My “Aha” ADHD Moment
A high-schooler turns her life around with the right diagnosis — at last — and the right medication.
Before I took Concerta, I was a mess.
“Hey, can I, um…no…wait, what?” That was how most of my sentences started and ended. When I did articulate my feelings or thoughts, I often wound up sounding more depressed and distracted than willing to do anything productive. I’d say things like, “That’s a really…um…subtle hue of…vermillion.” In fact, my language, attitude, and sense of self were like an off-kilter David Foster Wallace-meets-Tim Burton fantasy. I was unaware that there were alternatives to living this way.
I had a lot of challenges. I can’t say that ADHD was the only issue. But I can say that ADHD wasn’t helping with school, keeping up on relationships, or my mental state.
No one picked up on my ADHD symptoms except for a social worker in middle school, and no one listened to her. So I went on failing classes, self-harming, and displaying impulsive and erratic behaviors.
Because of abuse in my childhood, I had to undergo a mandatory trauma assessment under the care of Easter Seals. Although the professionals found out the same information that others did on previous tests (“She wants to doodle rather than do math”), they discovered something interesting: I had a very low attention span and a tendency to get easily distracted. Both symptoms had shown up in other tests and had been overlooked. My therapist, alarmed, brought this up to my psychiatrist, who quickly called a meeting.
“Evelyn,” said my psychiatrist, who is wonderful, “we have concluded, as a team, that you have ADHD.” I stared without a response.
The next step was medication. Concerta ultimately won out — rock, paper, scissors. After I took my first dose, it was as if I could suddenly see things clearly. Before that, however, my mother was wary of methylphenidate. We’re from a family that links the word meth to nugatory stimulants that are for the downtrodden and that destroy teeth.
“It says here that you can get addicted to this,” she said, looking at the label.
I wound up taking Concerta anyway, and I changed significantly for the better. Now that I’ve been taking the medication for about 4 1/2 months, I turn in assignments. I feel motivated enough to hang out with friends. I recently started charity knitting, which is great because I know some kid will be wearing a hat that I made. It feels like I’m worth something.
I know my challenges aren’t over. I know there will be struggles and crazy impulsive moments, but I feel a little more secure knowing that there’s hope.