First, just want to say that you’re not alone. I’m also a PhD student and it has been extremely challenging at times to simply function in the academic environment. I’ve had many of the same experiences regarding dense academic texts, taking things personally in class discussions, and just feeling constantly overwhelmed. I’ve also struggled a lot with conferences, public speaking, and feeling unsure about my place in academia; I guess you could call it impostor syndrome.
The first step for me was to seek out help, which it sounds like you’ve already done. Actually getting diagnosed was a big relief in a way, since at least I knew what I was dealing with. I was prescribed adderall, but the initial dose the doctor prescribed me was way too high and made me feel like a zombie, which actually further hindered me in class settings. After moving to a much smaller dose (2.5-5mg twice a day) I felt like I could deal with papers a bit better without being completely lost in social situations. I also started seeing a therapist, which helped with thinking through everyday situations and not getting so caught up in my own mind.
Besides medication and therapy, I also started meditating regularly. I can’t emphasize enough how important this has been. It has allowed me to step back from the chaotic impulses that normally drive my behavior and see thought patterns without acting on them. It’s also helped me get through uncomfortable/stressful situations without going blank or freezing up. If you are interested, I would recommend starting with a weekly meditation class where there is some guidance. You could look up insight meditation society and see if there are any groups in your area. I’ve found it very accessible and affordable.
Finally, I would make sure you are staying physically active. Going to the gym, doing yoga, going for a run, etc.. all help me get out of my head and feel more present. It also helps me feel less restless throughout the day and sleep better at night (like many people with ADHD, I also struggle with insomnia).
I know sometimes it can seem like we have to put in a lot of additional work compared to our colleagues, but once you find a routine that works it becomes much more doable. Of course there will still be days when everything feels overwhelming, but just try to be kind to yourself and know that it will pass. As for myself, I’ve managed to get my masters, pass my qualifying exams, and am now working on my dissertation. Crazy to think how impossible this seemed not that long ago.