Wanna hear a scary story?
Since today is Hallowe’en, I thought I would take this opportunity to break from tradition and post a day early. Everyone loves a scary story now and then. And there is no better day than Hallowe’en to share one. Be warned though, sometimes reality is scarier than fiction.
No one knows for sure why we celebrate Hallowe’en in the way that we do. Some theories suggest that its origins are rooted in times when the Roman Empire ruled the world. Their tradition of conjointly honouring saints who had no other day bestowed to them became amalgamated with ancient Celtic beliefs that the dead revisit the earth one day a year.
Hallowe’en, the evening before All Saints Day, was seen as the time when the portal between earthly and ethereal realms would be opened. In attempt to appease the spirits, the people would leave food at the edge of their townships and adorn themselves in gruesome costumes, hoping to ward off harm from evil spirits. And somewhere along the line, the tradition of dressing up and trick-or-treating was born. (Aside – I’m no historian so I make no claims to this being anything more than a theory!)
When times are hard and we don’t understand why, people tell themselves stories to explain the difficulties and give them context. The theories, inaccurate though they may be, give us a sense that we are not completely lost and navigating life without a compass. Likewise, it is human tendency to seek safety in benign rituals when there is no power to be found in more logical defenses. The rituals may not always make sense or have even a modicum of plausibility, but they are nonetheless comforting because they offer us a sense of control over situations that are beyond comprehension.
Put it this way: if your community was poor, oppressed, illness-laden and there was nothing you could do about it, wouldn’t the idea that you could ward off further harm through engaging in ritualistic behaviours bring you some sense of assurance? You may not be able to change what’s already been done, but you could surely stop it from getting any worse!
Would scary costumes really defend a person from an evil spirit with malicious intentions? Probably not. I also have a vague sense that ghosts probably don’t eat, so I can’t see what good leaving out a picnic for them would do either. But that’s not the point. Doing those things gave the people a sense of control and an ability to take some sort of action. People need to feel that they have some power over their situation or they will lose all hope. Without hope, you have nothing.
And so it is the way for someone living an ADHD life never knowing that ADHD is what they are dealing with. They devise all sorts of theories and explanations to understand why they are the way that they are, and create elaborate rituals and systems to compensate for what they cannot explain. These are not the undead roaming our earth one day a year, but the undiagnosed wandering it every day of the year. They wander through life lost, knowing not they are undiagnosed, and missing their place in the tribe they never they belonged to.
Scary isn’t it?
I must point you towards my virtual face right now, so that can you see my cheek protruding with a tongue lodged firmly in it. I am not really likening my undiagnosed comrades to zombies and monsters. I was undiagnosed myself for most of my life. In my (always) melodramatic way I am highlighting a simile that I think is worth mentioning. The dead are fantasized to wander the earth because they don’t know they are dead. We ADDers also have a great tendency to wander aimlessly when we don’t know that we have ADD.
It’s not the diagnosis that’s important, it’s the understanding it brings us. Whether or not you chose to seek diagnosis or even treatment is not nearly as important as the choice to, once and for all, seek a new understanding of yourself and your brain chemistry. Most important, it’s the realization that we are not less-than-human because of our differences, but that we are an important part of the human tribe, that sets us free from the curse of being supposed interlopers. And then we can give up useless rituals in favour of ones that actually serve us.
We aren’t lost. With the right map we can find our way just fine. Take that with you as you wander the earth this Hallowe’en day!