(Actually, I’m not sure it was lifelong. It seems I remember it hitting around fourth grade.)

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.

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I am an adult with ADD.

The missing quarter round in the living room, the unwashed dishes, unironed laundry, the tires that need replacing…these things are yet unchanged.  But after years of always being unfinished, always being late, or worse, forgetting about things entirely, and absolutely loathing the same characteristics when I found them in others, I decided that I was no longer willing to be my own worst enemy.

A few weeks ago, my 13 yr. old daughter was diagnosed with ADD/Inattentive type.  Of course as part of the process, I  had to fill out a million questionnaires describing her behavior.  What I saw was my own face in the mirror.

At first, I battled with my ex-husband about having her evaluated at all!  I insisted it was just because she was like her mother.  “There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s just like me,” I argued, insulted that he would insinuate by proxy that I was defective as well.  But after caving to his demands, I discovered he was right.  WE are not normal.  WE have challenges that normal does not face.  And those challenges are with our own selves.

All my life I have had to start ‘from behind’.  Not because of anybody else’s interference, because of my own.  The interference that comes from my head.

It takes more than one form.  Sometimes it’s the voice that says I can do it later, sometimes it’s the fact that too much stimuli like voices or music creates a cacaphony in my head that makes it impossible for me to distinguish one from another.  It makes me slow to understand directions, reluctant to start or finish projects, and flit from one thing to another.   I am nearly impossible to live with, except for those who truly love me and accept my often offered explanations of  “my RAM is full!”

This week, both me and my daughter started on meds.  It’s been interesting to watch our changes.  Hers have been much more dramatic, but I can see little changes in myself as well.

It’s easier to get up in the morning, I seem to be more mindful when I’m driving, I’m actually tackling a few really annoying projects even though I REALLY don’t want to, and I have finished more than a few this week.  I’m not flying from one task to another, dropping memories like lost buttons, unable to  find and reattach them to my life.  I seem more ‘mindful’ in general, more able to keep things contained in my brainpan.

It’s a journey.  If I can just keep floating a little while longer, maybe I’ll get back to you.