I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at 8 years old. Throughout my life, ADHD has impacted my life in different ways, but it was always most notable in the classroom.
This October, I moved to Jerusalem for my gap year between high school and college. Now that I’m living alone, I’ve realized that my ADHD manifests itself far beyond a classroom learning environment. In fact, I’ve pretty much mastered the strategies for my ADHD in the school part of my life; I have aced every single test, pop quiz and essay I’ve been assigned this semester. Last week, though, when it was time to refill my pill box, I began to cry hysterically. The task felt absolutely impossible.
Tapping my foot, dozing off, biting my nails, I don’t remember a time in my life without these habits. Being in a new environment with new teachers and peers, I constantly feel like I owe an explanation for these tendencies that feel like an inherent part of who I am. Please don’t grab my hand while I’m biting my fingers because “it grosses you out”. If it’s “driving you crazy” when I tap my foot in class, you don’t have to sit next to me. And yes, I am listening to what you’re saying right now, it just might not look how you expect it to..
The director of my gap year program said something to us on one of the first days that replays in my head every day: “You’re not bored, you’re boring. You have opportunities at your fingertips that have the potential to shift your axis of the world; don’t let them slip by because they’re simply ‘not amusing enough’ for you. This is for your enlightenment, not your entertainment.”
“You’re not bored, you’re boring.” I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head.
My gap year program has met all of my expectations:intellectual stimulation, religious exploration, emotional connections. How could it be that if I was so fulfilled, so interested in everything I was learning and experiencing, I could still experience symptoms of boredom this often? I realized that I had never separated boredom from ADHD burnout. I was not bored or boring, just burnt out. When I’m found in the corner of another room playing Candy Crush amidst our museum tour, how am I supposed to explain that I’m actually finding Phillip II of Macedonia’s tomb to be incredibly interesting and that I just needed a break?
What I’ve realized is that for the rest of my life, these are things that I might need to explain to others, however, I am no longer ashamed or angry about it. I once asked a doctor how long until my ADHD would go away, and she said when I become an adult. It’s been ten years since I asked her the question and I’m pretty sure she was wrong. As I grow older, my ADHD manifests itself in different ways but never disappears. I’ve just learned to wear it with pride.