Living with ADHD: medical, social struggles need to be recognized

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Blake Jocuns

After being diagnosed with ADHD for 10 years, I have learned the many stereotypes people have about me.

 

“That just sounds like you don’t want to do the work.”

This is a statement I often hear whenever I express my struggles with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I’ve heard similar phrases from teachers, coaches, other students and even school administrators, many of whom I had assumed understood learning disabilities. 

For those who may not know, ADHD, stated by American Psychiatric Association, is a mental disorder with a range of symptoms, but can fall into three different categories: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive and combination of both.

Despite being considered a disability, few view ADHD as such, and this extends to almost every mental disability. An experience that all disabled people—whether physically or mentally—can relate to is the false notion that our ailments are somehow not real, and that we have crafted a perfect lie to get out of doing basic tasks.

In fourth grade my teacher took the liberty of assigning me more work than my other classmates, ignoring my Individual’s Education Program (IEP) which lists my legal learning accommodations. When my mother brought this up, my teacher claimed I was using a made-up mental disorder to get out of work, as my grades were good and I always found time to doodle instead. This wasn’t the last time I had a teacher—or anyone for that matter—ignore my diagnosis.

It makes the fact that I am different feel shameful, as if I am not seen as smart enough to do the work that everyone else does.”

— Blake Jocuns

While I can’t dismiss or diminish the helping hand my teachers gave me, from every dual-taught math class I have taken, to my wonderful case manager, there is still a downside. For all the help diagnosed ADHD people may receive, there is twice as much judgment.

Some people have the assumption that ADHD individuals can’t perform simple tasks at all. It’s never outright—it’s the “oh, you’re in that math class…” or the “oh, you aren’t taking any APs.” There’s always that “oh”— a subtle disappointment in the voice of others. It makes the fact that I am different feel shameful, as if I am not seen as smart enough to do the work that everyone else does. 

When it comes to ADHD medication, people tend to assume that they are “magic focus pills” that work with no drawbacks; unfortunately, that is not the case as these pills are actually methamphetamines with long term withdrawal side effects. Healthline states that many ADHD medications are designed to increase the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which increase the speed that neurotransmitters pass between neurons, allowing the frontal lobe to better focus; however, I found myself lacking emotional connections while on Vyvanse, then when I would go off the pills, I would experience bouts of depression and mood swings that I could almost never control.

ADHD medication is so greatly misunderstood that during one of my club seasons for volleyball, my teammates had a running joke of asking me if they could borrow some of my Vyvanse to help them focus before their tests. It was so repetitive, especially after explaining to my teammates multiple times why joking about it could get me into legal trouble. 

In the end, my disability does not stem from my incompetence, but from society’s inability to accommodate me.”

— Blake Jocuns

Though the medications I have taken are not strong enough to cause severe addiction, mentally I have felt that I needed to take them to survive in school. 

Even before I knew who I was, many of the doctors and teachers in my life encouraged me to rely on those pills. Because they saw me as too much effort and energy to deal with, they took the easy way out and medicated me during my formative years, encouraging me to put my mental health on the line. Healthline also states that ADHD medications can cause high blood pressure, and a multitude of heart issues.

Still, I cannot blame any parent for putting their kid on Vyvanse or Adderall, when doctors and teachers are promising parents that their child’s future is in jeopardy unless they take this simple pill.

For all of my life, every little joke others have about me has been said about 1,000 times already. The judgmental back-handed comments that masquerade as advice have stuck with me since childhood, and they certainly do not “fix” my condition. In the end, my disability does not stem from my incompetence, but from society’s inability to accommodate me.