notion you might have an attention deficit disorder. Ask your doctor at your next appointment! Or maybe you always put off grocery shopping until the last minute? Start having them delivered. If you don’t have Amazon Prime or something similar, you might have to pay a few dollars, but you’ll stop putting it off until there’s nothing in your fridge and you resort to going through the drive-thru on your way home. Maybe you hate folding clothes, so all the laundry that belongs in your dresser is always wrinkled? Try putting everything on hangers, even t-shirts. Nothing is stopping you, and all of these examples, no matter how small they may seem, will improve your quality of life and help you grow in other ways as well. When you are taking the first step, it seems like the marathon is overwhelming, but all you need to do is keep walking, no matter how fast your stride.
Transformation is not an easy task, or something that happens overnight. It requires daily work, and motivation to keep trying everyday. You have to look at yourself and your habits very critically. Some days feel much easier than others. But it’s something everyone can accomplish. A habit can be formed in as little as 18 days– that’s just a little over two weeks to make a significant change.
I’m looking forward to 2020 being the first year of my life where I am able to really focus and accomplish tasks. I’m so excited because everything I normally set aside for a day where I would miraculously “feel like it,”’ are things that I now feel capable of doing.
Please note: this blog post is not advocating for you, the reader, to be medicated. Amphetamines commonly used to treat ADHD are among those that are very often abused by students in adolesence and young adulthood. While I am confident medication is the right choice for me, right now, it is not the right choice for everyone and shouldn’t be used without a prescription.