By Genesis Castillo
Diagnosed with ADD/ADHD at age 13, I refused to believe in the idea that my forgetfulness, lack of focus and impulsiveness were symptoms of a learning disability.
All my life I had thought of myself as intelligent and bright, but as I reached my adolescent years, I struggled with the transition to middle school.
When a teacher suggested I get tested for ADD/ADHD, my parents were sure it was just a phase. I was just lazy and needed discipline. However, as my courses became more challenging and I tried to ignore my condition, things only got worse.
A psychiatrist prescribed my first ADD/ADHD medication, but the process of finding the right one for me was an adventure. From meds that caused me to lose an insane amount of weight to those that made me feel depressed, I tried them all. I hated the way they made me feel, even the pills that helped me focus.
When I swallowed that white and orange pill, I was more focused, but I wasn’t the bubbly Genesis everyone knew. I was like everyone else and it was hard to accept that a pill could change the way I behaved. But I was successful in school, and I could manage my time better when I took my medication.
During my journey to accept my learning disability, I even refused to take medication, challenging myself to have more self-control and willpower to work harder. I questioned why I could not control my focus and my reactions to stressful situations without medication. I wondered why I needed more time to complete assignments. Why did I have to stay up all night for a B when others would have easily received an A for that type of effort?
I struggled to accept that my ADD/ADHD was an actual condition that affected my academic success. I felt that admitting to the realness of ADD/ADHD gave away any power I might have in controlling my own success.
Now, working with children who have special needs and learning disabilities, I have learned about the importance of educating people about the “realness” of certain learning disabilities that are not as obvious as physical ones.
ADD/ADHD is very real. People with ADD/ADHD find themselves late, disorganized, forgetful and overwhelmed by their responsibilities.
Over the years, I have learned to embrace my learning disability because there are some positive aspects about having ADD/ADHD. Having ADD/ADHD made me a risk-taker, and made me very passionate about certain courses like French. ADD/ADHD people tend to overly focus on things they love, and that allowed me to become fluent in three languages. Creativity is also a characteristic of many ADD/ADHD people, and it has served me well.
After educating myself about ADD/ADHD, I now accept that my focus and memory abilities can present difficulties for me at times. Coming to terms with this has allowed me to adopt techniques that enable me to work a full-time job, a part-time job, and still be in school. But it was only after accepting my condition and learning about it that I was able to find success.
Many people go years without being diagnosed and believe their symptoms are just part of their personality. However, these characteristics can be symptoms of a greater condition. As a teacher, I look at my students and I see their potential despite certain learning disabilities. I am committed to helping them because I can relate to their struggle.
While others see their lack of focus and poor organizational skills, I can only empathize. This makes me even more dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges that many students face on a daily basis.