Barriers: Living as a student with ADHD

November 3, 2011
By Madalena McNeil BRONZE, Blacksburg, Virginia
Madalena McNeil BRONZE, Blacksburg, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

There will be no second draft for this piece. There will probably not even be any editing. There will a stream of consciousness, disjointed at times, poured out in a hurry before the inevitable loss of focus comes and the brain block goes up. Half of life is spent clawing at this block, searching for ways through, under, above, anywhere that would allow me to move forward. Legs cross, hand reaches for hair, foot dances out of habit. The window becomes unavoidably enticing and just as I look to it, a can of soda appears in my hand. Events blur together in one unstoppable pattern of motion until I cannot separate one action from the last, one day from the others, one task from any of the countless things that must be accomplished. I think of leaving and panic – where are my keys?! I know a ten-minute search is in store, just like every other time I’ve ever tried to go anywhere. Once, in the midst of such a flurry, somebody told me to just think about where the last place I set the keys down was. Am I supposed to remember that? My brain retrieves no memory of keys leaving hand. And there’s the block again – I try and try and yet nothing comes until the frustration becomes almost unbearable, and there’s a feeling that my mind is guarded from me, behind impossibly tall walls and unthinkably sinister guards.
I love to write. But as my condition has worsened, so has my ability to create anything of worth. I love words, I love putting them together, I love to extract thoughts from the catastrophe of my mind and give them a physical base where I cannot forget or distort them, where they cannot escape back into the daily tangle. Lately that’s been impossible. So many people see ADHD and focus on the hyperactivity, but only in the way that it manifests itself externally – and that is ADHD to them. The attention-deficit and the hyperactivity blend together into one huge generalization that gives people a license to write people like me off as some kind of overgrown toddler, who would have no problems if they’d just learn to sit still. Oh, I can sit still, but when I do it doesn’t matter. Quieting the body and quieting the mind are two vastly separate tasks. You want to scream sometimes, the lack of control is so infuriating.
So I wrote this as an example, a completely raw portrait of how it feels to be like me – smart, eager to learn, driven, but shackled always by this wall, caged inside my body. A slave to the lost keys and lost words that snake through me, as close as the blood in my veins. A slave to continual judgment, to late nights, to messy rooms, to missed opportunities and impulsive, harsh decisions that I often can’t even explain. To high points of constant movement and chatter that precede low points of silence, immobility, stagnancy. Watching one of the only things I take pride in – the words, and the ideas I know I can find within myself – slip away as I lose hope in them, a Peter Pan-like cycle of dissolution – for as I begin not to believe in them, away they go.

The author's comments:
I was diagnosed with ADHD almost five years ago and since then have had a hard time working up to my full potential and leading an organized life. I used to write often and have loved to write since I was very young, but as my condition has worsened over the past year I have found it very difficult to write anything at all. The idea for this piece and the actual writing occurred within twenty minutes in one sitting. Hopefully this provides at least a small representation of the deep and notable difficulties of living with such a condition.

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