Views: 5209 Vapora Dork's life "update"
I don't remember when it was exactly, but a while ago, within the past 6 months maybe, I started to seriously consider the possibility that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I first considered it about 2 years ago but I dismissed it when I realized it shares symptoms with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which is something I also suffer (not yet diagnosed but fairly obvious), and it seemed to make more sense (how can I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder when I'm not that hyperactive???).
Recently I looked into it again when I realized something just felt wrong with the way I just couldn't pay attention in class no matter how hard I tried, and how I just couldn't bring myself to do anything like do homework or revise; one of the times I recall I managed to force myself to do my French homework before going to bed, it was an exercise that was meant to take 5 minutes, and instead took me over an hour, filled with distractions and unwillingness to write down on the sheet of paper in front of me. I mean, the latter just sounds like it's down to pure laziness, which is what I myself had always assumed was the case; but what I ended up thinking was that if that was just me being lazy and that everyone else feels the same when they have to do a boring task, then how could anyone not be lazy? How on earth was it at all possible to overcome that massive mental barrier so consistently that you count as "not lazy"?
These were things that couldn't be explained by the APD as I could hear the teachers perfectly well when I was getting distracted (it mostly only affects me in social situations where there's many people talking at once rather than just the one teacher speaking to a silent class), and a hearing disorder should certainly not have been affecting my ability to study and work in silence. Looking further into it the possibility of ADHD I discovered that people with ADHD have a high risk of developing other disorders as well, and ADHD & APD very often co-exist. At that point I became fairly sure that I must have both disorders and set up an appointment to begin the process of getting a diagnosis through the NHS, but I was told that the process of diagnosing adult ADHD was suuuuuper slow in the UK, and from what was said it seemed that it was unlikely that any diagnosis I could get (and the subsequent support/treatment it would open me up to) would either occur before the college year ended, or in time to actually help me.
That was in October. By December I was really "struggling" at college; I wasn't doing homework, I wasn't studying, I was missing like 20% of my classes because I would wake up and randomly decide I didn't feel like going that day ("missing one day won't hurt", then 20 total missed days of college later...) and just go back to sleep. I fell super far behind in Business Studies, the class I was skipping the most, to the point where I just knew there was no way I could catch back up. It was really highlighted when we did a test in class, and the vast majority of the questions were things I never remembered having done at all in class, let alone knew the answer to. I ended up with a score of 7 out of 38 or something ridiculously awful like that.
At that point I just gave up. Vapora vs ADHD, ADHD wins. It seemed extremely obvious that there was no way I could pass Business this year, and I didn't know how I was going to pass French either; I'm naturally good at languages and especially French, but that can only help so much, I'm not about to learn a whole language by going to class 4 hours a week, or more like 3 hours a week on average considering how many classes I was skipping. I would get an A* easily in Spanish because I'm already fluent in it, but there was no point going through an entire year of college just to fail 2 out of 3 subjects and get a good grade in the language I already spoke, so I decided I would drop out after the Christmas holidays.
For Christmas I went to stay with my parents in Spain and I told them of my intentions. They'd only really half-***edly supported me with the whole ADHD thing until then, I received the impression that they either didn't believe it's a real condition (unfortunately a very common perception, "you're just lazy", "you just need to pay attention", "everyone feels that way sometimes"), or just didn't believe I had it. But they'd be damned if they were going to let their son become a college drop-out. Suddenly they were very willing to support me, and seeing that getting a diagnosis through the British health care system (free) would take too long they instead paid for me to be seen by a private clinic specializing in ADHD, and got me an appointment for a month later.
A month later was last Wednesday; as expected I was diagnosed with ADHD-PI (Predominantly Inattentive sub-type, meaning my hyperactivity symptoms are fairly mild compared to the more obvious examples of people with ADHD). I'm about to be prescribed medication that I'll hopefully be able to start on Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest.
Something that's important to note is that with ADHD, medication is pretty much the only way to deal with it. There are behavioural therapies and other kinds of treatment that can help, but any such treatment has very little benefit unless paired with medication, and medication on its own is infinitely more helpful than all other treatment put together. A lot of parents of ADHD children are opposed to medication and try to force their children to try and learn to cope without it, but it seems like such an awful thing to be putting their children through. I recently read a story about the mother of an ADHD child that used to be that way. For years she tried everything and everything to help her son cope with ADHD that wasn't medication; she had the teachers give her son a lot of special attention in class to make sure he was keeping up, paying attention, doing the homework, etc. and at home she would spend hours with him helping him with school work, and all this was alongside behavioural therapy I believe. He was able to keep up with school and such thanks to all the help, but after years of this it didn't seem to have had any effective on helping his actual disorder, so she finally gave in and decided to try medication: the first day she got a call from the teacher, expecting it to be one of the regular calls of "your son has said/done something very mean to another child, we need you to come pick him up" that she got so often, but instead the teacher just said "It's incredible, all of a sudden your son is just like all the other children! What did you do?". In that kid's case, the improvement in medication vs no medication was just that obvious.
The effectiveness of medication varies depending on each person; in some people it completely removes all symptoms of ADHD for as long as the medication is active (8-10 hours usually I think), while in others rather than a 100% improvement it's a 60-90% improvement. Either way it's still always a huge improvement over not being medicated at all.
The same medication doesn't always work for everyone, but in 99% of cases, one kind of medication or the other will work, and is found through a process of trial and error. I may find that what I'm going to be prescribed won't work for me and I'll have to try something else in the future, but with any luck that won't be the case.
So how exactly does ADHD affect me? There's a lot more to it than just "always distracted", but that's the most obvious symptom, especially in my case, and here's the explanation for that, given by someone who understands it better than I do: "Basically, the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in my brain are low and the prevailing theory is that because the brain requires these hormones to regulate things like memory, emotion, and motivation I will search for whatever is most stimulating in order to increase the levels of those hormones. That's why one of the symptoms of ADHD is inattention and fidgeting and people with ADHD find it near impossible to combat this search for stimulus."
I fidget, all the time. Mainly with my legs, I'll bounce them up and down quickly until they get too tired then switch to some other less-tiring action. If possible, rather than fidget sitting down I'll just pace around the room. I do that while listening to music, and while eating anything that doesn't require me to sit down for, and just for thinking in general.
"I will search for whatever is most stimulating in order to increase the levels of those hormones". Whatever is most stimulating. My parents always used to think (and possibly still do) that I'm addicted to video games, and to computer games, and to computers/the Internet in general. I've given it a lot of thought myself over the years, given that I do spend a lot of time on them and nowhere near enough time on productive things like homework and studying, but the prospect never really made sense to me. I felt like a more fitting explanation would be that I was addicted to entertainment, because if you took away my computer or playstation or whatever, I sure as hell wouldn't suddenly think "well I guess I may as well do my homework and revise so I can get good grades", I'd just move onto the next most entertaining thing, which is TV or reading, whichever I feel like at the time.
Whatever is most stimulating really makes a whole lot of sense in this context; I never felt like video game addiction really explained what was going on in my head when I spent a lot of time playing video games, whereas the idea that my ADHD brain is constantly pushing me to do the most stimulating activity available makes perfect sense considering that I always thought of "my addiction" as just always wanting to be doing the most entertaining activity available, and that was almost always playing on one console or another, while nowadays it's a mix of League, browsing Internet forums such as Reddit or MOBAFire, and the occasional wiki-researching tangent when I get curious about some random subject like black holes and read the first page, then end up opening up every other link on the page when I get curious about those links too. And funnily enough that's actually how I became aware of ADHD, years before considering that I myself might have it.
Another way it affects me is that I have basically no long-term motivation. I'll only do things that give instant gratification. And likewise, punishment and consequences are only motivators if they're immediate consequences, not long-term. Not studying will make my life as an adult very hard? Okay whatever, there's still a long time to go until that happens (except I'm already an adult HELP). When I was younger I was a lot more hard working, and that's because I was scared of the consequences of not bringing in the homework, or my parents' reaction if I failed an exam. At some point I got used to those consequences/realized they weren't really that scary, and they stopped being motivators. I could study for an exam the day I had to take it, but I couldn't bring myself to study it the day before when it was "still so far away", a whole 24 hours before I had to really worry about it.
I often forget what sentence I wanted to say; while mid-sentence. I have to pause to remember what it is that I wanted to say then continue. I also commonly forget random words like "umbrella", which are not used every day but still not that rare and not really hard to remember. It makes me get "stuck" when I'm speaking and suddenly I can't continue because I can't remember what the word I'm looking for is, sometimes I might remember it after thinking on it, or sometimes I'll have to define the word to the other person and hope they understand and point the word out, or if it's written I can try googling the definition and hope the right word comes up.
I have music playing in my head 24/7, almost all day as far as I can tell. When I wake up, when I'm in the shower, when I'm in class, and when I'm trying to fall asleep. I can stop it if I directly focus on it but the moment I get distracted it starts playing again. It's not annoying really, I love music. Apparently having music playing in the mind's background is something that's common when people are bored, and it's the mind's way of keeping you entertained. I'm always bored if I'm not doing something stimulating, so I almost always have music playing at the back of my mind. It's not happening right now though, I've been effortlessly writing this for 3 hours now because I like the subject. If I were doing something boring, like trying to fall asleep, I would probably have this part of this song looping over and over in my head. And yes, I have that **** involuntarily playing in my head all day long when I'm at college, whether I like it or not. Try concentrating through that.
I lose things all the time; don't know how, they're just gone and don't turn up and I have to replace them or live without them. I've had to replace the same Business booklet like 4 times (although once it did turn up again so now I have 2 =D). I also lost my student ID for about 6 months and found it a week ago, the day after I'd paid for a replacement.
Impulsiveness is a big issue for a lot of people with ADHD, especially the more hyperactive ones. I'm not the most hyperactive of ADHD'ers and also not the most impulsive which is kind of a blessing hearing other people's stories of their impulsiveness, but it's still kind of annoying. Impulsiveness is when you act before you think; most immediately suppress impulses long enough to think before they act. People with ADHD often don't have that same immediate reaction and just go ahead and do whatever comes into their head. You ever seen me Rocket Jump into the enemy team to auto-attack someone in-game before? Ever seen me do it 5 times in one game? Well yeah, that's one way the impulsiveness affects me... Another is what I mentioned earlier, skipping class. I wake up one day feeling really tired? Ahh who cares it's just one day, I'll pretend to be sick. *goes back to sleep*
Another big issue is emotional impulsiveness, which can cause people with ADHD to get into a lot of fights, say upsetting things without thinking of the consequence, and generally emotionally over-react. I think this only really happens to me when I'm very distressed, like either when I'm very angry, or very sad, etc. I've never been the kind of person to jump to violence or verbal aggression over small things, although a lot of people with ADHD often appear to have anger management issues, especially when they're younger, hence the mother from the story earlier expecting her teacher to be calling because her son had got into trouble again.
Sometimes I'm distracted when homework is being set so I'm not even aware of it. Sometimes I forget that there was homework. I try to write it down on my phone as soon as it's set but I often forget to do that so when I get home I forget there was homework.
And now my mind is blank. There was probably more I wanted to talk about when I started but now I've been writing for nearly 4 hours and I'm bored and I just want to get this post over with. It's probably horribly written overall, but oh well.
In conclusion: It took about 6 months but I've finally been diagnosed with ADHD, this is great news as it opens up the possibility of medication to help deal with the condition I've been unknowingly struggling with my whole life, and this should hopefully cause a massive improvement in my quality of life and help me aim to actually do well in my studies rather than just scrape by.
If reading this post awakened a "holy **** this is me..." sensation, or if you're just interested in the subject of ADHD, I heavily recommend watching this video, as it's extremely informative on the subject. /r/adhd is also a subreddit I browse often which can help you learn about it, I mainly just browse it nowadays because I like being able to relate to the people that post there.
If you got this far, thanks for reading. :)