ADHD on the Developing Brain

ADHD+on+the+Developing+Brain

Katie Keller, Opinion Editor

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or as it’s more commonly known, ADHD, is a condition that affects one’s attention span and self-control. 

Basically, it means that the impulsive part of my brain is faster than the logical thinking part.

I was diagnosed with ADHD the summer before fifth grade, so I’ve been dealing with it for almost seven years. I know I’m not alone—according to the CDC, 6.1 million children ages two to 17 in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2016. Heaven knows what that number looks like now in 2022, let alone included adults who cope with ADHD.

I’ve often been viewed negatively by my peers because of how energetic I can be, especially after my medications have worn off. Sometimes, it feels like people think that it’s something about me that I can change. They’re partially right–I do need to practice my self-control and not let the ADHD take over. But unless you have ADHD, it’s impossible to know what it really feels like.

Think of it like you’re in your car and you get stuck in mud. You slam on the gas pedal and you watch your RPMs skyrocket, but your car just won’t move, no matter what you try. When my medications have worn off, this is what it feels like for me; it feels like I’m spinning out of control. Half the time, I’m completely unaware that I’m in this state until somebody says something to me. And even when I am medicated, the pills can only do so much.

My neurobehavioral specialist made this great analogy for my medication: he said they’re like my glasses. Without them, I can’t see three feet in front of me. The glasses help me see, but they don’t decide for me what I see. The medications are the same way: they help me focus, but they don’t decide what I focus on. 

He’s also told me before that people with ADHD tend to live in the present. I fully agree with this. I am a very live-in-the-moment person and making long-term plans is not only hard for me, it’s more stressful for me than it is for the average person. When I stop and think about it, I really should have been diagnosed long before I was; I’ve never been good at turning in homework because I’m just not good with deadlines. This is another skill I’ve tried to work on, but overriding my own programming is hard.

This tendency to live in the moment has hit me like a punch in the stomach this school year. For the last three years I’ve been told to “think of my future,” whether that means college or trade school or a job and I keep hearing how important high school is for the rest of your life. The problem with four of your teenage years dictating the rest of your life, even though you haven’t been on planet earth longer than two decades, is a whole column in itself, but let’s focus specifically on senior year.

For most seniors, it’s their last year before they’re legal adults. Early decision college applications are due by early November at the latest and most other applications for the fall 2022 term are due before the end of first semester. I didn’t get my applications in on time—applications for the programs I’m looking into were due by the first week of December, and I kept blowing it off—and I hate how I’m expected to make all these decisions in such a short time.

I’m expected to “think of my future” when I don’t even remember what’s for dinner most nights. I’m expected to “think of my future” when I still need my mom to wake me up in the morning for school. I’m expected to “think of my future” when I barely have a clue what’s happening in my present. I could go on, but you get the idea. 

Physically, I’m 17 years of age. Mentally, because of the ADHD and other factors, I’m much younger (I have the personality of a 12-year-old). As much as I love my mom, I know I won’t be able to rely on her forever, so I need to find a way to get it together. 

This is just looking at the ADHD perspective. Senioritis is also a factor.

Senioritis is a term you’ll hear as a senior, if you haven’t already heard it. It means that, because you’re pretty much done with school, the likelihood of you blowing off school and/or treating it like it no longer matters skyrockets. Naturally, I have a bad case of senioritis. 

I like learning and being at school. The fact that I’m so bad at remembering to turn in assignments is one of the biggest things I can’t stand about myself. As much as I’d like to deny having senioritis, I also can’t stand it when I lie to myself. 

Senioritis paired with ADHD makes for a very stressed out kid. Since I missed all the application deadlines, I’m taking a year off and looking into community college so I can get a job and have credits to transfer. But I still have to pass high school. And even when I get into music school, I’m going to have to leave my mom behind. She’s been my everything for 10 years now. The thought of leaving her scares the snot out of me.

So I do what I do best while I maintain some focus on the future: I live in the present. I can influence my future, but ultimately, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Even though I don’t know what will happen, I know that I don’t want to live my life worrying about what’s going to happen. I’d rather live a fulfilling life where I have all these great memories instead of a life where I only worried about what’s next.