- I’m not ADHD but I have multiple symptoms of the disorder.
- I get distracted VERY easily!
- I began taking Adderall before my freshman year of undergrad
- Adderall allowed me to read books (which was almost impossible in the past)
- It also allowed me to study an unnatural amount of hours
Attention Deficit pseudo-Disorder
I was never diagnosed with ADHD but I was told that I have most of the ‘symptoms’ of the disorder. I have a really hard time paying attention during class, at work, when people talk to me and when I try to read. If I were another animal, I’d probably be a gold fish swimming from one end of my bowl only to get distracted and start swimming to the other end. I’m pretty sure my processing disorder is the major culprit in my focus dilemma. Since I’m usually a few seconds behind in understanding the situation around me it is really hard for me to follow most tasks for an extended period of time. Suffice it to say, I’m LD with ADHD tendency.
I’ve always had a really difficult time focusing on my reading assignments. This basically just made me work longer. I’d spend hours reading a few sentences in a book because I’d take lots of automatic mental mini-breaks that basically consisted of me reading a few lines then thinking about what mom was doing downstairs. I’d read a little more and think about what debacle Ash and Pikachu were going to get themselves into this week, then I’d read a little more and I’d go lay down on my bed and throw a ball in the air for a few minutes only to get distracted by the shiny quarter I had on my desk, which would lead me to think “how many quarters are in my room right now?” I’d then go on a treasure hunt for quarters until I crawled under my bed to find a marble I thought I lost (yes, I had a fantastic marble collection when I was younger). I’d then want to play marbles so I’d set up the game only to remember that I was supposed to be reading. I’d then try to read a little bit more but get distracted by the fly that is trying to escape my room. I think I once named a fly Plinky because when flies try to fly through a window the sound they make is a “plink.” For the record, I now know that the fly-on-glass smash sound is not a plink (I hate vocab!). This pattern continued for hours. Because I’m so prone to distractions and because I don’t read right I’ve only read a handful of books my whole life.
I CAN READ!
When I received my final LD testing the psychologist suggested that I try Adderall. I reluctantly accepted because I hate being on meds but I really wanted to be ABLE to read so I could understand references people were making about famous books. I didn’t WANT to read, I just didn’t want to continue looking so stupid when people would say something like, “All animals are created equal… some animals are more equal than others. You know what I mean, Collin?” in response to some inequality that was occurring at school.
I’d embarrassingly respond, “What?! NO! Why are you bringing up animals? What the heck?! More equal doesn’t sound equal.” I’d just slump down in my seat thinking, “what the hell is she talking about? I bet it’s a book. I HATE BOOKS.”
I was so tired of that feeling. So I went ahead and got my first prescription. I just graduated high school and I started taking summer classes at the local community college. I was taking 2 classes a few hours apart that summer so I had a lot of time to kill. I didn’t have enough time to go home and watch TV so I decided to try reading a book. I basically wanted to prove to myself that NOTHING would help and I could prove that psychologist wrong! I was going to show him!
I remember the day I took the first dose of my medicine. I picked up a copy of Catch-22 from my brother’s room and threw it in my bag. I basically did it as a joke. I thought it was so funny that I was putting a book in my bag! I didn’t think I was going to read it but I just wanted to give myself a chance. During class I began to notice that my head was feeling a little different. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I definitely was feeling more focused. After class I went outside during lunch and sat under a tree. I figured I might as well use this newly found focusing-ability to read. I picked up Catch-22 and I didn’t put it down until my next class. I just successfully read for more than 2 hours! I didn’t remember everything I was reading and I still had all of the reading issues that normally hinder me, but this was the FIRST time in my life I willingly sat down and read for almost 2 hours! Although I only was reading about 6-10 pages an hour, I felt like a CHAMP! I was doing what smart people do!
Adderall helped focus my energies into whatever project I was working on. I could study longer and more efficiently, I could finally read more than a few sentences at one time and I could write for longer periods of time. Adderall also helped me outside of school: I could carry on conversations better, I was more observant when I was driving and the increased focus allowed me to follow the plot of TV shows and movies more easily. For a long time I thought of Adderall as my magic bullet. Although the drug did not help my memory, processing speed or reading issues, it did allow me to focus more intently on a specific task so memorization and reading became a little easier. I took Adderall or other ADHD drugs (Strattera and instant-release Ritalin) all through college and graduate school and I have them to thank for a lot of my success. However, the reason I tried different stimulants or non-stimulant drugs was because of the side effects.
I’ll talk more about these side effects in my next post.