When I think about my years spent growing up in the public school system, my stomach knots up and I cringe. But not for the reason you may think. I don’t get that yucky feeling because the school system failed me. I get it due to the memory of how awful it felt to have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and go undiagnosed for forty years.
Before you think about how the school system did fail me, I will mention that I started kindergarten in 1978 and graduated high school in 1991. They did not diagnose girls very often back then. Sure, I was tested for learning disabilities. There were no disabilities, I was gifted. Tested way above average. So, I was labeled lazy, difficult, oppositional and bad. After a while, I just started to believe it.
I was a chatterbox! I would talk your head off and anybody else’s head I could find. You see, hyperactivity comes out as chatter in little girls. My mouth was always getting me into trouble! (still does sometimes) Talking to everyone and everything wasn’t the only symptom I had. The report card comments over the years described me as talkative, impulsive, not working up to my potential, lack of self control, disturbs other students, does not finish work, the list goes on and on.
I somehow managed to graduate high school even though I was a hot mess. I did not bother with college because I knew the struggle would be too much. I hated myself. I hated that I could not function like a normal person. I had absolutely no idea why. I could not keep friends, a boyfriend or a job. I forgot absolutely everything I was supposed to do each day. Then would beat myself up for forgetting. I cried a lot.
Life went on for everyone else around me while I worked at a shoe store. I watched people succeeding in college that were not nearly as smart as I was. Why couldn’t I do it? Why was I such a screwup? Well, it took another decade but I finally found out why. When my son started third grade. He was just like me. Luckily, he had a teacher who was brave enough to tell me.
It worried me when my son stayed in trouble. He was so smart. It just didn’t make sense. I was more patient with him then my parents were with me because I understood. Takes one to know one! I just didn’t know what was wrong with him until his third grade teacher suggested I get him tested for ADHD. So I did and that’s exactly what it was.
The doctor suggested medication. Medication? I immediately had about 1000 questions. Would this turn him into a zombie? Would he still be himself? I was assured that he would be fine. So we started him on a stimulant medication. I was blown away. Within a week, a week! He was a completely different kid. His grades skyrocketed, his relationships with other children improved, his anxiety levels dropped, he was happier than I had ever seen him. He could function! The best part? He was not a zombie and no one knew he was on medication. (Except for the school nurse and teacher)
Now is medication right for everyone with ADHD? That is definitely a question for anyone who suspects they have ADHD for their doctor. Everyone is different. There’s a spectrum and some may be more severe than others. My daughter’s ADHD is not as severe as mine or my sons. But she still benefited from medication.
As for me? I finally got my formal diagnosis when I was 40 years old. Yes, I procrastinated until I was 40 for that diagnosis. That is another major side effect of ADHD. My doctor prescribed medication and it was like flipping a light switch. I was no longer interrupting people, finishing their sentences, giving into anxiety and depression, forgetting everything. I also lost a lot of weight because I was no longer fidget eating. Finally!!! I am happy! I am no longer embarrassed at my behavior.
That is my argument in favor of medicating for ADHD. It may not be right for everyone, but I hope that for someone this will help. Working as an instructional assistant in the public school system, I have seen so many children suffer as I did because their parents don’t believe in medication. I once heard a parent at school say that they would never put their child on medication because they would be labeled. THEIR CHILD WAS LABELED ANYWAY. I would much rather my child be labeled as a child who takes medicine than a child who is difficult. I wish with all my heart I would have been medicated as a child. My life would have turned out so differently. If only for better memories.