Elizabeth Marshall

Staying focused

Sometimes, in the morning, she's in a rush to get out the door and forgets to take her pill. Then, around second period at Carmel High, she starts to feel a little jittery. She enters into a conversation with friends, but her mind flits from one topic to another as quickly as they occur to her. Her friends have gotten used to the "Sorry" she drops in after each non sequitur.

In class, she looks out the window, distracted by anything and everything going on outside. About this time, she catches her own reflection in the glass, remembers the pill left behind, and thinks, "This is going to be a really hard day."

Elizabeth Marshall was 6 or 8 or maybe 7 - she's not really sure - but she's certain she has known for a long time that she has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And some 10 or 8 or maybe 9 years later, she understands it is something she can manage, particularly if she remembers to take that pill.

"I remember when I was young," she says, "and my parents took me to some hospital place, where they observed me and did a whole bunch of tests. I remember being in a room with a one-way window and thinking it was weird. Afterward, they gave me some pills, which I think I took for like four years. But they started suppressing my appetite, so I would hardly ever eat. At age 12, I was like 60 or 70 pounds, really tall and thin."

Elizabeth tried different medications over the years, each one working for a time; but then, as if her body became used to them, each suddenly stopped working.

"Now, I take Concerta®," she says, "and I don't notice any side effects. I know it lasts for about eight hours, so if I take it late in the day it keeps me up even later than usual. I know these ADHD pills have some form of 'speed' in them, but they calm me down. I know that sounds backwards, but caffeine doesn't make me hyper either; it makes me calmer."

The road, at times, has been rocky and rough, with plenty of unexpected obstacles. But Elizabeth has learned how to navigate her particular disorder. She knows her limitations, and she knows her strengths, both of which create the map that guides her way.

"I'm so used to this," she says, "that it doesn't really bother me. The other day, when my mom was driving me to school, we heard a comedy routine about ADHD, and we laughed and laughed. I think it's something that's going to stay with me for awhile, so I just have to make the best of it."