Concentration frustration

The struggles of living with and without ADD medication

Story by Connor Powell, staff writer

Ever since I was a little kid, the ability to sit in a classroom and stay focused was a skill that I unfortunately lacked. Every six weeks, when report cards would be sent home, my teachers would leave the same note on my performance at school: always off task.

My struggles with the inability to focus really began to present themselves when I reached third grade. The shift from second to third grade proved to be very challenging for me because we shifted from staying in one classroom all day to having class periods with different teachers.

This change required me to show all of my classes the same amount of attention, but I found it difficult to focus in just one, let alone five. I slowly began to become more frustrated each day because I felt like I had to work harder than my peers in order to make the same grades as them. Assignments that took no more than five minutes to complete would oftentimes take me double the time, which led to me getting behind in all of my classes.

My frustration with school built up, and I regularly found myself in the principal’s office due to my tendency to argue with my teachers. As they would be teaching a lesson, I would get distracted and fall behind, and when I would refocus, I became extremely flustered as I attempted to catch up. My hand would cramp as I scribbled in my notes, the teacher goading me to hurry. I quickly became overwhelmed and would blurt out some rude remark, ensuring me a phone call to my mom or a referral to the principal’s office.

One of the things I found most aggravating was the lack of understanding I received from my teachers.

They simply thought I was lazy or hateful, when in actuality, I was having difficulty keeping up with the rest of the class.  

— Connor Powell

This issue of being able to concentrate continued on through elementary school, and it wasn’t addressed until sixth grade. My mother decided to finally have me tested for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and, unsurprisingly, the test was positive, and I was medicated shortly after. For the first month, I could notice a significant improvement in my classroom performance, and my grades reflected that.

But the many benefits the medicine would provide came at a price. I’ve been taking the medication for over five years now, and while focusing isn’t an issue anymore, the side effects that come with it are.

When my day starts out and the medication begins to take effect, I feel normal and clear-headed. As the day progresses, however, my head begins to throb, and a weighted sensation comes over my body. I feel as if I’m on the verge of tears or full of anger. My hands become clammy and jittery. There is nothing more aggravating than knowing that something intended to help you is also the cause of a multitude of other problems.

Around lunchtime is when I feel this odd sensation is most present. The heavy, uneasy feeling is also accompanied by a loss in appetite. Due to this loss of appetite, my weight fluctuates constantly, going up or down a few pounds weekly. I think my constantly changing weight contributes to the negative perception I have of my appearance. Some days I feel like I look alright and some days I don’t want to leave my house because I feel like I look awful.

Another side effect of the medication is irritability. Small things always seem to aggravate me, like the tapping of a pencil on a desk or someone speaking too loud. Due to my constant irritability, I come across as a negative person, which pushes others away. People seem to assume I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder, or I’m mean, but the way I feel is typically out of my control.

Everybody has something in their life that will serve as a challenge to them. Something that makes things a little more difficult but will make them stronger in the long run. Something that is just asking to be overcome. ADD is my challenge.