ADHD and ME: My Mediocre Mental Health Issue
Before we sink our teeth into a piece I began writing angrily and continued writing in more of an excited pensive state of mental consciousness. I want to preface, with a sort of, I dunno, it’s so fucking complicated to express how I feel about something that is apart of me but also apart of society. Yeah, I have ADHD, but somewhere between 5-11% of American children have it (sorry for the range, the APA and CDC don’t agree and I don’t really wanna pick a side at this moment), and 4% of adults deal with it, millions of other people are just like me! So how do I talk about this? Do I say it is not a big deal I’m just like all of you? No, that’s called lying. Do I say it is a cataclysmic challenge that weighs on my loved ones and me? No, that’s kind of dramatic… at least in my case it would be. I’m not speaking for the entire ADHD community, that’d be insane, that’s Peter Shankman’s job. I guess, I just wanna talk about what it’s like to have a Mediocre Mental Health Issue.
Hello, my name is Tim Murphy, I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Inattentive Type). I was diagnosed with this condition when I was in the 1st grade. From then up until last year, I saw a neurologist who would prescribe me medication and general advice on how to handle my condition. For those of you unfamiliar with ADD, or ADHD, It is a brain disorder in certain neurotransmitters, that effects the way my brain focuses and administrates its time and effort, and on a more basic chemical level, my dopamine transmitters suck, and making norepinephrine properly is hard. It’s a genetic thing so you can’t really cause it or catch it, but you can have it. It is usually a problem with kids because their brains are growing and developing which involves focused learning and the disorder is often labeled correctly as a Learning Disability. I’ve struggled with ADD/ADHD since I was a young kid, and I’d like to talk about it.
Sooooo…. Let’s talk about symptoms because it really runs the gamut. There is, of course, the fidgeting and inability to sit still and calm down, the “hyperactivity” which is the H in ADHD. You see the disorder is called ADHD which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I use the term ADD most often, because it applies more directly to me, an Inattentive type. Anyways, there is the absentmindedness, easily bored “Inattentive” sort of symptoms. If you aren’t familiar with ADD/ADHD then you’d think “that’s it, that’s all it is?” well you’re wrong and you should really let me finish my thought, there are some interesting symptoms that come with the territory. Like, Mood swings, Impulsivity, Anxiety, and in plenty of cases Depression. You see the brain is a complicated mess of chemicals, and ADD/ADHD affects 4 sections of the brain, which in turn leads to a real range of severity in condition and symptoms. If you wanna learn more about this stuff from a medical perspective I highly recommend This Article. One of the sections of the brain affected is the Limbic System, which is where your emotions come from! That is a severe broadening of the Limbic system and neurology as a whole but I’m just some guy, I have literally no medical training. Anywhom, the point I’m making is that it isn’t just that I can’t pay attention or that someone might be fidgety, they also might not have a lid on their emotions as well as one might think. I think that’s what bugs me so much about when people say it’s not real, or that “it is not that bad”, fuck you man, what gives you the credentials to say what is or isn’t “That Bad”? Have you ever tried bashing your head in on your 4th-grade desk because you got a C+ on a math quiz? No? Ok well, fuck you and your opinion on my condition.
Actually, that outburst there was less my condition, and more me being on too high a dose of my medication… so let’s talk medication and treatment! Also, that vine is a dramatization of what actually happened to me. harrowing, yes.
ADD/ADHD is a real mess, and so is treating it in my opinion. There is talk therapy (I guess), and medication, and both have their problems. Talk therapy can only work so well, eventually, some people need something more than mental tricks and tips to handle the lack of norepinephrine in their brain. Medication, now medication is the real mess. Messing with a human’s brain chemistry to act and function how you dictate with other chemicals in pill form seems less like a defined putting glasses on a person with bad eyesight, and more like trying to hog tie a raging bull from killing a pedestrian; you definitely still have an achievable goal and methods to accomplish it, it’s just going to be messy and you might need a couple tries. First off the side effects are always weird, and different for everyone! I was sleepless some nights, and I couldn’t eat some days, loss of appetite is such a bitch honestly. A lot of the side effects subside after you’ve been on them more regularly but if you, like most kids aren’t gonna take them on the weekends or forget once and a while, or if you take a summer off from taking them, that can be kind of tricky for your brain to handle. Not to mention the fact that you have to figure out dosage and what type of drugs you should be taking, because fun fact: they are not all the same stuff! Then of course you get into the entire discussion of whether we should be medicating our children? I trust my doctor, she had a pretty good handle on my treatment, and I think a specialist should really be consulted if you have concerns about your child. Still, a total mess though, being a parent must be terrifying, I’m very glad I haven’t created a human, or have to actively parent a living thing. Oh, and the Doctors, yeah! Have fun diagnosing this you poor bastard! So much trial and error and with the spike in diagnoses of the past 2 decades I honestly can’t blame people for thinking my condition isn’t a real problem, but instead a sign of the times. Which when I widdle down the phrase “Sign of the times” makes me feel like I’m a trend, which is like, super humanizing.
One day I was talking with a couple people at lunch and this girl next to me said, “ Honestly I’m having such an ADD day!”, which to me was absolute #RelatableContent, I can dig it, I’m here, I got you! So I (Visibly excited) said, “I didn’t know you had ADD! Are you still seeing a specialist? I have this book you’ve gotta read!”. Yeah, that was a bit much, but I dunno, I just really genuinely care about this kind of stuff. Then she said this to me, “Oh, I’m not diagnosed technically or anything, just can’t seem to focus today”. Honestly, I have nothing against a person who thinks they might have a problem and they just never had the resources or the support to help them find the answers because that is a legitimate problem for people who can’t afford medical treatment, or whose parents don’t believe them when they voice their concerns. HOW-FUCKING-EVER, I later concluded that this was not the case for this particular human (as far as I could truly tell as I am not a doctor)! She was just using ADD as an adjective, or an adverb, no, adjective, she was definitely using it as an adjective. Which is just shitty, you’re having an ADD day? Do you mean you’re having a day where your medication is making you feel weird, or you forgot your meds and you aren’t coping well, but you can’t take them now because you don’t have any 2-4 hour dosage meds and if you take the 12 hours it’s gonna fuck with your schedule? No, you’re just tired and can’t focus? Or doing badly in a class you aren’t putting effort into? Cool. Neat. Great. You see, most of the symptoms of ADHD are often things that you notice in someone who is just nervous, or having a bad day or is tired, or just had one too many (Alcohol!). This makes it rather difficult to shake the stigma of “You’re making it up, you’re being dramatic, and it’s all in your head”. I used to hear stuff like that. “You’re making it up”, “You’re doing this for attention”, “You are just annoying, or rude, or childish, or undisciplined, or weird, or a hassle”. It really does a number on a kid when they get bad grades and feel stupid because instead of taking notes you drew a mural on your fucking desk. It seems impossible when the condition you have makes it tricky for you to remember to take a medication regularly, you know, like the one that would help with said condition. It’s frustrating when you have an outburst or a tantrum and instead of being yourself, you’re “The Weird Kid” no one wants to eat lunch with. I started this paragraph wanting to talk about the symptoms effect on everyday life and what ADHD looks like, I guess I think this is what ADHD looks like. The symptoms in the grand scheme don’t matter too me now. I am an adult, employed, I have great friends and a loving family, but from grades 1- 12 my life was vastly different. So just for the record, this is real, and it can have some pretty adverse second-hand effects on your life when you are too young to explain to others, let alone understand yourself what is going on. I mean, thank goodness this isn’t worse, I guess you could say when talking about people with even more severe disorders, (none of which I’m gonna put on blast). But, just because they climb up Everest, doesn’t mean I still don’t have to hike up my own Kilimanjaro. Because, there are plenty of people out there who would trade with me in a heartbeat, and I don’t blame them, and I wish them only the best on their journey.
As of final edits, I’ve learned that Kilimanjaro is techinically a taller mountain when you measure from the basecamps… but like… you guys understand my analogy right?
AAAAAANNNDDDDD…….. Just so we are clear, there are a lot of mental health stigmas I’m not a big fan of, I could spend a lot of words on them, and someday I just might. What is most important to me is to not be labeled as flawed or broken, I just have my own challenges like everyone else. It is a really tricky balance, I want people to understand I’m going through something, but I also don’t want to be throwing myself a little pity party, I guess I am just tired of being someone with a mediocre mental health issue, and I bet there are a lot of kids in school these days who feel the same way.