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In His Own Words: Living With Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
As told to Virginia Mansfield
Trent is a freshman in high school. Like most 15-year-old boys, he enjoys hanging out with his friends, lifting weights, and playing basketball. Four years ago, Trent was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Fortunately, with the help of medication, Trent is again successful in school and has learned to accept ADHD as part of his unique individuality.
What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
I was acting out in school-getting in trouble for being out of my seat or talking, things like that. Also my grades in school weren't as good as they had been in previous years. I was hyper and wound up. I also had a hard time sleeping. (We never really figured out if that was because of the ADHD or some other reason though).
What was the diagnosis experience like?
I didn't really understand what was going on when they told me I had ADHD. I remember the test that they made me take was kind of embarrassing. I put these headphones on and there was no sound at all. The doctor told me to press a button whenever I wanted, but that if I pressed it to soon, I would hear a beep through the headphones. This was to test my patience. It was a lot harder than I had thought it would be.
What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
My initial reaction was embarrassment. I was embarrassed that I had this problem. I felt like I could never be "normal." I realize now that there really is no such thing as a normal person. Everyone has problems, whether physically or emotionally.
How do you manage ADHD?
ADHD is treated by taking medications to stop the symptoms from showing. It's not a cure though. Over the years, I've taken several different medicines to treat the ADHD. I took Ritalin for about the first 3 or 4 years and had to increase the amount I took about every 4 to 5 months. Then I switched to a pill called Adderall. I took this for about 2 years. This pill was supposed to last longer than Ritalin, so I wouldn't have to take it every couple of hours at school. With the Adderall, I only had to take one in the morning, one at school, and one after school. I would sometimes have to take one more if I had to do something that required a lot of concentration. Now I'm on a pill called Concerta. This pill lasts all day, so I only take one a day.
Did you make any lifestyle or dietary changes in response to ADHD?
The only lifestyle change was that I had to remember to take my pills all the time. I haven't really changed my diet.
Did you seek any type of emotional support?
I was embarrassed that I had to take pills but I never talked to anyone about it. I just dealt with it myself. After awhile, I realized that I could do nothing to change how I was, so I accepted it. I started taking it in 4th grade and now I'm a freshman in high school. It wasn't until this year that I decided that I couldn't change who I was. I don't really care anymore if people know that I have this problem. I'm not embarrassed by it any more.
Does ADHD have any impact on your family?
I'll get mad if my parents blame things that I do on my medicine. For example, if I get in trouble at school, my parents will say something like "Is this because your medicine isn't working?" I can see how they might think that, but after awhile it really starts to irritate me.
What advice would you give to anyone living with ADHD?
I would tell them not to be ashamed of who you are. God made you like this and you can't change that. Accept it and move on. It's not really that big of a deal to have it. I've told a couple of my new friends that I have just recently made in high school about my condition and it hasn't affected how they see me at all. Some people may make fun of you or whatever, but most people don't make a big deal about it.
Interviews were conducted in the past and may not reflect current standards and practices in medicine. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how this condition is diagnosed and managed today and what treatment approaches are right for you.
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