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.

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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.