Recognizing and understanding ADHD and depression from the first-person perspective

FB_IMG_1555092649662Growing up in Taiwan, I have suffered what was known as “behavioral problem” as a child. I have displayed uncontrolled and unpredicted hyperactive behavior, in addition to inability follow instructions or focus. Many times I was advised to seek a guidance counselor with my mother’s supervision. My mom and I talked to many counselor as I grew up; however, the proper term ADHD was little known back in that time. Many counselors focus on discipline, and medication as an option was completely unheard of.

Going through adolescence, I went through a very emotional period of time. In addition to my existing disability to concentrate, I constantly argued with people around me and self-inflected harm to my body. Many teachers and family members said that I exhibited more “rebellious and delinquent behaviors” than normal teenagers. It was pretty evident at the time, but again the proper medical term depression was not really made aware at that time and in the culture. It was a cultural shame for a family to bring their young to a psychiatrist. Mental disability was a taboo in the 90s. I shared the sentiment with other students who struggled to focus during lectures and were at the bottom of the class in regard to their academic performance. I, along with many students who shared the same problem, had a rough time identifying self-worth. Nevertheless, I managed to pass my courses through self-perseverance and one-on-one tutor sessions from my teachers.

I immigrated to America in high school to live with my indirect family. In addition to the standard curriculum, I had to take ESL classes for the first year in high school. I was able to make it out of that program with ease because I took English as a second language in Taiwan. However, I struggled in standard classes with my peers who are native English speakers. That was when my concentration problem resurfaced again. My disability to focus continued, along with anxiety issues due to culture shock and being bullied as a foreigner. I failed junior literature during the first year. With diligence and constant tutoring with my teachers and other classmates, I passed it the second year. I improved when I took senior literature and received a B. It was also around the senior year when I took my first SAT. Not only was my overall score below average, but it also did not meet the minimum requirement of any schools that I applied to.

Knowing that I might not be seen as a strong applicant, I asked teachers who knew about my potential to be my references. Through many phone calls, emails and on-site visits, I also made personal introductions to program managers and the staff at the admissions office of the institutions that I applied to. Knowing that academically I did not excel, I worked hard on volunteer activities through student organizations and church. With blessings from my teachers and my own perseverance, I was finally accepted to study at Augusta University.

When I started college, I, again, had to take supplemental English reading and writing courses in the ESL program. Although the courses were difficult, what I learned from them helped me to prepare for English 1101 and 1102. With a small institution size, I was able to meet with my professors and tutors to ask questions. After working with many compassionate teachers and fellow classmates in the ESL program from high school and college, I slowly became more comfortable to tell people about my struggles and obstacles. Little did I know at that time, it was only a small step towards overcoming the bigger problem.

Going through my early adulthood, I had a lot of problems with my roommates, on-and-off relationships, and the naturalization process. After several breakdowns, I woke up in a hospital and was urged by the Vice President of the University to seek professional help. The physicians released me back to my indirect family after they claimed that they would take care of me and get the help I need.

It was not the harm that my mental disability has brought to myself but to my loved ones that made me realize that I need to control it while I can. I apologized to every member of my family and promised that I will take control of my mental issue. I was able to see a psychologist for the first time, and finally able to see myself under the light of ADHD and depression.

However, it was when I was around 18 or 19, my indirect family’s insurance company discontinued my health coverage. As my on-going psychologist visits and lingering back payment from the unexpected hospital stay piled up, I discontinued treatment. Because at the same time I knew I was finally getting the treatment I need, the amount of financial burden gave me more stress than I could handle. As a result, I continued to utilize the free counseling services at school. I took psychology courses during my sophomore year, and that was when I learned about different psychological behaviors in animals and humans through case studies. After learning about them from the third person point of view, I started looking at myself and my behaviors in a third-person view as well.

While I was studying about these conditions, I learned more about myself in a way that I have never done before. Being aware of my own conditions made me more mature, in terms of dealing with my mental issue in a logical and scientific way instead of just going into a sheer panic attack and then getting reprimanded like I used to. I observed the environmental and social factors that disrupt my concentration and emotion and I learned to avoid them. I slowly adapted ways to concentrate and stabilize my impulsive energy and emotions.

In my senior year of college, I was doing better at school, part-time jobs, and internships. Although I still went through arguments with different roommates and deplorable relationships, I was never anywhere close to the breakdowns that I had in my early college days. During my senior year, I finally met the love of my life Hector, who has shown nothing but an endless amount of patience and concentrated attention for me. Through his demeanor, I learned the virtue of patience and attention to detail. Together, we also alleviate the financial stress on each other, and, as a whole, we could do more things.

I finally resumed my psychological treatment after obtaining a full-time job upon graduation from college. With health coverage, I went to see a psychiatrist for the first time when I was 22, and was finally was able to get my long, over-due diagnosis of ADHD. My psychiatrist and as well as other physician assistants all commend me for graduating college without any medical treatment of ADHD. When I first started taking Adderall, I only wish I had gotten it sooner.

As the economy remained stagnant from the recession, I moved from one job to another and my insurance coverage would change as a result. However, I was handed the ultimate none overage once I turned around 24. I learned that insurance companies, regardless of whether if you have coverage or not, do not cover the control substance in regard to attention disorder for adults after a certain age. In sum, I was only able to receive the joy of medication for ADHD for 2 years out of the 24 years that I have lived with this disease. Nevertheless, I shifted my focus on my other mental issue, depression.

During the current economy undertow, I had a rough time finding work, and even when I did find work, I faced a fear of being laid-off. I was able to get medical leave for a period of time and sought help through the employee assistance program, which ultimately referred me to a psychiatrist. Even though knowing from my past experience that coverage could change any day too. Thankfully, my insurance has been covering for my anti-depressants. Needless to say, I know I cannot rely on health insurance, after having so many sour experiences with it. Even to this day, I still practice different methods to help me to concentrate and stabilize my emotions. The most important step that I made this day was to open up about my mental problems. Open up in a way not to find excuses or sympathy, but make awareness and recognition. Once I realize the problem, the goal became clear is to treat it.

This article was published in the Medical Examiner, April 2019 issue.


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