I almost died and still – I just didn’t get it. I guess wake- up calls don’t always resonate the loudest rings.
Thirteen years ago, I was caught in a rip tide off the Eastern Coast of Australia, near a lovely little seaside resort called Byron Bay. Being from a landlocked Canadian prairie province, I was a virgin when it came to coastal aquatics. I leaped in to cool off in the effervescent waves, drunk on the beauty of the sea and alight with the energy of the glorious Australian sun. I was oblivious to the rip and its intent for me.
Thanks to my lack of attention, it took some time for me to realize I was in trouble. It wasn’t until I looked up and noticed my traveling partner half a mile down the beach from me, flailing her arms in desperate exhaustion, that I twigged to the fact that something wasn’t right. I started swimming mightily for the shoreline, getting nowhere but further out to sea. My dear friend remembers it as the most frightening experience of her life. I only remember intense frustration and the incredible urge to bitch-slap mother nature in the face.
Thankfully, after an eternal fifteen minutes or so, a couple of surfers showed up and rescued us like knights in shining board gear.
I later learned that rips have a tendency to suck swimmers further and further out, but never actually pull them under. The unfamiliar swimmer, if not rescued, drowns from exhaustion. What you are meant to do is to let the rip pull you out a bit, then swim casually across, perpendicular to the shore, until you find the spot where the rip ceases. And then swim in.
I had no idea.
Swimming straight to the shore, even though faced with a fierce rip, seemed intuitively right. I didn’t know what I was up against. And yet my determination to fight against the waves is the very thing that would have killed me had it not been for a nearby surf school.
I wish that incident had awoken me to the preciousness of life and the need to soak up every moment of it, knowing that at any minute it could be ripped away. It didn’t. I’m not always an apt pupil of life’s lessons. I never could pay attention in class, regardless of the teacher. At best, my near-death drowning experience became a good anecdote to share once and awhile when the beer was flowing and there was nothing else to brag about.
I had no idea what a metaphor for my life that moment had been. I fought those waves for several minutes, but I had been fighting against who I am for a lifetime. I wonder if this kind of fight sounds at all familiar to you?
Years later, a light bulb went off and I made a deliberate decision to stop swimming against my ADD. The light bulb was a lot subtler than the oppressive waves, yet hit me with much greater impact. I simply listened – and observed – as an ADD expert talked to a group of people about the challenges of ADD, and how the ethos of brokenness keeps them stuck. As I listened, I suddenly realized this man knew more about my angst than anyone else in the world, and he had never met me. And it got me thinking – what was this thing I had been fighting against all my life? And more importantly – where was this fight getting me? Maybe, this thing and I didn’t have to be enemies anymore. Maybe, letting this wave take me out a bit could lead me to calmer waters.
The fight against my ADD self was exhausting me and it never worked – the harder I fought it, the further I got from where I wanted to be. So I gave up the fight; I gave in. I let the rip of ADD take me. I accepted that it is a part of who I am and that the things I was fighting so hard against would always be with me. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I finally accepted ADD as a part of me instead of trying to “will it away”, my self-concept, and subsequently self-worth, started changing rapidly- for the better.
Things started to shift. I had a clearer picture of what it was I was dealing with. I could accept my flaws as part of my brain-wiring, rather than berating myself for not trying hard enough. I could find a way to live with those flaws, but manage them better. That part, of course, is still a work in progress. But the most disastrous part of my ADD is no longer an issue – I don’t beat myself up for it. I am swimming across the rip and making my way to shore.
For what it’s worth, I consider it an endurance swim for leisure, not a race.
I don’t know where you are in relation to your ADD – it may be somewhere completely different than where I am. Or, we may be on the same course. What I do know is that as ADDers, our greatest opportunity for growth and learning is from each other, as we are all part of the same tribe. I would love for you to share your experience of the ADD path in the comments below, and let us know how you have (or haven’t yet) come to terms with it, so that we all benefit from your insight!