I was diagnosed with ADD when I was a kid. I was a…troubled kid which led to lots of family counseling, the ultimate diagnosis of ADD, and lots of various medications. My childhood/teenage years are a bit of a blur at this point so I don’t remember much other than being put on various medications to control my ADD and depression. I know for sure I was on Adderall and at one point I was also on Ritalin. I didn’t think much about the medications, about my ADD, about school. I just thought I wasn’t capable of doing well in school. The only classes I really excelled in were those that allowed me to express myself creatively; art, graphic design, creative writing, etc. Science, history, math (especially math) were amongst my least favorite and it definitely showed in my grades. I just thought school wasn’t my “thing” and left it at that.
After graduating in 2004, I took a year off to work and “find myself”. During that time I met my now fiance, Edward, who I think has been a big help in helping me find my path. He’s brilliantly smart, motivated, and somewhat health conscious. Shortly after meeting him I decided to enroll in college in the fall of 2005. However, I decided I didn’t want to be on “drugs” aka my ADD meds. I’m not sure what possessed me to have this change of heart. Living with ADD is no easy task. I often like to joke that it feels like this:
But, really, I’m not joking. Living with ADD is hard. Your mind is constantly pulling you in multiple directions and it’s hard to stay focused on one thing. I get distracted very easily and Edward has even commented on some of the bizarre conversations we have had because I tend to switch subjects mid-sentence. It’s hard to organize your thoughts when your mind doesn’t want to cooperate and stay organized with you. Not only does your mind feel the need to get distracted and zone out on a regular basis but it’s also hard to sit still. Edward once told me that I was the “most un-lazy person” he has ever met. I don’t even know if that’s a real word since Edward has a tendency to make up his own words but he had a point. I can never seem to sit still. I always have to be doing something. Even when I try doing something normal like watching tv, I have to be doing 5 other things at the same time. My mind just constantly switches gears.
So, as I was saying originally, I decided I wanted to get off of my ADD meds prior to starting college. I didn’t like the fact that I needed “drugs” to function in society. I figured if things didn’t work out I could always just go back on my meds. So I quit the meds cold turkey and started my first semester of community college. I made it through my first semester of general ed classes with a 3.2 gpa. I was really quite proud of myself considering I had just quit my medications and I had been out of school for over a year. My next semester I did even better and earned a gpa of 3.8. I ended up doing so well that I earned several scholarships.
I transferred to a private university in 2008 where I majored in dietetics, a science based degree. Wait…science? Believe me, I was just as surprised as you. I originally started out as an art major when I started community college. But as time went on, I realized art wasn’t the best choice for me for a career. As I took more and more classes, I realized I really liked biology and health and nutrition. A dietetics degree is not something to take lightly as you have to take some really difficult classes like organic chemistry, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, advanced food science. Several people actually dropped out of the program just because of organic chemistry alone. So, what possessed me to take on this career path sans my meds…i still have no idea. Believe me, there was lots of crying. lots of mental breakdowns. lots of “i can’t do this” talks with Edward. And you know what? I survived.Lectures were brutal because it required you to sit for anywhere from 2-3 hrs. I hate to say it but I zoned out a lot during my classes so I had to make sure I took as many detailed notes as possible so I could review everything later at my leisure. I also had to put in a lot of extra effort to study. If I knew I had an upcoming test, I would start studying a week, sometimes 2 weeks in advance to ensure that I was prepared. It kind of became a joke amongst my fellow classmates. In some of my classes, we would divide into teams and play a jeopardy style game to help prepare us for upcoming exams. My friends came to notice and joke that whichever team I was on, that was the team that would usually win. My hard work and efforts were paying off. Not only was I excelling and getting good grades, others were noticing. I was known as “smart”. I was known as “that girl with the really good memory”.
Fast forward to 2011 and I was graduating with my bachelor of science degree. Not only that, but I was graduating with highest honors. I ended up graduating with a 3.98 gpa. My grades even earned me membership in Sigma Zeta (a National Science and Math Honor Society) as well as Kappa Gamma Pi (a National Graduate Honor Society). I accomplished all of this without my medications. And now, fast forward to 2014 and I have not only completed a clinical dietetic internship but have become a Registered Dietitian.
Living with ADD is hard. It’s something I will always have to deal with. Some days are better than others. Some days I am on the ball and completely focused and others my mind is out in outer space. It’s a daily struggle but it’s something I’ve learned to accept. It’s a part of who I am. I had to work hard for my accomplishments but I am proud of that fact because I know just how hard I worked. If anything, I’ve also learned what I am capable of. I have learned that I am much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I learned that I can and will accomplish anything I put my mind to. ADD is not a weakness. It is a strength.