Brian’s Story

Having read through the stories on this site, I simply cannot leave it without posting my own.

I am a 33 (soon to be 34) year old man. Like so many of us, I first learned about the differences I had in grade school. I was very good at languages and social studies topics, but I had difficulty getting organized and I kept forgetting things related to math and science. Facts were easy to memorize if they interested me and my love of science fiction helped out somewhat, but overall those parts of school were just plain hard.

Both my sister and I were IQ tested at young age. I had no idea of this until near the middle of high school when my father told me about it, saying that we had both tested out at genius level. Even with these remarkable results, our grades were poor and we brought home report cards with comments about not living up to our potential or not focussing enough in class. Both of us read at a level well beyond our school placement; indeed I was reading and comprehending at a grade twelve level in grade six. Two obviously bright children, so what happened to the results? ADD. Pure and simple.

High school wasn’t a lot better. The pressure was higher, sexuality and adolescence complicated matters for young brains tired out by trying to focus on one thing at a time. Both of us were highly creative, with active fantasy lives. I wrote and played music while my sister painted, sculpted and explored art. Writing was a chore for me because my spelling was terrible (I’m using a spell checker here, so don’t let the spelling fool you) and I often had to rewrite something four or five times to get it legible. I am an excellent, coherent speaker, it is just that trying to get the words on the paper fast enough to match my thinking causes all sorts of mistakes. Yet, my intelligence wasn’t lacking. Here’s a funny story to illustrate:

In my grade eleven physics course, I was surrounded by other kids who would copy from my notes in class or from my paper during tests. I was a very poor student in terms of my marks and hated the material, so I don’t know why they bothered. The only saving grace was the teacher, since he didn’t bore me into zone-out land. Realizing that they might well get flunked for my lack of comprehension, I decided to try something to protect all of us. (I was also pretty annoyed at their dishonesty in copying.) I had taught myself to write English phonetically in the Greek alphabet (I loved the challenge of forming the letters in alphabets that were different from English), so I started keeping all of my notes this way. My ADD got the better of me though the habit got so strong that I forgot myself and handed in a test written this way. Fortunately, the teacher had some patience and a sense of humour. When he read it, he had me come in after class to explain. Once he saw how I had done things and found out why, he smiled and had me read the answers back to him. I got a C- for my comprehension of the material but the teacher told me I deserved an A for my creativity. (Now that is a cool teacher!)

I also noticed that my co-ordination was low as a child. I would trip, fall, stumble, bang into things or cut, bruise and scrape myself at the drop of a hat. Yet, there were also times where my hand-eye coordination was blindingly fast. It was funny in a way: If someone called my name and tossed something to me without any real warning, my hands would fly up in a blur and I would snap the item out of the air. However, if they set the situation up and warned me, I would miss the object four out of five times. This is still the same for me today. People will see me fall all over myself, tripping over cracks in the street and then I’ll turn around and catch a falling leaf or a feather drifting on the wind without even thinking about it. They just don’t get it.

After school I moved from one job to another. The only one that satisfied me was when I ran my own retail store. Unfortunately it was my partner (and fiancé at the time) who had the financial organization skills. When the relationship imploded and she stopped coming to work, I sold the business rather then let my lack of organization destroy it. Even so, I know now that if I had a proper financial organizer as a partner, I could make an excellent front man for a business. My people skills are highly developed (I think my ADD may actually be enhancing parts of them) and my way with words usually gets a point across without a problem. However, that organizer would need lots of patience and a willingness to explain things!

Last year my father and half brother were diagnosed with ADD. My half brother showed all the same signs in school and childhood that I did. Most of my father’s family (my parents have been divorced since I was thirteen) remarked on how much he reminded them of me as a child – the same sweet dreamy quality, startled by loud noises, often off in his own world. After a phone call where my step mother told me about this, I spoke to my biological mother about it as well. I had recently read the book, You mean I’m not lazy, stupid or crazy? when a friend at work who had been diagnosed with ADD recommended it to me. I recommended the book to my mom and in our conversation about it, lights started to go off in her head. I remember her saying, Is that why I always wind up out in left field during conversations? Is that why I always go six jumps ahead of everybody in my thinking and then get all mixed up? Is that why my memory is so bad? and so on. I’m pretty sure that all of my blood relatives, my mother, father, sister and half brother have ADD. Of these people, it would seem that Dad, Mom and my sister have the hyperactive component as well, whereas my half brother and I seem to be more passive and under-focussed, without the constant frenetic activity.

Keeping jobs has always been hard for me and relationships have been tough as well, usually due to job or financial stress. Fortunately, I am with a wonderful person who also comes from an ADD family and knows the bumps in the road. Between the two of us now, and our knowledge of what ADD is I think we’ll do fine. We trip, but we get right back up again. If anything sums up what it’s like to be this way, I think that last sentence is it. You trip, but you get back up again.

Good luck to all of you and don’t be afraid to write me. The stories here have made me feel better about myself and they have helped me not to feel so terribly alone. Thank you to everybody who chose to tell their stories.