Dear Friend,

It’s official, I survived. I’ll be honest, there were more than a few moments when I felt POSITIVE that I would fail my most important class of the semester… a class that, if failed, would add an entire year to my college experience. You see it’s only offered in the Fall, and it must be passed BEFORE I complete my practicum. So I wasn’t just unsure if I had passed, I was also unsure if I had just added an entire year’s tuition onto my student loans.

It was a rough semester. I failed to be a responsible student and communicate with my professors what I was struggling through, and by the end, I’m pretty sure the entire Department of Applied Social Sciences faculty was not only concerned, but tired of being patient with me. I don’t blame them. Over the semester, I spent 387.25 HOURS writing my 18 page paper (Word does this cool thing where it keeps track of the amount of time spent editing documents…). That’s an average of 21.5 hours per page, and this page count doesn’t include the cover page, abstract, or references. I’m hoping that this isn’t normal for anyone else in the world, because spending that much time on a paper is… well, I was going to say frustrating, but that seems like a huge understatement. On top of that, I was handling (as you already know) a larger workload than normal with 21 credits for the first 1/2 of the semester, and 18 for the second. I was struggling with this paper so much, that I had a hard time finding time to work on other assignments, which only had me falling farther and farther behind as the semester went on. At the same time, I knew that not finishing this paper would DEFINITELY make me fail, so I didn’t feel like I could set it aside to do other things… oh the tension!

What I didn’t realize until Friday (the very end of the semester) is that both my professor and my advisor thought I was being a perfectionist and trying to make it perfect before I showed my professor anything… when in reality, I was struggling to even put any words on the page. I couldn’t write a paragraph in an hour, much less try and revise anything! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever revised a paper in my life, I just have never had the time! Sure, I’ve read through papers to make sure there weren’t any huge grammar or spelling mistakes, but that’s about it. What I DID realize partway through the semester, was that something needed to change. That there was a reason I was struggling to put the thoughts in my head onto the page, and that I needed to figure it out so that I could start to change it. It was the end of October when I figured out what it was.

You see, I have always struggled with extreme writers block. In third grade, for example, when my teacher would ask us to write down three things we saw, I would panic and be unable to write anything down. So I went to Google and searched extreme writers block and at some point found some random forum where people were commiserating about their writers block problems, describing frustrations and struggles eerily similar to my own, and several of them mentioned it being connected to their ADHD. If you are like everyone else I’ve talked to about this, you just thought to yourself, “Mandi? ADHD? No Way!” because let’s be honest, I am most definitely NOT a hyperactive person. In fact, I think most people would describe me as calm and steady. But by the time I read this, I was desperate to figure something out, so I started researching Adult ADHD. (Note: Adult ADD is the same diagnoses as Adult ADHD, just presented differently) I took online screenings, read symptoms, thought about not only current struggles but past issues… and eventually came to the conclusion that this might be something I should have checked out. So I went to my doctor, who sent me to a psychiatrist, who looked at what I was experiencing along with my old school records and my insane planner, who then eventually gave me a diagnoses (Adult ADHD with primary symptoms of Inattention, also known as ADD) and sent me back to my doctor who prescribed me medication, in the middle of finals week. In other words, I spent all of November and the beginning of December working through this process.

The difference, the improvement, was startling. I wrote the last 5 pages of my giant paper over 6 hours. That’s an average of only 1.2 hours per page! That’s like 20 TIMES the speed of my paper writing overall. That’s HUGE! But it also got me thinking… why did it take this long? Why did I have to wait until I was halfway through the Fall semester of my senior year of university to realize what I was struggling with? Why, if the majority of the symptoms I displayed had been present since beginning elementary school, did it take this long to recognize a pattern and try to fix it? Some things we will never know, but I, for one, am glad to have found some answers, to not feel like I am simply a “bad student” (when I KNOW that I am intelligent and that I love learning), and to have a little more hope for the future.

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo

P.S. Now that the semester of hell is over, I’m hoping I’ll be able to write much more frequently…

P.P.S. I have another guest post coming soon!