Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What It's Like Having Adult ADD or ANY ADD (What Many Teachers Hate to Understand)

I have been very busy for the last week or so, up in my head. The world, the house, (the school) have been whizzing past my super-highway mind. It's as if I'm trapped in the back-seat of a speeding car, barely able to count the telephone poles along the way, let alone focus on scenery.

I ate and slept at fairly appropriate intervals. I watched the news. I went to work. Occasionally I would see a pile of stuff here and there. Some stuff in the sink, some mail or clothes in piles here and there. I might wonder vaguely about it and briefly check off that it wasn't always like that, in that place, just kind of interesting for a moment as I walked through the room. But I couldn't think of what it was or where it was supposed to go or who was going to change it. I didn't care and I didn't try to figure these things out, because I was way too busy up in my head. I was tired, having travelled over the weekend. I was worrying about other things, thinking about other places and times and various people, and always, very very busy, with miles to go before I slept.

I remember around Sunday I saw an unopened can of Spaghettios in the middle of the kitchen floor, which made me begin a whole stream of free-association, thinking eventually of how sweet my grand-daughter is, and how maybe she moved it there or how much she might like it, and I've liked looking at it there every once in awhile, and have walked past it dozens of times without ever registering any reason or need to pick it up and move it. I kicked it once in a fit of pique while looking for my spatula, it's still there on Wednesday. I've enjoyed it very much, it hasn't bothered me a bit. I live alone. No reason why it should bother anyone else, either. It's mine.

Getting out the door in the morning is hard sometimes. Spinning around in circles, upstairs, downstairs, looking for shoes, looking for pocket change for lunch, looking for eyeglasses, car keys, and noticing lots of fun things along the way. An old birthday card from one of my kids, on the back stairway, a bracelet I haven't seen in years in the drawer where I'm searching for socks, The Economist issue I thought the mailman stole, voila!, under the bed, a bill that needs to be paid, in the cushions of the couch, a long-lost eyeliner in the pocket of my sweater, and hallelujah! a twenty dollar bill, on the dining room table right in front of my eyes! OH and there's a can of peas on the kitchen counter! I love peas! I forgot about peas! I could have eaten those last night! Or put them in my omelette this morning. Shoot! Too late now.

Then, lo! the sky cleared for an hour or so this afternoon, molecules in my brain mysteriously aligned in a different way and I felt like a newborn babe seeing the world for the first time.

I realized that the house was a wreck and that it looked literally, like a hurricane had blown through. I thought Ha! I can change this very easily if I want to, and I don't need to, nobody's making me, but wouldn't it be nice?? I'll do a wash of this clothing pile...oh and look...there's more over there! Why don't I put all these shoes in one pile? What a great idea! What is that empty cabinet in the bathroom? So pretty! Oh...I remember now. It's for all the clean washcloths that are piled in the hallway. Look at all that stuff in the kitchen sink! It's dirty dishes?! Who knew?!?!?! Let's see how do people do this when it's such a mess? Where do people start? Turn the water on. Organize the dishes a little, pots with pans, glasses together, silverware all together. Ok, I get it, it's all coming back to me now. It's easy! What's this? God almighty, I nearly forgot that I have an automatic dishwasher! What a great invention!

I've always been like this. It's not senility, but it borders on it, even if you are five years old. The short-term memory is not working properly. When you're young it manifests and translates as multi-tasking. You just keep moving along, running into what you want as you move. I had five kids and kept everything bubbling along 24-7. It was wonderful, I loved every second of it, but it was a series of searches and discoveries, and a wild one. I would save little messes the kids made...toothpaste mixed with peanut butter in dollhouse dishes and stuffed into the mouth of a teddy bear, for instance, which I would save for hours, even days, because such things were so curious, fascinating and wonderful to me, to be cherished rather than wiped anxiously away.

I feel very proud of myself for restoring a tiny bit of sanity to my environment today, but it would probably take years to correct all the collateral damage of years and years of being so "busy". (If you were a young schoolchild, wouldn't it be great to have some help with all this stuff in the world?) People like us often enjoy our peace and quiet. We can come up with great ideas if we have the room to breathe. Minimal stimulation once in awhile, please, and don't chastize. You think I should know where my eyeglasses are, let alone the strap they hang around my neck on? Think again.

I benefit from a helping hand. Just a little, not too much, don't want to lose track of anything since my mind works differently from most people. I really do know the general location of the essentials, whether I saw them one minute or five years ago, or twenty. I don't need structure, structure, structure. Let me loose or I'll fly off like a goose. I need someone to realize that my wings are strong and my vision is good and my brain is ok. I like FORMATION. I like having a destination. I'll follow a leader. But I need my space. And I like it up here in the quiet sky.


It seems most teachers can't stand kids (or adults) like this. I am blessed to have children (and a few co-workers) who understand and occasionally help me (carefully), without me even realizing it's help, lest I bolt. Sometimes it's just a few days of major disorganization that get out of hand. Brain chemistry fluctuates, things can get really messed up, but then the sky clears.

If teachers could offer just a little gentle good-natured help for a student who can't find his homework in his bookbag, or even kindly organize his binder papers once in awhile without making him feel stupid, understanding what those papers may have been through at home,(ADD runs in families, who may all have trampled on that paper on the kitchen floor this morning without even realizing it, while looking for the Cheerios and its accoutrements) life could be better and a slew of ADD medications wouldn't be a teacher's only prayer and solace.

The meds can help, even transform, a student's life, and keep the teachers from tearing that student to shreds, but wouldn't it be nice if students weren't treated and prodded like cattle? And if we could help them fly in formation without bringing them down from their gentle winds?

Happy Birthday Dear Julina!

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