During my second year of medical school, for reasons that I will divulge in a later post, I was officially diagnosed with ADHD (inattention subtype) after going through a series of neuropsychiatric testing by a clinical psychologist. I think if someone were to chronicle my life, they would notice that the symptoms were there the whole time. I’ve had friends and family members that joked that I was a “space cadet.” I would space out in conversations and often interrupt people mid-speech. I would easily forget things or lose items that were in my immediate vicinity. Others and myself had labeled these traits as personality quirks so they never came up as addressable issues.
Combine this with the fact that I never had any behavioral or academic issues at school, there was never an opportunity for someone to raise a red flag. During primary, secondary school, and college I had mostly been a stellar student. I could still get high marks while paying less attention in class compared to other students, skipping lectures in college, studying for exams at the last minute, and starting/completing assignments right before the deadlines.
In medical school, things changed. I could no longer get away with consistently doing well while putting in minimal effort. I had to try hard. Nonetheless, the stress and rigors of training caught up to me and the inattention got worse. And from there, a feedback loop began in which my inattention led me to be anxious and my anxiety made my inattention worse and so on. This led to a series of events (which I will talk about at some point in the future) in which a medical school administrator referred me to a clinical psychologist to conduct neuropsychiatric testing, leading to my diagnosis of ADHD. During that time, I was very much angry and embarrassed by the events that led to the eventual diagnosis, but it ultimately benefited me in that it unmasked a pathology that I was absolutely obligated to deal with.
I ultimately made my decision for myself to not treat my ADHD with medication. This is not to say that the medications aren’t effective (they are and help many people), but I chose not to deal with the side effects of being on a stimulant medication long-term. Instead, I chose the lifestyle modification route which includes prioritizing time management in my life, bullet journaling (which I highly recommend you look up even if you aren’t diagnosed with ADHD), meditation, exercise, and just living a minimalist lifestyle in which I only partake in activities that actively engage me. Since I’ve integrated these changes, my life has changed for the better. I think the unexpected greatest thing in discovering that I have an ADHD brain is that it has forced me prepare for situations in which my tendency toward inattentiveness may be a hindrance and has thus allowed me to these situations with better tact than I did before. For example, I anticipate the oncoming stress and chaos that will enter my life during residency. For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading every piece of advice that I can find that will make my life easier while I’m working long hours in the hospital. I’m even entertaining the thought of having a prescription on hand just in case I need it. I think the greatest lesson learned from this post is that you need to recognize your limitations so that you can prepare early to work your way around them.
Thanks for reading Day 2 of my “post everyday for 5 days” goal. Hopefully these are helping somebody.