'But You're Too Smart to Have ADHD'
“You’re smart, and do well in school. You don’t have ADHD”.
If I had a penny for every time I heard that I would be rich (well maybe not rich because I’m in college, but I would be able to pay for my tuition).
ADHD isn’t always the kid who interrupts the teacher, gets up in the middle of class, and is failing school. Attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder can manifest itself differently in different people.
I’m the inattentive type (which often goes undiagnosed for longer). I have always assumed I had ADHD, but I was only diagnosed and put on medication four months ago. I am a junior at a four-year university, and I am majoring in nursing. Yes, I am in college. Yes, nursing is a hard major. Yes, I get good grades. Yes, I do have ADHD. What people don’t see when they only look at my grades is the amount of work I put in to get those grades.
When they ask me how I did on the test and I tell they I got an A and they respond “see, you didn’t fail, you don’t have ADHD…” When they see me with my hundreds of flashcards and tell me “see, you study, there is no way you have ADHD…” They don’t see how long it takes me to make those flashcards (and how many breaks I take while making them. They don’t know I have to make the flashcards because once they are done I can walk around and study, eliminating my problem of not being able to sit still).
When they see me sitting in lecture looking at the teacher and assume I’m paying attention, there is a lot they don’t see. They don’t see me struggling and failing to stay focused for that two-hour lecture. They don’t see me recording the lecture and then having to re-listen to the parts I didn’t catch in class because I was counting the ceiling tiles, or listening to the student in the back of the class clicking his pen. They don’t see me playing with silly putty to keep my hands busy in an attempt to focus on what the teacher is saying.
When they see me sitting at the library for hours and assume I’m “studying,” there is a lot they don’t see. They don’t see that when I am re-listening to the lecture I have to take breaks every 10 minutes and walk around because I can’t sit still for that long and I have to get up. They don’t see me rewinding the lecture because all of the sudden I realize I have just zoned out for 10 minutes and have no idea what I just listened to. They don’t see that I’m at the library for five hours on a Saturday when it’s a beautiful day outside because yes, it will take me five hours to read 40 pages because most of those five hours will be spent distracted by the students walking past me, the girl in the room behind me tapping her foot, the light above me that flickers every five minutes, the flushing of the toilet.
When they see how I have color-coded my binders and my agenda so every class has a specific color associated with it, they assume I am the perfect student. When they see my organized room with a specific place for everything I own they assume I’m a neat freak and have my life together. What they don’t see is what would happen without this system (and even most of the time with this system). They don’t see me realizing at 1 a.m. I have an assignment due tomorrow. They don’t see me showing up to class with the wrong binder. They don’t see me searching my room in a panic for 20 minutes because I lost an important piece of paper. They don’t see me in tears because I lost my ID for the fourth time this year (and we have only been in school for a month). They don’t see me frantically searching for my car keys because I forgot I have an interview in 20 minutes (but luckily I set a reminder on my phone), but my keys are not in their designed spot in my room.
When they see me taking notes in a meeting and tell me, “you don’t need to take notes. Why are you such a goody two shoes?” they don’t know that yes, I do have to take notes. I have to take notes because I won’t remember anything that was said in the meeting. They don’t see that my “notes” are pages full of doodles because when I doodle it’s easier for me to pay attention to what the speaker is saying.
When they tell me I’m lazy or tell me to just focus they don’t see how much it hurts. They don’t see that I am already beating myself up on the inside. They don’t see me frustrated and crying for losing everything all the time. They don’t see me yelling at my brain to just read the darn page and stop listening to the girl tapping her shoe. They don’t see me wishing I could just be like everyone else who can go out on a Saturday because they finished their homework already.
When they read this article and tell me, “well you had enough attention and focus to write this article… you don’t have ADHD,” they don’t see that I’m doing this instead of my homework because I hyper focused on this and my brain won’t let me keep reading my textbook until I finish this article.
So yes, I am in college. Yes, I get good grades. Yes, I am a nursing major. And yes, I have ADHD.
Image via Thinkstock.