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52 Tuesdays: Forrest Athearn

“Sometimes my head is more than I can handle,” says 20-year-old Forrest Athearn, who has ADHD. “I’m never just thinking about one thing at a time, I’m thinking about two to four things simultaneously.


At age six, Forrest was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder. Forrest’s parents tried several treatment options and local doctors, but to no avail. In fourth grade, Forrest met psychiatrist Asa Yancey who prescribed just the right amount of ADHD meds he needed.


“I remember being a crazy little kid and had a hard time making friends. I am grateful for having been on medication for a long time.” (About ten years in middle school and high school.) During those years, Forrest was able to build friendships and focus on school. Now in his third year in college, Forrest is no longer taking medication. “I struggle even to this day to realize if I should be on them (medications) or off them, because I like both of the people I am. I like my personality better off medication--I feel more alive--but on them, I am much more productive and accomplish more.”

Photo of Forrest Athearn


On medication Forrest describes a subtle voice in his head that reminds him to get things done and gives him a little extra push. When Forrest is off meds, “And it comes to academics, I get frustrated and I’m jealous of my friends who are able to get work done and be productive. But I wouldn’t change who I am. ADHD makes me a comedian; I can think of things on the fly, and it adds a quirkiness to my personality. ADHD is who I am, I have to embrace it.”


Forrest credits the medication with giving him the ability to learn how to deal with some of his challenges but feels as though the meds regulate his emotions too much. Although the lows he experiences on medication are modest, the highs are not terribly impressive. He refers to medication as living in the middle of emotions. He says, “ADHD is a roller coaster where you either hyper-fixate or you’re ready to quit. There is never an in-between. You’re either up or down. It can bring me to some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows and I just want my mind to stop… even for day… but it won’t stop.”


“Adrenaline has been one of my best ways of dealing with ADHD,” says Forrest. “The straight adrenaline rush distracts my mind and lets the crazies go and gives me a chance to focus on something else. The come-down from that rush is quite peaceful. I need to tire out my mind in order to calm down.” Forrest finds that biking, skiing, rafting, hiking, climbing and camping help him in that way.


Today, Forrest continues to explore what concoction of meds and adrenaline work for him. He loads up his truck with camping gear and his bike and heads for San Juan Mountains searching for his serenity.

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