Mary Ann’s Story

In 1994 a friend of mine read the back of a book on ADD and thought, “this sounds just like Mary Ann.” When she mentioned it to me, the description at that time didn’t resonate with me. This may have been due to being in the final stages of a two and a half year severe depression that essentially defined my college experience(and plagued me on and off for the next seven years). I was much more concerned with not committing suicide then with whether or not I was skilled at detailed work. After many therapy sessions and finding an anti-depressant that works wonders for me, about three or four years ago, I began to understand that I had, had always had Attention Deficit Disorder.

What did my school experience look like? Academically, my grades were unpredictable, though in general I excelled at languages and struggled through math. Any homework that took quiet reading, like history, was excruciating. I became bored extremely easily. It never occurred to me to voice my frustrations. I felt perpetually overwhelmed with little to no ability to fix the situation. I felt stupid and just wished I would catch up with the “smart kids.”

Unlike many other ADD people, I don’t feel that I entertained myself very well. I watched too much television and most often preferred the company of others to remaining solitary. I had very little patience for reading though in later years that has changed somewhat. I am an avid fiction reader, but still can’t finish a newspaper article.

From day one of my life, I’ve been drawn to music but didn’t have the patience to practice. I tried clarinet and drums with no success. I was always drawn to piano but for whatever reason, it didn’t occur to >me to ask for lessons. Throughout nearly all of my educational life, I experienced the immense frustration of being drawn to or becoming
friends with the, “smart kids” but only occasionally having the grades to join them in their honors classes. I just didn’t have the patience to focus or study except in the occasional class that completely excited me like my high school latin class or college english classes- in those I often received the best grade and/or received wonderful praise from the teacher.

Throughout all of this academic life, I suffered a horrible self-esteem. I am 33 years old and have never had a genuine long term relationship, though I’ve had a smattering of experience here and there with men and women. Add to this picture too that from the age of 5 – 15 I was very overweight. I did manage though to lose 70 pounds during my freshman year of high school (here, here for that occasional hyper-focusing), which in all honesty made me a very attractive young woman with absolutely no idea how to handle any kind of romantic attention. Though I remained thin throughout high school and most of college, the image of the tall ugly fat girl remains and too often haunts me to this day. To make a long weight gain/loss short, I exercise regularly and am about 30 pounds overweight, not horrible but not great.

My job history mirrors the experiences of so many others in the ADD stories which I’ve read. In the 12 years since finishing college I’ve probably had 15 different jobs. Fired from some, left others before I was fired. It’s often the same story: I am very well-like but I just don’t get the work done to anyone’s satisfaction – actually, most often I hate the work.

Over the past few years, Ive made the exciting and difficult realization that I am in all ways meant for a life on the stage. I sing extremely well and have natural stage presence. I have performed on and off since I was 15 years old. I am my truest self on stage acting and especially singing. Though this is priceless knowledge, except in the rarest of cases it doesn’t pay the bills. I work at a music school where I have also been studying voice and piano for a number of years (at a discount!). I sit too long at my desk and have too much busy work, but the environment alone, for the time being, satisfies me.

Do I have any sage advice? Get a good therapist, get the right medications, be patient, be forgiving, be tenacious. Taking up piano at 26 has taught this; first and foremost, it’s never too late. If you’re afraid or feel it’s insane to begin something so difficult after childhood, just remember, you will die one day. Wouldn’t your rather have tried? I have come close to giving up piano a number of times – I found it immensely difficult to practice on a regular basis. My love of music always brought me back though. I have gone for long periods of no study due to lack of money; however, at some point in the last few months, I acquired enough musical knowledge and more importantly learned enough about my needs when I study (finding a teacher with whom I can be frank about my ADD needs and challenges, frequent breaks when practicing, dancing and jumping around every so often to adrenalize myself), that doing the regular practice that piano (and vocal study) necessarily requires isn’t as hard as it used to be.

The scales have gently tipped in the direction of challenging, enjoyable work rather then unfocused drudgery. It’s far from perfect. I dream of losing myself in 2-3 hours of musical study, but I accept that my maximum time, until I figure out better, is about 45 minutes of focused work. I have no grand plan for what kind of performer I want to be. I am excited by whatever is in front of me, so much so that I have lost a great amount of trust in my instincts regarding what TRULY excites me in the long run – On any given day, I want to do opera!…I want to be on Saturday Night Live!…I want to be in an a capella ensemble!… I must be on Broadway and the London stage!!, etc. I would give away many things in order to find the peace of mind that I imagine sustained focus can give.

I hope this is of use to some of you. I\’ve enjoyed writing it.