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Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Post: ADHD & Me

Tanner was born and raised in Georgia, with a few years in Alabama. He has a delightful wife, Sarah, and a fat, adorable and cheerful six-month old son, Nikolai. He is currently completing his master's degree at Georgia State University focusing on corpus linguistics. He served a mission in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Tanner played football and rugby though high school and college and was a male cheerleader his last year at BYU. His time is mostly split between family, school and work (and trying to watch college football on Saturdays). For work, Tanner is a linguist analyzing less common languages and writing language tests, as well working as an academic research assistant. He also has a pressure washing business on the side.

Image via Flickr.

People hear about ADD and ADHD among children, but the condition seems to be looked down upon when it comes up in the adult world. When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My elementary school later put me in a special education classroom to give me extra attention. In the later years of high school, my dad told me that my special education teacher was "so proud" of me when he saw me in the local newspaper after winning a talent show and noting that I was going to teach swing dance classes. My dad reenacted how the teacher had mimicked crazy movements that I was "always" doing and explained that I could never sit still in a desk. I was shocked how bizarre my dad looked as he waved and swayed about as if he were dancing and on drugs at the same time. I don't remember acting like that. However, I feel a sort of pride when I think about how far I have come in relation to my ability to focus and get things done. Over the years, the "hyperactive" part of ADHD has lenitioned, but ADD persists.

Recently in school I have been challenged with a very heavy load: full-time school, creating and running a business, family and starting a new job. This semester has been difficult. Sarah and I have both felt the brunt of my demanding schedule and projects.

Something that I am wary to admit is that I have been using ADD medications. I have been taking small dosages, about half or less of what was given me (half the recommended dosage) on specific days when I need to get things done. After the third grade, I did not take any more ADD meds, and had only taken them for a short period of time since I reacted negatively to them. I am proud that I got through undergraduate work without ADD meds by managing my ADD through natural methods, e.g. exercise, certain foods and prayer/God. So, now I wonder how much I should keep using ADD medication.

I hear people say that they "don't believe in ADD," that it's "just an excuse," and that "everyone has ADD to some extent, so it's not a big deal." During the last two months, when I have used ADD medication I have experienced a profound and deep shift in my sense of being. The world shifts into focus and it makes me realize that when I am not on an ADD medication it is as if I hear multiple self voices at one time. My mind argues with itself about what to think about, say and feel. I become a whole person instead of one divided among competing thoughts. This almost completely disappears with the medication. I think to some level that is natural for everyone.

On the other hand, ADD has shaped me in great ways that I never want to relinquish. I learned early in high school that foreign languages are like medicine for my mind. Speaking and thinking in another language limits my ability to get off track. I have actually gained enough proficiency in other languages that I have become ADD in those languages, as well and have branched out to other L2's.

I found that learning the violin and viola and playing often helps me focus for a little while after I practice.

Athletics and sports help tremendously. I think this is why I hate cold weather so much. When it is warm, I can run, bike and play sports daily. When it is cold, I don't run, bike or exercise enough and I get stuck in the feeling of my ADD.

I realized during this semester, that a good deal of who I am has been shaped by my pursuit of things that give me a sense of freedom from my ADD, which leaves me with a feeling of mental and emotional clarity and fulfillment. My desire for the mental and emotional clarity has driven me in pursuits that have helped me obtain wonderful achievements.

So, ADD has been both a burden and a blessing.

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