Paradigm Shift: I’m Not Weird, I’m ADD

I always suspected I was weird but kept it quiet and hoped no one else would notice.

Ten years ago, my mom suggested I might have Attention Deficit Disorder. I read a seminal self-help book and agreed that I did.

Then, a few weeks later, I decided I didn’t. There was no way I would let pathology excuse my character deficits or allow me to pretend I was somehow unique or special. I wasn’t good enough to have ADD. I just needed to try harder.

And then I proceeded to carry on in the same never-ending, self-defeating cycle of searching for the cure to being me.

The possibility lingered somewhere in the back of my mind for quite some time, but I beat it into submission. Until it fought back with a force I could not deny. My ADD decided it would not be pushed away. It pushed me back.

So I revisited this notion that my “character deficits” may be, just maybe, connected to my attention deficits. My second child was nearing his first birthday, and I realized that the adjustment from one to two kids was taking me an exceedingly long time. It was probably made harder by the fact that being a parent the first time around came surprisingly easy to me. And because there were only 18 months between them.

As my son grew out of infancy and into toddlerhood it became clear that an 18 year gap wouldn’t have made a difference. I could not cope well with having my attention split between two beings I loved so passionately and so equally. And while I could just about manage myself and a child, I was not built to manage a family.

Or so I thought.

I searched, internally and outwardly, for the answers to my problems. If I could just figure out…

–         the “secret” to parenting

–         the key to guiding their behaviour consistently

–         the trick to keeping a house clean (or getting it clean in the first place), stocking a refrigerator, having the kids fed when they are hungry instead of an hour later, getting somewhere on time, not forgetting appointments, not forgetting necessary baby items on outings, getting out of the house at all, getting done what I’d said I get done, remembering in the first place that I’d said I’d do something, listening to what the kids were saying or just listening to anyone period …

… then I could figure out how to be a proper parent.

I knew other mothers were privy to this secret, but there was no way of asking them without incriminating myself as incompetent.

The fact is, in the realm of mature and responsible adults, I had always been a con artist. Having kids just shone a spotlight on me. I was a replication artist – I could make life look sort of like the real thing from a distance, but up close and personal it become obvious I scribbling outside the lines.

I researched and read what I could about every single dilemma I was faced with. I developed system after system to fix each of my issues. I devised schedules for laundry and cleaning, pre-printed grocery lists to track needed inventory. I pasted pictures of silly faces and soothing quotes around the house, reminding me to be mindful, to stay calm, to think clearly, and most of all – lighten up.

I kept a large white board on the kitchen wall inked with all my commitments, and a note pasted to my tea kettle reminding me to look at said white board. I even wrote a list of every single activity that I could do with the kids – at home or at large – when we were bored, so that I didn`t have to think on the spot. Listlessness (the state of being listless without a list) is my biggest barrier to planning.  Being bored doing nothing is favourable to being bored doing something that requires effort.

Not surprising then that I was bored a lot.

And none of those systems got implemented for more than a day. Maybe the tea-kettle-post-it-note should have been pink instead of yellow? Back to the drawing board (aka rumination) I went, again trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

Aha, I figured it out! It wasn’t that I was an inadequate mom; I was just an incompetent person. At day to day stuff anyway. Real life stuff. I’m pretty good at crisis and adventure, not so good at crying kids and afternoon naps.

No matter what the issue was, I was central to it. Everything was down to me, my fault. If I could fix me, I could fix everything.

It was kind of narcissistic, don’t you think?

I have been doing this dance for my entire life, as long as I can remember: the “what’s-really-wrong-with-me-and-how-can-I-fix-it” waltz. Maybe this sounds familiar to you?

Until ADD beat me into submission. It wouldn’t be ignored any longer.

I finally learned about ADD – the one possibility I’d never allowed myself to entertain because of an ego that told me ADD would take away my control in the matter. ADD wasn’t my fault. My ego wanted it to be my fault so that I could fix it.

All these years of trying to fix myself, I had actually been reading the wrong user’s manual. That’s what learning about ADD showed me. I had been trying to operate a Mac with a PC handbook or navigate New York with a city map of London.

What a waste of time!

I’d lost years of my life trying to fix the glitch in my matrix, never realizing I was working with the wrong code. That was the dawn of my “awakening”. Giving up control gave me the power to do something real about the challenges I face every day.

I got a new manual. The manual tells me how to work with my brain instead of against it. Interestingly, it doesn’t tell me how to be a domestic goddess, but it does tell me that I wasn’t built for that role in the first place. There are other ways to be a good mom.

My new manual reminds me that a Mac isn’t best used for spreadsheets but it does excel in other applications. In future blog posts I will reveal the “secrets” from my “manual” in hopes that it will help you gain greater clarity around your abilities and talents.

However, my manual is only an adjunct to the manual you must write for your own life. If you haven’t got around to it yet, quit wasting time and get writing it! And I hope you will share your wisdom …

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14 comments on “Paradigm Shift: I’m Not Weird, I’m ADD

  1. Andrea: I got here after reading your guest post at ADDer world and, after soaking in all that positive sunshine you wrote there, I knew I just had to visit your site.

    I will try to be brief in my comments because everytime I start writing on this topic I feel like letting everything loose! I personally think that the personality traits otherwise known as ADD/ADHD are meant to be positive for society in general. As we all know, history has shown us that mankind tends to destroy what it does not understand. God meant for us to be the beacons of light for our communities. We see things that “normal” people don’t see, sometimes foolish things, but often they are brilliant insights that we feel we must share with the world. But the world does not understand, and so it crushes our spirits since birth (almost!). That’s when the negativity with our personality really begins, and we buy into the lie that we are somehow “broken” and need to be aligned by force to what society thinks is the norm.

    As an example, all my life I’ve had to endure constant humiliation by family and peers that I’m always distracted, etc, and yet, when I’m free to do what I really want to do, I tend to find things that nobody else finds, or see things that nobody else sees, or feel things that nobody else feels, everything flows.

    In all the jobs I’ve had, I’m usually the first one to spot the areas of opportunity, but I’m not listened to because that’s not what I’m paid to do, so I stay bored and distracted. I pray that one day society will finally wake up and honor our gifts instead of crushing our spirit. Thank you Andrea, please keep spreading the positive words out there.

    1. Hi Mmori –

      Let loose anytime, you have a lot of important things to say!

      Have you ever read Thom Hartmann’s The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child? He would agree with your idea that ADHD traits have had a positive function in society. I’m sorry your friends and family don’t get that. Glad you have stopped by here and got some validation. Finding our tribe is something we ADDers need to thrive. Knowing that the path you are walking is your own (no matter what others think) can give you clarity.

      Thanks for sharing your comments. I would love to hear more from you in the future!

  2. Going from 1 kid to 2 is definitely a rude awakening for most women. And the things that you struggle with as a momma, like tackling Mount St. Laundry and feeding the kids before everyone becomes hysterical, well, any Mom who hasn’t been there also does not NOT posses a bellybutton (which to my knowledge are aliens and sweet baby jesus).

    what makes you unique and weird is your courageousness in exposing your inner thoughts to us here in the outer world. Not many people let alone MOTHeRS will allow others to see their less that perfect side… but y’know what? The more you do this, the more mommas like me see that I’m not so weird & unique after all… 🙂

    Just one last thing… use caution when comparing your inner world to the outer world of others. Apples and oranges baby… those other Mom`s who have it “all together”, you only get to see their outer facade (like the one you have who compiled all those lists?). I dare say, if the women you were looking at would dare share there inner world with you, like you have for us, you would see that that is looks much the same as your own.

    Keep posting! You obviously found a talent!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment Hascoorats – I really appreciate your point of view. I love the advice to not compare the inside of yourself to the outside of others – truer words have never been spoken. The more moms I get to know who are authentic enough to be their real selves, the more I grow to learn that there is no secret to parenting – we are all getting by the best we can. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. wow I am flattered Juliann! I have been called a lot of things in my life but never wise or enlightened 🙂 Thanks for such kind words. Hope you have a great weekend too!

  3. I always thing that other people think I am weird. Not sure if it is just me that feel that way or not. I like to think of myself as unique.

    1. Hey Shellina – in my books being weird and unique is always preferable to being just another face in the crowd. Keep rocking your uniqueness. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Pingback: ADHD2 | Pearltrees

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