Twirling my pencil around involuntarily, staring up at the ceiling daydreaming, my brain replaying a song I heard the night before, my grades going down by the day due to all of this happening while I was at school. I was lost. I was dwindling so deeply into “la la land” that I could not focus on the material. This wasn’t just a one-time occurrence; this was me almost every year in school from childhood to adolescence. Something had to be done.
After numerous doctor visits, I was officially diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive/Impulsive, and Combined; I was told I fell under the Inattentive category. When we found out about the diagnosis, it was clear as day as to why I couldn’t seem to play attention in school—this mental disorder was taking my brain to places unexplored on the daily in the middle of class.
Then, my situation got slightly better; but at the same time, it got worse. I was put on medication to help ease the symptoms of my ADHD during the school day. It worked well. I was laser-focused on lessons and lectures throughout the day. However, it didn’t come without a cost. Whenever I took the medication, I completely lost my appetite for the day, which wasn’t ideal for a kid that weighed less than 100 lbs. It also caused me to be a lot more emotional and sensitive to certain things. I would throw a fit, get testy or start crying all in one day—it was a mixed bag.
Through all of my daily struggles, however, I discovered an amazing feat that I hadn’t realized before. I had a gift, something so powerful it could help me embrace this mental disorder and get through grade school. I had a sense for music. No, not simply liking the sounds of my favorite artists, but on a much deeper level. I could connect to the music in a number of ways—whether it was relating the lyrics of a song to my life, associating a riff to the time in my life when I was into that song, or even attempt to duplicate the sound of the artist on my own.
I didn’t think I was much of a music guy when I was a kid. If anything, I was known more so as an artist who loved to draw. It wasn’t until one day during 4th grade when the school music teacher recommended me to join my district’s boys choir that I realized I had this gift. Trying to focus more on my struggling academics, I declined the opportunity in the end—it remains a regret of mine to this day, though.
However, my love for music only blossomed from there. At the age of ten, I was inspired by Drake Bell, my favorite singer-songwriter at the time, to pick up the electric guitar and sing my heart out.
Aside from medication, I’ve found the best way for me to cope with my ADHD is by planning my schedule out to where I have free time in between intensive work. This allows my brain to take a break after using a lot of energy to stay focused. I think taking these short breaks are essential for everyone, as they can help relieve stress, and keep you focused on striving for success.
My ADHD has, no doubt, been a struggle to live with. From procrastination, to emotional breakdowns, to the trap of laziness it’s thrown me into time after time, I’ve experienced my fair share of woes thanks to this mental disorder. I vowed that no matter the magnitude my ADHD, however, the one thing it could never stall was my love and desire to keep my music vibes flowing and to stay creative. I hope to inspire others who suffer from this same mental disorder to find their passion and stick with it, through thick and thin.
Justin Garfield is a singer-songwriter living in Los Angeles, California. His styles are alternative rock and pop/punk. Justin grew up in Houston, Texas and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. He was inspired to start playing guitar at the age of 10, and has been singing his entire life.
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