The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
After twenty years of feeling different or lesser than my peers, I got the answers I have been searching for my whole life. Getting my ADHD diagnosis in my twenties was something that truly changed my life and how I view myself. However, getting to this point wasn’t easy. I struggled and fought in many areas of my life trying to find the answer.
I remember about a month into Kindergarten our class was assigned to color a picture for the upcoming parent observation night. There was an outlined image on the front we all got to color however we wanted. I took a pencil and scribbled grey all over the image. Then, I flipped it over and drew a detailed self-portrait of me on the first day of school with my exact outfit and everything. My teacher thought it was strange, but praised my creativity. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that my defiance was frowned upon. In the second grade, my teacher noticed it would take me longer to finish assignments or that I would zone out during class to doodle in my page margins or take my own approach to things. She saw this and decided the solution was to give me extra assignments as punishment and report to my parents that I was a “daydreamer” and a “slacker”. The next year, my third-grade teacher got me tested for the school’s gifted program. So there it was the answer to my problems. I was different. The reason I would stray from the materials given to me was that I was just bored with how easy it was. So great! Now instead of having a free period during the day, I get to be pulled out of my class to study poetry and Shakespeare. I would be lying if I said I didn’t gain anything from this experience during my primary and elementary years. I was given an outlet for my creativity and my passions were encouraged. However, I still struggled in the typical classroom setting with certain subjects. My forgetfulness and focus issues seemed to take the lead in math and science classes. I knew everyone had their strengths and I had always been a big reader, however, it confused me when all of my friends from the gifted program got selected to be in an advanced math class going into middle school.
As school got harder I found myself struggling even more. Being gifted only really meant I got to go on a couple more field trips a year. I was placed into remedial math classes and did significantly worse on standardized tests than my friends. It was hard for me to even accept the fact that I was “meant to go to college”. After being told for years that the “real world” doesn’t care about my needs how was I — someone who needed to ask every teacher to change the seating chart so I could sit in front of the class for my focus problems — supposed to handle college? But, I tried my best. I went to tutoring for classes I struggled with and even tried academic coaching my sophomore year because I never found “the right way to study or take notes”. That same year I thought about ADHD for the first time. When I finally decided to take care of my mental health issues the summer before my sophomore year, the possibility was brought up by some of the professionals I was seeing. The testing process isn’t easy so I was lucky enough to attend a school that offered it for students. Except when I asked about it, the school refused to test me and instead jumped to a different diagnosis (one more suitable for women) and put me on medication that plummeted my mental health. All those beliefs I had growing up about me being lazy, not meant for academia, and probably not fit to enter the workforce all came back.
But this summer, my voice was finally heard. I met with a psychiatrist who listened to me and gave me the resources I needed to get my diagnosis. I sat in an office and did a four-hour evaluation doing tests and puzzles. Four weeks later, the results came back with a combined presentation of ADHD. I was never lazy or stupid or lesser than. I was just different. My brain and the education system were never meant to get along. There was a reason we were always at war.
Getting an ADHD diagnosis halfway through my college career is both a blessing and a curse. A lot of it is doing my own research. This disorder is something I need to learn to work through instead of working around it. It’s a superpower. At least that’s what I told my eight-year-old cousin with the same diagnosis while she had a mini meltdown. Lucky for her she was given the tools and accommodations and resources to help her succeed much earlier in life. Still, it would have meant so much to eight-year-old me if I knew why I was being called a slacker. If someone was there to remind me that I wasn’t lesser than for my disability, I could’ve saved so much time over the years crying during tests and being told I was wasted potential.
Now I have answers. Maybe not all of them, but enough to help me at this stage in my life. Women are historically underdiagnosed with ADHD and there is certainly a stigma around it. I’m publishing this article because I am not ashamed of my disability. I am proud to be neurodivergent. Because of my ADHD, I’ve been able to use creativity as an outlet and hyperfocus on certain things that I excel at. I’m lucky to also have so many resources at my disposal. Academic accommodations tailored to my struggles and a well of knowledge and tips from social media accounts run by others with ADHD.
So to anyone reading this with ADHD, just know that you’re not lazy or stupid or wasted potential. You are different in the best way. Use your disability to your advantage and don’t let it define you. Let it empower you.