When Your Brain Just Works Differently 

My name is Corrina, and I have ADHD. 

Writing these words actually fills me with a lot of emotion. On the one hand, there’s a certain trepidation in acknowledging that you’re different. On the other hand, there’s a level of relief in knowing that what plagues you has a name, and you are not alone. 

There have been a plethora of articles on ADHD in recent years, with many of them hypothesizing that the diagnosis is given too frequently, that meds are being forced on children just for acting like regular children. In this same time, there has been increased attention on ADHD in women, as more and more of us are being diagnosed later in life. Much of this is because ADHD tends to present differently in girls than it does in boys. While boys often show the hyperactivity that society typically associate with ADHD, most girls show inattentive-type ADHD. 

Looking back on my life, it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve had ADHD since I was a child. At no time was it more obvious than 5th grade. I was an honors student. I’ve always loved to read, and my recall for things I’ve read has always been pretty decent. But homework was the bane of my existence. I procrastinated and got sidetracked, and it just didn’t get done. My teacher recommended an assignment book. I still couldn’t do it (the assignment book just ended up being one more thing forgotten). My parents even tried bribing me with a new TV for my bedroom, but it was all to no avail. I was kept off of the Honor Roll for the entire year because I couldn’t get my homework done. I’d love to say that I grew out of it, but I didn’t. I remember being incredibly grateful as I got older and more and more of my teachers placed less emphasis on homework. 

When I first approached my neurologist about it, I explained how I felt using the old school brick breaker video game as an analogy (yes, I’m absolutely dating myself). Most of the time, you were focusing on one ball, trying to co from and angle it to break the bricks on the screen, and that’s not so bad. But every so often, the game would release an extra 5 or 6 balls. Suddenly, it wasn’t so easy to keep track or the control what was happening. That’s how my brain feels most of the time- like there are a million things bouncing around and I’m struggling to grab on to just one long enough to figure out how to handle it. I’ve heard more eloquent analogies and descriptions, but this is the one I continue to go back to, because this is how I was first able to articulate it. 

Like everyone, I have a handful of regrets in my life. A few choices here or there that I wish I could take back: maybe I should have listened to my physics teacher and pursued a degree in math or science, maybe I should have gone to law school like my parents wanted, maybe I should have learned to budget my money more wisely when I was much younger. Unfortunately, the common thread in all of these things is ADHD. 

I knew in high school that I wouldn’t be able to make it through a math or science degree because I would never have enough focus to do the work. I knew by my senior year of college that I would never get through law school because I would never be disciplined enough to do all the work. Looking back on my life, I wonder how many opportunities I passed on because I felt like a fraud and was sure that taking on something too challenging would only reveal to the world exactly how much of a fraud I was. 

I often wonder if any of these things would have turned out differently if I was diagnosed and treated as a child. I wonder if medication would have given me the focus I desperately needed to manage demanding coursework. I wonder if I might have started my adult life not constantly feeling unable to actually be an adult. While I don’t blame my parents, I have to admit that it frustrates me sometimes. My brother was diagnosed with ADHD shortly after my 5th grade homework fiasco. Why didn’t they put two and two together? Why did it take another 25 years for my neurologist and I to figure it out? 

The idea of needing medication makes me cringe, and it’s something that I’ve tried to avoid. I’m not going to lie- it works for me. It gives me the ability to function like a normal human being. At the same time, medication has side effects, and I happen to also have a condition that can be exacerbated by ADHD medications. It’s a fine balance, and I hate feeling like a walking experiment in the quest to find that balance. For this reason, I went several years without taking anything. I wanted to see if I could function enough to get by. The short answer is that I can’t.

Learning to live with ADHD has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. It required developing coping mechanisms and way to compensate for what my brain couldn’t do on it’s own. It’s also required the ability to admit when I need help, which isn’t easy. But it also taught me the importance of speaking up when something doesn’t feel right (yes, even including my brain). 

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