My mother and sister have a certain way of saying my name when I screw up.
Their voices dive on the hard vowel sound at the end as opposed to the usual rising lilt. Just writing about it puts the sound in my head. The sound of certainty, of the way things are, of what we know to be classic, classifiable Kelsye crap.
I forgot to do my chores.
I didn’t turn in the homework I finished.
I locked my keys in the car again.
I dropped out of design school in the middle of my final quarter.
I’m moving to a new city for a new start.
I’m moving to a new state.
A new country.
I’m starting a company.
I’m quitting my company.
I’m getting divorced.
I’m getting married.
Now watch me sitting alone in the doctors office at age 35, completing my ADD evaluation and crying into my double cappuccino. I was late for my appointment, of course, but they took me anyway, handed me a stack of paperwork clipped to a board and ushered me into a sterile room.
How often do you lose track of the location of your keys or phone? Rarely, occasionally, weekly, daily.
Do you have difficulty finishing projects?
Do you find yourself unable to concentrate when other people talk for a long time?
How often do you wait until the last possible minute to tackle big projects?
And on and on. These things I’ve thought defining traits of my personality, and my own great failings, listed as symptoms to an identifiable disorder. A treatable condition.
I’ve known about my ADD for years. I was diagnosed a long time ago, during my split from my first husband. But I am not some behaviorly-challenged schmuck. I’m super smart. Certifiably smart! Pretty arrogant as well. So much so that I think my intricate system of to-do lists, calendaring and sheer willpower could save me from myself. Coping skills. I’ll deal with this the natural way. No drugs. I’ll simply think faster, speed up to compensate.
My senior year in High School, I found that I was getting a C in AP calculus. Royally pissed off that I could get an A on every test but still be marked the dreaded “average”, I marched into my class and demanded to know what was the issue.
“Sure,” said my teacher. “You ace the tests but you haven’t turned in a single homework assignment.”
“Can’t we just base my grades off the tests? It shows I understand.”
“Nope. You have to do the work.”
Sit still and do row after row of repetitive problem. Panic. No possible way could I do that.
I continued to get As on every test, forgot everything within a month and took a C in the class.
As an English teacher in my twenties, each week I confronted a stack of essays from 180 students that required comments and grades. That stack of papers would sit on the corner of my desk for two days as I worked up the courage to confront it. I couldn’t sit through a single essay without losing focus and having to restart at the beginning. Willpower wasn’t working and I couldn’t negotiate my way out of this one. I turned to booze. One glass of red wine could narrow my focus for ten or so essays. A careful balance. Too much alcohol and I’d start drawing smiley faces and personal confessions in the margins. Too little and my brain would drift away. I learned the art of the balanced buzz, thankfully young enough that my body could recover quickly.
In my thirties, I found that I could multi-task myself into oblivion. Powering through a career in marketing, starting and running my own company, all while raising kids and keeping a creative writing life going – no problem. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom. Caffeine and stress were my greatest allies. Until I realized I spend days, years, spinning at high speed and racking up accomplishments, but barely aware of the life I created for myself. When my once a year vacation was the only week I could accurately remember from the year prior, I knew I had to slow down. I don’t want one memorable week out of every 52. This is not the life of my choosing.
Meditation. Journaling. Running. Careful dietary intake. A big career change and renewed attempt to “buckle down” and “really focus” on what was important.
A few months ago, sitting in my home office, struggling with the projects in front of me, accepted that something wasn’t right. Life is hard, but it doesn’t have to be this hard every day. I finally have all my big checklist items ticked off. Deep love and happy family life. A big dog and city house. My books being published. Good earnings in a freelance career doing what I love. So why did I dread work each day? I couldn’t even imagine a better set-up than what I had. If everything around me is near perfect, perhaps the problem is me.
My husband’s glorious health insurance provided me a way out. Just go and hear what the doctor has to say, I told myself. See if there is something to try. Get… gasp… help.
Now I am one of those statistics. Adult woman on ADD medication. Adderall, for those that are interested.
The first couple days I suffered terrible headaches and blinked my way through the nights. My body adjusted and the next two weeks flew by in a glorious blaze of productivity and focus. I wrote and completed a novel draft in a single month, one day clocking in 12,000 words.
After a month, I see that the medicine is not as strong as when I first began. My mind is wandering when I sit down. I want an afternoon nap again. From what I read online it sounds like it may take me some time to find the correct dose for me. We shall see. Superwoman might be unsustainable, but perhaps I don’t need to go back all the way to the beginning.
In checking my daughter’s grades recently, I found that she was getting behind in her language arts class due to reading requirements. This makes no sense. She reads at least one book a week. When she finds a new series she likes, she can read three a week. When I asked her what was happening, she explained how she hasn’t turned in her reading logs.
“Yeah. We have to write down our page count after every reading session. I can’t keep track. I just read the books. It’s too hard to remember to write down the numbers each time. They should just give me credit for reading the books and not worry about the logs.”
There is already a certain way I say her name, almost as a family joke, when she forgets to put on pajamas, or loses her phone again, can’t sit still. That stops right now. She’s not faulty. She’s fantastic. We both are.