When I was growing up I was told, along with pretty much everyone I knew, that I could do anything I wanted to do if I just put my mind to it.
And I believed it. It sounds great, right? Really inspirational! I was ready to take on the world at the age of twelve!
But what happens with you just can’t put your mind to it? What is a kid supposed to do when they can’t follow a lesson because the window is so much more interesting. There’s birds out there! They’re flying and catching bugs! Hey look, that kid has a piece of paper sticking out of their bag, maybe I should tell them. I wish I wore different shoes today, these totally don’t match my shirt. Oh crap the teacher just asked me to start reading but I don’t know where we are, I already finished the book while we were sitting here. I can tell you how it ends! They throw a party while the Pigman is out of town, and he is disappointed in them and kicks the bucket. And something about a monkey. There, can I just take the quiz now? Oh good they’re leaving me alone, I can write a note to…
So, I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, predominately innattentive. I was quiet and kept my head down at school, and so it wasn’t diagnosed until I was twenty-two and had a panic attack when I tried to sign up for a college class. Apparently, I developed some extreme school anxiety while I was an adolescent. Whoops!
I would like to do a great many things with my life. For instance: I used to want to become a midwife. It sounds good when you tell someone that’s what you want to do. They’re always politely surprised and interested in the process.
I don’t think I could ever do it, though. Not with the current educational system. If I could apprentice with a midwife, instead of having to go through nursing school and all of those lectures that would DRIVE ME COMPLETELY INSANE, I would do so in a heartbeat.
But the world doesn’t work that way, anymore, and so it will have to wait until my mind can be put to it.
It’s going to be a while.
I want instant gratification, I want to know something NOW. If I try something, and I’m not immediately a prodigy at it, I lose interest. And you don’t have to tell me that’s completely impractical, because I already know. I can’t help myself.
Have you ever not been able to help yourself? And I’m not talking about that extra cookie you can’t resist because you are STARVING YOURSELF [that’s for another post]. And I’m not talking about a tick, or a compulsion like touching doorknobs or tapping a stair three times before you step on it.
I’m talking about sitting down with your book for school and having to read the same paragraph six times because you have no idea what it just said because you got up to check your alarm at least three times because you can’t actually remember if you set it.
ADHD has become a joke in todays world, and not without reason. I will be the first to admit that having a conversation with me can be amusing. I will babble at you for a good twenty minutes and not have actually said anything important. I may jump up and perform some menial task whilst relaying word-for-word a conversation I had with someone you don’t know, just because I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the task needed to be done.
But I know that I did it, and it won’t help me if you tell me not to.
People with ADHD aren’t without metacognition. We know we don’t always explain ourselves well [it makes so much sense in my head!] and if you asked us why we just did something that doesn’t make sense to you, I’m sure we could provide a detailed list of our reasoning, possibly starting with a craving for a tomato sandwich we had two days ago and ending with a conversation we just had about fleas.
But we’re smart. We’re sometimes smarter than our teachers, which is the MOST frustrating thing in the world, for all parties involved.
We just can’t help ourselves. And if I could fix one thing in the world – one monumental and important thing – I would make sure teachers everywhere don’t punish us for losing attention.
Because I don’t judge you for wanting that cookie. So don’t judge me for needing to get up and sharpen my pencil six times. It wasn’t perfectly pointy, and I can’t concentrate, anyway.