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How My Humorous Coffee Dependency Led Me to Seek an ADHD Diagnosis

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My relationship with coffee has always been something of a point of humor among my friends and family. I’ve made countless video sketches, Instagram stories and even Facebook Live streams about my daily 10 plus cup-consumption of the beautiful beverage that is coffee.

I started drinking coffee during my upperclassman years in college, thinking it would give me a boost for when I was averaging three to five hours of sleep per night. Coffee helped me focus a ton — it controlled my sporadic mind and allowed me to power through the four-hour graduate seminars I snuck in to (note: if my academic counselor is reading this, I did not ever break the rules and sneak into graduate classes).

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But coffee never affected my actual energy levels. Truth is, I’ve just always been the eager-beaver kid of my class with or without my heaping doses of caffeine. I could take a quadruple shot of espresso at midnight and sleep soundly by 1 a.m. I was never able to explain why caffeine helped me focus so much, but I rolled with it and wore my “Caffeine Addict” badge with pride.

This year I started seeing a therapist, and early on, I asked him about the possibility of having ADHD, but he quickly discounted it saying, “No, you can’t really do well in school if you have ADHD.” I was unsatisfied with that answer, because I did well in school but it was one hell of a struggle. Still, I let it go.

Later on, we talked about my relationship with caffeine. He looked up at me quizzically, explaining that caffeine affects ADHD brains differently and is actually in many ADHD medications. Apparently I had been self-medicating since college and didn’t even realize it. Yes, coffee has literally been my medicine.

Finally I took tests, then some more tests, then some more tests. The results were always, “ADHD With Flying Colors” (worded a bit more professionally, but you get the point).

[Side note: I’m not bitter that my therapist was quick to discount the possibility that I had ADHD at first, but please don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if you need to — remember: you know yourself better than anyone else].

I started opening up to my friends who had been long-diagnosed with ADHD and their responses have always been the same, “Nerris… you didn’t know you have ADHD? I thought that was common knowledge.”

It wasn’t.

Because I always thought ADHD meant you were like Doug from “Up,” shouting “Squirrel!” every five seconds at whatever distraction comes within 300 feet of you. I thought ADHD meant you always failed in school and were doomed to be a lost soul for the rest of your life. But it’s not. I have ADHD and I graduated from a top university with latin honors. If you also have ADHD and you’re reading this (even though it was probably a struggle to get to the end), please know I’m on this journey with you, and that if I can do it, I promise you can, too.

Photos via contributor

Originally published: December 1, 2017
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