A Valentine for an ADHD Heart

By Patti Schwab as related by Amber K.

Amber was diagnosed with ADHD during her freshman year of college.  Amber feared going away to school like most 18-year-olds, but her fear was accompanied by a familiar dull ache.  She knew she would probably have many more failures than successes from a lifetime of not “living up to her potential.”

Amber’s history enabled her to focus on a social life, but at 18 years old she was so embarrassed that she never had a real boyfriend.  All her prom and homecoming dates were group dates and she managed to be sick February 14 each year.

Looking back, Amber thinks starting college with her low expectations gave her freedom to be open to people socially. She met a bunch of great, fun people and she felt great not being burdened by everyone else’s low expectations of her.

After receiving her first semester’s grades pulling in a few Cs and Ds on her finals, Amber cried her eyes out and had a little meltdown witnessed by some of the girls in her dorm floor. She was afraid to tell her parents about her grades out of fear they wouldn’t let her return to college. That was when Amber learned about ADHD in girls. Amber learned a few of her classmates also had ADHD and were fortunate enough to have been diagnosed when they were younger. Amber subsequently took ADHD self-assessment tests then met with a college counselor and took the next steps to get an ADHD diagnosis.

Amber turned in an ADHD diagnosis to her parents along with her report card when she returned home from college for her Christmas break. Her parents were so relieved that she was finally going to be “fixed.” They meant well, but that really hurt Amber because she always knew she wasn’t broken.

When Amber returned to college after her first semester with an ADHD diagnosis under her belt, she started therapy, coaching and medication. She graduated from college with an improved GPA and even got to celebrate some Valentine’s Days with a few boyfriends, but that doubt in herself was still there and she was needy which were not the makings of a good girlfriend and she says these short relationships ended badly.

Amber is now in her mid-20s learning to practice self-care with the help of a good therapist. By trying different things and listening to her body’s response, she can find what works best for her. She needs a minimum of eight hours sleep each night, exercise in the morning and to avoid sugar. She also needs the occasional massage, a day alone with her dog, a great book and to splurge on a really cute pair of shoes. Amber also knows it’s OK to not call her mom every day, to say “No” to favors from friends and family and to choose what she wants to do on her birthday and other holidays. She has a special date planned for this Valentine’s Day. Amber is treating herself to a full day at the spa. “This self-care thing is working out pretty good for my ADHD brain and my heart too,” she said.

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