Attention Deficit Disorder: a reality for many, not a myth

Sometimes I wonder if I myself have autism. My mom thinks I probably have dementia.

You’d never hear anyone casually musing with self-diagnosis of serious mental disorders, unless that disorder is Attention Deficit Disorder.

I was diagnosed with ADD as a tween and it has been a part of my everyday life as long as I can remember. Just to set the record straight, I don’t frequently go running off in the middle of a sentence to chase squirrels, though it did take me damn long time to write this piece.

I am one of millions of children who were diagnosed during the boom years of the ’90s. Today we have grown up, but not grown out of the difficulties of living with ADD.

It was one thing when I struggled to get through my sixth grade vocabulary quiz. It’s quite another when my ADD acts up in a professional environment.

Having ADD is decidedly less hilarious than the jokes you hear. In fact, it sucks. Not the way cancer sucks or blindness sucks, but sucks nonetheless.

Though the diagnosis of ADD continues to rise, the disorder has slipped from the nation’s consciousness. For a period of time, every kid who sneezed in class was handed a bottle of Ritalin. Over-diagnosis and general rabid media coverage created a haze of misinformation.

It became normal to speculate about whether anyone had ADD, but a simple test: If you don’t know that you have it, you don’t have it.

ADD is not some general feeling of boredom that comes when something doesn’t interest you. It is a medical inability to focus on almost anything. I get distracted doing normal, engaging activities: playing sports, watching a great movie, even having sex.

There’s also a contingent who believe that ADD is made up. I’ve had teachers laugh in my face when I told them about my condition.

God I wish it were true. I wish my disorder was just something Mom created so I wouldn’t feel bad for missing the honor roll.

I wish I could stop taking these damn pills.

I have spent a significant amount of my life hopped up on amphetamines. I hate them.

They mess up my sleep patterns, give me headaches and alter my appetite. Sometimes a pill gives me a bad trip and I spend the next two hours trying to stop my hands and teeth from shaking like a coked-out rattlesnake.

I call this Attention Surplus Disorder. The drugs are also exceptionally difficult to obtain because they are classified in a category alongside cocaine, meth and opium.

It’s safe to assume chasing the dragon has never once helped anyone finish a term paper.

Doctors are only allowed to prescribe a 30-day supply of ADD stimulant meds, and are forbidden to write refill prescriptions. A pharmacy can’t call up a doctor to get verbal approval for a refill either.

In order to get my pills, I must have a new hand-written prescription every single month. Do you think my insurance covers 12 non-emergency doctor visits a year?

I’ve learned to manipulate the system.

I get prescriptions from my old pediatrician who originally diagnosed me.

Sadly the old doc retired this year. I’m currently living off of a stash of Ritalin I acquired from the much more rational Australian medical system.

Sadly, everyone who needs the pills are seen as tweakers in the eyes of the law. These powerful pills shouldn’t end end up in the wrong hands, but mine are the right ones.

When the Australian pills run out, I frankly have no idea what I’ll do.

ADD is a genuine medical condition. So next time you see one of your classmates staring glazed-eyed at the ceiling or twitching feverishly at their desk, understand that they may be medically predisposed to such behavior. Ask me in person what it’s like and you’ll get my full and divided attention.

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