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The Mass Media

A warning from someone who neglected their ADHD

This is sort of strange for me to say, actually, but when I was officially diagnosed with ADHD at the late age of 21, I simply didn’t trust the results. “It just doesn’t quite fit,” I’d say. “I don’t match all the symptoms.” In fact, I felt the same way about my earlier diagnoses of clinical depression and major anxiety. But five years later, as was the case with my prior diagnoses, there is no longer any question in my mind; I definitely have ADHD, and it has become a major problem.

I’m going to give you a little background about my situation; please bear with me and see if any of this seems familiar to you. I want to serve as a warning for how not to handle an attention disorder, mental illness or learning disability. You can skip around if you’d like—I completely understand. The really important bit is toward the end.

In 2020, I came back to college from a hiatus feeling confident and excited about taking my life back into my hands. I was doing really well, but then COVID-19 shut everything down mid-semester. I still did fine, but the resulting confusion of having to convert to online classes—along with the sudden social isolation—right as I was getting serious about my future did more damage to my psyche than I initially gave it credit for.

During my first semester here at UMass Boston, I made a mistake. Despite the tribulations, I still felt like I had things under control, and as a consequence, I nearly bit off a bit more than I could chew. On top of scheduling five classes, I entered an internship—which also included a sort of mini-course—and did my EWRAP writing proficiency. I got through it all, and even did some work I’m really proud of, but oh boy was it a struggle.

Here’s where the ADHD comes in. You see, during my last semester at Middlesex Community College, I was taking Adderall for my ADHD. It was good while it lasted, but the crashes after it wore off were absolutely brutal. It became too much for me to handle and affected me in ways not entirely consistent with how it ‘should’ affect people with ADHD. So, I decided to try something new.

I had already attempted non-stimulant medications before due to the horrible crashes I got from Adderall. Ironically, I found it hard to keep up with them, and the effects were cumulative, so I gave up on that. Long story short, I went on Ritalin for some insane reason, and boy, was that a bad idea. I remember bringing two of my guitars to my repair guy, my mind skipping over a speeding treadmill of thoughts and my heart beating out of my chest. I felt absolutely elated. The crash on the way home was equally as intense, but this time it was a brick wall of depression. That cured me of ever wanting to take stimulants again.

Doesn’t sound like I have ADHD if that’s how I react to stimulants, now does it? That’s what I thought, so I stopped taking medication entirely and made basically no effort to work on any cognitive or dietary solutions for ADHD either. I also broke up with my therapist—which was actually something I needed to do—but didn’t seek out another one. Second big mistake.

The next semester was bad. I could not focus on work or schoolwork for the life of me. I hyper-focused on hobbies and video games. I became addicted to scrolling on my phone. I would spend hours in the day doing anything other than the work I should have been doing. Reading was difficult. I still got high grades somehow, but the stress was exactly the same as the semester before, despite having one less class and no internship course. This was a bad sign.

The worst part was how it affected my personal life. I became frequently irritable, letting my stress bubble up and release in unhealthy ways. It made my relationships difficult to manage. I pushed people away. All the while I felt like I was struggling to stay above water, desperately trying to come to grips with my worsening ADHD. Indeed, instead of putting my finger on the real cause, I decided to blame it all on the strange state of the world.

But the “strange times we are living in” mantra certainly wasn’t the major reason for my struggles. The following semester was more of the same. My personal life continued to suffer. I still made good grades, but at the cost of my sanity.

Now that the current semester has begun, I find myself in a bit of a bind. On one hand, it has become abundantly clear to me that I do indeed have ADHD—a worsening case, in fact—and I still have not taken care of it properly. On the other hand, by the simple virtue of being more aware, I have been able to regain some of that confidence and positive outlook. However, the work hasn’t really started to pile up yet, and already I’m noticing myself avoiding what work I do have. This doesn’t bode well.

So, there you have it. This is what ignoring an attention disorder or learning disability can easily lead to—and my experience is surely one of the most minor examples. It’s easy to imagine someone going down an even worse path, especially considering the wide variety of neurodivergence and interacting conditions that people possess. I’m lucky that my grades haven’t been affected much.

But why am I telling you all this? Well as I mentioned before, I want to serve as an example. Mental illness is a tough cookie—it can worsen or clear up seemingly at random, which can make it seriously difficult to get a handle on. In my experience, attention disorders are a bit of a different animal. It doesn’t really ‘come and go,’ it steadily builds upon itself unless you take control of it. I didn’t take control—still haven’t—and I am paying for it.

So, don’t be like me. Get help for whatever you need help with. Don’t dismiss diagnoses because you don’t perfectly fit the textbook examples. You can certainly succeed without taking proper care of yourself, but at what cost? Your happiness, personal relationships, mental health and even physical health can all suffer for it.

In other words, take care of yourself! Prioritize your well-being! It can be very difficult, but so worth it in the end.

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor