Blame it on my ADD, baby.
I was 4 years old the first time I noticed I was "different". I was in daycare and it was nap time. I tried and tried, but there was just no napping for me. Why would I want to? There were too many things to play with, places to explore, and people to chat with. And chat I did. Pretty soon I had convinced most of the other kids to not nap either. They moved my cot into isolation. That didn't work because i turned it into a tent and crawled under it. I would lay there and sing songs. Finally, with much exasperation they took me into the nursery and asked the "baby ladies" to keep an eye on me so the other kids could sleep. I spent the rest of my nap times hanging out and helping with the babies and I loved it!
Fast forward a few years to 2nd grade. I have a stack of class work to do, but none of it is interesting. So I talk to my neighbors. I color all of the pictures in my workbook. And I get kept after school by my loving, but frustrated teacher to finish my work. Thankfully Miss Farkas realized that I wasn't a bad kid. I was a different kid. She gave me special tasks to do like being in charge of the Scholastic book orders and being the one to pick up her mail from the office. She kept me busy, engaged, and out of trouble.
My third grade teacher encouraged my parents to have my differentness tested. The results came back that I was a new word. "Gifted" So they placed me in a new program where once a week I went with other gifted kids from all over town to another school where we would have our own kind of school. Here I was able to create, experience, and learn in the way that I needed. I wasn't forced to sit in a desk, I was encouraged to brainstorm and roam about the class if I needed, and I was made to feel normal....not different. Unfortunately, the program only lasted through 6th grade. After that, I was back to regular school everyday and that's when the trouble started back up. Detentions, lectures, being kicked out of class to sit in the hallway....you name it, I did it. The differentness was back. I was no longer "gifted". I was a nuisance who just couldn't seem to get her mouth or brain under control.
Luckily, I learned to cope. I learned how to talk AND pay attention in class. I learned to make relationships with teachers so I could get away with a lot more. I learned to take ridiculously good notes in class so I could pay attention. I involved my self in a million clubs and activities so that I had lots of things to keep me interested and occupied. I was still different, but it was becoming less obvious.
College seemed like a breeze after all these years of struggling with my behavior. All the years of learning coping mechanisms paid off and I excelled in the freedom of college life. But I was still different.
Then I had to become a grown up. Now I had a husband, a baby (then I had 2), a career, friends, church obligations, etc. Busy, interested, and occupied. But, it started taking its toll. All the coping mechanisms I had learned couldn't prepare me for what happens when mom exhaustion sets in. Bills are due, food needs made, work deadlines looming, friends need my attention, kids and husband need my attention, laundry is piled up, so many task left unfinished, etc. My poor different brain started to come unraveled. I didn't sleep for weeks, months on end. I cried a lot. I isolated myself. I over ate.
The doctor diagnosed me with depression/anxiety. He said this was what my differentness was. I was put on pill after pill trying to fix it. And again I learned to cope. All the while still feeling different and still falling apart. I went to counseling....with three different counselors. It helped, but I was still coming unglued.
Fast forward a few more years and I start hearing about ADD in adults. For years I jokingly said "oh I must have ADD, please excuse me". This sparked my attention. Adults can have ADD? It's not just the hyper boy in elementary school who runs around the classroom? It's not something people outgrow? I did a little reading and found out that more and more people are being diagnosed as adults. Especially women! As it turns out, many girls go through life with ADD and don't know it because it manifests itself differently in girls. They are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and other things because their symptoms don't match what the "norm" for ADD had always been. Could this be my differentness?
I learned that several family members were being diagnosed as adults and I longed for someone to tell me if this was my issue as well. But I put it off. I only go to the doctor when I need an antibiotic. Did I wait to get a sinus infection and then say "Oh yeah, btw, I think I have ADD"?. So I waited and suffered.
The last few years have proven to be very difficult on many levels. Because of the added stress and responsibility, my different brain started falling apart again. I would sit for extended periods of time at work just staring because I was too overwhelmed to start a project. I would get many reminders from my bosses of things that needed completed. I drank copious amounts of coffee just to calm down the anxiety (yes, you read that right). I cried. A lot.
Two weeks ago, I got up the courage to go to a new doctor with the sole purpose of wanting to get healthy all of the way. To not just focus on my physical health, but more importantly my mental health. I was scared and nervous. Would she think I was crazy? The answer is no. She laughed at my self diagnosis techniques, but as she listened to my story she nodded her head, smiled, and said "Oh honey, you are such a classic case of ADD." I tried not to cry as I told her more and more things and she confirmed that each of these things was in fact a product of my different...I mean...ADD brain. It's a special brain that needs special treatment.
I have now been medicated for 2 glorious weeks. The physical side effects of the meds are a little tough getting used to, but my brain feels like the storm and fog have cleared and the sun has finally come out. I finish tasks, I organize, I am engaged in conversations, I don't feel compelled to roam around, I am happy.
I am excited and not overwhelmed for the the future for the first time. I feel like my dreams can actually become a reality now. I know I still have work to do to understand and manage my ADD brain, but now I don't feel different anymore. I feel GIFTED again.
I encourage you, my friends, to seek help for your differentness. Maybe you don't have ADD, but I bet there is something in your life that you feel different because of. Talk to a friend, your mom, your spouse, a healthcare professional. Talking about it is the first step to understanding it.
Then do something about it. Don't wait 37 years like I did :) Or if you have waited that long, don't let it go any longer. You don't have to live a different, painful life. There is beauty out there waiting for you...
peace, love, and ADD meds,