I’ve always known I was different.
My whole life my mom would ask, “What is wrong with you?” Frustration levels surpassed, she would be screaming by the time she’d finally end with this question and storm away.
What was wrong with me?
My sisters, both older, were perfect. Above average intelligence and being in the top of their classes. They could easily follow directions and had common sense. I, on the other hand, would think I was following directions only to find out I was about five steps and twenty minutes behind everyone else. Lord help me if I faced a situation I was unfamiliar with; I had no idea what to do!
One Sunday morning I was in my bedroom getting dressed for church. My mom rushed in, looked at me sitting on my bed in my underwear, and lost her mind. I, on the other hand, had no idea it had taken me more than half an hour just to get my underwear on.
School was just the same. I was never the student to finish first and almost always the one to finish last. My teachers would say, “I know you are smart. You need to pay attention. Apply yourself. Do your work.” I looked to the other kids for cues as to what I was supposed to be doing. I found that if I stayed in my seat and played with the wire on my notebook or jiggled my leg instead of jumping up all the time, the teachers left me alone. One teacher told my mom I had an expressive disorder. Others said I was too shy. And, more likely than not, they all said I was lazy. I dreamed my way through the long school days and suffered. I would try so hard and be given a C. At home I would lose my play time or tv.
As I got older, I began to realize I had trouble keeping friends. My sisters told me, “Be friendly to everyone. Smile at everybody and have something nice to say. People will like you.” And they did like me. Yet, I had few close friends. One friend once told me how, if I was really her friend, I would call her instead of her having to call me all the time. How could I explain to her that when she wasn’t right in front of me, that I never thought about her long enough to make it to the phone to call? Or, that I couldn’t remember anything she’d said to me and would only be able to talk about myself?
I was in my second year of college. The professor instructing my education class rushed in with an article she’d just copied from an educational journal. I remember seeing ADD at the top. The professor began describing students who were always off task, out of their seats, talked all the time, had a thousand questions…and went on to explain that somewhere, someone in the educational world had finally come up with a label for this. We read the article and discussion started flowing. I was excited! Hey, ADD – that’s me!! I was about to announce that for the first time in my life I knew why I was different. Luckily, the professor called on other students before acknowledging my raised hand – or maybe she already knew what I was going to say.
Oh, the comments coming from my fellow education majors were just terrible. They hated people with ADD. Not one person in the class looked forward to encountering students with Attention Deficit Disorder. I pulled my hand into my lap and stared at the article. Telling myself not to cry almost made it impossible not to. There was no way I was going to admit I was ADD. I was going to pretend that I didn’t have it and hope that no one would know.