ADHD in College

Change of Scenery

A young adult with ADHD prepares for college — and reflects on her transitions through childhood.

College kid with ADD walks across campus through haze
College kid with ADD walks across campus through haze

Transitions. I’m not good at them. No one with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is, or so I have been told. Just when we get the routine, the laws and orders of a particular situation, we move on to a new place, and…”I WANT TO GO HOME TO MY WORLD!”

That was me, age 3 or 4, on vacation in sunny California, where nice relatives wanted to take me to Disneyland. All I wanted was home, sweet home, deep in Texas. And my cat. Nothing else. Well, maybe some Nerds.

As I write this, I am looking forward to high school graduation, and to starting college at the University of St. Thomas, in Houston. I am a solid B (and occasional A) student — no small accomplishment, especially for someone with ADHD. What’s weird is that I resisted enrolling at my high school, but it was the best decision my parents ever made. My school worked with me to cope with ADHD, and stuck with me during a difficult period in my junior year. Every teenager should have such good teachers and counselors.

I’m a homebody, so it’s probably good that I’m staying in Houston, although I will be living on campus. My friends seem more daring and courageous, although at this point they are as much in denial about college as I am. Our parents keep asking where everyone is going and what we are feeling, and the answers are usually “Don’t know” and “About what?” I don’t think any of us will get too excited or upset until the goodbye parties start, and then it’s going to be “Oh, my God!” and a river of tears.

I wish I could offer some advice about preparation for college, but the truth is, I’ve been pretty dependent on my parents to help me with the major decisions. So my main advice is, have good parents. Then try to grow up and be responsible for your own life. We people with ADHD sort of go with the flow, so I guess that is what I am doing in planning the next important phase of my life.

This might be a good time to let you know a little bit more about me, as I am heading into the adult world. First of all, like many teens with ADHD, sometimes I feel like a zebra in a herd of horses. “They broke the mold when they made you.” I’ve heard such comments ever since I was a toddler. “There may be others like you, but it won’t take long to call the roll.” You get the picture.

I think the most interesting thing about me is that, thanks to my grandmother, I am a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota. In many ways, I am the stereotypical Lakota: private, proud, loyal, and courageous. I may be shy, but once I warm up to a situation, look out!

I am a great lover of cats. They are my babies, and I have been taking care of them ever since I could catch one. The saddest thing that ever happened to me was the death of my tabby, Tiger. He was a laid-back, Zen Buddhist cat who would let you wear him around your neck as he slept. He also would let you put him on a skateboard and would stay on for the ride if you pushed. He was amazing! He taught me to stay cool, especially when the dogs of the world are barking.

One of the nice things about having ADHD is that I am constantly reminded that I am a member of the human race, and not some kind of alien without faults. I can be stubborn and self-isolating. I intend to work on procrastination every day of my life, but I never seem to get around to it. I also tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. I am learning, the hard way, to “let go and let God.”

Finally, there are my dreams. As the great African-American poet, Langston Hughes, wrote: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” I dream of being memorable, of having an impact, of making a contribution to the lives of others. I want to make people laugh or think or cry with what I create. I think having ADHD will help me with this. After all, how many people with ADHD do you know who are boring?