The first months of my PhD were not easy. I had trouble concentrating on all the long papers I had to read, I could not get anything really done and due to some additional emotional stress in my personal life these pesky things names executive functions really did not want to function at all. I would stare at the screen at times, not getting anything done. This has happened before. I would always stay up late until my brain decided to really focus on it for hours, but having a new environment and a lot less schedule and communication made everything so much worse. I have a few friends who were diagnosed with ADHD, not so much earlier and it all sounded very much relatable. I always thought “Well, I am certainly a bit on the spectrum, but it would not change anything anyway.” until my problems got too big and I felt way too bad way too often. I made an appointment with a specialist.
I filled out a long paper with questions, had an hour of chat with the specialist and he told me “Well, you have ADHD, we can try medicaments and I recommend it.” I asked questions how dangerous this would be, how addicting they are and was reassured that it was all relatively fine. So I agreed.
It is hard to describe what the meds actually do, because executive function is so hard to explain. I realized very quickly that it could not have been a misdiagnosis (supposedly neurotypical people just get really nervous and cocky from taking them), my memory was working faster. I could pay attention to talks, I was only mildly interested in and I had the same ideas, but I could write down tedious details which revealed problems much faster. It felt and feels like someone started to organize this mess of a brain a little bit. The weirdest thing for me was to realize all sorts of stuff I previously had a lot of problems with vanished or got much more bearable and then realized after a bit of googling that that was also a typical symptom of ADHD, for instance emotional responses to rejection (or everything that maybe could look like rejection if you look at it through a distorted mirror and are a little bit drunk) were much more coherent. It was and is easier to follow the rational explanation, instead of going in circles about how bad everything is.
If you wear glasses, you probably know the feeling of not realizing how bad something was until it gets a bit better. I recently got glasses and still can not realize how entirely shitty the world looks if I take them off. Nobody complains about shortsighted people not seeing very well when they do not have their glasses. And it seems the chemistry of my brain is slightly off and while I have to live with this fact and not everything suddenly got solved - for instance I can not take theses meds everyday, I should for instance take breaks at the weekend and they do not carry over the whole “being awake” period of the day - it is very good to know that this is the case.
Like mentioned in the first conclusion, it was not clear to me how bad it was. I now feel like I have time to do at least a fraction of all the things I want to do, because I do not waste that much time staring at walls conjuring up the very concept of doing something instead of nothing. And a lot I was very ashamed of, was at least partially not my fault. If this sounds relatable, then you try and should get checked. There is a lot of undiagnosed ADHD in relatively high-functioning adults. I should also mention that it almost certainly helped, that I am perceived as male by doctors as female friends had a lot harder time finding someone willing to diagnose them or prescribe medication. This should however just acknowledge this fact and not discourage you. Being neuroatypical is not a shame. Also note that I am not an expert, this is purely meant as to document my experience and maybe in the way make more people aware.