1 year ago for day 21, 2019 with 1200 words.

Take Your Pills

If you've seen the documentary, you'll know what I'm talking about:. Last year, Netflix published a documentary about ADD medication, and it's the most infuriating, fascinating look at a world through the lens of people who abuse ADD medication to 'get shit done' and, in contrast, those who truly depend on it.

I'm one of those people that depend on medication to function, and the stigma around ADD is exhausting. If someone were to remark that they knew what ADD is, without actually having it, I'd hazard a guess they're about to launch into a story about being distracted all the time.

A classic cliche, and a large reason that it's still so misunderstood as a condition today. Worse still, just getting medicated feels impossible most of the time, because the media has perpetuated these magic pills as the solution to all woes.

I discovered in 2017, unbeknown to myself, that I have ADD, and that it's been a stumbling block for a large part of my life because I didn't have a name or reference point for the problems I faced. Sure, I was disorganized, but things worked most of the time. I started lots of projects but never finished them, but generally, I could get work done when required.

My partner suggested it as something to look into, and it took me a full year before I did anything about it: I don't have ADD! It's just motivation problems, I told myself. It was hard to understand what it really meant, because there's so much that says it's relating to kids sitting still in class.

Eventually, I took baby steps toward the dizzying road to addressing it. I spoke with my doctor, was sent to a psychiatrist, then bumped off to the specialist. In the Netherlands, it's become top of mind recently and it seems like the clinics here are paying close attention.

I spent an entire day on-site with the specialist being diagnosed. I was questioned for hours on end about school, my childhood, feelings and whatever else you could possibly think of. The entire day, I figured I didn't have it at all, and that I was just imagining it.

Then came the Qbtest, a computer-based test that is engineered to be quite possibly the most boring task of all time, spanning over thirty minutes, that requires a moderate level of concentration. Your head gets tracked by a sensor, and you're told to watch a screen with flashing colored shapes on it. When the same shape and color combination flashes in sequence, one after another, push the button.

Holy shit I underestimated how hard this test was, but I was determined to do well at it. Over thirty minutes I felt myself straining to closely watch, and I figured that I did pretty well. Afterward, you are provided medication and told to wait an hour, then repeat the test. OK, well, how different could it be?

Uh. Yeah, the second time around was night and day. I sat there, doing the task, not really considering much else or being distracted by whatever floated into my mind. Instead, the time passed, and I found myself wondering if this is how normal peoples' brains work.

A few minutes later I received the answer: yeah, you basically have textbook Adult ADD. I thought I nailed it, but the data said otherwise: in the first test, my head moved constantly, and I missed an exponential amount of matches as time passed. In the second, with the medication? Well, it compares with a reference adult with a normal brain pattern.

This news felt like a combination of devastating, being punched in the gut, and relieving all at once. I felt like I was being validated, and being told there was something broken in my brain forever all at once. But, maybe I wasn't crazy for wondering what was up, or why it seemed so easy for other people.

I rarely tell anyone this still, two years on, let alone write it down anywhere, because I struggle to say it out loud most of the time. After that day I started taking my own medication full-time for ADD, and seeing life in a pretty different point of view.

You can't fix ADD, but you can mitigate it through both intentional habit-building and medication, which can combine into super-productivity if you wield it right. And when you don't, messy, emotional puddles of person.

But, for me, all of this has turned around my life: I feel like I can take control of my own destiny, rather than it all just seeming like random chaos. I could actually achieve something, without falling flat over, and over, and over until I got there.

I don't know why but it feels like it's embarrassing, and that I have to justify it to people who are quick to assume that it's synonymous with lazy, even though it isn't. I see the look on someone's face when I mention it in passing; they don't know how to deal with this news, and can't understand what it means at all.

I don't blame them: the media, like Take Your Pills, portray ADD medication as this magic antidote that makes everything focus in and feel sharper. You can get more done, magically, in less time and ace your exams. That might be how it works for most people, but for me it just means my brain can go in a straight line like yours assumably normally does.

For years, I struggled to learn to code. I figured my brain just didn't work with it, and I'd never be able to do it. Since being diagnosed, not only can I code and build apps, but I can ship them too. Medication helps, but giving your demons a name helps even more, I think.

What I really hope for in the next few years is a redefining of what ADD is in the consciousness of the general public. Now that I've been through all of this, I see it everywhere, and I don't feel like I can tell people that they should get checked out, because it's still such a divisive condition for most.

This BuzzFeed investigation really is burned into my brain as a good example of why it's so important to change the way people think about it all: this affects tens of millions of adults, who go through their lives not even thinking about this, struggling on a daily basis just to function. Nobody thought to even suggest it, and the process of being diagnosed is so oppressive they probably wouldn't even try. I really want that to change.

I didn't really plan to write this down at all, and I'm way over 300 words at this point, but I realized I just had to get this out in case it would help someone else. I hope you learned something if you made it this far, and if you find yourself wondering if you should be doing something but have nobody to talk to, my inbox is open all the time.


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By Owen

I made this! I'm a cloud-scale infrastructure engineer 🚀 turned writer. I like to make products that help humans!

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