The saddest Calvin & Hobbes cartoon you’ll ever ignore because you have more serious things to do.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Aug 8, 2011
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Just Say No, Parents.

Calvin & Hobbes, & Ritalin.

A young family friend was raised on Ritalin. He was hyper and happy and motivated and bouncing off the walls and…his parents didn’t want to deal. So, Ritalin, yah, was more for them than it was for him.

Let’s consider whether hyperactivity is more a result of a lack of exercise, a real food diet, encouraging discipline and timely affection…a lack of time spent outdoors skinning knees and climbing trees, pretending this and that and swinging a baseball bat…instead of babysat by video games and TV.

And let’s discuss alternative options to drugging our children.

Or, at least, let’s slow down ourselves, enough to contemplate this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. Unless we have more serious things to do, of course.


A complex issue that deserves our undivided attention. More exercise, more bicycling, more real food, less TV…is a start.

Relephant read:

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD 


Related videos:

Walk the Talk with Waylon Lewis on Children:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


82 Responses to “The saddest Calvin & Hobbes cartoon you’ll ever ignore because you have more serious things to do.”

  1. MsJenJacobs says:

    I agree that this is the saddest Calvin and Hobbes ever. That being said, as a parent of a child with ADD and a career teacher, I have to say that it does nothing to help children (and adults) with this disorder to brush off the idea of medication as lazy parenting. It is agonizing to watch a child with a legitimate disabling condition struggle to control his/her thoughts and behaviors. Difficult, life changing decisions are made on behalf of these kiddos by their parents. Some parents are so concerned about the stigma of medication that they won't seek medical help, even at the expense of having their children classified with a learning disability – a label that will stick with that child for life. No one would ever be so flippant about vision, hearing, or other physical conditions.

  2. Georgia Faillace says:

    I agree in part with what this is trying to illustrate, but stealing Bill Watterson’s characters and passing this off as an actual Calvin and Hobbes strip is really wrong. Bill Watterson took a strong stance against his work being used without his permission, and refused licensing even to toy companies which in a world of materialism is really admirable. To see his work hijacked this way is really unfair. I’m shocked more people are not defending his creative property. The message aside, there are ways to get a point across without stealing someone’s characters, imagery, concept, etc. This is really disappointing, and troubling for anyone who follows this website and works in a creative field.

  3. Catrina says:

    I get what you are trying to say. But understand that most of the people reading your article is going to have done everything else besides medicine FIRST. Unless you actually have a child that has ADD/ADHD, it's really hard to even imagine what it is like. I have twin boys, and they are extremely active, have limited tech time, started yoga, do all kinds of sport. We eat healthy(somethings have just recently changed like taking all dyes out) and still have some minor issues in school and at home. It is heartbreaking as a parent to hear your child say they have no friends because they are just a little socially unaware. My boys are not on medicine. And I honestly have no desire to go there, but have experience with this in my family and with friends. It's not an easy thing to put your choke on medicine, so it is just really hard to hear people saying it is more for the parents then the child. I have never met a parent that just throws their child on a medicine without checking into other things first. Let's all try and not shame parents that are just trying to do what is best for their child at this point in their lives.

  4. ADHD Mom says:

    You know what? Unless you, personally have ADHD and have suffered from the severe effects it can cause and have personally felt the difference the medicines can make, you cannot judge. I would hVe NEVER graduated from high school and I wouldn't be the mother I am, today, without my meds. You all need to get off your high horses. Not everyone with this diagnosis needs meds and those that don't should find other ways of coping, but there are some of us that need it, just to function. Stop judging and assuming every case is the same. There are varying degrees and those that think the meds are a horrible way to treat your child, have no clue.

  5. Natalie says:

    As a person with ADHD, I found this article to be insulting. I wasn't a video game child. Or a sugar child. I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. As a kid, my mom tried putting me through a bunch of activities – ice skating, swimming, karate, etc – in an effort to help my ADHD the natural way. However, I couldn't enjoy these activities because I couldn't get along with the other kids, and I blame the ADHD. I basically cried and cried until my mom would let me quit.

    A children's psychiatrist first put me on Ritalin. Ritalin did the job but my family noticed I turned into a zombie while I was on it, and had no personality anymore. We tried several other medications and found Dexedrine to be the best. It gave me the focus I needed in school and behaviour, but also let some of my hyperish and fun personality to shine through. That was when I was seven years old. Twenty years later, I'm still taking the same dose everyday, and I'm a better person for it. I graduated with honours, and have healthy relationships with friends and loved ones. As an adult, I wondered myself whether or not I really had ADHD, and whether or not I really needed pills. I went off Dexedrine for three months to see what I was "really like". I didn't like myself. People just think that ADHD means you're hyperactive but it's so much more than that. For me without my pills, sure, sometimes I get hyperactive and can't focus. But other times it's more like I can't stay awake, and it feels like there's a heavy weight on my shoulders pushing down on me. I'd always feel hungry and overeat, because (I've been told) I don't have the same chemicals in my brain the way other people do, telling me when I'm really hungry, or when I'm full. (As a kid, without the pills, I'd sometimes eat until I'd vomit.) The worst part about these three months was the temper. I'd be so quick to anger. So quick to explode. So quick to emotion. I felt so bi-polar, and it was putting a huge stress on my relationship with my boyfriend. He noticed a huge difference in my personality as well but still supported me as I experimented with this.

    For me, I have to take two little pills everyday. It's worth it. I do think a lot of people are quick to medicate their kids. But at the same time a lot of people are quick to dismissing it because they think all pills are bad. You have to work with your child. Work with their diet and lifestyle. If that doesn't work, then work with a psychiatrist. Try different things out and see what works best. Not all ADHD works the same with every kid just like not every drug will work the same way.

  6. Nick says:

    I've been on ritalin since i was a young child. I'll usually only take it when I have to go to class or need to get an assignment done, and the days I dont take it remind me exactly why I DO take it. I don't think it's right for anyone who hasn't experienced what I have when I don't take the medication to try and explain to me that it's just my diet or lack of exercise that makes me this way because I don't believe that.

  7. Margot says:

    I agree that kids are kids, and parents should expect a certain amount of hyperactivity in a healthy child. However, as a person who is accomplished (school was never hard, and I have post-graduate degrees and a good career) but just diagnosed with ADHD at age 37, medication has changed my life and I really do wish I had received it as a child. It shouldn't be used alone as a magic pill, but with behavioral tools, it has the potential to give these kids the focus to optimize their education and potential. I am grateful everyday that I finally had a doctor who saw past the "but you have a lot of education," to see that it's not the only factor.

  8. Shannon says:

    I found this very offensive. I have three children, a girl and twin boys. My daughter is just 15 months older than my twin boys. One of my twin boys has ADHD and OCD. The other two children do not suffer from this. My point with their ages is that they nearly experience the exact same situations in our home. They eat the same food, have the same parents who discipline them in the same way, same amount of activity generally speaking, etc. To think that my son suffers from this because of eating too much sugar or not getting enough activity is ridiculous. Even in the womb, my two boys were getting the exact same nutrition. Once the twins got to a certain gestational age, they could no longer switch places in my belly because there was no room so I knew exactly which one was where. My son that suffers from ADHD was the one in my belly the most extremely active! So he had the same nutrition as his brother even in the womb coming from what I ate, and no environmental factors to affect him yet. He was not diagnosed until he was four, but looking back it was clear to see that something was off. He was the only one of my three children to require a crib tent to keep him securely in his crib even at only 15 months old. The other thing to note here is that he also had extreme reflux issues which he saw a gastroenterologist for. Most cases go away by six months but the most severe one can last up to 18 months. His issues with reflux ended at 16 months. Because of this, I kept both of my twin babies on baby food until they were about 18 months old. It was easier to feed them the same thing rather than making two different meals. It was easier for my son with reflux to handle. So they had the exact same nutritious diet with NO added sugar of things like peas, sweet potatoes, applesauce, etc. and yet it was still very obvious in the difference in behavior between the two. They are fraternal twins and I truly believe that some people are just wired differently. He was put on medication in the past few months and it has been a great thing for him. He is able to make friends at school now, he is able to focus better, we can actually go out in public to a meal with our family together, etc. He will be five years old in just a couple of weeks and going to Kindergarten in the fall. The doctor wanted him to be on medication when he was evaluated for school so that we could see if he truly didn't know letters in his name or has been too unfocused to pronounce them or write them. He would generally write or say the first two letters of his name, but that was it. He would never finish. He has six letters in his name. He has not been on the medication but for a few months and can now name every letter in his name and have enough patience to try to write it. This is important in school for any type of success. I stand my my decision to medicate him and I do not take this decision lightly. I am trying to be the best parent I can be for his sake, not for my own relief as this article suggests. Another reason I found this offensive was because if he could read this when he's older, he should never feel ashamed for needing medical help. As if he's a bad person because he has not learned to just control himself or apply the proper tools to manage as this would make him believe. He is not a bad misguided kid and I am not a horrible mother for medicating him nor should I be made to feel like one.

  9. nick9knuckles says:

    Is this a legit Calvin and Hobbes cartoon? I don't remember seeing it in the Complete Calvin & Hobbes books. Regardless, depressing…

  10. Jon says:

    As a 52 year old male with ADHD, I completely agree with you, Carolyn. For some people, maybe all, but in differing situations with differing results, medication is the only thing that can give the brain the missing chemicals it requires for it to focus on the mundane, and filter out the “noise.” My daughter certainly has ADHD, but only slightly and given my experience, we were able to teach her how to work within her diagnosis without medication. I'm a different story.
    I was not an extreme case of ADHD as a child, I could participate in class and don't recall ever being considered hyperactive as a small child. I call it ADHD now, instead of ADD as I used to prefer, because I never felt I was hyperactive. Later I learned that that term applies to the brain's hyperactivity, not just how it manifests itself in one’s physical activity.
    The problem I had was that I could not focus my brain to do my homework, or anything that did not filter out the “noise” and capture my brain's full attention, so my grades suffered, as did my self-esteem. I was a very friendly, nice boy, always with a warm genuine smile on my face. I used charm and self-deprecating humor to excuse and dismiss my lack of success, and missed deadlines. My assumption is that my teachers and my parents just thought I was not applying myself, or just wasn't the type to go on to college. This was back when most parents didn't get involved in kid's homework, or helping them learn to study.

  11. Jon says:

    In my early 30's I first learned about ADHD from a psychologist friend. I was taking classes at a local university and had just failed an algebra class. The symptoms he was describing fit me to a tee. Unfortunately, he moved away very shortly afterward and I didn't follow up. A few years later I had a co-worker whose husband had been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and she said the transformation for him was remarkable. My wife didn't think I had ADHD, just like my teachers and parents, she just thought I wasn't trying hard enough.
    Another five years went by, and now I was a pretty successful IT resources manager for a consulting services company and my staff was growing, and I was getting worse at my job. I was overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do, so I was shutting down and my reputation was suffering. My self-deprecating humor was wearing on my colleagues, and I could see I was in another downward spiral of self-destruction. I was talking with my neighbor over the fence one day and he was describing the issues his daughter was having in school, her diagnosis of ADHD, and a book they had read, "Driven to Distraction."
    I asked if I could borrow the book, and I read it from cover to cover, even rereading passages, and not because I had just read a chapter without remembering a word of it, but because it had my attention. This was me, and I was doomed to repeat my same failures over and over again if I didn't do something. I made an appointment with my family practice doctor; I had to get a referral to a psychiatrist. To my surprise, when I described my symptoms and what I had learned from reading the book, he set to prescribing a medication to help me. He asked me if I had told anyone else about this and I said no. He said, "good, this will be a good test to see if the medication really does make a difference." My take was that he was skeptical f ADHD too, but thankfully, he was willing to try.
    A few weeks later, I came home from work and my wife said, “ I think you DO have ADHD;” she had decided to read "Driven to Distraction." I told her about my visit to the doctor and that I had been taking medication for the past few weeks. Her response was, "I thought you had just been trying harder."
    Those early medications, I don’t recall all the names of the ones we tried, were multi does per day and the continual up and down as the drugs took affect and then wore off was very noticeable sometimes. I could never understand how you could give a person with ADHD medicine that required them to remember to take it several times a day at a particular time. It was very messy! We played with dosages and various versions of drugs for many many months, and eventually settled on a slow release once-a-day medicine called Concerta. Hallelujah! My world was all new! Even my golf game improved, only slightly, but noticeably for me. Later when Straterra was introduced I jumped on it because it is not in the restricted drug category and I can more easily get my refills. In the last couple years I have even reduced the dosage as was feeling a little over medicated sometimes.
    With my new found salvation I was able to get more done in a day than I had in a week sometimes. Much less productivity lost listening to the conversation two cubes over , or drifting off in my mind for who knows how long before the next thing caught my brain’s attention. I could have a conversation with my wife without once pointing out the distraction that caught my eye, infuriating her to no end, and causing much distress in our marriage. There are many more anecdotes, but I won’t bore you any more with them. The medication route has been my savior in many ways , and yes, sometimes I feel I am less spontaneous, less creative in some ways, less joyful even sometimes, but all in all I am very happy I made this decision, and my family is as well. I only wish I had been given the option when I was in school.

  12. spike1961 says:

    No such thing as global warming…or climate change…now it's called Global Climate Disruption…for now…

  13. Kathleen says:

    My son is ADD with poor impulse control – he has no friends at school, and despite being in the 94th percentile for IQ, he is struggling with school. He can't control his temper, even with meditation and breathing techniques. He is always in trouble at school, the teachers don't get how to deal with him despite working with him and a therapist for months now. We have tried everything and my son is just this side of clinically depressed. He asks me with tear filled eyes why he is different than everyone else, why no one likes him. He often talks about wanting to die.
    He is 9 years old.
    I found your opinion piece condescending. I don't think ANY parent rolls into prescription medication for their child without a thought or care. You insult me and any other parent who has AGONIZED over this decision. I am so upset right now I can't finish this post – I will just end in saying to you poor show – very poor show.

  14. TheBalrog says:

    My eldest daughter (adopted from a father who also has ADHD) has been through every conceivable combination of habit modification and dietary modification to try to get her ADHD under control. My favorite people are the smug [email protected] who think they know better than doctors as to what my real options are, and have absolutely no problem whatsoever sitting in judgement of my wife and I's decisions.

    In the end, my daughter is involved in several sports, swims every chance she gets, rides bikes, and runs like crazy all the time. Her diet is as controlled as anyone can make it AND she's on medication (not Ritalin). I spend hours nearly every night helping her to re-learn what she was just taught in school. Despite all of it, she is barely able to concentrate enough to squeak through school.

    ADHD children come in a LOT of flavors, and they don't all respond to a regimented lifestyle and a firm hand… no matter how smugly you idiots with apparent clairvoyance state that they will. And while I absolutely agree that medication should be the last possible resort (as it was for us), I will thank ANYONE who thinks that it is as easy as just "saying no", to shut the hell up. You are doing significantly more harm, than good.

    Also, Bill Watterson would lose his mind if he found out that you butchered his work in this manner.

  15. Sian says:

    I make sure my 5 year old is outside all day everyday and she gets yelled at if she comes in to early!!! If she comes in filthy and tired I reward her lol!!!!!

  16. Alison says:

    We tried everything for our daughter. Everything. Elimination diets, running laps, no tv in the house, fish oil supplements, light therapy, massage, craniosacral… We tried everything we could, even a progressive, hands-on school that we couldn’t afford. Those things didn’t work. We had nowhere else to turn. But even still, the decision was agonizing. The day I picked up the medication, I broke down sobbing at the pharmacy counter. But we had to do something; she struggled with everything. She was smart but not learning. She alienated everyone. She had begun to hate herself, and I’m not exaggerating. Medicine turned everything around for her. She’s so much happier, so much more functional, and she’s so successful in school now people are shocked that she even has ADHD. The thing is, ADHD kids aren’t just happy, enthusiastic kids. Left untreated, they are at greater risk for so many things: suicide, teen pregnancy, prison, illiteracy, a lifetime of feeling like a failure. We all come into parenting with convictions. Sometimes we learn that our convictions were based on false assumptions. If you haven’t struggled with this enough to understand why parents turn to medication, please: just count your blessings. Judging parents helps no one, and it in fact keeps kids who are having real struggles — serious struggles, the kind that can impact their whole lives — from getting the help they need.

  17. Gen says:

    NOT a real C&H cartoon. Watterson was serious sometimes, but never like this. It's someone taking his drawings and adding their own words…

  18. Pat French says:

    I 100% agree with your point, but I feel you’re obligated to point out that that is not a legit Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. I don’t know what you k ow about Bill Watterson, but I can guarantee you be does not appreciate this shit. As professional writer, you are obligated to A. Clarify the source of this comic and B. not advertise your post with the idea that its real. I you want your message to be heard and be relevant, don’t give your detractors easy criticism like this.

    Like I said, I’m with you all the way on fixing responsible alternatives to Ritalin, but I will not share or promote irresponsible writing like this. You shouldn’t soil someone else’s reputation to promote your own agenda

  19. maggiemay says:

    As a parent of an adult child diagnosed with bipolar at 29 I can tell you that sometimes medication is the only solution. She is very successful and became an A & E doctor only to break down and become suicidally depressed. Being unable to shut out the 'noise' took its toll. She was off work for 14 months until they found a medication and therapy, which worked, Her brain vacillates from hypermania to depression which is very difficult for her to deal with. Without medication she would be unable to work. Her brain is not under her control. Even meditation doesn't work as she cannot focus sufficiently for it to have an affect. On good days she can conquer the world on bad days she can't concentrate or motivate herself to do anything. ADD and bipolar fall on a similar spectrum. I have suffered from depression myself also on the spectrum, and I have two siblings who were suicidal. I can tell you now that I'm pretty certain that there is ADD in my family. My son was hyperactive but managed to get a doctorate from Oxford. With him we had to send him to a fee paying school who managed to get the most out of him. In mainstream school he couldn't focus and alienated his teachers because he was bored and couldn't shut out the distractions. I can see he would have slipped through the cracks in mainstream education. Many of my family have not been able to realise their potential because their brains don't regulate in the same way as others despite high IQs. A blanket approach doesn't work and sometimes medication is the only thing that helps. We need research to help those people that really can't help,themselves. It's no coincidence that people thought to be 'bad' parents are probably suffering from ADD or cyclothymia (low grade bipolar) that their children have so rather than lacking parenting skills they lack a way of controlling their brains.

  20. Janey says:

    I don't necessarily agree. My older brother was 'hyper,' a term used in the sixties and seventies. His energy knew no bounds and he had zero fear of jumping into any dangerous stunt or situation. As his younger sibling, it was my job to keep him out of trouble, a hard and unfair task for a little girl. By first grade, I had morphed from the happy go lucky child i had been, to suffering an anxiety disorder. It only got worse as we transitioned from elementary grades to high school. My mother was so stressed out parenting him, she developed a major case of Psoriasis. She did everything right. We had no canned or processed foods, ever! Mom baked and cooked everything from absolute scratch. We ate three square meals a day, lots of veggies, protein and homemade bread. Forget sugar, or pop, or ice cream, or any of the normal junk food kids had back then. We weren't allowed any of it. Bed times were very regimented and early for us, always, because my brother needed the routine and the proper amount of sleep. Wake up time was also reliably the same, everyday. We played outside from morning till the street lights came on. My brother was exceptionally active throughout the day and evening, and seemed to require very little sleep at night. when he was little, it was necessary to lock him in his room, or he would end up a few streets away by morning. My dad almost had a nervous breakdown trying to teach my brother boundaries and limits so he could remain safe. Our family life suffered terribly, and I have few positive memories of my childhood as a result. Incidentally,, my brother wishes there had been help available when he was a child. Instead, he was labeled and treated as a bad boy, a brat, a monster by teachers and neighbours. His education suffered terribly because he could not nail himself down long enough to learn anything academic. As an adult, he has been in so much trouble and he has never been able to hold down a real job. I feel sorry that his life turned out so awfully. I wish Ritalin had been available for him when he needed to feel and be stable.

  21. Kelly says:

    Any time someone makes a statement that is one size fits all about the healthy and development of another other person or set of people, it dangerous. I expect better from a journal that promotes equality, compassion, and healthy living. Some people truly need medication. Others do not. People need to make informed and personal decisions about there body and their lifestyle and their physical and mental health. Histrionics and propaganda on either side help no one. Do better, Elephant Journal.

  22. Mom says:

    Let me say that I am not a friend of medication for young children. My son has ADHD and Aspergers. I don't make it up – he brilliant, he hyper but he lack empathy, has difficulty with responsibility and impulse control. When he was four a doctor recommended three separate medications including Ritalin. We said no. We have a strict diet, we exercise, we eat clean and we discipline. After six months of watching his frustration and anger become self harming behavior we decided to try concerta. So far it has been a miracle for us but our goal is for it to be short term… Everyone is different and every situation is different.

  23. Ezra says:

    Actually I’ve been dealing with ADHD since I was 6, I’m 33 now. It doesn’t work like this WHAT SO EVER. This is most likely fake. It has to do with distraction. Also sugar has nothing to do with ADD or ADHD. I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes. Great stuff.

  24. bradyfosse says:

    Thank you!!!

  25. bradyfosse says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. You are a good mom and you did what you should.

  26. h. antenbring says:

    It's quite a conundrum… The immediate assumption of 99.9% of people is that a child should never be 'drugged'…And for those of us who do as you outline here….and still find it is not enough….we are constantly barraged with this kind of judgement…intended or not, and we are already exhausted from trying so hard to do everything right…exercise, no cable television, no video games, wholesome diet, lots of sleep, meditation, etc etc etc….so as a parent with ADHD with a child with ADHD – it's hard not to have a very strong visceral reaction to another post that will serve as a band wagon for all the people who don't really have a full understanding of the issue, and an understanding that medication is sometimes actually a really positive thing. That being said – as a person with ADHD and as a parent it breaks my heart to hear of anyone going through that experience of being inappropriately medicated. One of the best joys of ADHD is the big picture wondrous experience of life.

    'Real life' makes that a very difficult way to exist….As a single parent with ADHD – I can barely hang on….and thus this points to so much more – that the support, and understanding is not out there for those who are truly suffering with this problem. Honestly – seeing that headline felt like another nail in the coffin for me…. more fodder for the next person who wants to share with me what I should be doing for myself and my child….yet another situation where I have to dig deep to find more patience to explain their mis-perception of the issue….and yet, you are talking about something real that happened to someone who suffers as well from being mistreated…. I just wonder if there is a more comprehensive way of addressing it so that those who are really actually dealing with the real thing, do not have this battle in our faces as well…. As much as the general public likes to romanticize the experience of having the kinds of minds that ADHD people have…. the understanding of what it's like to live with it, of the daily putting out fires that are constantly overwhelming you, clawing at life to hang on,… is sorely lacking, and it's one of those things where people want us in the world, but don't want to have to have to understand what that is actually like. To be honest, I love the work I see here, but was really taken aback with this, as I have come to expect lots of great forward thinking from the contributors. This is a multi faceted, multi layered issue, and it's the lack of understanding of this that leads to experiences of the individual for whom the cartoon was posted in honor of. It's time to stop the polarization.

  27. Chris says:

    Good on you! Quite frankly I find this article to be nonsense. Any parent with a child with ADHD will agree that the hyperactivity is the least of your concerns. It's the inability to focus on everyday tasks when required that leaves unmediated children feeling alienated, frustrated with themselves and like failures.

  28. Guest says:

    My son was tested three times by a psychiatrist who only does diagnoses – no prescriptions- twice by a pediatrician, and once by his school councillor. Then they all conferred to discuss alternative techniques before a med was ever considered. You are an idiot.

  29. Ali says:

    Ridiculous article. I would never get anything done if it wasn't for adderall. And it doesn't "kill my personality." In fact, I think it allows me to be more true to the goals I have set for myself.

    I went through life for 19 years thinking I was just a lazy individual who was smart but had little chance of succeeding in a world of hard workers. Now, I see that this was not a crippling character flaw– although note that this raises questions regarding whether "character flaw" is just the term for a pathology we cannot detect or treat yet– but rather a difference in my brain chemistry. I, and my roommate, simply don't experience the dopamine response non-ADD/ADHD people have when fulfilling obligations. As such, we are much less likely to fulfill them. Throughout my education, as soon as I was given the freedom to fail to fulfill an obligation, I would. I had perfect– literally perfect– grades until my parents stopped watching me do homework. Note that this is of course not their fault, as kids must grow up and become independent. But, given the freedom, I began doing exponentially less work and fewer assignments until my Senior year GPA was a 2.89. I made it to a good college, though, because my GPA only really dropped off to atrocious levels in that last year of high school, due to (a) the freedom of driving myself to class, which, in accordance with ADHD, was accompanied by me always being late and, towards the end of the year, skipping multiple classes a day/week, and (b) substance abuse which I got into as self-medication for the intense emotional pain I felt as a result of feeling like a failure all the time. And the thing is, it's not just academic/work related obligations that suffered. Any task I mentally knew I had to do, and "put my mind to," I simply could not carry out. Have to buy a tux and corsage for prom? Sorry, going to do that the day of prom. Have to clean my room? Not likely. Want to work out and then get to bed by 11? Oh, I hope you mean you want to watch 6 hours of Netflix and get to bed by 5 AM with a nice 1.5 hours of sleep before the sun shines through your room and reminds you how badly you have messed up everything in your life and have never put effort and time towards any goal in your life, you absolute failure. Why not kill yourself honestly? What are you doing here?

    Even at my college, my first semester was atrocious. I probably went to 10-20% of my classes, and that's generous and only that high because I had a discussion based class that I only missed a few times towards the end of the semester. I literally never went to Math, Bio, or Chem. Laundry piled up, my living space was a mess. I essentially never fulfilled the obligations that a normal person has to on a day to day basis, let alone anything extra or impressive like the varied pursuits of my upper-class-kids-that-go-to-good-schools peers. I'd had all their same advantages, so why couldn't I succeed like them? Again, I saw myself as a failure.

    For much of this time, my friends– many of whom have ADD/ADHD (fun fact: 1/3 of people are affected)– tried to convince me that I have it. My friend and roommate had told me that his ADHD– which had manifested in a very similar way to mine– did not align with the "distracted by a squirrel while trying to homework" monolith often portrayed in popular media and unfortunately ingrained in the minds of many people. For him, he just tended to not fulfill obligations whenever possible.

  30. Ali says:


    It was a powerful, tragic dissonance: on the one hand, I knew, with every fiber of my mind, with every breath I took, that I needed to be doing X. But, there seemed an unbridgeable chasm between this full understanding of the necessity of X, and my ability to execute the actions required to fulfill X. I simply would not do things I had every intention and every capability required to do. Big things, small things, you name it. Since this site seems fond of pictures, I will share a webcomic that accurately portrays this feeling: . I thank Randall Munroe for creating that comic and adding to the body of evidence that ADD/ADHD is not a monolith of direct distraction and hyperactivity, but also presents as what Harvard Psychology PhD Roberto Olivardia defines as, "Intention Deficit Disorder;" he states, “ADD really should be called Intention Deficit Disorder, since it is a problem where someone has every intention of doing something yet find it difficult to execute the plan to achieve their goal. It can be very frustrating.” (source:…. This captures, essentially to a T, most (and by most, note that I mean the vast, seemingly unending, majority) of the first 19 years of my life.

    Another quote from the previous source that is instructive: “It can also help to understand where others are coming from,” Olivardia said. He shared this example: “I know it is hard to understand. You see me as bright and accomplished. It probably is hard to imagine that doing everyday things — like getting out of bed, chores, paying the bills — take so much effort for me, but they do. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence.”

    As I said at the beginning of this post, which has truly been cathartic to write, if it wasn't for Adderall, I would never do anything. The roommate that has been integral to me figuring myself out has expressed the same sentiment, saying of my first college semester, and I don't remember the exact wording but I perfectly recall the communicated idea, "If it wasn't for Adderall I would have missed all the classes you've missed."

    All my life, teachers and my parents and, eventually, administrators would scratch their heads and call me into meet with me, and somehow investigate the reasons how a bright kid– my roommate and I both have the equivalent of a 2250+ SAT, which I say not to brag but to provide necessary context and state unequivocally that the common association of ADD/ADHD and lack of intelligence is simply not consistently reliable– could possibly be getting worse and worse grades each year. Every year, I would say that I was trying, or that I have trouble with time management. I would wonder how they didn't understand? After all, my only reality was one in which converting a wholehearted priority– a "yes I must do this and want to attain the result that doing this requires"– to an accomplishment– "yes, I have done this"– represented a mountain to climb, a balloon soaring above me, many miles of distance– the distance grew each year as I became more sad– separating my desperation from its silver string. I couldn't understand how people could be so focused, and so productive, and so capable of turning their prioritized goals into tangible results. As recently as weeks ago, I felt that I had never accomplished anything, because I felt that I had never applied myself, and for whatever reason I couldn't bring myself to do so. I could not compel myself to apply my capabilities in sustained effort toward a desired goal. Do you know how frustrating that is? You don't, or you would not have made this post.

  31. Ali says:


    With adderall, I haven’t missed an assignment, and I sit in class confident that whatever the teacher assigns I’ll start, middle, and finish with joy. Because, finally, I have the neurological response to work to match my conscious desire to work. I am finally able to achieve what I want. Because of Adderall.

    I don’t write this out of a personal anger, though I am passionate here– I feel strongly about this subject. It saddens me to think there are many like me out there, who simply haven’t had the people in their life yet to show them that they aren’t an inherent problem within the human condition. A virus. A parasite. I write this, mainly, as I would write a piece against someone who claims climate change to be false, vaccines to be unhelpful or non-negligibly dangerous, or perhaps believes gravity to be false– though there aren’t many deniers there. Funny how time and universal effectiveness (we all come back down when we jump) will do that.

  32. Mar says:

    Thank you. Just this week, I had another "mood swing". It seems we share similiarities. Not bragging, but my brain can process so much information that most people could only dream of … yet I do not have any motivation to use it. Right now I feel overhelmed by work, depressed by my laziness and procrastination. Sometimes, meditation helps to get in harmony, but when I get back to work, it starts again.
    So far, I haven't thought of ADHD. Did not had reason to. Still, I believe that everything can be overcomed. I don't believe so much in medication (only when it is not bearable, like migraine). But I am tired of wasting my days and my potential as a human being.
    Thank you. Now I know that there are people like me. I would love to find a way to overcome this with natural meanings (not drugs), but atleast I know where to start.
    Good luck, may the Force be with you (and everyone else that reads this)