Jesse Gurney: How attention deficit disorder affects my daily life

My name is Jesse Gurney, and I, like many students, take Adderall.

I don’t take it for the rush. I don’t take it to pull an all-nighter.

I have a prescription because I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Adderall helps me in ways that others often take for granted.

Around campus, I’ve overheard many people say that ADHD is a sham. Students say maybe they should get diagnosed because they space out in class, distracted by the Facebook feed in front of them.

Student Health Service, too, has seen this kind of behavior as more and more students seek an ADHD diagnosis. The office reportedly is trying to curb prescription drug abuse.

Usually, I just smirk and shrug when I overhear students questioning the validity of ADHD. But I have become compelled to write about my ADHD after overhearing a freshman planning to fake the diagnostic test. That was one misunderstanding too far.

So let me tell you: ADHD is an attention problem that stems from hyperactivity, or being too hyper to focus on any one thing. And despite popular consensus, attention problems are not daydreaming in class or procrastinating homework – the disorder comes from having problems focusing on any given task, even those that are enjoyable.

For me, I feel like my thoughts are perpetually caffeinated. They bounce around my brain so fast that it’s difficult to hold one down for an extended period of time.

My frenzied thoughts had a serious impact on my grades throughout high school. I answered in percentages when math problems asked for decimals. I spaced out in the middle of Spanish comprehension tests, and I forgot to answer essay questions on social studies exams.

Soon enough, I realized I was skimming test directions and needed to slow down in order to understand them. However, that only created actual mental pain. I was rarely strong enough to hold onto one thought, and therefore even reading directions slowly amounted to a stress.

I also have noticed that most people incorrectly think ADHD only affects schoolwork, when it actually impacts every aspect of life. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the guitar, but I could not do so for more than five minutes without becoming bored.

When I would eat dinner with my friends, I would finish my food 10 minutes before everyone else, and then would need to use the bathroom in order to give my mind a new environment. Even engaging in conversations that were pleasurable for others mentally aggravated me.

At the time, I did not recognize these attention issues as abnormal because they were all I had ever known.

Last May, I took a diagnostics test and was given a 99.9 percent chance of having ADHD. After receiving a prescription for Adderall, I am able to enjoy playing the guitar, dinner, conversations and other daily activities for extended periods of time.

As a result of an increased attention span, my relationships with peers are stronger and I can make new acquaintances with greater ease. Those caffeinated thoughts finally switched to decaf, allowing my mind and body to live in an unclouded, happier and more normal state.

One cannot fake having ADHD – just like one cannot really fake having any other disability. And those who browse Facebook during class do not have attention problems. Even with Adderall, I, like you, still space out and browse Buzzfeed when I should be doing homework. But that’s because boring things are boring, and not many people pay attention to boring things.

Now, I can do exactly what I want to do – like complete this op-ed. If I was not on Adderall, I would have gotten seriously excited to write this piece but never would have been able to force myself to do so.


The writer is a sophomore majoring in communication and international affairs.

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