An Izzy-torial: ADD N Me

So, recently I’ve been experiencing moments of mental “fubar”-ness.  There’s rhyme and there’s reason for it, and it goes well beyond what I chose to discuss today [there’s a time and place to discuss heartache, personal frustration, and bereavement – and its called ‘vague facebook statuses’ Lolzerbot].  But, I digress…

In my attempts to logically understand some of the chaos I’m trying to sort through in my brain, I’ve come back to a small nugget of a “disability” (and I use that term lightly, as it’s more of a “unique ability”) I’ve grown up with… and that’s what I’m going to dive a bit into. Oh bless cathartic posts.

If you have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), or a child with ADD, or a loved one with ADD… maybe what I will share will help you understand a bit of process or frustration they experience.  This is, of course, just my point of view… but you never quite know who may identify with it.

College photography “self portrait”.
There’s a whole lot of “god knows what” going on in that brain/expression.

I grew up with ADD (and no, against popular belief, NOT ADHD), and I probably still have some forms of adult ADD.  I do not conceptualize the knowledge around me the way that others might consider “normal” (case in point – the phrasing of that statement), or in a way that the greater populous might understand/identify with.

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Alber Camus

Before I was diagnosed at age 10 with ADD, I was “not correct”.  Weird statement, right?  Lemme explain: I didn’t hear things the way they were meant to be, I didn’t understand directions the way they were given, and I didn’t complete tasks the way they were required.  Not on purpose, mind you.  You know the phrase “reading between the lines” – it was as if I’d read all the wrong parts, heard non-existent intentions, created context unsaid, and imagined another method for an end result (an end result of my own determination).  None of these were consciously chosen.

It was very difficult trying SO HARD to be a good student, a good child, a good person when my interpretations were SO far off.  Which goes back to – I was incorrect.  I’d go as far to say – I was incorrect about 65% – 75% of the time.  Not very good odds, and very hard on a mushy child’s brain in the middle of “formation”.  And I haven’t even introduced the fact that I was a stubborn force-to-be-reckoned-with, if not “passionate” child.

The “less awesome” things I learned (or adapted to) from having ADD (tough to swallow for the aforementioned child):

  • Never immediately trust my (first) instincts,
  • The majority of the world is “correct”, and I am not ,
  • “At least my failure is well-intentioned”,
  • With context and lots of over-explaining, I too can curb my understanding to eventually match everyone else’s!

When I was diagnosed with ADD – it was a bit of a god send.  I wasn’t stupid, and I wasn’t lazy (as were mentioned by some twit-teachers).  I had something to cling to – an explanation, a CONTEXT of why I wasn’t “correct”.  We started seeking alternative methods to help support my learning disability – finding my strengths in the play patterns I naturally gravitated to — STORIES.  Me and my world-o-Barbie?  Oh man, no Soap Opera could have EVER compared to the epic, dynamic events that I created in my own wee little world.

Nothing was EVER so powerful as the opportunity for fantastical creation by an imaginative child grasping at “reality” straws.  

I made my rules, I made the logic, I got to play GOD and I learned what it felt to be CORRECT. Yay for self-contrived self-confidence! (Lol, sure, but its true).  Additionally, writing provided me an opportunity to appeal to others with context, emotion, and creative expression – I discovered the existence and the magic of possibility through another perspective. WHAT? Two people can be correct but with different statements? <- strangely, this is a foreign concept to SOME children who end up having to go by structure and set-statements made by others because they were always made to feel inferior, stupid, or incorrect.

It wasn’t until I started taking my creative writing in college seriously that my soul blossomed and life started to FIT.  With a little creative logic, I was able to give context and structure to the things in life I was misunderstanding or failing.  With story – it was no longer “memorize this word because everyone else understands it”, but facts and information became tools within a larger story that formed a general understanding – one that I created and could identify with (or “understand”).

Things I learned that benefited me long-term:

  • Imagination is so powerful in the entertainment world (occupationally speaking, lol)
  • Self-deprecation & humor
  • The ability to apologize & accept responsibility (this is actually a fault too, as I’m quick to appeal for an apology for things I shouldn’t apologize for… but I prefer to assume responsibility myself, then be accused)
  • Mediation (beyond people, but mediation of differing concepts)
  • Reading people and treating judgements carefully
  • “There’s always another way” – one door closes, there’s probably 12 more down the hallway (if you will).
  • Question. Everything. But respect the populous for their structure.

The strange result of me HAVING ADD, and me ADAPTING my ADD to the world is that I approach everything with 2 reactions.  This can be very tiring, and at times like a thunderstorm of frustration internally.  Occasionally one perspective comes swiftly – like a locomotive train, full of tunnel-vision and speedy determination (and if proven wrong… the subsequent reaction is just as powerful with spiraling questions and epic self-doubt), while the other moseys through the devil’s advocate debate of context and understanding like a Sesame Street skit of silly, imaginative rationals [this is near, this is far. Near. Far.  See it?].  Also, when the spotlight is on and your knowledge is questions – there’s a certain measure of insecurity and defensiveness that can come through — but that’s not too far off from how the majority of the world feels, I know.  The difference is… growing up with ADD, you already know that you’ve been proven to be “wrong”, and you know the world knows you have a greater % of actually successfully being accused as such.  Sure that definition of “wrong” changed over the years to a “unique perspective” (empowerment) – but there are times you can never shake that 3rd grade F because you misunderstood the question or the directions.

I’m thankful for a great many things that ADD empowered me with — as it was a fault that increased my talents.  But learning how to “overcome” is much like “success” – it’s a path, a roving goal, and rarely a destination.  So, maybe I don’t have adult ADD, and maybe I’ve learned how to adapt to certain things in life… but that doesn’t mean that events from childhood ever truly go away.  Every action has a change for thousands of reactions… some you don’t see right away, and some you live with every time your feet get nailed to the floor.

Find outlets, support each other, be empathetic, be certain, and be creative – and help others do the same.  I think I have to learn a bit more about self-forgiveness, and I would encourage you to do the same for your child who may or may not have ADD.  There’s no better way to end a post like this then with one of the BEST quotes of all time, from my person deity – Jim Henson:

“Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart.”

  1. October 12, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Great post.

  2. Scott Hyman
    November 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve struggled with ADD my entire life, but didn’t know it until I was 37. Since I was ahead of the curve academically, all my teachers labelled me as lazy, not challenged. And now I’m noticing the same traits emerging in my academically gifted and highly creative six-year-old son.

    Your post is one of the best descriptions I’ve read about growing up with the disorder, how it shifts our views of the world, and how we adapt to it. Thank you for taking the time to express so well what is often so frustratingly difficult to describe.

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