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ADHD: Confessions from a Scatterbrained Soul

Guest Author: Jak Was

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

An individual who is focussed, determined, with a stoic constitution can achieve anything they put their mind to. Folks with these character traits, that they’ve worked hard to develop of course, become the leaders of our society. Entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, lawyers: they are romanticised and idealised, and as children we learn that if we are not like them we are not fulfilling our potential. So what about those of us that are determined, but not focussed? What about those of us that have a sick version of stoicism that compels us to do exactly what it is that we don’t want to do anymore?

When I was 20 years old it seemed like I mutated. I was diagnosed with nearsightedness, asthma, and ADHD. I had finally became an adult and it felt like I had turned into that nerdy kid in the back of the classroom whom the teachers rolled their eyes at and bullies bullied.

I got through my exams in the first semester of university by studying 14 hours a day for the three weeks leading up to all of my exams, a task that was so absolutely draining I knew I’d never be able to do it again – yet I deluded myself into thinking this was normal, that I could do it again. I spent the weeks before setting down to read, to study, and then finding it easier to go out and ride my bike, or work on some art, or browse the internet relentlessly all day instead.

In high school, when I first found school was getting difficult, I’d attempt to get all my work done by staying up until 4 in the morning every other night. I would force myself to sit there in front of the computer screen until I managed to get all my work done. Instead I was learning how to use Linux, to do digital art, and browsing web forums all night. All of my work came in late; all of my teachers were disappointed in me. I was in a lot of art classes, and when I was invited back to my high school at 20 to see the current iteration of the art show I formerly participated in, an old teacher came up to me and asked, “What happened to you, Jakub? You could’ve been so good!”

I never understood why I couldn’t simply sit down and try to do my work and succeed.

It was never a case of not trying. I never understood why I couldn’t simply sit down and try to do my work and succeed. My brain always beelined for another task. As a result I had a lot of hobbies: electronics, computers, music, drawing, painting, writing, biking and bike maintenance, philosophy, photography. I took a lot of different subjects, did good work, and managed to disappoint all of my teachers. The diagnoses along with therapy led to me trying the same fervently determined approach I used against my school deadlines to figure out how to outdo my ADHD. I’d been keeping journals since I was a teenager; they were mostly full of drawings, ideas for art, and poetry. After therapy they became a record of my inadequacies, filled with obsessive plans wherein I’d try to build fences around my problems before they noticed that they’d been caged in.

I’d talk to my therapist about these plans, about my efforts at daily exercise and meditation and any other tricks I’d read up on the internet to help one focus. She would tell me I was doing very well and that I was a model patient who was doing everything his doctor recommended. My grades kept slipping, my relationships kept suffering due to my absent mindedness, and I kept missing deadlines at work.

ADHD, as I’d come to learn, isn’t an inability to focus, it’s an inability to properly change focus. The mother who laments that their child “can focus just fine – she plays video games for hours a day,” doesn’t understand that playing video games could be the last thing that child wants to do. The child may be trying as hard as possible to switch her brain away from the task at hand, while it gets increasingly difficult for her as her willpower gets drained from the trying. That child is a mess of guilt and anxiety, unable to understand why whatever they’re trying to do isn’t working. It’s like sleep paralysis. She is in this waking nightmare where she is trying to tell her mind to move and do something besides lying there, but the mind is unable to comply.

It is not paying attention to who she’s talking to, it is laziness, it is an inability to commit to her plans and deadlines, it is a physical detachment from the direction she is trying to lead her life. It feels like a moral problem –┬áthat this is her fault and her choices that led to this. It feels like this makes her a bad person.

Each pill comes with a dose of emotional stunting, heart issues, burnout and dependence.

Most people with ADHD have other comorbidities that come along with it. It is a door in your head that you cannot shut and it will let in other uninvited guests to join the party that you cannot end. One list states that common comorbidities include: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (and Conduct Disorder), Learning and communication difficulties, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Bed Wetting, Drug abuse, Bipolar Disorder, Sleep Problems, Tourettes Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Many forms of physical illness (such as asthma), and accidental injury.

As adults, most of the people who I’ve come to talk to with this condition are not lazy. They do not lack determination. They do everything in their power to overcome it and take amphetamine and ritalin derivatives despite the social stigma. They will do anything to feel as if their brain is bound within them and not seeping out and absorbing everything like a fog. There is little joy in taking powerful stimulants every day. Each pill comes with a dose of emotional stunting, heart issues, burnout and dependence. Personally, I can’t handle it and don’t take them. However, I admire everyone that has to battle with ADHD, and the focus, determination and stoicism that they put up against it

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