Had I been more honest, back when I was just a fledgling space cadet, there’s a good chance I’d have been taking some form of legal speed as a child. But when I was a kid I had no idea that my inability to pay attention and absorb information actually had something to do with the learning process in which my brain operated.
I just thought I was stupid.
It was easy in my early childhood years to have mom and dad do my homework for me. After having to explain something to me more than twenty times, they’d finally sigh and reluctantly tell me the answers to write down. Over time they began to pick up quicker on the subtle clues that nothing was getting in my ears and forwarded to my brain. After the routine phrases “say that again” “what was that first thing you said” and the tell-tale “huh?” it became clear that the only way any of us were getting in bed by ten was if we all pretended I understood. As long as the handwriting was mine who’d know the difference?
Although my brain resisted any kind of comprehension, it soaked up any and all facts I needed to know for tests. As long as I had everything I needed to know for the next day’s test, my mom could get me to memorize it all by making up rhymes to go along with each answer. I desperately hated the constant lost feeling that followed me around in school but I figured as long as I could pass my tests, I was doing what was necessary to get by. The real problem, I use to tell myself, was that I hated to learn. This probably wasn’t true once upon a time when I first stepped onto the preschool doorsteps at the age of four. But it became the only reason I could come up with by the time I hit third grade, when I realized I was the only kid I knew who lost paragraphs of information at a time if a teacher spent more than a few minutes talking. Once I hit high school, I did indeed believe that I hated to learn.
When you’re trying to fly under the potential learning problem radar, it’s an exhausting experience. Everything is such a huge challenge because of the constant overcompensating for what you aren’t hearing. The whole world is one giant distraction. It never mattered where I sat in class; front row, back row. They could have installed huge speakers next to my head and the first time someone coughed or dropped a pencil or sighed, my concentration would take a vacation. The anger over someone distracting me would continue to distract me, and before long my mind would get caught up in an inner dialogue about just how angry that distraction made me. Because most of what the teacher was talking about was barely penetrating my mind to start with, trying to catch up was almost always a lost cause. Before long I’d be staring out the window, wishing it was summer and daydreaming about whichever boy I had a crush on that week.
The problem with Attention Deficit Disorder is that it doesn’t just attack your academic career. It infiltrates into all aspects of your life, convoluting everything. There were times I’d buy something, like a kitchen appliance, and it’d sit in the box for weeks because the task of wading through the instruction manual seemed daunting. If you needed a few items from the grocery store and in a hurry, you’d never send me. The product distractions down those long aisles would hold me hostage for hours. You could give me directions to get to any destination but there’d be a high probability I’d never find it if I was in the car alone. Street signs and highway exits zipped right past me.
Although it was rather late in life, I finally admitted to myself at the age of 34 that this lack of concentration thing was getting on my last nerve. I was hesitant, at first, when I came home with the bottle of Adderall my doctor claimed would right this awful wrong in my life. I was scared of what it might do to my brain. So naturally, I decided to test it out on my husband first. When he didn’t drop dead, I took my first pill and then sat down to try and do some writing. The change was so big, yet so subtle. Instead of stopping every few minutes to stare out the window, stare at the wall or stare at one of the cats, I simply stared at the computer screen. Instead of thinking about dinner or thinking about some event in my life that happened a thousand years before, I was thinking about the task at hand. For the first time in my life, I managed to accomplish something within an hour of beginning it.
There’s a sense of harmony when all parts of the brain work together. No one had to tell me that twice.