Navigating College with a Hidden Disability
“Nicole didn’t hear you, she is a little… off…” said my sixth grade guidance counselor to a teacher, who had apparently been trying to get my attention. I flushed and snapped out of my reverie, turning to face them.
That moment, and others like it, haunted me for years. What was wrong with me? Why was paying attention so difficult? My thoughts were like butterflies that danced over my head, flitting close enough to see but never near enough to take hold of and examine.
I struggled through the rest of my school years. I got good enough grades to get all of the way through college and eventually earn my Ph.D., but staying on task was difficult. An hour long class seemed to stretch out infinitely, and I was frequently missing key pieces of information about assignments. I learned to compensate by managing my time as carefully as I could and by quizzing myself on the material endlessly until I felt I knew it inside and out. I never knew when the mental fog would strike, making thinking and writing all but impossible, so I over prepared.
It wasn’t until last year that a physician began prescribing a medicine for an unrelated health condition that I noticed the sharp change. This particular medication is often prescribed for ADD and ADHD, as well as the health issue I was being treated for. It was like someone lifted a veil and I was seeing things in sharp relief for the very first time. Instead of having a dozen of half-finished tasks, I was able to complete tasks from start to finish without my mind wandering off, or worse, completely forgetting what I was supposed to be doing.
When I told my physician how I was feeling, she ran some diagnostics and told me that I have the inattentive type of ADHD. I was shocked! My son has the impulsive type of ADHD, and I had always associated the condition with behaviors like his: running around as if he had a motor driving him, acting on impulse and being unable to sit down for any significant length of time. I never knew that my daydreaming and forgetfulness were also symptoms of a different type of ADHD.
Many students hesitate to seek help when they are struggling. In my experience, students often try to hide a diagnosis in hopes that their professors won’t treat them differently, or they don’t even know for sure if anything is truly wrong with them. If you fall into either of these categories, like I did, don’t be ashamed to get the help you need. Having a condition like ADD/ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression or any of the other mental or physical health conditions that can affect how you function isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and there is help for you both in the community and at Angelo State.
The first step is admitting that you are struggling and to seek help from a medical or mental health professional, such as at the ASU Health Clinic. From there, if necessary, Student Disability Services can help you create a plan to navigate your classes and life at ASU more comfortably.