Like many other women with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, I was diagnosed much later than my male peers. I was well into my first semester of design school when ADHD finally overtook the dam that was my coping mechanisms. My general education courses pressed me with busy work while my major coursework punished me with dozens of hours of meticulous patternmaking, sewing, and sketching. I loved everything I was doing but ultimately, I couldn’t cope with the workload.
One late evening, I stared deeply into my laptop, trying to complete a reading for my English class. For five long minutes, like pulling nails out of a wall one by one, I tried to finish reading. My heart sank when I realized that my normally indefatigable memory had retained no detail of the text. It felt to struggle at something for which that I was used to getting easy A’s.
After my diagnosis, I understood why I floated from career to career and why I never felt secure or able to slow down. Being hyperactive means you can downright annoy the people around you if you behave without care. You talk circles around people and then are hurt when they’re overwhelmed. I frequently start meticulous projects but don’t finish them. The deep shame that comes with being ‘a mess’ sometimes is paralyzing, even anxiety-causing. I ended up getting a prescription for Ritalin.
In those days taking copious amounts of Ritalin to succeed in school, then at work, felt like no big deal. Looking back, I know this was deeply unhealthy. I barely ate and began to chain smoke and binge drink. Sure, I focused, but I also was an emotional mess, angry and irritable, and never hungry. Soon I was using cannabis solely recreationally—to come down off Ritalin after work. I would take huge doses and be fully relaxed.
Then, I wondered if I could slow down just a little, with some weed instead of a massive bong rip or blunt session. When I started to experiment with moderate doses, I realized that cannabis took away the excess energy that annoyed or disturbed other people. It cleared away the unnecessary, and allowed me to focus on tasks at hand.
Being so ‘up’ or hyper means that cannabis doesn’t affect me in the stereotypical ‘stoner’ way—being couch-locked and stuck on snack food—unless I smoke a ton. Now almost seven years later, I am completely stimulant free, and primarily use cannabis to manage my ADHD. I’m still far from perfect, but I don’t feel negative side effects from the cannabis other than social stigma.
Sure, I can take a larger dose for pain relief, partying, or checking out, and sometimes I do, but consistency and routine are two of the biggest self-regulators for my scatterbrain. Small and steady dosing with cannabis helps me maintain that consistency.
It takes surprising amounts of mental and physical energy to keep my life on just one rail. With mammoth planning and self-discipline, I can function without stimulants, but I don’t judge the people who take them.
I know I’m not the only person who has felt inadequate and ashamed of procrastinating or failing at tasks that seem simple for other people. I know I’m not the only person with ADHD whose path to success is not a linear ladder but a meandering river. I also know that I’m not the only person with ADHD that is much more successful and downright happier thanks to the use of cannabis.