1- My ADD Journey - Mr. 90%

I've always humorously addressed my ADD. I'm the "forgetful" one. I'm the guy who blurts something out impulsively for effect in a conversation, looking for a laugh. My wife jokes that I have Tourette's syndrome. Teachers and others called me "Accident-prone." My buddies shout "squirrel!!" to mock how I change subjects while conversing. 

Realizing I'm Different

I received a clinical diagnosis early in my life, given the rarity of the diagnoses in the 60s and 70s. During a visit back to the US when I was 10, I was prescribed Ritalin. I don't remember if it did any good. I have sought other psychiatric treatment, but no one directly addressed the issue of ADD as the source of my dysphoria. 

What I do remember is my frustration, even in 3rd and 4th grade, with my poor grades. I couldn't complete homework assignments, and I lived in fear of a confrontation with the teacher over the assignment not turned in. I LIKED school. I did well in some things and poorly in others. I remember that an assignment that involved drawing or using images instead of just writing or formulas was engaging for me. I loved movies and picture books. 

My parents were disappointed in my scholastic performance - they were both smart. My father, in particular, was a Harvard grad and a successful reporter and writer. It was just a matter of discipline. I remember him coming to see me at bedtime one night, and I cried rich, thick tears - I was sorry I was such a bad student. "Don't be silly," he said. 

My mother put me at my desk with a kitchen timer. "Just do homework until this dings." and set it for 45 minutes. For a period of time, she arranged tutors for my weak subjects. I think the school required it, but this did help; someone there to just pound it into my brain. That was how I PASSED subjects I struggled with - I didn't excel because of tutoring. 

This was my life, and I sucked at it. And the more challenging the work got, the more I sucked. Again, I LIKED school. I loved learning and being in the learning environment. 

I drew the conclusion any reasonable person would; I must be stupid. I transferred from public school to a private day school which put me amongst a lot of what cool kids would call "nerds," which actually translates into "committed students." I was friends with many of them, but their ease with classwork made me feel stupid. This is where the cycle of low teenage self-esteem kicked in. I was 14, I had a lot of self-loathing because of my school work, my parents divorced, and I was forgotten... I started hanging out with the losers. 

I ended up at boarding school. At this particular school, academics were important but weren't the most critical thing. In testimony, at the funeral of one of my favorite teachers, his wife posted a plaque he had received from his students that said, "... thanks for not letting school get in the way of our education." I saw quite a few poor students here, no longer the outlier. I realized I was NOT stupid, just different. I picked up a few things that were useful - the layout of the school newspaper, which fed my graphical understanding of the world. I also learned how to write a vignette; short three-paragraph essays that forced you to express a single idea in a simple format.  

I became the school paper's editor, mainly because no one else wanted the job. But this revealed the depth and breadth of my ADD issues. Deadline management became a hallmark of my struggles. Lili Brown, the faculty editor, called me a "world-class brinksman." She saw this as "procrastination," a character issue. Other things I now realize were ADD related. I am grateful to her for not giving up on me, though. She was my champion, and she defended me often. I was a laggard, but I was HER laggard. 

I have run up against the challenges posed by ADD my entire life. It has ruined relationships, cost me jobs and businesses, and made me unhappy. But after 60 years, I have assembled a set of tools and tricks to manage or even overcome these differences. I want to share what I have done so that a younger person who might currently struggle the way I did can see the true nature of the disorder and learn to live with ADD as a strength.

These ADD Character Flaws are actually strengths if you can turn them to your advantage

  • Unreliable
  • Late
  • Liar
  • Doing the Wrong Task
  • Lazy
  • Daydreamer
  • Trouble
  • Forgetful
  • Bad with Money
  • Slow


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