Thinking about……oh, a butterfly!

Sometimes when I’m traveling, I find myself being a companion to my own thoughts. It comes about in a somewhat sneaky fashion. I’ll find myself driving along realizing that I don’t have the radio on, my phone isn’t ringing or buzzing, and there are no husband or kids in the car.

Sometimes these thoughts are peaceful ones and sometimes they are thoughts about all the things that I haven’t done, that I need to do, things that I have done, and things that I would like to do but am unable to. The thoughts are sometimes productive and other times they leave me chasing my tail wondering when and how I’m going to get all of this stuff done.

Take for instance, today’s moment of thought: I am on my way to a doctor’s appointment and I have that brief moment when I realize that the radio is not playing and all I’m hearing is the sound of the tires on the lumpy pavement. I start thinking about how my parents were here this weekend for the pancake breakfast that the Boy Scouts had, I think about how I need to call my neighbor and find out if I could use her post hole digger to make the fence bigger for my goats. I think about how my husband and I had a wonderful little interlude in the middle of the night and how he seemed to be indifferent to me this morning. I think about how the boys have a Book Fair at the school this week and realize that they each have their own money to take with them but I will probably spend some of mine on gifts for them and for others. Though some of these thoughts may mean something and some of them may not mean anything, they seem like free roaming thoughts in my head, in one neuron and out the next, like cattle going through a gate. Sometimes there’s that one special cow that means more than the others do but I don’t necessarily have time to deal with her today so she will pass by like all the others and I will get to her another time. This is not always a productive way to think. It is not definite, it is surely not set in stone, and there is no guarantee that in my ADHD state of mind, that I will ever get to it. I have the best of intentions but I am not always able to follow-up with them.

This somewhat defunct way of thinking doesn’t always work well for other people, in relation to me. I come across as being forgetful, a day-dreamer, and overzealous. I am often accused of not thinking things through, of not making good plans, or that I don’t know what I’m doing. Unfortunately, that is part of the ADHD way of thinking. As the process goes, I get a great idea that I want to try, I get excited for this new idea, yet people around me tend not to want to help me through it because they know that I have other projects that I have yet to finish. I need the people who know me, to be to be able to say to me, “Sara, you need to go back a couple of steps”, or “you missed something.” My husband is slowly being able to do this. He’ll say to me,  “let’s finish this other project before you start another one. Sometimes this is met with frustration on my part because I really want to try this one thing. Other times I am able to see the reality in what he is saying and can agree. The catch-22 in all of this is that, as I’m trying to get stuff done that needs doing, I feel that I will never to get to the stuff that I want to do.

Personally Speaking

ADHD has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. While it has given me a reason for much of the negative or less than favorable events of my life, it now leaves me trying to undo many of those things that have shaped me as an individual.

Good or bad, the decisions we make throughout our lives create who we are as individuals and help to define our personalities, morals, and values. Included in all of this, are the people in our lives. It is the people who come and go, our families, our friends, and even those unsavory individuals who would not have been missed, had they not show up in the first place. Sometimes it is the people closest to us that can cause the most grief. It is, in the majority of cases I’m sure, not done intentionally. It is because of their position in our lives as husbands, wives, close friends, and siblings, that they have the greatest impact on decisions that we make. It is these people that we look to when there are big decisions to make. Their thoughts and ideas carry more weight than those opinions from people we haven’t known quite so long or respect as much. As a result, their comments are sometimes hurtful.

Before I continue, let me give you some insight as to who I am emotionally. Of my mothering ability, my sister said to me when I was all of 15 years old, that she thought I was capable of raising a child even at that age. Not that I would have ever acted on this but I have been ready since that age, to be in the roll that I now have. My self esteem has always been on the low end. I think this comes as a result of the many struggles I’ve had associated with ADHD, undiagnosed until 6 years ago. I feel as though I have failed more than I have succeeded and when I do succeed, the moment is brief. My own family that I built with my husband, and the family that I have grown up in, mean more to me then the air I breathe. So it only made sense that I would want to instruct them on the dynamics of the ADHD mind so that they would be better able to help me. It was imperative that they understand the struggle that I deal with everyday so that when they wanted to give me advice, it would fit neatly into how my thought process works. It made total sense to me: if I tell them how everything works, then the information they give me is already in ADHD format.

There was one huge problem, they didn’t wanna know. In my mind, this was so totally out of sync with everything that made sense to me. These are my family, why would they not want to help me in the most efficient way possible?

I have had elaborate conversations with them about how I need to “just do it….”,  “just spend a few hours every morning…”, “all you need to do is…”, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. When conversations like this would come up, I would launch into my shpeal of how my thought process works. I thought they would be eager to know. I’d tell them how it’s not as simple as they make it sound, about what my brain is capable of processing at any one time, but it was never enough. It made it sound like I was making excuses. I have no reason to make excuses.

Here is some background history on a sensitive issue: my husband and I designed our beautiful little cape style house, from the size of the foundation to the shingles on the roof and all that’s in between. While working on the house, I went into premature labor with our first child. He delivered at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. I spent my weekdays living in the Providence, RI Ronald McDonald House while he continued to work on the house. On weekends, I came home and helped out. Said child turned 12 this last October.

Now, I love this house my husband built for us. I have never, ever, regretted anything about building it or disliked anything about it. I beam with immense pride when people ask about the house or complement its design. The knowledge that is stored in Will’s brain to build something so fabulous, amazes me even still today. I’ll never forget him saying, “I want to build a castle for you and our children.” And he did. Blood, sweat, and even a few tears, were shed in its construction. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been proud to live here. On the few nights when the boys were afraid to go to sleep, I’d tell them, “Your dad built this house, monsters can’t live here.” It was always enough for them to snuggle down in their beds and go to sleep.

A few years ago, Will was angry with me again. We had been arguing and he said that I didn’t respect this house enough to take care of it. I was floored. I was hurt deeply, couldn’t even believe that such a statement was said out loud. This house is my life. It contains the lives of three guys who make my life whole. Me, as wife and mother, am responsible for keeping the home light burning, for keeping the house looking respectful and welcoming. Stay caught up on the laundry, keep the kitchen and bathroom clean, and be able to have friends over for dinner at a moments notice. While he was upset at my lack of skills, I felt like he was trying to make me be like his mother. I love and respect her but I will never be like her. We are very different people. She doesn’t understand me either, but that’s okay. She doesn’t need to.

As I sat mulling over his comment, I remembered something my mother said to me when I was a teenager. I was likely supposed to be cleaning my room or doing something around the house that wasn’t getting done. She said, “When you have your own house, its going to be a mess…,” and so it came to pass, my own self fulfilling prophecy. That will never leave my mind.

My sister is another story. Things have gotten ugly with her on at least one occasion. I was desperately trying to explain to her why I am the way that I am. She was here at my house. We were standing in my quaint kitchen with it’s white and green tile counters and maple cabinets that I had picked out myself. I was backed in a corner, literally, between the stove and sink. She kept on comparing me to her clients, she’s a recreational therapist, and there is no comparing. We are apples and oranges I said, they will heal, I will not. They can overcome their addictions, my ADHD will never go away, it can only be managed. I found my backside up against the edge of the counter, my heart was ready to break through my chest and the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. My blood pressure was rising and I was very angry. In a quiet voice I said, “You need to leave.” But she kept on talking. A little bit louder now, “You need to go home.” She didn’t leave but the rest of her stay, until the afternoon of the next day, was strained.

My dad has become my go-to guy. When I have issues relating to my ADHD, I call him. We’ve had lots of conversations, a few of them pushing an hour long. He understands better than most, partly because we think he has it too. He’s read tons of info which often gets passed on to me. While I don’t always remember to read it, I know its all there waiting for me.

My husband continues to be my biggest challenge. He says he understands what it is but he isn’t any more accepting of my different way of thinking. We often end up in a rut, both wanting the other to be something other than what we are. While I believe that’s its easier for him to be more flexible with me, he’s feeling cheated because he works all day and comes home to find out that I really haven’t done much, according to his way of doing things. “I can do in a couple what it takes you all day to do.” Thanks for the reminder.

There have been days when I feel as though he is lost to me. I often feel that I will never meet his expectations. I’ve been this way for at least 38 years. How much time do I have to figure this all out? How consistent do I have to be in order to redeem myself? How much is good enough? The large chasms in our relationship where we seem to just exist together, are frequent. He tolerates whatever it is I’m doing, or not doing as the case may be, and I try to work through the void that has been left in his wake. I have piles of reading that give ideas and plans but he gets frustrated when things don’t work and he doesn’t like reading. I want him to come to counseling with me but its always an infringement on his time and paycheck, even if its only an hour per month. Here, the little voice in my head says, he doesn’t think you are worth the time. Someone said to me, when I voiced this out loud, that maybe he is afraid. He may be worried about being thrown under the proverbial bus, worried that maybe he’ll be judged. My initial reaction is no, that’s not like him at all. I just can’t imagine him being afraid of anything. That being said, he is like most men and does not discuss his feelings with me. He would rather slink away and brood, letting hurt fester until at some point, it blows, widening the already wide chasm between us. While I hate being on the receiving end of his knife-like sarcasm, I’d rather he let it out. Better out than in, right? By going to counseling with me, he has a place to let it out where he won’t be judged. I desperately need his help and this is such an easy thing to do. Leave work a half hour early, join me for an hour session 2 times per month. Get things out. Work with a different clinician who has a better plan. Help me make a game plan for us and for the boys. What could it hurt? How much is “fixing” me worth?

So these people, these are the biggest, most important ones. They make my world go round. Now, my handsome boys can be added to that list, too. While my youngest seems more concerned with his next game of Minecraft, my oldest is grasping some of the issues I have and helps out on occasion. He is mature beyond his age and I hope that stays with him. While I’m not sure about this rollercoaster ride with my hubby, I can say for now that we need to find a happy medium, something that works for both of us. In the heat of the moment, that is hard to think, much less say. If he’s willing to work without pointing fingers, I am too.

Dear Grandpa, Its Memorial Day

me & Grandpa abt 1986Dear Grandpa, It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have been on my mind this weekend. Yesterday was the picnic with the in-laws. It’s become less of a family gathering and more of a social gathering of friends, which is okay too.  Will’s family is not nearly as large as ours is. Many of the older generations have passed on or have health issues that don’t allow them to attend. I spent a good part of the time sitting halfway between 2 groups, the younger half below and behind me while the older half was above and in front of me playing horseshoes. I was sitting at the fire pit, working on my  custom drop spindle, not a part of either group yet privy to the conversations going on in both. Oddgh, I was comfortable in my own space. The things I find interesting and enjoy doing are not shared by anyone here so I am used to sitting on the sidelines. I was told once that I talk about the same things all the time yet I do as anyone would, I talk about what is going on in my life at a given moment.  So needless to say, I don’t say much. Today was the town parade and ceremony. They played ‘Taps’ on the bugle and I though of you and the day you were laid to rest. I had never known what it was like to loose someone close to me and it hurt pretty bad. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wished that the boys could have met you. I’ve told so many people about you driving Dusty in the parades and singing Polish lullabies to all the kids. I sang what I could remember to my kids. Its still soothing to hear but I miss you doing it. After today’s parade was a town picnic. Its a wonderful gathering of folks to celebrate our vets currently in the service, those that retired, and those that have passed on. Just like in Stephentown, there are families in town that have been here for ages. Some of our elementary kids spoke on the theme for this year, ‘It is for Us the Living.’ Its amazing what kids will say when they are able to speak their own words instead of just being given a script to read. They speak true and from their hearts, about what this holiday means for them. One of Jake’s buddies won a contest put on by the PTO and Memorial Day Committee for writing an essay about how we can help our vets. Eriel is much like Jake in personality so they are two peas in a pod. Eriel got up to read his essay in front of the town and did really well. When he came and sat down afterwards, I gave him a thumbs up and the sheepish look I got told me he was pretty proud of himself. He seems like a good kid. One of our younger service members, a Marine, was there in uniform. I couldn’t remember what your dress uniform looked like so I didn’t know he was a Marine until I asked. Once I asked though, I could see you all dressed up like it was yesterday. You looked so handsome. I think I only saw you in uniform once, before you passed away. I have a picture of you out of uniform as well, at Camp Pendleton I think. Looked like you were hanging out in the sunshine, wearing just shorts and your boots. I love the picture. My grandpa was a stud muffin! On days like today, I wish I had spent more time asking you questions about the war. Jake is an avid history buff and likely knows more about the war than I do and he’s 11 years old. He would make a great history teacher but says he’d like to be an architect. He also mentioned something about joining the air force because he’d like to fly. Its scares me but I’ll support him all the way if that’s his calling. I miss you terribly Grandpa. When you passed away, the family started to separate. There seemed less of an effort for the family to get together and those of us who are first cousins, got married and started having children of our own. It’s so much harder for everyone to get together when there are two sides to every family. When I moved to Connecticut, we said that we would head back to New York once a month. Not only did that not happen, it happened even less once we got to having kids. I miss the picnic atmosphere and having family gather all at the same place. Now, with the farm sold years ago, there isn’t a place big enough for all of us together in one place, inside. Next year is Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary and I’m not sure where we’re going to have the party. I have thought of inviting everyone down to Connecticut and have everyone pitch a tent in my backyard. I’m sure we would have enough room for that. Will could build us a nice shiny dance floor and we could polka and swing dance. So much has changed within the family dynamics too. People have changed, moved away, had arguments, and misunderstandings. I’ve learned things about my family that I’m not really sure I want or needed to know but what I do know is, they are all still my family and that will never change. We are all human and as such we make mistakes. We need to get over it and move on. You only get one go-round so you better make the best of the time that you have. Life is too short to spend arguing or holding grudges. On occasion, I miss being a teenager and being naive about the ways of adult life. It was easy to spend summer in the pool and have picnics at the farm. I miss the Fireman’s Muster and the Block Dance where we could hang with our friends and sneak away into the shadows to steal a kiss from our boyfriends. Sometimes, ignorance was bliss. I miss getting off the bus at the farm and helping you carry warm milk into the house. I remember snuggling baby goats for the first time while it was so cold outside and brushing Dusty at every opportunity I could. I wish you were here to pull us all back together again. Here’s to you Grandpa, for serving our country and for keeping our family whole. You are well and truly missed.   Here are pictures of 2 of Grandpa’s brothers who are also veterans, Uncle Victor and Uncle Chester. I’ve never met you but you’re still missed. Notice the rakish tilt to Victors hat. Love it!

Also pictured is Grandpa riding Prince. It is the only picture I have of him on horseback.

Uncle VicUncle ChesterGrandpa on Prince

Dear Grandpa….

My grandfather on my father’s side was a gentleman farmer of the truest kind.  He was a middle child born to Polish immigrant parents and he was 1 of 16 children of which there were roughly half boys and  half girls. For the whole of his working life, he supported his own growing brood. His first son was born in 1939, my Uncle Walt. My father was born 4 years later on the heals of a preterm pregnancy; an unknown aunt or uncle I’d never know. During World War 2, he did his time in supporting both his family and his country. I remember as I grew older, he would spend a lot of time watching the Old World War II documentaries. I tended not to bother him during these times because he always seemed lost in some far away memory and though I don’t think it made him sad, it seemed important at the time to let him remember those friends who didn’t make it home. He lost his best friend during that war. And in his honor, he took his friends first name and made it his middle name. As far as names go in Polish tradition, they were not given middle names at birth as American children are.  Sometime after World War 2, Walter Demick became Walter James Demick. Despite being something of a gruff man, grandpa’s true heart was soft like the stuffing of a well-loved teddy bear. I honestly think he wanted nothing more in life then to keep his family close to him where he could always keep in contact with them. He wasn’t one to get on the phone just for the sake of conversation.  

As the occasional farmer, as I liked to call him, the animals he kept on his farm came and went like people through a revolving door. He had pretty much all the animals you could possibly have at one time or another. He had a horse named Big Red that got his name from his physical size and coloring. He had numerous cows, goats, ponies, and an older than dirt, very special pony named Dusty. Dusty was the only animal that Grandpa ever owned that was always there on the farm. He would drive Dusty in the town parades and would often stop to pick up my sister and I to bring us home after the parade. Dusty lived out his entire life on Grandpa’s little farm.  As Dusty got older, he developed a personality much like his owner. To try riding him without Grandpa around meant learning how to ride like a bucking bronco. You held on for as long as you could, but Dusty was determined to leave you in the dirt. He was a good old boy, one that has a fun place in my memories.

Grandpa passed away in March of 1995, just 6 days after I moved home from Texas. It was a rough day. We got the call in the wee hours of the morning, telling us that Grandpa’s soul had moved on. He was found sitting in his chair at the head of the kitchen table, head on his chest like he was sleeping, which he was known to do. My heart was broken.  So many memories came flooding back to me that morning. I remembered the pony rides with Dusty, I remember him sitting with Grandma out on the rocker swing that sat overlooking the pond and fields, the sun was going down and they were holding hands. I thought at the time that their love was timeless. I remembered the hundreds of times he would sing Polish lullabies to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, songs he likely sang to his kids and songs that were probably sung to him.
There was nothing he enjoyed more then rocking the babies and singing to them. I only wish that my children could have had this opportunity. His singing of the Polish lullabies was much like the baby sweaters that my grandmother knit by the dozen. If I could have recorded him singing and put it in a pretty package for those future generations not around to hear it in person, I would have.  I could never have imagined how valuable a memory this would be. Sung as they were in his native language, they were a soft and lyrical mix of sounds and rhythm.  Years after he passed away, my Aunt Barbara was told by Grandpa that one of the songs, once translated,  was actually about the death of a rooster. I found a translation for another about kittens.

So after all of that, here is what I planned for this post. Every so often when something significant happens in my life, I think about my grandfather and wish that I could tell him about what is going on in my life. I’m not sure what started this, maybe it was because I didn’t share enough with him while he was here and I’m trying to make up for lost time. But what I really think is that he wanted nothing more then to be close to his family and to share with them those important moments. As a farmer, he was always willing to share those farm moments with the children of the family. Now, with him gone for nearly 20 years now, I still feel the need to share these important moments with him. Periodically, you will see posts entitled ‘Dear Grandpa.’ I wish so much that he was here now to see what my life has become.  He would be 94 years young. I think he’d be proud. So this is a first in a series of things I would say to him, if I could.

April 28 2014
Dear Grandpa,
I hope this letter finds you well. It’s grandma’s birthday today but I’m sure you remember that. She’s doing well and seems to be staying healthy despite the chemotherapy that seems to have snatched up part of her memory. She still thinks that I’m about 12 years old and doesn’t realize that I have children of my own. It’s okay though. I just roll with the conversation and follow her lead.

Yesterday, my draft Horse Club had a  plow match. It was actually held at my friend’s farm this year because the college where we usually have it, was too buddy. I went up to compete not having any idea what I was doing. The last time I had tried this was 12 years ago before Jake was born. It was a steep learning curve. As it turns out, the ride-on plow lost a rivet and although we fixed it, I never got back on it to finish that part of the competition. I also tried the walk-behind plow but that was so unbelievably difficult, there was no chance of me being up for a ribbon. My friend Dave who is a life member of the club, drove the horses while I managed the plow. You know those old movies that show the farmers at sundown, plowing their fields? They make this look pretty easy.

Connecticut is full of football-size rocks that can make even the straightest furrows look like one was plowing blindfolded. Each person had a section that was 50 by 100 to plow under. I had a very brief lesson before I started that wasn’t enough. I just couldn’t remember all the how-to’s and why-for’s. As soon as the horses started to walk and that plow dug into the dirt, it kicked out of my unsuspecting hands and tangled in the reins. I have every intention of becoming proficient with that walk-behind plow. I just need the chance to practice and there are many in the club who are willing teachers.

My greatest accomplishment yesterday, was coming home with three ribbons, two first place blues and a grand champion ribbon. This was for competing in the obstacle course. The first part was to ground drive the team through a set of cones. I misunderstood the directions on the first part of the test but managed to get myself corrected after losing a couple minutes worth of time. The second part of the competition was to drive this same course with the horses hitched to a skid that was weighted. Now that I knew the course, it went much easier. I don’t think the girls had ever pulled this skid before. When they tried to go and realized that it wasn’t going to just roll behind them, that they had to actually work at it, I could see them lean into that harness and put their strong legs to work. We were the only team to do both parts of the obstacle course so we came home with that grand champion ribbon. I was thrilled beyond belief as that ribbon was handed to me. You should have seen the look on my face! I wish you could’ve been there. You would have had a wonderful time.

I haven’t even told you about the horses that I wasBonnie driving. Their names are Bonnie and jewel. They are Belgian draft mares. Bonnie is about 18 years old and was born and raised in Connecticut. Jewel is an Amish draft girl who is 13 years old this year. Jewel has a much more relaxed way about Jewelher and is often found not pulling her weight. Bonnie will only take so much of this before she reaches over to Jewel, nipping at her to get her moving. Jewel never seems overly impressed so I found myself needing to give her a little poke to step up her place. Jewel is pretty new to the farm as she is only been there for about 2 years. Before her was a mare named Sally but she wasn’t built with enough muscle to pull the big wagons that my friends have. Before Sally, there was Bell. When I first started at the farm there were two teams: Betsy and Millie and then Bonnie and Bell. Jewel is a good hand and a half taller then the other three and I’m pretty sure she was also bigger than Bell was, but despite all this, I think she just needs more time in harness, going solo, to work up to where the other 3 are. I, of course, have volunteered my services. It doesn’t seem so much that she doesn’t work hard, but she does like to take time to see the sights and I can’t really blame her for that.

Blue Slope Country Museum, the farm museum at my friend’s place, has many carriages, wagons, and Amish buggies but I don’t know if any of them are in working condition. Its one of those places where I wouldn’t mind being locked in for the night.

Its mid-May now and the trees are all leafed out. The sun is shinning, the animals are happy, and my hens have gotten back in the groove of laying eggs again. Life is good. Miss you Grandpa!

Don’t Leave Me Lonely

The need for human touch has been proven over and over again, to be a much-needed necessity of life. In this article from Living Social, they talk of how simple, affectionate, and compassionate touch, can improve everything from how an infant grows, to boosting our immune system, to how our heart functions. Our bodies and minds cannot exist in a vacuum.  As simple as it may seem, that pat on the back or that simple handshake with a friend that you haven’t seen in many years, carries much more to it then a simple, “Hey, how have you been?” A 1988 article from the New York Times says this:

In some of the most dramatic new findings, premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone in their incubators – the usual practice in the past. The massaged infants also showed signs that the nervous system was maturing more rapidly: they became more active than the other babies and more responsive to such things as a face or a rattle.

Okay, so we know touch is a necessity. So what do we do when we are upset with someone and we want to avoid a confrontation? We ignore them, right?  At least until we can calm down then talk to them reasonably. With the frustrations that comes along in dealing with someone who has ADHD, the frustration can mount, tempers flare, and sometimes avoidance becomes a necessity to avoid a fight. That being said, with avoidance comes distance, distance that is both physical and emotional. The ups and downs can be dramatic for both people involved.

Speaking for myself, these ups and downs have come at a heavy price.  Not only do I feel as though I’m not always getting what I need, but I have developed a sense of anxiety that never seems to go away completely.  I am always wondering if I did enough, did I do it right, if I didn’t do it right or if I didn’t do enough, does that mean that I will be kept at arm’s length until I get things right?  How do I know if I did something right if he won’t talk to me? And, when I’m back to being sort-of-normal, how do we go back to regular living after one of these long episodes?   There is a double whammy here: we have had so many of these ups and downs that my mind now associates being back on track with getting affection. It is much more difficult for me to go back to that ‘normal’ way of living then it is for him. Somewhere in my mind’s eye, sex and intimacy have now become a reward for being productive and on the ball, but try as I might, it is very difficult to not think that way. Some instances are worse than others, as is the case with any type of problem, I guess. Sometimes his avoidance behavior can last as little as a few days but it has been as long as a month. The longer the time frame, the higher the stress level and the greater the anxiety.  With my husband working as a carpenter, the particular job he’s on at the time may be a difficult one in which case his stress level and anxiety is high as well. This makes our relationship very tense as we try to work through multiple issues. If the boys have stuff going on with school or scouts, well, that just adds another stick to the fire.

A common denominator in my worldly conflicts is my husband’ s abundant sense of sarcasm. He often tells me that I am the only one who doesn’t understand it.  I don’t think that’s the case every time. He uses his sarcasm as a tool to portray emotions he happens to be feeling at a given time. When used in a humorous fashion, even the kids understand it. But for me, when he is upset or frustrated, that sarcasm has a deadly edge that has left me emotionally bleeding.  Sometimes he catches me unawares, making a comment out of the blue. A comment that I am totally unprepared for and totally not expecting, as he did just this last Easter afternoon. These comments are the proverbial double-edged sword, especially when said in front of other people. Emotionally, they set me back so far, wondering what I had done after such a lovely day, to warrant such a remark.

Now, in his defense, he deals with a lot. He has been our sole provider since before the kids were born. This was a joint decision on both our parts so that I could stay home with the boys while they were growing. The boys are now ages 8 and 11 years old.  In today’s economy, just being the sole provider would be enough to stress anyone out. For the entire 21 years of his career, all of his work has come in the form of referrals from previous customers or as a subcontractor on one of his friend’s jobs. The majority of the time he gets customers that are much like those that referred him in the first place but, on occasion, we get a doozy that stresses him out a bit. Throw in my ADHD issues and the boys misbehaving, and he’s pretty much had enough for one day, never mind if the job has any kind of longevity to it. This brings me back around to the keeping-me-at-arms-length, part of the story. From his point of view, after a days work and chaos at home, he feels better keeping his distance from me in every sense of the word, rather than risking a potentially nasty confrontation. Even the simple kiss on the cheek on his way to work is avoided. I’m not sure that this is the best way to handle things. Yes, it does avoid confrontation, but it avoids everything else too. Part of this whole package is that when there is a confrontation, it usually isn’t about anything new. The same issues, the same complaints, and then me trying to defend myself. Every once in a while, a new angle is presented, a new perspective, if you will. One of us is able to make our feelings better understood by creating a scenario that better describes how we feel at a given moment. I see these little moments as very small milestones in our attempts to communicate how we feel. They don’t always get us very far but being able to see things from a new angle, with a fresh view, can sometimes lead us down another road that may have some potential. I do understand, immensely, the frustration that he feels.  What I don’t understand is how he can keep me so far away on the emotional level.

I live just over 2 hours from my nearest relative. I elected to pick up and move to Connecticut so that he did not have to start his business from scratch in another state. By doing this, it has made it difficult for me to just get in the car and go see my family when I’m feeling distress. There is an intense sense of isolation when we’ve argued and I have no family to talk to about it. I could call but it’s not the same as having a real person. He is my rock, my go-to person, he is part of my soul and a large part of my heart. Not being able to go to him when I have trouble is very difficult, indeed. There is an abundance of safety and security in his embrace.  There is reassurance, trust, and hope, in his heartfelt kisses. When all of that becomes unavailable, I start to wonder when, and if, it will come again at all. I lay awake at night, listening to him softly sleep and I think of how much of my world is wrapped up in what he created with his own two hands. He has told me on more than one occasion that he doesn’t think I care for the house or his efforts in building it because I am unwilling to keep it neat and organized. Flashback: early 2002, we have just found out that we’re going to have a baby. He says to me, “I want to build a house for you and the baby.” Oh the joys of that day! I knew these weren’t just words or wishful thinking.  I knew even then that he had the talent to do it, and he did, in between trips to Rhode Island and his regular work [see: To Much, Too Soon, coming later].  Little did I think that 10 years later, I would be accused of not caring about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into building this house. If it was only so simple as making a choice [see: Just Do It, coming soon]. ADHD isn’t about whether or not you have a choice.  It is often complicated by having too many choices. Even just an hour’s worth of time can be broken down into so many smaller increments, and if you don’t know where to begin, where to end, or the process to get there, the majority of us with this problem do nothing because we would rather do nothing, then to do it wrong, again. If he should decide my ADHD issues are too much to handle anymore, I have the potential to lose everything because of a deficiency that I was born with, a problem that I didn’t create, and one that I am not sure I will ever be able to control. I have told him on at least a few occasions, that I would rather he just yell at me and get it over with, then hold me, hug me tight, and help me feel better. As human beings, a simple touch can often portray those emotions that are difficult or scary to speak out loud. Yet even though they don’t make a sound, they speak loud and clear, the messages that they convey. There is a song called When You Say Nothing at All by Allison Krauss, that gives this same message. Here are the lyrics….

It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart

Without saying a word you can light up the dark

Try as I may I could never explain

What I hear when you don’t say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

All day long I can hear people talking out loud

But when you hold me near you drown out the crowd  

Old Mr. Webster could never define

What’s being said between your heart and mine

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

Songwriters SCHLITZ, DON / OVERSTREET, PAUL

Published by Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing

When all is said and done, we need to find some happy medium where we each get what we need. He gets frustrated when I don’t get stuff done, I get frustrated when I feel as though I have been left by the wayside. Down deep inside all that churning emotion, is a solution of sorts, something that will work for us both.  How long will it take to find it? I don’t know. Will I ever find it? Don’t know that either.  What I do know is this: this man is my everything. On my worst of days, I think back to those simple moments that could be lost if we don’t find a working compromise. I think of those moments like when out of the blue, he will walk up to me and hug me. Not just any hug mind you, but a living, breathing, heartwarming hug that speaks volumes of security, safety, and above all, love and trust. This particular kind of hug is very different from the hey-honey-I’m-leaving-for-work-see-you-later kind of hug. This is one of those hugs where the house could fall down around us and we would still be standing there. Everyone needs one of those hugs every now and then from a special someone.  It’s spiritually uplifting, rejuvenating, calming, and helps to restore peace of mind.  Most of all it says, “I’m here for you regardless of what is going on, regardless of our differences.”  So, if you don’t know what to say, say nothing at all, let your heart and soul do the speaking for you.

Misnomers

Everyone seems to have their own ideas about what ADHD is about. Many make assumptions that we can or can’t do certain things because of the ADHD. They also take these assumptions and spread them across the general populace, assuming that all of us who deal with it, have the same symptoms. I think ADHD has got to be one of the most confounding mental illnesses anyone can deal with. The number of different ways it can manifest, are as varied as the people who have it. Within my own family, it is me, my two sons, my father, and his father, who all have symptoms that vary within each of us. My father has never been officially diagnosed and my grandfather, who passed away in 1995, was never diagnosed either. However, when you live with ADHD everyday, you learn to recognize it in other people. There are people in my life right now who would probably never think about getting a diagnosis. They’ve lived with it for so long that there doesn’t appear to be a problem to them. Any difficulties they may have are chalked up to age, a bad day, being too busy, or any other reason that may seem appropriate at the time. I can’t tell you the number of times the subject of ADHD comes up. Whether within my own family or out in public somewhere, and someone will say:

You know, I probably have ADHD but…

I did a lot of thinking after I was diagnosed. I sat down and thought about the number of jobs that I’d had up until the time I had been diagnosed. I figured that I had never had a job longer than 2 years by the time I was 38, and actually, 2 years was generous. I worked for one woman at a bank and she had no trouble wagging her finger at me telling me that I was a daydreamer. She moved my workstation away from the window so that I was right in front of her where she could keep an eye on me. In one doctors group where I worked, we were broken up into teams but there were so many people in this one big room that I could always hear what the other teams were talking about and who they were talking to on the phone. It made it difficult for me to think about the person who I had on the phone when I could hear everyone else so clearly. Then at another doctor’s office, I didn’t have a lot of contact with patients and my hours had me coming in early and staying late. I thought this would work well for me but the need to be able to multitask was essential, as it usually is in this environment, and that has never been one of my finer points.

It is at this point that some people make the assumption that people with ADHD should not work in a busy office environment. That is totally not the case. I know this environment does not work for me but that’s not to say that it won’t work for somebody else. For me, the noise, the busy-busy-busy all the time and the constant hustle, was exhausting. Even though the pay was good, the stress on me was not worth it. In the first instance, the company went bankrupt and I was left jobless. In the second case, they let me go, as others had.

It wasn’t until I moved to Connecticut and found a job on a farm, that I realized where my true calling lie. Working with the animals had enough of the routine I needed to keep me moving forward. The family that owns the farm, were willing to teach me whatever it was I wanted to learn. It has been nearly nine years since I first worked for them. I had a high risk pregnancy at the time and was only able to spend a year on the payroll but I have spent the last 8 years volunteering at the museum they have and working with their four draft horses. Just recently, I spent 3 months working back at the farm filling

Apollo staying warm.

Apollo staying warm.

in for family members who were out for various reasons. The smell of the barn and the warmth of the animals brought immediate peace to my troubled mind. With the ongoing issues here at home, trying to get my home organized and keep my marriage intact, time at the barn gave me a much-needed self-esteem boost. It allowed my wounded pride to heal a bit and it gave me a sense of accomplishment and knowledge that I haven’t had in quite a few years.

I’ve been asked many times, why can’t you apply that same drive to the tasks you need to get done at home? The answer to that is this: I am more likely to do a task when I am thanked and praised. I am also more likely to do a job that raises my self-esteem and gives me a sense of pride as compared to a job where I don’t get these things. This is why it may appear that I, and others like me, hyper focus on certain tasks. Doesn’t it make sense that we would continue to do things that raise our self-esteem and sense of pride? It isn’t that we don’t like to do the other things but, we often spend so much time struggling to do the things that everyone else does without any effort, hyper focusing feeds our mental needs. Though it helps us to feel quasi normal, we are criticized for ‘intentionally’ ignoring those other things that need doing and our sense of accomplishment is shot full of holes. It can become a vicious catch-22. It becomes a struggle between trying to meet our own needs and still trying to raise up to the bar; we are damned for trying to meet our own needs and damned for not being more efficient.

When I step back and realize how much praise I need even now, how so much of what I’ve done in my life has always required some kind of approval and yes, praise, I feel quite immature. I am 42 years old but mentally, on those ‘off’ days, I sometimes feel more like I’m five. I just want to be told that I something right the first time. As important as praise is, a big no-no is to never follow praise with “but.” I’ve had this a lot, my husband is the biggest culpret. When this happens, a well-meaning pat on the back becomes a critique. So whatever the words are coming out of the other person’s mouth, all I hear is, “You did it wrong…again.” I yearn for the day when I am no longer corrected, reprimanded, scolded, or otherwise judged based on my daily activities. However difficult it may be to live with me and my issues, one will never know, truly, how difficult it is to live up to the standards of the status quo, without spending a day in my shoes.

I desperately yearn for a small farm of my own but I am constantly met with: you can’t, you shouldn’t, it’s a lot of work, it costs money to do that, you’ll never make a lot of money doing that but here again, is where we come back to that sense of pride and feeding our self-esteem. The farming isn’t so much about how much money I make or even how much money I spend on the endeavor. It’s what it does for me on a mental level that will allow me to be successful in other aspects of my life. Having a small farm here at home will not only fulfill the emotional needs that I have but will also resolve other issues like having to be home to get the kids on and off the bus. It would be so much easier to develop a routine that will work day-to-day, much like working at my friends’ farm. I would become more resilient and more successful just by mixing my farm stuff with the house stuff; alternate all day long with a bit of each. The only trouble, getting my husband to believe it will work.

The Problem with Not Knowing

ADHD has been one of the largest challenges of my life. I was diagnosed 5 years ago and though some may think that a diagnosis is a blessing, it has really turned my life upside down. The challenges that come with having ADHD and having 2 children that also have it, has made some days very challenging just to get through.

In the greater scheme of things, I was glad to be diagnosed when I was. I just wish that I’d been diagnosed sooner. Trying to get my life organized and to learn all the things that I never learned growing up, is that much more challenging as an adult.I’ve often heard it said, and I know I’ve read it many times, that children have the ability to absorb an amazing amount of information while they are young. Children are capable of learning multiple languages much faster and much easier than adults are because their minds are much more receptive to the information. The same goes for some of the basic things in life.

I will never, for the rest of my life, forget what my mother said to me as a teenager:”When you have your own house, it’s going to be a mess!” I try not to put too much into statements like this. Maybe she was just teasing me at the time, maybe she was being serious, and maybe she was just frustrated with me. However it was intended, it has stuck with me for the last 30-some years of my life. The sad thing is, she was right. Now, I know most people don’t like to admit when their parents are right, but for the most part, they’ve been right about me.

I was not an easy child raise. Not to say that children are easy to raise,they are an amazing challenge. I had some stuff come about that as I think back now, were related to the ADHD issues. One of the first noticeable oddities that I remember was the development of a couple of types of nervous tic. I won’t get into specifically what they were because I don’t think it really matters at this point in time but, I think there was a correlation between this nervous activity and the frustration I was feeling at the time, in trying to make sense of my world. I have notes from my pediatrician at the time who said that there wasn’t really anything to worry about and that I would outgrow them. I did. The cause of them however, has never really been known.

About this same time, I decided that I wanted a bathroom in my bedroom. Now again, I won’t get into details because they are unnecessary and frankly, very embarrassing. In a nutshell, it was probably one of my first brilliant ideas that I didn’t think through very well. It worked for a time, a very short time, sort of. My shocked mother explained to me the error of my ways and that idea was swiftly aborted.

My mom says that she and dad started noticing something was different when I was in 3rd grade. I was having trouble concentrating, paying attention, in staying focused. ADHD was in its infancy at this time and people had no idea what it was, what caused it, or how to deal with it. I remember a period Of about 18 months or so where I was going to counseling and having various tests done like an EKG and an EEG. I had my hearing checked and my eyes checked, and everything was normal. My pediatrician decided that I just needed some extra attention in the classroom and in time, I would catch up to my peers again. Wrong.

Halfway through my 4th grade year, I was moved to Pine Cobble School in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It proved to be one of the most dramatic moments of my life. In this small town that I grew up in, I had been with the same kids since kindergarten. Now, I was uprooted and put into a private school for the next two and a half years. I can safely say that I only had one real friend while I was there and he left at the end of my 4th grade year. It wasn’t a total loss. There were a couple of things that influenced my life: I meet Mr Steele, the shop teacher there. He took me under his wing and gave me the praise that I so longed for. It was also at this point that I developed a fondness for storytelling. One of the preschool teachers nurtured and supported this new endeavor and encouraged me to read one of my stories to the preschool class. I remember being so excited that someone thought that what I was doing was worth sharing. She actually enjoyed my story and thought that I should keep writing. Her name was Mrs. Wright (really, it was). I also had the privilege of having the Shah of Iran’s daughter in my 6th grade class, Leila Pahlavi. As a small aside, she committed suicide about 10-12 years ago, never having recovered from her father’s death.

By the time I went back to my own school district for 7th grade, I was ahead of my peers because the class sizes at PC had been so small. As far as peers were concerned, all those who had been my friends when I left, we’re not my friends anymore. At the tender age of 11 years old, I was a stranger in my own town. The cliques had formed while I was gone and now I was just another new kid. It was difficult to try to fit in. I remember being teased and made fun of simply because of the shoes that I wore. The stress of coming back to my old school district and starting middle school were made doubly difficult because this was also the year that I hit puberty. It was a rough year.

By the time I got to 8th grade, I had a couple of friends but they weren’t really reliable or trustworthy. By 9th grade, I met Dee and we developed a fast friendship. Because she was a year ahead of me, she was not there for my senior year and we only shared a couple of classes together prior to that. By the second half of that year, I had my first real boyfriend, Richie, who came to be a wonderful friend for many years to come.

My circle of friends remained small and my grades we’re all over the chart but were always passing. I was unable to do sports or band because I was unable to maintain my grades and still be able to practice. From my sophomore year through the end of my senior year, my life was unremarkable. I was always attracted to the guys with the low self-esteem or the trouble makers. In retrospect, these guys had more trouble than I did and I guess I thought that I could somehow save them. Needless to say, there were no more meaningful relationships except for one at the end of my senior year. He had been out of high school for a few years and was a DJ for a dance that our SADD organization was putting on. We dated until sometime later that summer when he told me that I was too flirtatious. Oh well.

I graduated from high school with my grades in the ‘B’ range and I made plans to go to college. Now, because I did still have difficulty in some subjects and my grades on the SATs were deplorable, even after I took them twice, I was unable to get into any of the colleges that I really wanted to go to. That meant that my only option was to start at the local community college. At the time, I felt that only the locals went there because they didn’t want to go too far from home. I felt that because I was the daughter of parents who were well established in good paying jobs, that I shouldn’t have to start at such a school. Needless to say, I had a very delusional thought as to what community colleges were all about. I ended up spending one year at Berkshire Community College and then I transferred to the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Apparently I never looked too closely at my final grades from Plattsburgh. Just last year, when I applied to UConn for another degree, I went over all of my grades class by class until I got to my final grade. I managed to get my degree by only 3/10th of a point. 3/10th! Good grief! If I wasn’t in a new degree program with a low GPA requirement (2.5), I wouldn’t have gotten a degree at all. All that work would have been for nothing. If I had known then what I was up against, there would have been an IEP in place and I would have had help. 3/10th of a point…it still gives me the willies.