Bill’s Story

A.D.D. and Me by Bill C, March 4, 2004
As I wrote this article about my life I was aware that it was not a complete picture. In spite of my personal struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder and the part it has played throughout my life there were many good and enjoyable times. I have made many good friends along the way that are friends to this day. I belong to a wonderful family. I am close to my brothers and sisters and I have a very loving and caring relationship with my parents. Nobody really knew what was going on inside of me. I think some wondered and, at times may have been concerned about some of the things I went through, but they really didn’t know and certainly didn’t contribute to my personal struggles. It is also very important for me to mention that my personal faith in God made a tremendous difference. It may have been the difference between survival and total despair. The following, then, is just a view into what effect A.D.D. had on my life and how I was eventually able to overcome it. !
For me, it is a story of hope.

I clearly remember the first time I felt different, like there was something unusual or not quite normal about me. It happened in the 3rd grade, Dixon Elementary School, Brookfield, Wisconsin. In front of the whole class my teacher said, “When Billy (me) learned how to print we (the class) will learn cursive.” I was so embarrassed and humiliated. The truth was I had no idea there was a problem. I didn’t know I couldn’t print, much less that my teacher wasn’t happy with me about it. I had no connection to the reality of the situation. From then on I always felt I was different than everyone else, that there was something wrong with me.

I didn’t understand a lot of things in school. I would daydream a lot. In the 4th grade my teacher asked me if I was singing. That wouldn’t have been a problem except that we were supposed to be quietly studying in class. I can’t remember singing, but I’m sure I was. I wandered off in my mind all the time.

I remember all throughout school trying to listen to my teachers and wondering what they were saying. Sometimes I could hear their words, see their lips moving and not have any idea what they were saying. I wondered what was wrong with me? Nobody knew. I kept this secret to myself. Was I stupid? I didn’t know. I just knew that I wasn’t like everyone else. I hoped that no one would ever figure it out.

I was probably a classic underachiever. I barely got by in school and excelled in nothing. And, I had no clue. Whether it was school work, music, drama, or sports, the outcome was the same. Lots of talent, loads of potential, but that’s about it. Other kids were successful, dynamic and accomplished. I just went from moment to moment, preparing for nothing. What was wrong with me? I knew there was something, but had no idea what it was.

As I moved through school I continued to struggle. Junior High was a disaster, math was impossible, science made no sense, I couldn’t figure out the difference between a verb and an adjective. I never asked for clarification because it didn’t matter. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t seem to retain the information anyway. I just faked it, got my C grade and moved on. I could usually pull off a C no matter what I didn’t know. A’s and B’s were non existent and impossible to achieve, unless it was P.E. My parents tried tutoring & summer school, but nothing worked.

Entering high school was no different. I d English, science, Spanish and was just plain afraid of math. Like my 3rd grade teacher, my algebra teacher, my algebra teacher was good at embarrassing me. She would accused me of being lazy and not trying (in front of the class). She knew that I knew how to do algebra and just made no effort. Truth was I had no idea what she was talking about. It was like listening to someone speak a foreign language. I finished the year with a D-. I’m not sure how I did that well! It was my last math class in high school.

I did enjoy history, music, drama and P.E. History was about people and events. Just as long as I could work around memorizing dates I was fine. If it hadn’t been for music, drama, and P.E. I probably wouldn’t have averaged above a C grade in high school. As it was I graduated with a 2.3 grade point average. Nothing to brag about for sure.

For me high school was all about avoiding as many difficult classes as possible. I took the minimum math, science and foreign language I needed to graduate. I avoided any English class that I thought would be too hard to do. I didn’t take the PSAT or the SAT because I wasn’t about to take a test I didn’t have to (I’d just fail anyway). Music and drama were my escape but I made no attempt to get the lead in the musical my senior year because I “knew” that I couldn’t do it. By then my confidence was so completely shattered. I hadn’t been successful in anything. What limited success I had in drama my junior year didn’t change how I felt about myself.

I was living in a fog, a couple of steps behind everybody else. Being a part, but not really a part of what was happening around me. Missing opportunities because I either didn’t see them or felt too inadequate to try.

While everyone I knew was making plans for college I hadn’t given it much of a thought. The first time I remember really thinking about attending college was in August after I graduated from high school. Needless to say I didn’t start the first semester. I began attending Fullerton College in the winter quarter. It only took me 12 years to graduate with my B.A degree. I never took more than 13 units, usually taking from 8-12 units because I “knew” I couldn’t do more. I would only go for 1 ½ – 2 years at a time. I had no plan, I had no clue. Up to that point I wasn’t able to concentrate and keep my focus. I always got distracted with something else to do. I was always looking for the easy way out. Quit while it still looked like I wasn’t failing. Move on to something else before people found out I had no idea what I was doing. This pattern never ended! Job to job, start school, quit school. I was never focused enough to reach a goal. I had no goal.

In 1980, after 6 years of going in and out of school and having several jobs I decided that I wanted to go into ministry. I tried to figure out how to get around going to school (I knew I couldn’t do that!). I went to work at a hospital and decided to be a nurse. I needed to go to school for that too so I took another turn and joined the Navy so they could train me. I didn’t make it through boot camp. That was a real confidence breaker. We had classes in which we were being taught the Navy way and I wasn’t retaining anything. I was scared to . Someone was going to find out and I’m really going to get in trouble! I was not a good candidate for the military. I knew, somehow, that they were going to figure me out. I was stuck. I got out because my back started to bother me and instead of working it through I used it as an opportunity to get out. I played it up as much as I could and they ended up sending me home.

That was just great! It fit my well established pattern. Another failure, another plan gone a rye. I was living out the failure I always knew I was. Somehow different than everyone else, living my life in a fog and not really being able to figure it out. But, I kept the face, I held the bluff. I was now very good at it!

I went back to my old job for a short time, tried going back to school to be a respiratory therapist. (I still can’t figure out that one!) I guess I desperately wanted to do something, but I still couldn’t do math and science and I needed both to be in the medical field. I couldn’t connect the dots. I couldn’t see what I could or couldn’t do. I didn’t know how to be realistic, practical or reasonable. Why did I have such a hard time with this? Actually, I didn’t even think on that level. I just went from thing to thing, job to job, school to school. Connect the dots? I didn’t even know there were dots!

In 1983 I began attending Anaheim Christian College. Not to limit my accomplishment, but it wasn’t a mainstream college. It was very small and probably much easier to get into and through. Again, I looked for the easiest path I could find. I chose a major with the least amount of classes I thought I would have trouble with. I avoided the major that required Greek and Hebrew (because I knew I couldn’t do Hebrew!). Although I passed Greek with an A, I never understood it. I did my homework, I copied the letters and I studied very hard for tests. I would often leave the class and go off alone and cry because I had no idea what my teacher was talking about. I will say this about my major: I didn’t have to take any math classes anymore!

My first success at 30 years old. I graduated from college. Only took 12 years! I was invited to be an intern pastor in San Antonio, TX. I went with my family in February of 1987. In the beginning everything seemed to go well. At least, on the surface. My successful graduation didn’t really change how I felt inside. I still had no plan. I didn’t have any idea about the future and I was still afraid I was going to be found out. I was already getting that “I need to do something else” feeling. I lost my first job in San Antonio in one week. I would have three others in the three years I was there.

In the fall of 1988 the worst thing that could happen, did! My wife and I started having problems and in January 1989 she asked me for a divorce. In the summer we were divorced. I lost my wife, my family and, as it turned out, my career. Just like that! My worst fears became a reality. I was figured out. I was a failure. My wife knew it and dumped me. I was devastated and completely lost. Looking back now I realize that whatever she said to me, whatever the reasons she gave, even though there were elements of truth in them, the bottom line was that she was tired. I wore her out. She didn’t want to invest in me anymore. I gave her no confidence that I would ever stick to anything or ever make a decent living. She was right in her assessment. I actually didn’t think any better of myself, I just didn’t know how to formulate the thought. I was in a fog. I couldn’t see the road ahead and I lost sight of what was behind me. I couldn’t connect the dots. I still d!
idn’t know there were any.

Four years and three jobs later I married my wife, Laura. Nine months after that I lost another job. As in anything else I ever did I never knew how to improve myself in whatever I was doing. I couldn’t see what I was supposed to see. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be looking for anything. That’s the irony of it!

I was completely lost. I didn’t know what to do. Now I’m 40 years old. I’m not young with potential. I’m not fooling anyone. I’m an absolute failure and I know it. I am angry and it’s beginning to show. I had absolutely no idea what to do! I also knew that my second marriage was in big trouble, and for the same reason. Me! I was living out my worst fears. It had finally caught up with me. I couldn’t fool anyone anymore and I was convinced that I was about to lose my wife. After 2 years of marriage, one of which I was unemployed for most of it, my wife looked at me and suggested I get tested for Attention Deficit Disorder. Her son had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder so she was familiar with the disorder. To make a long story short I got tested and it turned out I was a classic A.D.D.

This discovery was the beginning of a big change in my life. I was prescribed Ritalin. I think it was in the spring of 1995. I also learned that I was plenty smart. That my I.Q. actually tested a little above average (not enough to brag about though). I began to connect a few dots. I wanted to start a wedding ministry; I sought council and began making plans. By the beginning of 1996 I had a course of action, established a working database, developed a unique wedding ceremony package and began making contacts in the wedding industry. By the end of 1996 I had performed 90 weddings, worked two part-time jobs and kept up with all of it. Within two years I was able to quit one part-time job and go full time in the wedding ministry. After four years I was able to quit the other part-time job as I was doing over 170 weddings a year. This includes keeping my own calendar, preparing all of the ceremonies, increasing my contacts in the industry and improving the service I !
provided my couples.

By 2001 I was doing 190 weddings per year. In the summer of 2002 I began The Clergy Referral Service and organized a referral system where I refer weddings to other ministers. By 2004 I had over 25 ministers working for me and it looked like it’s was just beginning to grow. I have what is arguably the biggest referral service in Southern California. On top of that I am teaching at church on a regular basis.

For a couple of years in the middle of the wedding ministry I stopped taking Ritalin. The wedding business was going so well that it ran on momentum for quite awhile. Eventually ,however I began to see some problems and I couldn’t figure out what to do. My wife also noticed that I was unfocused (I was back in the fog and couldn’t find any dots to connect). I began taking the proper medication again in the beginning of 2002. That’s when I came up with the idea and then implemented The Clergy Referral Service.

All of this happened after my diagnosis and I began taking the appropriate medication. I understand my pre diagnosed life now. I understand the failures, the self loathing, the insecurities and the inability to stick to anything. I know I fooled many people because I was smart enough to get by. I also recognize that there were those who did see my weaknesses. I appeared lazy to them, like I wasn’t trying hard enough. Who could blame them; I passed the same judgment on myself!

I know that I missed some amazing opportunities in my life. At least now I know why. I don’t have to beat myself up anymore. I couldn’t do what was impossible for me to see. I thank God for this journey. It has made me unique. I fully believe that all that I have been through and all I have experienced God intends to use. I am finally where I am supposed to be. I am finally comfortable in my own skin. I am finally finding the dots and connecting them together. And, I am finally out of the fog. As a good friend of mine told me, “It was like looking through a pair of binoculars that were out of focus. Once they were focused I could finally see things clearly.”