If you’ve had to suffer through every other senioritis Op-Ed piece for the last four years, you’ve probably read the same stuff I have: wake up at 5 am, balance your schedule, drink kale smoothies, it will all work out in the end. Maybe it’s not that bad, but the vast majority of them say that at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the senior to buckle down and do the work. For the most part, I agree that procrastination is something that can be overcome.
I have a different kind of senioritis, one I’ve had for all of high school and actually my whole life. It’s called ADHD, or Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. Wow, it was harder than I thought it would be to type that. Because of the way my brain works, I have difficulty organizing tasks, or I am easily distracted, impulsive. It doesn’t mean that I’m lazy.
It took a long time for me to be diagnosed, and therefore to get help for my ADHD. You’ve probably heard someone stereotype ADHD as anyone who is distracted, or out of focus. The squirrel’s joke never gets old. But those stereotypes are harmful. Because ADHD is stereotyped as a little boy’s disease, something that kids grow out of, or are faking, it becomes that much harder to get a diagnosis, treatment, or help.
ADHD affects my ability to focus. Even when I am trying my very hardest, it’s hard to concentrate, even on things I care about. That, or I focus too hard, spending hours researching something that I could have learned everything I needed to know in 20 minutes. (this is called hyper fixation or hyperfocus.) This means that I am almost never doing what I need to be doing.
So, school is hard. School is hard no matter who you are, or what you’re dealing with. I’ll tell you though, school is hard for me. It’s hard for me to keep up on assignments, to even remember them sometimes. The learning process is difficult for me, and I often have to repeat lessons two or three times before I fully understand them. I can try as hard as I can, but it’s hard for people to be sympathetic when they can’t see results.
So, how do I do it? How do I juggle that impossible triangle of friends, school, and extracurriculars? I don’t. Or, I didn’t. I’m still learning how to function as a whole person. I can offer some things I’ve learned that help. Disclaimer that these things help me, some of the time. They are just suggestions, not cure-alls.
Lists. The best thing I have learned how to do is prioritize. What is the most important? That’s what I do first. What is due tomorrow and what can be pushed to another day. Sometimes I can’t get through a whole day’s work, and that’s fine, as long as what I did do will be enough for the morning.
Rewarding yourself. Work is hard work, and the life we lead is exhausting. Pushing myself to power through an essay or a math assignment is the hardest part of any given day. I need a reason beyond: If I don’t do this I will fail a class. So when I’m having a bad day, I get a chocolate covered espresso bean for every math problem I finish or an episode of Brooklyn 99 for every assignment.
Breaks. I take a lot of breaks. I enable myself that way. It’s not always best, but sometimes it’s what you need to take a walk, or listen to that song you love, or bake something. Your brain is doing its best, and sometimes it needs to rest for a little bit; sometimes you need to rest for a little bit before going on. Go easy on yourself.
Exercise. Endorphins are excellent motivators. It’s useful to run, to work off energy, to clear your head of everything except how hard you’re sweating and how many miles you’ve run. In the best circumstances, I come back with a runner’s high and I’m ready to work. If that doesn’t do the trick, the hot shower after will usually center me enough to work.
Meditation. This may or may not be cheesy, but meditation and mindfulness are some of the best tools I’ve come up with to help me work. It comes from a place of being aware of your actions and their ramifications. If I take 10 minutes to focus on my body and what I’m feeling, it gives me the energy to write for an hour.
At the end of the day, ADHD is a part of my life. It’s another difficulty, but it is something I can cope with.