I knew I’d have to write about this someday. In thinking about this title I thought about calling it The Always Distracted Dane (cuz I’m Danish). Or A Disturbing Dilemma. Or Another Distracted Dynamo. Some clever and catchy acronym for what I would consider to be the painful thorn in my flesh that I believe the One who created me has graciously allowed me to walk this life with.
“So to keep me from becoming proud, God allowed me to be given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the evil one to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:7
However you want to describe it, all those titles describe one of the most frustrating issues that I have had to deal with in my life. But on the flip side it also has been the most eye-opening into who I am as a person, and it has been a rich blessing for which I am grateful for as it has helped shape my life and had much to do with the person God has molded me into today.
It’s medical diagnosis is A.D.D. or more accurately Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m not sure how I feel about having a “condition”…or a “disorder”…but if it helps others learn to walk through life with it I’m all on board!
I love a good story. The interesting part of my story is that I didn’t get a diagnosis until I was in my 50’s – for which I am thankful – when I thought my son had ADD and was I doing research and trying to find a way to break it to him that he was “special”. A dear distant cousin (who is also an RN and wouldn’t just jump on the ADD bandwagon at the drop of the hat) shared with me her journey with ADD and how it affected her children, and little by little it began to dawn on me that in reality, I was actually the one who had the disorder as well. I am so grateful to her for helping me come to that place. Now I know that I’m special. 🙂
Growing up I was labeled “the dreamer” in the family – never really coming down to earth. Some in my family might have attributed my faith as falling under that dreamer heading – believing in something intangible – being so optimistic about life when I was expected to be mature and realize that life wasn’t a rose garden and how could there be a God who created us and yet allowed so much pain. I actually really like being optimistic – I think it has kept me young. But I was also the goofball – looking for validation through humor and fun because I couldn’t really settle down and focus on anything else.
Very few people even knew what ADD was in the 70’s when I was finishing high school and heading off to college, and I think had I known about “it” I might have used “it” as an excuse to live a less driven life. What did happen was that “it” ticked me off so much that I took on the attitude that I wasn’t going to let “it” (whatever “it” was) define my life so I strove to teach myself skills that would help me function well in life. I drove myself to be the best I could be – yet knowing I had limitations, and to be happy with the results. I guess you might call it making the most of what I had.
During high school I did well in school – keeping a 3.6 gpa but having to work harder than most. I had tutors when I needed them, and I was a visual learner. Once I entered college and had bigger responsibilities “it” came crashing down over me. “It” was like the elephant in the room – knowing something was there and wrong with me but that couldn’t be identified, which by the way made me feel like my elevator wasn’t going all the way to the top floor. The best way I can describe “it” is to say my life was fuzzy….out of focus….and unclear. “It” was a shame that I carried with me all of my adult life and one that I didn’t talk about to many people. I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with me and because I couldn’t identify “it” I tried to ignore “it” and pretend that “it” wasn’t there. The effects of “it” forced me to drop out of college and I returned home with my tail between my legs.
Knowing I would eventually have to write about this, I recently went back and looked through my journals from my college+ years and found that, unbeknownst to me at the time I was very aware of my condition and referred to “it” many times in my journals as a cloud that I felt hanging over my head. And just to clarify…I’m not talking about the kind of cloud where you store all your digital information somewhere akin to Heaven. No…it was more like a cloud that settled around my head that I couldn’t see through. It would be 30 years before I would find out what that cloud was.
Had there been a diagnosis for ADD back in the 70″s I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be labeled with it either, or I might have used it as a crutch or excuse for my lack of motivation. So I see God’s providence in His timing in revealing it to me as a gracious gift….notice the root word comes from a place of grace. God holding off with the truth until I was best ready to receive it.
Depression was “its” partner – how could it not be when you are constantly doubting yourself – trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with you – paddling like crazy beneath the surface trying to appear like you have it all together when you know you really don’t. But because of my tenacity and faith in God I chose not to let “it” rule my life. I taught myself skills to survive and excel in life, and people never knew of the shame that part of my life carried with it. I learned to compensate for areas where I was weakest and learned to use my strengths to my advantage. That’s not to say there weren’t huge identity and personality things to figure out…but that was all a part of my journey. I’m not gonna lie – it did affect my life in so many ways, as I recognize when I occasionally play back the movie reel of my life now and then since my diagnosis.
The good news is that it has been absolutely freeing to find out “its” name a few years ago as it signaled – at least to my own heart – that I was not a failure, that there had been a reason for my struggles. Most of all it validated what I knew all along – that I wasn’t crazy. Well, at least not medically. If you know me at all you know I definitely have a little of crazy in me, but I’m proud that I’ve actually been quite successful in life walking hand-in-hand with ADD. Uh oh….there’s that pride thing again – the reason God allowed me to have ADD so that I wouldn’t become prideful! Ugh….its a vicious cycle! I still have so much to learn.
One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten since being diagnosed is whether I take medication. The first few years after learning I had ADD my answer was “no…but if I were going back to school and had to read textbooks without feeling the crippling pressure to focus and take in a huge textbook in a short amount of time, maybe.” In the past year my answer has changed to “yes…I do take medication“.
Just over a year ago I began to experience some of the same symptoms I felt overwhelming me in college. Besides the basic distractive nature of ADD, the typical demands of life can be overwhelming. 18 months ago I started noticing that with all the balls I was trying to keep in the air with work, being a wife and mom, running a household, and the greater the demand on my abilities to organize, focus, and remain calm….I was beginning to feel panicky. It reminded me of the feelings I had in college and it frightened me.
After a little research, I realized that being an athlete is like self-medicating your condition. Exercise is one of the best medicines for ADD and I had always remained very active as an adult playing competitive softball, biking, golfing and walking. However, the overwhelming feelings that had resurfaced coincided with the time in my life where I had begun to slow down a bit and wasn’t quite as active with my sports. In essence, my dosage of self-medication was now dwindling and so the overwhelming emotions began to return. So in conjunction with my doctor I now take a low dose of medication that seems to work for me. I describe it’s result as taking a camera lens and bringing everything into focus – and I’m able to keep those feelings and emotions in check.
My story has a very happy ending…but its not without it’s critics. Not everyone wants to embrace my diagnosis and have (as my mom use to say) “poo poo’d” it and have said to me “you don’t have ADD…everyone is distracted”. I’ll admit that hurts. I agree that it’s good not to jump on the ADD bandwagon and use it as an easy way out for laziness or for a lack of motivation. It’s true that everyone is distracted at some point – especially with the world of technology that we live in today – and it’s good to be discerning about the latest diagnosis that comes down the pike. But my encouragement to you if you have a loved one that either has, or might have ADD is to learn all you can about the condition. Don’t make them feel less than validated as a person because of your lack of knowledge.
(For some suggestions of books that helped me understand ADD better, check out the “Good Reads” section of my blog).
So “it” has shaped who I am – but it doesn’t define who I am. God does that for me. His grace is enough for me for today – His grace was enough for me 30 years ago. His grace in the diagnosis – His grace in the truth – His grace for my sweet parents who had trouble understanding their little girl ~ His grace for my husband as he has walked through a distracted marriage not always feeling he had all my attention – His grace for my sweet son as he tries to figure out the part ADD plays in his life – His grace for my family and friends as they love me and all my whacky ways – His grace for people who ridicule me – His grace for tomorrow. Maybe His grace is enough for you and what the “it” is in your life?
Here are a few myths and facts about ADD that might help you understand and encourage those around you who might have ADD: