Somewhere around the age of 10 or 11, I started to change.
I can remember being a very happy and active small child, very imaginative and playful. I had a good humor and I’m pretty sure I was easy to get along with. I don’t remember being a slug, in fact, I NEVER took naps, and I didn’t need them. There was a time I got in trouble in kindergarten because I told the teacher at nap time that I ‘don’t take naps’ and she called my mother. My mother simply looked at her like she was a nut and “But she doesn’t,” and I was never required to do it again. I still had to lie down and be quiet mind you, but I didn’t have any trouble with that either.
But right around the 4th grade (that would make me 9 or 10 really), I can remember the struggles starting. My schoolwork hadn’t started to suffer yet, but the fog was starting to form.
By fifth grade, it had me firm in its grip. My teacher, who was hateful in the extreme, TRULY hated ME. She was convinced that I was the laziest child who had every clouded her classroom and had no trouble telling me so. All those times I didn’t turn in my penmanship papers, the oral presentation that was so ‘off-the-cuff’ because I hadn’t done the work, rather only ripped through the cliff notes five minutes before, she made those into some sort of personal vendetta that she could cure only through humiliation and punishment far too severe for the nature of the crime. If I had been a less intelligent child, I would have been put back for sure, but my innate abilities saved my ass. It helped that I read encyclopedias for fun.
It stayed that way. All through grade school, it stayed. Through high school it stayed. Algebra class was the most frustrating failure I could imagine. All my life I had been told I was smart, but here I was a complete idiot, enduring it only by ignoring it. The confusion was too much. But how do you explain that to someone who has access to your intelligence tests? And how do you explain to anyone about the molasses in your brain, the one that makes you so hard to wake, and so inclined to sleep, so slow to move even when you knew the importance of speed and weren’t intentionally being that way? How do you tell them that you can’t keep your mind from wandering no matter how you try? There is no leash for the mind.
I talked to my mother about it at length yesterday, and she remembers all this. She would ask me, no IMPLORE me to explain. All I could say through my tears was that “I forgot”, or “I don’t KNOW why”. She was just as confused and frustrated as I was and had no clue what to do. She confessed to me about her worries for me and for my future, whether or not I would ever be able to make it in the adult world where responsibilities don’t accept excuses, the same ones I found myself having for my daughter.
Research now confirms that this is a condition that manifests around pre-puberty and persists at its strongest during the teen years. It usually diminishes with adulthood, but never really ‘goes away’. Some are luckier than others.
In fact, I consider myself very lucky indeed. I have recourses and resources my mother never did. Medical knowledge has caught up with the condition. Back then even the classic hyperactive type of ADD wasn’t recognized easily, now they know that it can manifest in two ways. Boys generally exhibit the ADHD that is easy to spot, but girls, with their different brain chemistry, exhibit it in opposite fashion. The girls with ADD may not be ADHD at all, no hyperactivity. It is inertia, dreaminess and a paralysis stemming from a perfectionism that is obsessive and aggressive.
All that said, it is important that we learn to recognize the ADD girl. She is bright, very bright. She is creative and imaginative. She is not at all disruptive, in fact she is usually so quiet that her behaviors aren’t really noticed until the half-finished homework is found crumpled up in the bottom of her book bag covered in doodles and bleeding red ink. She is the one with ‘so much potential’ that the teacher doesn’t get why she is failing. She is everywhere, but we don’t see her sometimes until it is too late.
I always thought I was just an introvert, an introvert in the extreme. Now I see.