Finally Believed: My Buddhist Journey with Attention Deficit



This is an entry for my blog, The Chuck Taylor Buddhist


“Go through your emotionality, but whatever you do, do not give up.”

--Phil Glasshoffer, member of the SGI and senior-in-faith


When I have been graduate student back in 2013, I have struggled with staying on track.

Though I’ve earned A’s and B’s for the most part, I still have issues concentrating in class, staying motivated and organized, misplacing important documents.  I would become bored or arrive to class late, annoying many of those who have worked with me.  These are some of the many issues I’ve dealt with for many years, but I have been able to develop various coping mechanisms to move around them.  As I have gotten older, however, I realize that my tricks are not working and the people around me are not as patient.  In fact, I am almost removed from the Social Work program because of my inability to “get it together.”

After a while, I reach out to the university’s counseling center where I am evaluated by the psychology intern on staff. She asks me a series of questions about me, my perception of self and so forth.  But then we discuss the issues that almost get me kicked out of graduate school, which is something that has never been addressed in the past.  Weeks later, the results indicate that I score high for Inattentive Attention Deficit Disorder.  I am actually relieved because I finally have an answer and a reason for my troubles in school and life! 

When I begin my Buddhist practice, one of my determinations is to get evaluated and treated for Inattentive ADD. I am new to Nichiren Buddhism, so unfortunately my practice is not consistent and my life is falling apart around me.  I do not have insurance, so getting a proper evaluation is not even an option at the time.  Meanwhile, my symptoms are getting worse as I attempt to build a life for myself in Buffalo, New York after graduating.  I have difficulty finding a job in my field and the one interview I did have doesn’t pan out.  Between not having the resources needed to be treated and my inability to find gainful employment, my depression and anxiety reach a low level.   I slip into a deep depression and eventually attempt to take my own life.

As morbid as it sounds, this low point is the reason why I am able to seek treatment from a mental health facility within a few short days.  Otherwise, I would have to wait for months before I’d be able to see a therapist.  That is when I was given my first prescription for Strattera, a non-stimulant designed for those with ADD.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me and thus comes the journey of finding the right medication.  

Eventually, I move back to Rochester, NY to rebuild my life.  Even though I am taking Adderall, the dose is so low that I am still unable to live up to my potential.  However, I still chant every morning that I get the right treatment and soon. About a month later, I begin going to a clinic where I see a Primary Care Physician, who finally prescribes me Ritalin and Zoloft.  For the first time, I feel a functioning human being; I am doing better at my job as a Toddler Teaching Assistant, my emotions are regulated.  But most of all, I can retain information and read and write for long periods. 

Then one day, my doctor stops prescribing me Ritalin because it isn’t showing up in my system for some reason.  Despite my pleas, she states that I have to trial non-stimulant medications.  Of course, none of them work and my life once again spirals.  My emotions become irregular and I would snap at co-workers or experience anxiety attacks, which eventually causes me to be terminated.  Due to unemployment, I lose my apartment and I am now living with friends.  All this because I am taken off Ritalin!

When I reach out to seniors-in-faith about this issue, they tell me—more than once—that I can never give up on myself.  To make the determination to get evaluated so I can have a better quality of life.  As discouraged as I am, I know they are right and I begin chanting that I get an official diagnosis so that I can begin treating my ADD or anything else I have.

After a few obstacles, I am eventually able to make an appointment with the new nurse practitioners in order to receive a psychological evaluation. I’ve since switch medical facilities and find a doctor, who is able to set me up to speak with the practitioner. On the morning of the appointment, I sit in front of the gohonzen and chant that 1) get the answers I need in order to treat whatever is going on with me in order to move forward and 2) to take care of my body to become the person hiding within me.

After arriving to the health facility at which I seek mental health treatment, I meet with the new nurse practitioner.  I have been nervous at first because of my history with the former psychiatrist has been unwilling to believe that I have the disorder, patronizing me at the very least.  However, he has left the agency and is replaced with a nurse practitioner who is not only attentive but is genuinely nice and is very interested in my well-being.

When she does my psych evaluation about my mental health, I answer the questions to the best of my ability—including those pertaining to my struggles with ADD.  I am happy and relieved to say that, after listening to the information I’ve provided, the nurse practitioner officially diagnoses me with Inattentive ADD, which means that I will be placed on Ritalin stating June 10!  I literally burst into tears because I will be able to read for long periods, pay attention to details, focus on my writing, and actually complete tasks.  But most of all I feel both validated and believed for the first time. 

If it hasn’t been for my practice and the support from members-in-faith, I would’ve chosen to suffer with a disability that greatly affects my life when left untreated.  I’m now determined more than ever to strengthen my practice and relationships with members and to focus on myself and my overall health so I can finally begin to create the life I am meant to lead.


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