Most people picture a rambunctious, loud, extraverted person who tells everyone their life story when someone says “ADHD.” The majority don’t picture a reserved, introverted student who constantly circles her ankles, daydreams, loses her phone, is a workaholic, double books appointments, forgets to eat, and reads long textbook chapters without remembering anything she read.
In case you didn’t pick up on the clues, I’m the second person. People with ADHD fall into three categories: 1. Inattentive type 2. Impulsive type or 3. Combination type.
As my psychiatrist told me, I’m not the typical ADHD case. Therefore, I’m a combination type ADHD patient (though I do lean more towards the inattentive type) and my case isn’t as severe as some of my other friends with ADHD. I have excellent time management and I can focus intensively on certain things, yet not on others. For example, I can swim for two hours, memorize entire pieces of music, and tune out everything around me if I’m working a class project I thoroughly enjoy. One of my doctors picked up on this and said I had OCD, but my therapist disagreed and said I had “OCD tendencies.” The medical term for this is hyperfocus.
On the other hand, I can sit through an hour-long class lecture and not remember a single word my professor said if I’m constantly worrying about other things occurring in my life.
I also constantly exhibit other signs: short-term forgetfulness, impulsivity, emotional mood swings, poor self-image, lack of motivation, restlessness, anxiety, health problems, and fatigue.
Anxiety definitely causes much of my ADHD––my worry distracts me from present situations––but some of it is biological. For example, I literally cannot sit and do nothing for more than a couple minutes. I get too restless and must do something: check my email on my phone, tap my foot, twirl my fingers through my hair, make a mental to-do list, etc;. As a result, I’m a workaholic and always work ahead in my classes. It’s the worst when I’m sitting through long class lectures and I shift in my seat or twirl my pencil. I know my profs must constantly become confused, but I think my good grades contradict any assumptions they might make.
While I can remember certain things, such as a complete itinerary, birthdays, names, and songs, I’ll often forget what I ate for lunch that day or what my manager at work told me just an hour before. I’ve found a simple solution––sticky notes.
Due to my restlessness and anxiety, I often have fatigue because I cannot fall asleep. As a result, I often nap throughout the day and I’ve had professors ask me if everything is okay because I seem like I’m falling asleep in class. I tell them, “No, I promise I’m paying attention! I really do like your class, I just have insomnia.” I’m not lying––I love my classes, but my body just decides it doesn’t want sleep until I’m completely exhausted. And then I’ll fall asleep for 14 hours straight. I don’t have a set bedtime usually and will study until I crash.
And, of course, I’ve faced health problems––gastritis and GERD. The hyperfocused types (like me) often forget to eat if we’re working on assignments and often don’t even have an appetite. I can’t count the number of times I’ve skipped meals because I’m literally not hungry. My friends often ask, “Wait, you haven’t eaten all day?! Like, your stomach isn’t growling?” Nope. It’s nice at times, but I get energy crashes later, so I usually carry fruit snacks or granola bars in my bag.
And lastly, mood swings. Oh joy. People with ADHD have emotional dysregulation and are highly sensitive to emotions. We also often experience irregular emotions because many of us suffer from mood disorders like anxiety and depression. As a result, I’ve had days where I’m excited and then–BAM–I’m sad for no apparent reason. In the middle of class when I can’t escape. When this happens, I try to find alone time later in the day, clear my mind, nap, and recharge my batteries.
So, all this to say, I seem normal at times and most people wouldn’t peg me as someone with ADHD. However, I live with this medical issue and have experienced the daily struggles it causes.