My whole life, I’ve been trying to reach the potential that I’ve been told I have.
Over and over again I was told, if I just apply myself, I’ll reach this magical land of success that is my destiny.
These words might be familiar if you belong to the more than 10 per cent of the population who have ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder — or as I like to call it, inconsiderate lazy f**k up disorder — is a neurodivergence that affects executive function, emotional regulation, and just about everything else.
When I was young, I was branded as “gifted” which meant that everyone had high expectations of me.
And I always fell short.
I struggled to focus on anything I wasn’t interested in but I was smart enough to get by. The rules changed when I got to college.
Without the suffocating structures of high school — something I didn’t realize I needed — I fell behind and stayed behind. I failed classes, was placed on academic probation and had to repeat my first year.
It was around then that my anxiety became overwhelming and the competitive environment of Humber Music was the perfect catalyst for my downfall.
Like so many others with ADHD, I struggled with imposter syndrome. I felt any second they would catch my ruse and throw me out the door.
I spent the next four years tirelessly working to prove to myself and others that I belonged, isolating my friends and family in the process.
By the end of my second year of the Bachelor of Music program — in total my fourth year in college — I was finally beginning to feel like I belonged.
Then came the pandemic.
Just as I was starting to catch my stride, all the tools that I developed to make it through the day were ripped away from me.
Music school transitioned to online learning about as much as one would expect and my ability to self-regulate waned.
My mental health, which I’d neglected for years, continued to suffer and reached critical levels.
I was diagnosed with severe depression, which affects 30 per cent of people with ADHD, and severe anxiety, which affects nearly 50 per cent of people with ADHD.
This time, I dropped out for good.
In consultation with my doctor and parents, I took some time off to work on myself and figure out my next steps. For a while, I continued on a downward spiral. I became suicidal, was self-harming, and reached rock bottom.
If it wasn’t for my partner, friends, family and my doctor, I wouldn’t be telling my story today.
I began to rebuild by putting newfound time into community organizing and helped start a podcast that became my gateway into journalism. Two years later I can’t believe where I am. Today I am surrounded by amazing friends and as my partner likes to put it, I’ve entered my “thrive era.”
Though my environment is healthier, my problems haven’t disappeared.
Last year, I completed an assignment two weeks early but submitted it over a month late. I piled up 18 overdue assignments and couldn’t complete them until the last two weeks of a crammed semester.
I am not lazy.
So why do I struggle so much with deadlines, especially simple ones?
Often invisible, it’s far too easy for us to slip through the cracks. According to a study from the British Journal of Psychiatry, fewer than 20 per cent of adults are diagnosed and receive treatment. Accommodations are only given to students with a diagnosis, a doctor’s note, which is often a process that can be long and difficult.
How many students are suffering in silence? Countless times I’ve heard the phrase “not fair to other students” when I’ve asked for accommodations. The truth is that for many of us, we are behind from day one.
Equality is impossible, so we deserve equity. Students aren’t looking to take advantage or game the system.
Post-secondary institutions need to do better at giving us a real chance to succeed.