Kevin’s ADD / ADHD Story

In 1984, at the tender age of 7, I was diagnosed with ADHD. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, I was just having too much fun and it seemed like the world didn’t like that very much. The teachers thought I was too distracting. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many parent-teacher conferences my poor mother had to sit through (bless her heart). I went through years of inattentiveness and disruptive behaviour, getting suspended at least every year since 2nd grade until 12th grade. I wasn’t naughty, I was just overexcitable and having fun. Although sometimes my short temper landed me into aggressive arguments with authoritative figures. They really pissed me off at the time! I may have overreacted, but…oh well.

It was when puberty hit that the fun and games ended. I found that my friends became few and far between. Everyone thought I was wierd, including me. I took Ritalin on and off as I chose. After all, they can prescribe it, but they can’t make me take it. When medicated, the world slowed down to a boring pace. My personality levelled out. I wasn’t annoying very many people anymore. Sure, I could finally read a book to completion and keeping up with lectures was easier. The teachers were happy, but I wasn’t. I just wasn’t myself.

Unlike many other self-pitiers with ADD, I actually enjoyed (and still enjoy) my high energy and sense of humor. However, when my high school athletics were threatened by my low grades, I turned my attention back to medication, including drugs and alcohol. As many of you know, this leads to trouble and depression, as well as acceptance amongst peers. I continued with this trend and got good enough grades to get into university. However, my study habits and self-destructive behavior led to failure. I dropped out of uni after 2 years with sub-par grades.

After several years of deep depression and introspection, I cleaned up and met a very nice and organized girl. After being together a year, I asked her to marry me. She told me she wouldn’t marry me because I’m too lazy and I don’t fulfill my potential. Fair enough. I told her that I’ll go back to school and become a doctor. That’ll show her. So off I went, but this time I took Ritalin religiously. I ended up with a double degree: BS in Biochemistry and Chemistry. I got straight A’s and completed my last 3 years in 2 years time.

Now, I have 1 year to go until I finish my PhD in Immunology. My career choice has allowed me to daydream and explore my creative impulses. Unfortunately, I am again haunted by my ADD. Repeating experiments, writing in notebooks, and all other routine tasks have impacted my overall project in a very negative way. I am disgruntled and bitter towards myself and my work. I’m constantly thinking that I’m not good enough. I always say to myself, “I know I’m not stupid, I can get by without Ritalin.” These days I actually attract friends with high energy, quick wit, and never ending jokes and antics. What was once “weird” is now unique and entertaining. This is all well and good, but my professional life is suffering severely. Now I’m at a crossroad: I can continue without taking Ritalin and chalk up this PhD to another unfinished task, or I can get back on Ritalin and put friendships/social life aside until the task is complete. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. My wife will always support me. I’ve proven to her (and myself) that I truly can overcome the obstacles I now recognize as problematic ADD symptoms in my relationships, my career, and my life. It is all about the gentle balance of conforming to society and maintaining personal pride and confidence as an adult with ADD.

I feel as though I have been blessed with ADD. I have the ability to be focussed and boring like the rest of the world, achieving as much as and more than any “normal” person, with a little short-term help from Ritalin. I also have the option of being good old me: excitable, enthusiastic, funny, daydreaming, creative, spontaneous, and very easily distracted. Until we see ADD as a gift and not a “disorder”, how can we have pride in ourselves and build confidence in our ADHD kids?