Rough day

Had a setback kind of day today. I’m looking at the relationship between learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD. I took a bit of time earlier today to lie on the bed with an A5 sketchbook and a fountain pen, writing freely without lines to contain my thoughts. I was frustrated, confused and feeling very low. Turns out, from what I’m reading online, ADD/ADHD and “gifted” individuals are often simultaneously experiencing learning disabilities. I’m not dyslexic, which is often the first LD that comes to most minds, but there seems to be a process, recognition, and retention hiccup in my brain. I knew this ages ago. I’m putting the puzzle pieces together and planning a way to wage war on my weaknesses. I get so frustrated at the knowledge that I’m gifted, (was in special classes for several years as a youth), and yet I can’t seem to keep my wild mind under control. What good is intelligence if I can’t do anything useful with it? I can’t predict it; I can’t control it. So first, I’m going to try to understand it.

This understanding started a few years ago when I had my first appointment with a therapist. It was within that same meeting that ADD/ADHD was discussed. That’s when everything began to make sense. Years of memories and difficulties started to fit into patterns and formulas. As an adult, I’ve had the pharmacological treatments. I’ve been to therapy. Now I do neither and I’m certain that there is an answer inside me. There are keys everywhere in my consciousnessโ€šร„รฌ now I just need to figure out which ones fit where. It’s not easy, but I’ve been lazy about the challenge. I’ve not given this the attention and priority it requires, and thus, other areas of my life are suffering. I have never been the type of person who wants others to “fix” me, but unfortunately, I am the type of person who procrastinates, makes excuses, finds other things to focus on and generally tries to ignore the big hairy monster living under the bed.

I cannot be this unfair anymore.

I’m a work in progress, but my time and patience with my own development is withering away. Today’s breakdown proves it. My full-time job is now how to get focused and productive. How to learn and live better. My aims aren’t so different than the universal brass rings we all strive for, I know, but I fear my personal mediocrities are dangerously close to winning the battle for my mind and future.

I am accountable.

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9 thoughts on “Rough day”

  1. Jen, pondering what you wrote about ADD/ADHD and it’s correlation to those who are “gifted” set something off within me. A wandering mind does not mean someone is broken or that they have a learning disability. I truly cannot believe children can be categorized ADD/ADHD just because their mind or body cannot be subject to the singular as opposed to the multiple.

    All my life I see people categorized as being ADD or ADHD yet when you look at the majority of those categorized, they are thinkers, doers, planners, they look at all sides of the box, not just one side. Sometimes looking at the world in three dimensions as opposed to one helps a person to see not just one aspect, but all aspects. For example, when I am working on a project, I look at the benefits to not only myself but to everyone who may be affected by it. Psychologists may analyze that as being ADD. I analyze it as being normal, well rounded, and thoughful of the surroundings.

    Maybe ADHD is a different story, but can a child be categorized just because they like to roll-around on the floor, playing with not one, but maybe three toys? I don’t believe so. Just because a child can’t sit still doesn’t mean he’s ADHD, it just means they have a lot on their mind, they want to get everything done, and they realize that eventually it will be bedtime and that is just not acceptable.

    You are, in my opinion, taking to heart what others have told you, not to what you believe in or are. Life is about seeing the big picture as well as the strand of grass in the distance. Don’t beat yourself up.

  2. Thanks for the lengthy response Brian. I appreciate the attention you’ve given this. I do, however, only share some of my demons here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though a personal blog, there is far more to the story that only makes it to the ears of loved ones rather than spilled into keystrokes here.

    I am ADD. That much I know. I’m grateful that it was diagnosed (as an adult) and that I can see through the fog most of the time. Unfortunately, the behaviours you list enable the myths about people with ADD/ADHD. We do get things done. We do plan, think, create and manage all of the things that ‘normal’ people do. This is where diagnosis is much trickier than most individuals understand. It was not a diagnosis stamped flippantly on my file. I do have certain disorders in my family tree and am the daughter of a psychologist. Although he passed on over half my life ago, his wisdom and influential insights still filter up through deep places in my mind.

    I’ve never been one to follow the word or diagnosis of another as a way to satiate my own search. I fight and kick and scream inside that there are things in my head that I can’t make ‘normal.’ It’s those same impulses that make me grateful for my dysfunctions- my gifts.

    It’s a world of labels and categorisations, to be sure, but also understand that it’s also an era of many people finally knowing why they are the way they are. As you say, “life is about seeing the big picture…”, well, what I’ve learned about myself in the past several years is like finally giving me sight. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And, I only beat myself up when I knock my shins against the corner of my desk… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Whilst I’m not ADD/ADHD either (or was not diagnosed) I think I can understand what you are saying here. I too was a ‘gifted’ child – I was accelerated at school and then was also selected for a special ‘Australian Mathematics Summer School’ during Year 11: that only 60 students from across the country (population 18 million or so) get to go to.

    That was the first time I was ever in a room with people who I considered ‘smarter’ than me. And the experience was rather counter-productive: I decided that everything else was going to be rather easy from then on in. Which it wasn’t. Hence the reason I then failed First Year Mathematics as part of my Engineering Degree. Twice.

    I too am a constant procrastinator. Part of the reason is that it turned out to be easy for me to do things ‘at the last minute’, so there was never much disincentive to do stuff early. I get rewarded for doing whatever I want until the last possible opportunity, and then I rush whatever task it was I wanted to do, and do a good enough job that everyone is generally pretty happy with me.

    This has flowed over into my work and personal life too. I am a school teacher, and writing student reports, for instance, is something I can only do in the last day or so before they are due. Even though I end up wasting time I’ve set aside to do it – things like tweaking a little JavaScript for my site, or just browsing – I never start stuff early.

    I’m on holidays this week, and the next, and although I have a weeks worth of ‘chores’ to do around the house, I’ve done exactly none of them in the first week. I’ll do them next week. (And, I’ll be honest here, although they should take a week, I’ll have to do them in about three days).

    I had a Maths teacher in Year 11 & 12 who once said to me:

    “A lazy mathemetician is a good mathemetician. (S)he looks for patterns that can save time, and reduce the amount of work that needs to be done.”

    I’ve pretty much taken this as my life’s philosophy. This and: “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

  4. Great comment Matt. It is all too easy to fall into the trappings of throwing something together at the last minute because you know it’ll be better than most would do anyway… I’ve done that plenty. (Shit, my Industrial Design degree was half built on last minute projects! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    When I was in High School, I attended a different school system than that which offered my gifted classes. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be amongst people who understood me and challenged me. I was also meeting all new people and needed to fit in for the next four years with them. I retreated into art, which has always been a passion of mine, (or maybe because it was easy for me to excel in it- I don’t know now), and signed up for the Academic Excellence teams. These were extracurricular competing groups of students who would travel to different schools to pit knowledge about art, science, math and English against rival student teams. I did well in this even though most of my answers were off the cuff. I never took it seriously. But I excelled. This contradicted the average results of my schoolwork, but I was kept on the teams.
    Realising that faking it and getting lucky with answers to the point of success was the worst lesson I could’ve stumbled into. I’m to the point in my life where I want to go back and really learn and understand now… I want to be involved instead of coast on gifts and charm.
    This is my challenge.

  5. I can relate, Jen.

    A part of me deeply believes that the most “significant” people ever to live on this planet were deeply, deeply self-conflicted. I think part of me feels that the most successful people are sometimes the most shallow people.
    Maybe it’s the case with you as well. But maybe these people knew how to turn “it” off, to live in the moment, to use their darkest moments as inspiration. We fall from heaven every time we take a bite out of the apple off the tree of knowledge. Maybe the trick is in learning to savor the apple, while falling.

    I would lend you my ear on your plight, but Van Gogh already did that.

  6. I, too, can relate. Although I hate to give away my age, for 50 years ( since I was in grade school), I have suffered from severe depression.It has been both a blessing and a curse. More of the latter I must admit. I was finally diagnosed at 19, took medication for a few months, then quit. I wasted almost 20 years before I admitted to myself that I needed medication again and should never have quit taking it. Those were the years when I could have been finding out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Instead, I lost them, gritting my teeth and faking when I could.

    I took medication for 6 years, then quit again. Four years ago I started taking it again. Unfortunately, my shrink says my depression has become sort of medication resistant. It works for a few months and stops. Thus the many different ones I’ve tried over the past 6 years. It’s discouraging. I almost said, “It’s depressing”. (:

    My depression often causes me to have symptoms resembling ADD. My mind is either constantly flitting around or refuses to do anything or finish anything. When I said earlier that the depression is sometimes a blessing, it’s because some of my most creative ideas or projects happen during those periods. Ironic isn’t it that the same brain that won’t let me shower or change clothes or stay out of bed will, at the same time, send my mind soaring through the universe.

    I guess my only advice is that if you need medication, take it. I don’t like taking it, but I know I have to. Fortunately/unfortunately it only lessons my depression. I can still be pretty creative. I still have trouble finishing things, though.

    I accept the fact that my brain is weird and that it takes me both to places I want to go to and that I don’t. It’s unruly and doesn’t take well to discipline. Most of the time it cooperates–sometimes it just says “Screw you–I don’t want to play with you today”.

    Be productive as hell on the days your brain cooperates, and on the days it doesn’t, eat chocolate and watch something worthless on tv.

  7. The correlation you’ve noted between ADHD and “gifted” relative to learning disorders makes sense. Of the two diagnostic categories of ADHD (Inattention vs Hyperactivity & Inactivity) to some degree it makes sense that some category of “gifted” are that way because they jump from topic to topic and may get a broad perspective (Inattention ADHD). I completely understand ignoring the big hairy monster under the bed (ADHD Inattention diagnosis for several years). It’s a challenge every day to stay focused and finish tasks (and sometimes even start them — especially the boring ones).

    In any event, best wishes on the endevour of taking control. For better or worse, you’re definately not alone in the situation (and we could only wish there was a magic bullet). Hang in there.

  8. Thanks Ginny. I like your last sentence the best of all! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks David. You know about the monster under my bed?? Gets around, doesn’t he… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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