Friday, March 6, 2009

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

I blog much the same way I wrote papers in college- I compose volumes in my head and then can't seem to get it all down "perfectly", become frustrated, and quit. I post only about a third or less of the feelings I actually want to express- the rest is consolidated into mush which sits somewhere in my muddled brain until I unearth it again for some other cause.

So this evening I have committed to putting some thoughts out into the blogosphere, regardless of how uninteresting or incomplete they may seem- otherwise, you may not hear from me for weeks and that may communicate that I have somehow left the planet or just given up- neither of which is likely, at least that I am aware of.

I have had a tremendous couple of weeks- filled with those "Oprah-esque" light bulb moments that are rare but so powerful when they occur.

I got my hair done this morning. And as I left the salon the owner commented on how I was carrying three books with me on my way out- "funny," I said "they are all about living with ADHD." We had a good laugh- and really, people, who in the world would bring more than one book to a hair appointment, which would last no more than two hours? Me.....without even a second thought- because that is how I live- everyday....

I have ADHD...this is not a recent revelation. I was diagnosed, three years ago, after a series of testing and a lifetime of obstacles that had left me exhausted and depressed. At the time, I believe I pushed the label to the side, intent to just get on with life- we'd just relocated to Pittsburgh from Maryland and I had a lot on my plate. But having a fourth child, a year and a half ago, opened the flood gates to the many deficiencies in my various coping mechanisms, used since the birth of my first child ten years before. And the hormonal fluctuations of my post-partum days only worked to exacerbate my inability to organize my thoughts, my home, my children, my life. And so here I have remained, sometimes in a hell that is difficult to describe and even harder to live with.

ADHD can be seen in many ways- a defect in normal brain functioning, or a gift, or both. Those of us adults who have this diagnosis are often extremely creative and productive beyond normal human capacities. I have had those times- witnessed by many of you who read this blog. But I have also fought for years to complete projects, both in my scholastic and work lives- not for a lack of motivation or competence but for the actual ability to follow-through. Many people, including a doctor whom I saw last week, are perplexed as to how someone with such deficits could get far enough in life to be successful at anything ("if you had ADHD you could not have completed college," my new psychiatrist insisted".-uh, yeah right, lady- and I guess you have zero experience in this field, thank you very much). What you must understand, though, is that as a girl, and one who was pretty well-behaved, compliant and fairly intelligent, I went unnoticed by teachers who had their hands full with boys who couldn't sit in a chair for more than five minutes and who were, at times, belligerent and violent. Having spent the bulk of my elementary years at a school in a low-income, at-risk neighborhood, my failure to complete assignments was almost irrelevant given that I was charming, thoughtful, and providing the verbal evidence of "learning" that the teachers were looking for (as some of my peers, in the meantime, were punching authorities and putting their fists through plate-glass windows- you can see now why I didn't even make it onto the radar screen of "trouble.") By sixth grade, when I was transferred to a "better side of the tracks", I started to struggle somewhat with staying composed, though, again, I was still thriving in enough areas to avoid ruffling many feathers (except for my kissing escapades in the coat closet with Michael Grubb- my dreamy sixth grade boyfriend). I won the spelling bee, I wrote interesting stories with my vocabulary words, and played well with the other kids. Middle school was back to "ghetto" education which, again, provided me quite the "invisibility cloak" (sorry for the Harry Potter reference- I couldn't help it). High School was a different story, however, our new home located in a town which allowed me to attend a school for science and technology. But my smarts only got me so far- as I was surrounded by peers who were equally as gifted or greater. My grades weren't terrible- just average- good enough to get into marginal colleges but low enough to keep me from the honor society (a real blow to the ego in a school where a good portion of kids were "gifted and talented", and sliding easily into their honorary positions). College was an uphill climb, all my papers getting turned in late- with A work getting B's and lower due to failed deadlines and jumbled organizational skills. I graduated finally, skidding just several points over the 3.0 mark but never really fulfilling my potential, changing majors about twelve times (seriously) and leaving unsure of my future. I succeeded in being selected for "Teach For America" a very competitive program for graduates without education degrees- joining many Ivy Leaguers and super-intellectuals, solely based on my interview. With admissions more stringent than Harvard, one would think that I would have felt some sense of fulfillment, but the days ahead would prove to be more of a challenge than I was able to face, and I left the organization filled with shame and self-loathing, from which I have never quite recovered. Truth be told, it wasn't the nature of the children I was charged with (thirty-eight fourth and fifth grade students in such a crime-ridden area of Baltimore that we could not have outdoor recess for all of the drive-by shootings), or the broken system I worked for (dimming my faith in a government who would allow racism and class ism to permeate and break-down the institution of public education, and proving the failure of the civil rights movement to equalize the level of education provided to America's children), but my complete inability to keep an organized classroom or an organized plan for leading one. I started my days heaving with anxiety, knowing that I was ill-prepared to properly care for the minds I was given six hours a day- most days I was lucky to find my glasses or keys- there was NO WAY I could create and follow lesson plans and earn the respect of three dozen children-especially not on six weeks of rather bleak training, involving more avant Gard seminars ("how to make your own paper") than basic teacher boot camp (and I loved those seminars....but I couldn't write a lesson plan to save my life). Thus my career in corporate America began, once bidding farewell to Baltimore and arriving back in D.C. Working for a busy corporate service company, I again found myself thriving in some areas (customer relations, drafting documents) and stumbling in others (my "In Box" became so over-run with jobs from my boss that I had to pay a friend to come in on the weekends and help me straighten things out). I couldn't understand what my problem was or how to explain to anyone why i just couldn't complete the tasks given me, appropriately. Luckily, much of the paper-work that I readily shunned became obsolete with computerized file retrieval so my rouse continued work, for the most part (my boss might disagree).

Mothering has been hard for all of the above reasons and more. I think I have failed at enjoying it as much as I would like because I've been caught up in the inevitable feelings of failure of someone who can't seem to thrive in a constant flurry of chaos, nor having the know-how to control it. The moments of my children's lives are sweet but the bigger picture has been a harder road to travel for me and I battle every minute to keep up. With one child it was easy to leave the environment which caused me to feel such turbulence (my home) but with four, that isn't such a simple technique and the very act of staying in our house on a daily basis is harder than I can explain with words. I expend as much mental energy to put dishes away, clean a floor, or cook dinner, as I would to plan an extravagant party for one hundred guests (I'm actually much better at the latter). I become overwhelmed at dirt and grime but feel paralyzed to eradicate its existence (unrealistic given the size of my family anyway). I can do fifteen loads of laundry in a day but can't seem to get even one load put away. I can provide all four children with enough love to drown them, and enough emotional support to relieve whatever angst is troubling them at the time. I can make a room-full of kids laugh hysterically when I read but it can take me days to clean just one room in my home(actually, it can take weeks). I become easily distracted by the details, having to organize, alphabetize, read-over, and touch every piece of everything I own before it even gives the appearance of "clean."

And I confess all of this, to you friends, because my light-bulb moments of the last few weeks are providing vision into my soul- that I am not a failure (or Lazy, Crazy, or Stupid- a good book on the subject) as I, and perhaps others, have assumed. I have, and continue to consume all of the information that I can get a hold of from the library on ADHD (in adulthood and in mothers) and feel as if I am reading a memoir of my life when I do. So many pieces of my puzzle are finally coming together and it is a relief. There is no simple solution for the dilemma which is my brain, but there is certainly hope that strategies exist to help me achieve more success with the small stuff, and to provide me with the ability to better enjoy my husband, my children and my life as a mother.

So here's to always learning and to deficient and remarkable brains. Where would I be without both?


About Me

My photo
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

Follow Me Through My Daisies

On My Nightstand Tonight

  • Sarah's Key
  • The Bible (NIV)

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Powered by Blogger.

Blog Archive