Jennifer’s Story

It’s been less than a month now since I suspected I had ADD and almost two weeks since I’ve been diagnosed with it. I always felt “different”, especially as a little kid. I daydreamed so much the contents of my head seemed more real than the outside world. I could never get organized, felt bolts of energy running through me that I had no outlet for, so I was constantly making strange fidgeting motions with my hands, and schoolwork was only done with someone standing over me. I had absolutely zero sense of how to relate to other people, so anything might fly out of my mouth at any time. That, and I’d just do whatever popped into my head, like throwing sand in another kid’s face. I didn’t even think about it being bad, so it was puzzling to be in trouble for these things. I never had many friends and the ones I made didn’t stick around. It didn’t really change in junior high and high school, apart from my grades plummeting. By that point, even pushing me to try and do my work had no effect. I couldn’t relate to other people any better, so I had really no self esteem and was constantly very, very depressed.

I’d always had insomnia, but it got so bad it was ridiculous. I wound up in the hospital with some extreme diagnoses, and my mother, who refused to believe I had any other problem aside from being unmotivated and stubborn, told my doctor I was faking being depressed to get out of going to school. That severed any relations with the mental health folks! I found one thing I could do well and focus on- drawing. I eventually got soaringly high grades in art, turning out at least three times as much work as the other students. I won a national art contest and had my first glimpse at self esteem. Being good at something saved my life. I still wasn’t much good with other people, in fact, I start theorizing about an invisible ” distorting glass wall” between myself and everyone else. We could see each other, but I couldn’t understand them, and they couldn’t understand me. It was my way of putting a name and image to that weird inability. It’s never really been surmounted, either.

I didn’t go to college, feeling that I’d just invite another huge disaster into my life. I drifted around the country, being fired from numerous stupid jobs, started drinking and fell in with some terrible men. Bad things resulted. Even the menace of more bad things couldn’t help me get my act together.

Somehow I wound up in a large city with a nice, understanding husband and a job that didn’t fire me for spacing out or acting out because a lot of the staff had some kind of problem. And my husband wasn’t put off by my trail of chaos for the reason that he probably has ADD too….we act so much alike! I kept trying all kinds of projects, have all these ideas….we’re going to make an album, I’ll write and draw a comic book, write short stories, write plays, get together a bunch of paintings and exhibit somewhere….no dice. As soon as the hammer of obligation falls, I lose interest and it goes on the shelf. Or even if there’s no commitment involved, something else gets my attention….and it’s on the shelf. Or I lose all the materials. Or something. My life is paved with half-baked, brief obsessions.

So, about a month ago, i was writing, and by writing I mean surfing the web until the wee hours. I found a random ADD self assessment test and thought I’d take it for kicks. It was like a bolt from the heavens. “Good God, it’s me!” Everything hurting and inexplicable in my whole life suddenly aligned and was sitting there on the screen. I made my husband take the same thing from his own observations of my behavior, and BLAM, same results.

It took just one more instance of having a customer scream at me during work (“NO! You didn’t try to help me!” then tears for an hour in the breakroom) because I spaced out on him to get me to find an ADD-treating doctor. She diagnosed me with ADD, along with mild bipolar disorder and PTSD. I’ve been taking ritalin and it has made a shining difference, even with the other things. Now I know what that glass wall is and I’m learning to deal with it.