“We’ve enjoyed all of Jennifer’s stories throughout the year,” one of my first school reports read.
Boy was I a talker. I say was, but I still am. You’ve only to look at my blogs to see my mind is constantly on the go and luckily for you lovely readers, I am doing my best to keep it in some kind of order. My lack of concentration and focus is related, by a huge part, to my ADHD, Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder, which was diagnosed just after I received my Autism diagnosis a few years ago.
Way back when I was little I just talked insistently, all day long, often without pausing, without punctuation, at supersonic speed without maintaining the same subject for longer than a few seconds. In fact I was happy even just talking to myself; at least I knew I would be happy with the subjects. I had a million thoughts going on in my mind at any one time and trying to process them all along with everything around me always led to 100% full distraction. My parents must have said my name billions of times trying to get me to focus and concentrate because I was staring off at something. Just like my boys, I often took in the first few seconds of any instructions before I either stopped listening and started the task or talked over whoever was speaking. It wasn’t that I was trying to be rude, but with tasks I wanted to just get on with them and finish. I often got whacked at the back of my head or told off for cutting someone off when they spoke, plenty of times, I’m sure I have a permanent hand print on it. Again, it wasn’t that I wanted to interrupt, but I knew if I didn’t say that thought in my mind at that very second…in 2 seconds it would be gone, never to be found again and on to something else. I wanted to say something, speak about my thoughts and this meant talking over someone else or cutting them off mid-sentence. It isn’t something I am proud of, but even with my medication now, I still do it. Without them I am so much worse, trust me.
This lack of focus and incessant talking also got me into bother in school. I got into trouble even in 1st year (US-1st grade) for talking to the other students too much, affecting others learning, not following the task instructions, not doing the task as required or not completing the task all together. That can be a little hard to take as a kid, because I was always trying my best. With the American mentality, the military mentality and need to be number 1 and the best all the time, this lack of success really wore me down. It made me feel like I was failing, nothing seemed good enough. I knew I was smart, but these people were always taking too long to get to the point of conversations or giving me too much information that I would forget what I was meant to do. If I couldn’t take it in I would just do what I thought was right to complete the task. Even that got me into trouble because I would get told off for “not following instructions” in spite of the fact that I use my own initiative to get to the same goal everyone else did with the instructions. It wasn’t praise it was criticised and the reprimands were always public. What a way to ostracise me even more with my peers that to make me look an idiot to children who already had their own reasons for not liking the bossy girl. It just seemed no matter what I did I was never going to win, so I began to think, why bother? I knew I was smart, I got great test results and was always at the top of the class but my teachers always complained about the talking and the non-compliance with the rules and instructions. Well…I tried, it just wasn’t in me to sit still, toe the line and listening to boring information about things I already knew as well as work in groups. Group work was only ever going to be a success if I was the leader.
At home, it was much the same struggle. I got into trouble because I wouldn’t sit still, I was always “stimming” (read my post about stimming here), bouncing, rocking on my father recliner upside down or wanting to play outside. I was always on the move but like Adam said in his ADHD blog, I was also disorganised. It wasn’t that I couldn’t organise, it was that I could organise small bits but everything was a mess. Think of it as organised chaos, that was my room and somewhat my life as a kid. It was too overwhelming a task to clear my messy room. I am sure my mother thought I was just trying to avoid cleaning my room. I mean come ‘on what kid likes to tidy their room? None I can assure you. But I genuinely just struggled to know where to start, the task just seem to big for one person to take on. So I did what I do best…I went to sleep at the side of my bed where no one could find me. I was all done in from all the thinking and focusing there was no way it was going to get done without help. Needless to say on one particular occasion my mother was about to call the MP’s ( Military Police) because she couldn’t find me sleeping in amongst all the stuff in my room and since I was sleeping I had no idea I was being called. Meh, it isn’t like my room was big, suckers. Hahaha
As I went on to through school and to high school, more issues became apparent for me. Ok, my self-esteem had long since been shot to pieces from all the years of rubbish from one person or another, but school just became that much more difficult. I know people say women are great multi-taskers and far be it from me to cast any shadow that millions of women do it. But for me, not a chance in the world I could do it. It was always a choice of one thing or another but never both. I couldn’t sit in school and listen to the teacher lecture and take notes of their talk. I couldn’t copy what was on the board and listen to the instructions or demonstration it was either on choice only or there was no real option. Every time I tried to listen and take notes, my notes would be illegible because I was trying to remember what was said by the teachers and write it down but then I would miss more of what was said whilst trying to write and remember so nothing made sense, neither the topic of my notes nor the words I struggled to remember ever sank in. Then I would have to go home and try to reteach myself what I missed in class. However my distraction and tiredness from the days schooling meant I often had to read and re-read something 3 or 4 times because I would forget what I just read or couldn’t take it in or I was distracted, yet again. Trust me the frustration is acute. The big annoyances often involved reading books. Whilst reading I would be thinking about something like “oh that door handle is made of metal, I wonder what kind of metal…wonder where it is mined…hmmm do all the doors have the same handles?” Ten pages into my book later I would realise I am still thinking about the stupid door knobs or I moved on to thinking about the germs from however many hands touched the door knob in one day or over a year and then be forced to go back and start reading over again.
In the end I found homework was just too much for me and stop so I didn’t bother. I knew there would always be a friend who would let me copy their work quickly before class so I wouldn’t get into too much trouble. As previously mentioned, I did well on tests and so that was what got me through. But I did in fact almost not graduate high school all down to not turning in one single homework paper. Luckily my teacher took pity on me and let me turn it in late and bingo I was outta there.
The difficulties with my ADHD never went away nor did my ability to deal with things and the side effects to my self-esteem and self-worth because of my constant inability to complete things. My mins till races a million miles an hour with tons of ideas and each thought triggers me to remember something else I didn’t do, didn’t complete or stop mid flow. It is like running around like a headless chicken to complete all the tasks you’ve planned all day, but with so many thoughts and distractions that you end up achieve nothing.
I am grateful now to have my diagnosis, as I have medication to help make things more manageable for me. It didn’t take it all away by any means but it does give me the chance to not be so overwhelmed by my lists of tasks. I have more confidence that I set goals and achieve them. I know that it would be very difficult for me to home educate my boys without my medication, it makes it easier when I am out with a friend because I can stay on the same trail of thought instead of going off on strange unrelated tangents. It helps give me a big more of a get up and go attitude instead of feeling like I am going to achieve nothing for all my hard work. I think because I do like learning, I may decide to go back to university and learn more. Had I known back as a child, perhaps I would have achieved more, but then I am not sure what kind of person I would be today. I love that I have so many unconnected random ideas; it helps me think about things from a different perspective. Ok, I may not always take in what people say to me, but hey, I get the important bits.