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I Didn't Think I Had ADHD Because I Get Good Grades

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I thought I was a completely “normal,” A-plus college student — at least, until a psychiatrist diagnosed me with ADHD last September. Apparently, my mother didn’t even connect the dots, even though she and two of my brothers also have it.

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All the signs were there: me losing my car keys, short-term memory lapses, restlessness during class, always on-the-go, hyperfocus, a messy desk, forgetting appointments, easily stressed, etc. However, I never actually thought I had ADHD because I earn such high grades, am responsible, listen well and have a fairly reserved disposition. Nobody would have labeled me inattentive nor hyperactive.

After receiving my diagnosis — combined presentation ADHD — I now realize this is why I struggled so much with math in high school. Math was the only subject I earned anything less than an A in. The homework always took a long time to complete, but I usually had the right answer. However, I always failed the test — and I still don’t perform well on tests in any subject. Looking back, I discovered I knew the correct steps, but I lost track of my work and made careless mistakes.

Furthermore, my parents would sometimes yell at me for forgetting things, doctors would call me to inform me about missed appointments, I missed deadlines for small homework assignments as a kid, and I could never sit through long classes.

Flash forward to college.

Throughout my job in food service, I became frustrated that my coworkers could focus on several orders or tasks at a time, yet I could only manage a couple without losing focus. In addition, I’d sometimes forget what my manager instructed me to do just moments after she told me. Furthermore, I can never sit through lengthy lectures without fidgeting in my seat or taking a stretch break.

Finding out about my ADHD has completely changed things.

I plug important doctors appointments, meetings and other events in my Google Calendar. I write lists down on sticky notes instead of relying completely on my memory. I don’t even worry about the fact that my desk is disorganized — it’s “messily organized” in my mind and I can find everything if it goes back in my place. My keys remain on a lanyard with tons of keychains so I never lose them. I doodle around the margins in my notebook during in class so I remain focused. I take breaks when working on homework instead of powering through for a few hours.

Having ADHD used to embarass me, but now I own it. Plus, I realized my strong work ethic is actually a form of hyperfocus. defines hyperfocus as “the experience of deep and intense concentration in some people with ADHD.” However, this drive only surfaces within areas I’m passionate about. When professors give me projects I thoroughly enjoy, I can tune out everything around me and pour all my creative energy into it.

I can’t change who I am, but in light of this new knowledge, I can adapt to my ADHD. I may have inattentive moments and can’t sit still at times, but I’ve developed strategies to combat those shortcomings. Doctors classify ADHD as an illness, but at times, it has become an advantage. It’s what makes me unique, and I’m proud of it.

This story originally appeared on Rising From Rubble.

Photo by Adithya Reza on Unsplash

Originally published: March 21, 2018
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