Alison’s Story

was 8 years old when it first became apparent that I had attention problems;when the teacher held a reading group in the front of the room, I would pause in the classwork I was supposed to be doing and listen to the story! The teacher asked my parents to consider earmuffs. Organization? There was actually a subject on the report card called “study habits”- I failed it because my desk was always so cluttered. These two problems followed me throughout my school years. I failed the 6th grade because I only turned in 2/3 of my work, though that much earned good grades. I was dismayed- I had intended to let it cut close to the edge, but thought I’d managed to squeak by.Still, the blow to my self esteem was softened by a warm teacher who never once referred to it and never made me feel like a failure.

This was in contrast to my father who used to ask us at the dinner table how mwe were doing in school. Once I meekly said I’d made an “A” on a test. His reply..”WEll you should- you’ve had it before!” By 7th grade, my self-esteem was so low it was all I could do just to function and get through a day. Doing class/home/work often took more energy than I could seem to muster. Though I technically failed the 7th grade, too, my mother wnet to bat fore me, pulled some strings and got me “placed” in the 8th grade on probation. I managed to squeak through that year academically, but I was so depressed, I used to think about dying. I didn’t actually think about killing myself, but ways that I COULD, such as open the car door on the freeway and fall out.

But I never wanted to, I only wished I could be put to sleep for a few years and wake up a few years later when, I was sure, things would be better somehow.By the 9th grade I had lost a lot of weight and got a lot of attention at first when returning students didn’t even recognize me. Of course that was a big ego boost, but it was short lived when everyone apparently realized that losing weight had only changed me on the outside, and inside I was still the same s ocially awkward person. Through my high school years I managed to find friends like myself who didn’t quite fit in. Thoreau’s(?) poem about “marching to a different drum” became almost an anthem for me; I embraced my differentness. 
In my junior year of high school, something happened that dramatically changed my life forever; I became a Christian. To learn that the God of the universe, the Creator accepted and loved me had a profound effect on me. It did not make me more socially acceptable; quite the contrary- some people resented me for it. Even among other Christian youth I didn’t seem to “fit in” though I never understood why.

I graduated high school happier, but with a C average. I don’t think I truly believed I’d graduate til the diploma was in my hand! Because it was a given in my family that we (I am oldest of 4)would go to college, I decided on Elementary Education. I loved kids, loved the unconditional acceptance I got from them. But that Fall I defied my parents and went to an unaccredited Bible college. I wanted to learn more about the “whys” behind my beliefs, but my parents believed it a waste of a year of time and money. But I went, worked and paid my tuition myself. Though I felt somewhat guilty for defying my parents, it was a real strengthening experience to support myself for that year. At the end of that year I reluctantly transferred to a Christian Liberal arts college, leaving a family type atmosphere for one of cliques, none of which I seemed to fit in with.Again the oddball. For a year I fooled around, not really studying, then decided to get serious. Unfortunately,my engagement to a guy from the Bible college ended and I was so depressed I let my grades go again and flunked out.

I worked for two years and kept up a relationship with a guy I’d started out friends with just before the break-up. I went back to the college for two more years, but just couldn’t seem to discipline myself to study, or when I did, it was with poor results. At one point the Dean of women actually required me to go have a glucose tolerance test. I’m not sure what this was supposed to show, but it was the 70’s and the term ADD hadn’t been coined yet. I did spend a summer working in a “Learning Disability Clinic” where I first heard terms like “dyslexic” “hyperkinetic” and realized I was not alone and that whatever it was I had, it had a name! Years later these would become distinguished from ADD. In ’81 I married the guy I’d been dating for 5 years. We both discovered we were messy and disorganized, but managed to keep it at a liveable level. Steve became my memory, reminding me of things I needed to do, doing things for me, like getti! ng gas, that he was afraid I’d forget. I came to depend on this, he came to depend on me to be the talker in social situations as he was very shy. In ’87 we had our son, Daniel, the little light of our lives. Daniel quickly established himself as strong-willed, demanding and with a short attention span even for a baby.

I was not terribly surprised, then, when he went from pulling up to standing to walking them running all in a month! Taking him to the grocery store was only manageable until he learned, at 2 1/2 to climb out and then run around the store.In ’93 we went thru the process to have him diagnosed ADD. I already knew I was, but had not yet heard of adults on medication for ADD. Since that time I have had reasons to both curse and rejoice over having ADD. I began teaching daycare out of college (I quit in ’78) and found that my hyper/manic silliness went over big with little ones, but my disorganized clutter was a constant source of irritation to my bosses. After years of daycare teaching I felt restless and wanted to move on to something that both paid better and held more respect than many parents’ image of me as just a babysitter.

SO, with my heart in my throat, I underwent the diagnostic process myself, which even the examiner said was just a formality after meeting me! I tried Adderall but it made me jittery. Sometimes Ritalin does, but usually not. I went back to college in October to pursue a nursing degree. Yes, I am still hyper, cluttered, disorganized, but I have found ways to keep my class stuff together and tricks to help me memorize all the medical terms I have to know. I find involving more than one sense helps; writing and saying it. Using bright colored markers on index cards. So far I am making A’s for the first itme in my life! If I can do it, so can you! Hope this wasn’t too long, and hope someone found some comfort in similarities in my life as I did in the other ADD stories here.