What It's Like To Have ADHD

Erie teen tells of her experience living with ADHD

By Lauren Cass April 4, 2019

Editor note: Macaroni Kid Erie invited Erie teen Lauren Cass, 15, to share what it's like living with ADHD, which is short for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health describes those diagnosed with ADHD as living with "a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 6.1 million American kids have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Living with ADHD is like riding an endless rollercoaster. It’s like my emotions are multiplied by 100 and the way I think is sometimes very different from others. 

The best way to explain it is the way that ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell explains it in this YouTube video: It’s like having a Ferrari engine for a brain and bicycle brakes. It's almost impossible to slow down. That means I talk very fast, think fast, and my emotions come on very big and strong. 

Most of the time when I talk, my words just fall out of my mouth before my brain even registers what I’m saying. That can lead to me saying a lot of stuff I don’t mean to say. When my sister and I are fighting, for instance, I immediately say things that will hurt her the most. Most people wouldn’t say those things because they realize that they are too hurtful, but I just go for it. 

This can lead to a lot of hurt feelings. 

Photo courtesy of Heather Cass

Lauren, far right, with her family.

Traditional schooling a challenge for kids with ADHD

Being in high school and having ADHD is very hard. I tend to get lost in class more quickly because most of what we learn is really just memorizing and regurgitating it back on a test. I’m not good at memorizing because I think it’s boring, so I don’t do very well on test and quizzes. I do much better when we’re doing some kind of hands-on work, like a lab, or doing other things that require critical thinking.  

Photo courtesy of Heather Cass

Lauren, like many kids with ADHD, learns best doing hands-on activities.

It’s sort of the same thing with homework. If I can remember what I learned that day and actually somehow finish the homework, then the challenge is to get it turned in. Most students would think this is the easy part, but this tends to be harder than the homework for me. I tend to forget to turn it in or I lose it. 

I also tend to not be able to plan stuff out in advance, especially if it’s a long way off. It’s like I only see the big picture and not the small steps I have to take to get there. While others focus on the small steps and plan a path to the finish, I sort of just jump right in and figure it out as I go. This can lead to both good and bad results, depending on what I’m doing.  

ADHD, the superpower

Though I’ve mostly portrayed ADHD as a bad thing so far, I also feel like it’s my superpower. When I set my mind to one thing and focus on it, I can get a lot done fast and often better than others. 

Also, when problems with harder solutions arise, I tend to figure out creative ways to solve them while others may struggle or get upset. For example, our chemistry teacher recently sprung a surprise lab on us and some of my classmates did not have hair ties. Others had pants that didn't cover their shoes. (That's required so there is no exposed skin in the lab). So I went around the school and collected rubber bands for everyone to tie our hair back and found duct tape so we could tape our pants to our shoes so they were sealed. 

I also think ADHD helps me learn faster than other students because I just notice and pay attention to more. For example, I started to notice there are a lot of words that I think are simple and easy to use in my creative writing class that my peers think are hard or they have never seen or heard before. 

Another nice thing about ADHD is that it gives me a huge amount of energy. I don’t need unhealthy caffeinated drinks. So while my peers chug these unhealthy drinks down, I just drink water and stay energized without even trying. 

Photo courtesy of Heather Cass

Lauren swims competitively.

In the end, as much as ADHD can be hard to deal with in some ways and even though it is considered to be a disadvantage or disability, I see it as my own superpower.

Lauren Cass, 15, is a tenth grader at Seneca High School, where she participates in Science Olympiad, yearbook, and track and field. She just finished her first year of varsity swimming at North East High School, which has a cooperative agreement with Seneca. She plans to pursue a career in the sciences.