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What It’s Like to be a Teen with ADHD

This week, I want to share some new perspectives with you.

I’m doing a series of interviews with people of various ages, genders, and backgrounds, who have ADHD. I want the public to better understand how ADHD minds work, so I figured the best way to find out was to ask people who’ve experienced it.

Perhaps by reading these stories, those of us with loved ones going through the same thing can be more helpful and empathetic.

For my first interview, I reached out to an adult female (Alysia) who has ADHD. Women are so often overlooked in the world of ADHD that I thought it would be refreshing and educational to get a female’s perspective.

Here’s what she had to say:

When were you diagnosed with ADHD? Did you know instinctively that you had it, or was it a surprise?

I didn’t know I had it until I was an adult in college. When I went to the doctor, they had asked if I had ever been diagnosed, but I was adamant that I didn’t need to be. I knew my brothers both had it, but I didn’t want to get lumped into the same category as anyone who had a diagnosis.

I didn’t want people to think I was “crazy.” Looking back, the symptoms of ADHD have been with me my entire life.

And that doesn’t make me (or anyone else) crazy.

Did your unknown ADHD affect your upbringing? Was it difficult for you to explain your situation to your foster parents?

I’m not sure how much it effected my upbringing because no one ever knew that’s what I had. To a lot of adults, it was just a case of a kid not doing what was asked of her. Or I wasn’t doing things in the right way, so they needed to correct me.

I was always in trouble.

My foster parents were the adults that were actually really good at letting me be me, but I was only there for a few months.

How was it different being a girl who had ADHD, as opposed to a boy?

I think ADHD is more understood in boys than girls. The saying, “Boys will be boys,” fits an ADHD child really well. But there’s no such thing for girls. Girls are supposed to love sitting down and listening and being proper. Girls with ADHD symptoms are often seen as weird, out-spoken, crude, etc.

In fact, my grandma took me to the doctor several times in one year because she thought there was something seriously wrong with me. She thought it was so strange that I spaced out all the time, would get caught staring blankly at a wall, or just generally lived in my own world all the time.

The doctor ran all kinds of test, but couldn’t find anything “wrong” with me.

How did stuff like that make you feel? Did you feel weird or different?

I did feel “different” a lot as a kid, and still do. No one understands why I have to do seventeen things at once, why I have random thoughts running through my head all the time, or why I blurt out ridiculous ideas.

It was frustrating to me as a teen, but now I have a better understanding of how my brain works. Instead of feeling ashamed of my natural tendencies, I try to embrace them. I love having 9,000 projects going at one time! I love being a busybody.

How was school for you as a child/teen? Did your ADHD affect your ability to learn?

Imagine always having that song “I like big butts and I cannot lie” stuck in your head all day, every day. Now, imagine trying to hear what a teacher is saying while that’s going on. How is a kid supposed to retain any information when they can’t even hear the teacher?

Ahhhhh. School was awful.

Sitting for long periods of time and staring at books or whiteboards was so hard. I think if I could have danced in the back of the room, learning would have been a lot easier. Switching classes every 10 minutes would’ve been great, too!

Super distracting for all the other kids in class, but great for the ADHD kids, haha. I think that’s part of the problem, though. Kids who learn differently and perceive differently are forced to fit into the “normal” box so they don’t distract all the other kids… which, ultimately, just means the kids with learning differences aren’t being given equal opportunities to learn.

Exactly.

So what have you learned about yourself as far as ADHD goes? What helps you focus better? How have you applied these concepts to your adult life?

I’ve learned I need to keep my body busy during times where my brain needs to focus on something. I have to doodle, sing, hum, just about anything, as long as I can be busy and active. Otherwise, all the information is gone and it was completely pointless.

My husband said to make sure you know I’ve already done 15 different things while answering these questions. *Laughs*

As an adult, it’s much easier to be “busy” while learning than it was as a teenager. When you’re an adult, no one dictates your actions or tells you to stop fiddling with things. In church, for example, no one’s going to reprimand me for fidgeting, doodling, standing in the back swaying, or cleaning out my purse.

When I was younger, though, I was always in trouble for being disruptive or not paying attention. As an adult, I get to learn however I need to and no one cares.

I’m so glad you’ve found freedom in adulthood. What about impulsiveness? Did you struggle with that aspect of ADHD as a teen? Do you struggle with it now?

I’ve always struggled with impulsiveness, and I’m sure always will. When I was younger, my impulsiveness caused me to make poor moral decisions (like partying as a teen), but as an adult, my impulsiveness causes more silly impulsiveness, like shopping, crafting, hopping from project to project, etc.

What’s the biggest struggle you have (currently) with ADHD? Does it impact your life in any negative ways? Your work? Your friendships? Your marriage?

My biggest struggle… hmm… I think it’s probably the fact that people don’t always trust me or take me seriously because of the way my brain operates.

Fortunately, I’m self-employed running a daycare, which means my coworkers (mostly toddlers) think I’m super fantastic with my action-packed songs and constant adventure! My closest friends… they get me. I’ve always been this way so they just accept me as I am. If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be able to maintain a friendship because I literally can’t change.

In my marriage, I was blessed with a husband who knows that I have to watch a movie with him while surfing Facebook, crocheting, and cleaning all at one time. He’s learned that in order for us to have a date night, I have to be able to function “actively” or I won’t enjoy it. Sitting through dinner and a movie kills me. He’s really good at going with the flow and working around what I need.

What’s the best part about having ADHD? Are there any positives?

To be honest, I didn’t see any positives of it as a teen. I was constantly fighting myself, falling behind in school, and getting in trouble for what my brain and body physically could not do.

As an adult, I’ve learned to love my ability think inside, outside, and on top of the rhombus (because boxes are boring), and I think the people around me love it, too.

And looking back, I do see positives about having ADHD as a child/teen. I was good at rolling with the punches, and I was a great drama student! I think a lot of that, though, was because the teacher allowed me to be ME!

I could stand up when my body felt the need to. I could jolt, jump, dance, or whatever else I wanted to do. I was encouraged to use all edges of my brain, including the part with ADHD, which was so freeing.

Most of my other teachers/classes required me to close the door to the unique side of me (which made learning so damn hard!), but my drama teacher just let me be who I truly was. I loved her for that.

Troubled teen photo available from Shutterstock

What It’s Like to be a Teen with ADHD

W. R. Cummings


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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2015). What It’s Like to be a Teen with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/loving-adhd/2015/12/what-its-like-to-be-a-teen-with-adhd/

 

Last updated: 16 Dec 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Dec 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.