I have had attention deficit disorder (ADD) for my entire life, but I am just admitting it now.
I was born into the “Ritalin era” of the 90s, and, as a result, I was never able to develop an understanding of what ADD or ADHD was until my 23rd birthday. Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, is a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder in children.
I’ll never forget being in the first grade and watching another kid in my class lose his mind, jump on tables and scream at the teacher until a couple of janitors escorted him out like he was harassing people at a bar because he had too much to drink.
I would then go home and tell my mother about incidents like that and she would just avoid it, saying something like, “Stay away from those kids, they all need Ritalin.”
But my mother’s baby boy didn’t need Ritalin because he was going to be an astronaut. He doesn’t need that crap. Why would he need Ritalin? So he can become like one of those zombie kids who need to be brainwashed into doing their homework? No way Jose. He doesn’t have ADD.
Then I went on to severely struggle with attention to detail, motivation and procrastination for the rest of my academic life,or in other words, ADD.
This is something that is affecting me at this very moment. God knows how many times I’ll have to check my phone, get up, talk to someone and sit back down after just writing a paragraph of this column. Not to mention the amount of spelling and grammatical errors I will riddle the first draft with, all because I can’t pay attention.
If I had known in the second grade what I know now, I would have taken the so-called “brainwashing” to help with my ability to focus on tasks at hand. Maybe that would have kept me out of summer school my junior year of high school-a year in which every student and faculty member said was the most important academic year of my life.
I had a gut feeling all along that I needed help with ADD or ADHD, but I was too afraid to admit that I had it. I was afraid of the “zombification” that would take place if I ever took a prescription drug to help my defective attention span. Now I know it was just part of the stigma that I grew up with, and I would bet that I am not alone.
What a whiny move of me to blame my parents. I was a screw up in middle school and high school, so it must have been my parents fault, not mine. Typical millennial. The fact that I am a millennial is part of the issue. Millennials have grown up in the fear of becoming overly dependent on Ritalin, only to become gripped by a different vice: our cell phone’s.
I would much rather take a pill like Adderall and have tunnel vision toward my school work than have tunnel vision towards Instagram, no matter how pleasurable that may be. It is harder today than ever before to be a productive member of society with ADD because there have never been more distractions in the world.
How many times have you heard an adult comment on millennial culture? It’s the worst.
“These damn kids can’t even lift their heads up to have a conversation anymore,” they say. “All they do is look down at their phones!”
I, then, get angry for being marginalized, only to hypocritically rip my phone out of my pocket and rant about it on Twitter. I believe my generation is so engulfed by technology because our short attention spans lend themselves to social media.
According to the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder screening checklist, one of the symptoms of ADD is to be often easily distracted by extraneous or irrelevant stimuli. Finding anything relevant or important to someone’s productivity on social media is nearly impossible, but I would still rather float around on Twitter or YouTube than write this column, which is another symptom.
According to the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder screening checklist, those with ADD “often avoid, dislike, or are reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework).”
My favorite thing to do on my phone is to go on YouTube and watch comedian and UFC commentator Joe Rogan’s podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience. During this podcast, Rogan will have guests on his show and have a variety of conversations that are wildly intriguing to me. The problem is these conversations are, for the most part, irrelevant to improving my productivity and takes no effort to sit and listen to.
I am literally watching two or three people I don’t know personally talk about stuff, and as useless (while entertaining) as the information is, I only retain a fraction of the conversations. It just so happens that another symptom of ADD is difficulty listening when spoken to directly.
The Joe Rogan Experience doesn’t speak to me directly, but I can speak from personal experience that there is a link between my inability to retain information from a podcast and my inability to listen to someone talking to me face-to-face.
I am a journalism major, which means I need to interview people to have sources I can attribute information to for articles that I write. Many of the people I have interviewed have had a lot of interesting things to say, hence why I am writing the article in the first place.
Thanks to my ADD, I often conduct interviews putting on a listening face without truly listening. It is not that I don’t care or do not want to listen, I just simply cannot retain certain information from a conversation. If I didn’t record these conversations, there is a good chance I would forget what these people said entirely.
My generation especially has emphasized the use of drugs like Adderall and considered it a miracle pill for a reason.
An NBC article entitled, “Why ADHD Drugs Are the Hottest study Aid on College Campuses,” from Oct. 10, 2016 called drugs like Adderall “smart drugs.” You don’t have to be that smart to understand why these “smart drugs” have been used at an epidemic level by college students trying to gain an edge in the classroom.
It is because many millennials, like myself, have grown up without the treatment they needed for ADD or ADHD and are only discovering it now, when the academic stakes are at their highest. The only way to start solving a problem is by admitting that there is one in the first place.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org