It was during the last year of his undergraduate Bachelor of Science program at Mcgill University that Irving Washington was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). On his return from a field study in Panama, Irving befriended a young woman he met at the airport. During their 2 hour bus ride back to Montreal they spoke throughout and
continued their relationship with conversations over the telephone for several weeks.
After a while Irving realized a few traits they both had in common. She constantly would ask Irving to repeat himself and after a while offered that it was her ADHD that diverted her attention away from the topic and not disinterest.
Although Irving had heard about ADHD, he never really knew how it affected people or what it was like to live with ADHD. “Wait, this is all that I feel,” Irving thought to himself as the woman kept sharing more about her experiences.
The death of Irving’s grandmother and the difficulties he faced that year led him to seek mental health counseling for the first time. He had heard that the OSD (Office of Students with Disabilities) had inaugurated a new service that offered diagnoses for ADHD. After an interview, several tests, and the examination of his childhood report cards, it turned out that ADHD was the best explanation for Irving’s behaviour as well.
Irving was a first-generation student, born in Montreal. In elementary school, he had a hard time and his school considered putting him in a class for kids with special needs. It was due to his mother’s summer tutoring that Irving started understanding the best way for him to learn. He performed well enough in the second grade that the school offered to skip him up two grades if he wanted to.
Since his childhood, Irving had a different way of thinking. There would be times when he did not grasp something everyone understood. He would often think about seven things at a time and was hyperactive during his childhood. Based on the comments on his early elementary school report cards, Irving used to ‘keep his teachers on their toes’.
According to Irving, having a stable long-term plan is something most people with ADHD have trouble with. In Irving’s case, he chose ‘Biology and Environment’ as his university major, even though he studied visual art design in college and graduated with a technical degree. One could see a lot of cartoons on his notes as he was a talented sketch artist . Irving used to suffer from restlessness as well and states that he is ‘sensitive to irregular sleep habits’.
“Maybe everyone has a little bit of ADHD,” is something most people with ADHD hear often. Irving stresses the fact that ADHD does not allow people to develop organizational skills, priority and time management skills, some social skills, and emotional management skills. Thus, it can be upsetting as well as frustrating to hear comments that invalidate the cognitive difference of people with ADHD.
Armed with better knowledge of himself and the reasons behind his behaviour Irving was able to find ways of staying motivated and focused on his goals. Even before the pandemic, 29-year-old Irving had started keeping an agenda of his appointments and making daily schedules. In addition to finding the right medication for himself, Irving discovered the path to becoming the best version of himself. He wakes up at dawn and organizes himself well enough to complete all his tasks for the day.
“The pandemic is giving neurotypical people an idea of what it feels like to live with ADHD on a daily basis,” commented Irving. The days of quarantine may not allow people to fully understand what people with ADHD go through, but it does give them a hint of what they experience and this may explain why a higher number of people are experiencing all sorts of mental disorganization and stress.
Irving strongly advises people to get to know themselves, since it's an important part of enhancing one's well-being. “If you haven’t been diagnosed with anything but you have difficulties in life that you don’t understand, be curious about mental health,” he says.
If diagnosed he recommends finding a medication that does not change your personality. As for Irving, his medication does nothing more than help him to focus. He adds that ‘medication
alone is not enough in treating it’. One needs to develop a repertoire of skills to organize themselves since medication does not automatically remedy these things.
Irving also suggests that it is also nice to be a part of support groups and communicate with people who have similar behaviour issues. Most importantly, “ when we are overwhelmed with all of the things we have to do, it may seem as though we don’t have the time to take care of ourselves, or do what matters most to us. But in reality, this is because we are thinking of everything all at once, which can over burden your mind and weigh on your conscience.”
“Offload this baggage onto an agenda. Consider your time as a blank canvas, and your to-do's as pieces which can be placed any way you want them to be. With that off your mind, you can live in the moment! One thing at a time, here and now, which is much more enjoyable and workable than a cluttered mind.”
The name of the interviewee was changed due to confidentiality purposes.