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Her Story: ADD Hurt My College Career

I did high school really well; I graduated with a 4.0, was involved in several clubs, sports, and volunteer work, was accepted to all the universities I applied to, and was always able to get things done far before they needed to be completed. I could be extremely busy with all of my extracurricular activities and still have the energy and drive to live a social life. I was able to be productive like most of my classmates were able to. As much as I would hate to admit 3 years ago, I was being medicated for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and I NOW attribute all of my high school success to this fact. Being able to take a pill, accompanied by all the yoga and meditation I participated in (I thought these were the reasons I could focus with a clear mind back then) was key to me being productive and doing well like my peers.  

The best way to explain ADD to someone that has never experienced legit ADD, is more than you ‘won’t focus.’ It’s not that you don’t want to pay attention or choose to socialize rather than study for your midterms, but you can sit at your computer for what seems like forever, and not be able to do anything.  You want to be able to focus, but it’s hard to get your mind to stop going all over the place, pay attention, and be productive. Even when you are able to make yourself finally sit down so you don’t feel like you’re 100% just slacking, you don’t process the information making it feel pointless. While you are skimming an article for class, you’re reading the words, but you aren’t able to focus well enough to be able to understand the words that you are looking at. After getting to the bottom of a page and realizing that you can’t summarize what you just read because your mind is thinking about turtles or evolution or about how annoying it is that you can only focus on the fact that you can’t focus when you should be focusing on something else. It’s a cluster.

After I graduated, I decided that I didn’t want to be on medicine anymore and that I was going to stop taking the pills, it would “be better for my mind and overall health” I told my mother and myself. I thought I was fine and didn’t think my life would change because of not taking a ‘useless’ pill. I didn’t like that it was something people would take recreationally to put them into “over-drive” and thought this made me appear like I just didn’t want to try, because I needed it to act and think normally, backing up my ideas of people who didn’t have ADD and why they were using the medicine.

My freshman year of college, I did really well in school and living on my own. Taking mostly general education classes that were usually easy, it didn’t take much thought to get the assignments done and show up for class. I would skim the readings and was always able to B.S. my way into getting points for in class discussions. I didn’t have to cook or really clean up after myself since my dorm room was tiny. However good I was at school, I attributed the fact that I did laundry sparingly or consistently pushed errands later, to being busy and/or lazy. Never to the fact that I still had ADD and that I wasn’t able to get my mind to focus on accomplishing these tasks as much as I know I needed to do them.  

As my schooling went on, now being in the end of my junior year, I continued those bad study habits (that were basically not even study habits at all since I did no studying,) and the way I was living my life caught up to me. Most of my sophomore year, I thought I was able to do next to nothing and still get good scores. Every time I got my grades back, realizing that I didn’t do as great as I thought I did, I blamed it on the class being too hard, this and that, or that I knew I could have done better and would try harder the next semester.

Last semester, fall of 2015, was the tipping point in my college career. I had just about a year and a half until graduation, and as much as I wanted to go to class, do the readings, and learn what I needed to know for my major and future career, I couldn’t. My brain was just not there. I couldn’t make myself focus to do the homework, despite how much I wanted to. It’s not like I was doing anything exciting in place of school or the important tasks in my life, I simply wasn’t able to focus. I wasn’t redistributing my attention, I just had no attention span to work with at all. At this point in my life, the ADD (that I thought I didn’t have, wasn’t going to treat, and had basically forgotten about) was debilitating to me. During the semester (I had 4 sinus infections, bronchitis in one lung, and pneumonia in the other), I didn’t get anything done. After receiving my grades, which completely sucked btw, I tried to contribute it to being so sick. How is anyone super successful when they were as sick as I was? Then I had a light bulb go off.

This reaction and blame placement was nothing new. I realized that the last few years had been a bit of a joke. I wanted to be doing well but something wasn’t adding up, so I decided I needed to lay out my personal priorities. I finally came to the conclusion that I can’t just continue to act and behave like a subpar student (or a person in life in general,) time was ticking. I wanted to do well and feel accomplished and needed to figure out why I was being such a slacker, despite my best attempts not to be. I considered the ADD I dealt with in high school but didn’t give it much credit or seriousness.

I went back to my doctor over Christmas break and told him what I’ve explained in the last paragraphs. He brought up my ADD and suggested I try being on medicine again. I so did not want this to be the case, I didn’t want to have to deal with what felt like a huge mental disability, but went back on the prescription he wrote me.

Two months later, I couldn’t be happier that I listened to my doctor and my gut that told me something was off. I am confused why having an issue like ADD is so bad that I would rather live a life with no real effort, than take one tiny pill every day to aid me in being the best version of me. As great as I think it is to meditate or do yoga to learn to focus, sometimes you just need extra help. After doing life to what I know is the best I can again, I could have (and should have) spared myself the last couple years.

It’s nice that people have noticed that I seem less scatter-brained, that I can accomplish a day’s worth of tasks (while being able to understand and recall them), and live a life more worth living. I don’t care that I have ADD, I have realized and accepted it and now can move on to the next thing in life. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of crap (like 2.5 bad years at an expensive university) to make you realize what you have known all along.

Mental and learning abilities, or disabilities, are looked down on in college when they shouldn’t be. Just because other kids may be popping these pills for a cram session, like what high school Olivia thought–doesn’t make it bad that you’re using the same medicine to help you live a normal life. Medicine exists for a reason! You need to do what is best for you, even if you don’t want to label yourself or feel the need to rely on a pill. To live with ADD is not to be lesser, it’s simply a different– and in my case, better– way of living. I took so long to come to this conclusion and I’m hoping through telling others that we don’t all suck at being successful people just because, that there are actual causes behind these behaviors and attitudes, will save someone else the trouble I went through.

Olivia is a junior at the University of Utah. She enjoys Taylor Swift, dogs, and her sorority! She is a Strategic Communications major and is getting a Campaign Management minor and one day hopes to work in the world of advertising or trailing the next big political candidate. One of her favorite past times is crafting and Netflix, but you could also find her at Ugurt with her friends on any given night. She has an obsession with throw pillows and the color black and hates bad eyebrows.  
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