Ever since I can remember, I've been a mind wanderer. It was just a slight liability in Elementary School. I was daydreaming too much according to my teachers. But I maintained my grades okay, so as much as my teachers complained to my parents about it, ultimately what could they do? Tell me to stop daydreaming? They did, but that really did nothing.
In Junior High, I started developed coping mechanisms. When I realized my mind had wandered and the teacher was asking a question, I paused, supposedly reflecting deeply on the question and asked the teacher to repeat said question just to make sure I was really understanding it to the fullest. It usually seemed to work out unless it was a simple question that I shouldn't have had to think about, like “What month were you born in?” Then I just looked stupid.
I honed my coping skills more into high school, and it didn't seem to impact my grades too much, but it definitely did impact them. I should have been a straight-A student, but I wasn't. I still managed to tie another student for second place GPA in the class when we graduated from High School. It was a very small school and a very small graduating class, so it sounds so much more impressive than it actually was. I don't know if I got away with my daydreaming because I was that good at faking that I had paid attention, or if my teachers knew what was going on but didn't confront me about it since I was maintaining relatively good grades. I don't know. But it's been a struggle my whole life.
College was harder to fake my way through, but I got through it. Again, with a lower GPA than I should have, but still respectable. You know, C's get degrees....
And then when I had to get a job – ooph. I was definitely a mediocre employee in many aspects when it came to menial tasks. When I could use my intelligence or do special projects, I could still shine, but getting the day to day grind type of things done was always a challenge. I didn't understand why, and that turned into a bit of self-loathing. Or at the very least, a large amount of disappointment with my life path.
I'm a fairly smart person. And I have used my smarts to get by, but I have never truly excelled. Many times I wondered what was wrong with me. Why I couldn't just focus and get things done. Why I daydreamed so much. Why I couldn't trust myself to stay on topic.
And then I had my first child. This kid. Wow, he has been and is both a huge blessing and a huge challenge. We struggle every single year trying to figure out how to do school. Because, while I have never had him formally diagnosed, I am almost 100% certain that he is ADHD. And have been certain for years now.
I recognized that when he was a toddler, our conversations were... weird. He never stayed on topic, he couldn't hold an age-appropriate parent-toddler conversation with me and he answered questions in the strangest way possible.
“What does Curious George have in his hand?” Correct answer: Money, dollars, green paper all would have worked. His answer: Blueberries. And then he would start a completely unrelated sentence about something that had nothing to do with anything and I had no idea what he was talking about.
I'm not going to go into all the details of all the symptoms I saw and all the articles I read and all the time I spent thinking about it. If you are interested in ADHD/ADD for whatever reason, I have put together a Pinterest Board that might be helpful from both a parent perspective and from an adult living with ADHD/ADD perspective. I tried to include articles, infographics, strategies, tools, and whatever else I could think of all in one place. I hope it helps someone out there!
But I did come to the conclusion fairly early in his life that he has ADHD or ADD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder. I do strongly believe that with work and patience, he can overcome it. If he actually wants to. That is a completely different conversation for a different day right there. But he is a very intelligent kid. He just doesn't like anything boring. Which school equals boring. So every year... challenges....
But the big surprise was when I started identifying a little too closely to all the things I read. Come to find out, he probably inherited it from me. Of course, I was never diagnosed as a child – I wasn't hyperactive and it wasn't very well-known. I have never bothered to get a diagnosis for myself as an adult, either. Hey, I made it through college, didn't I?
But, I had to accept that most likely I am ADD (I am pretty sure I am not hyperactive – also did you know there are different types?). But things started making a little more sense. Sometimes it's like my brain is a TV, and someone keeps flipping the channel. So annoying. Other times I can hyperfocus on something that I'm really into to the point where I can't even hear what's going on around me – having several children, I try very hard not to do that while they are awake and active. This article has helped me understand a little more why and how my mind works when it comes to getting things done: http://www.oaktreecounselor.com/blog/adult-adhd-lazy
The biggest issue I have is when my brain glitches. I will be either talking or listening or walking or whatever when suddenly I don't remember what I was saying or doing for a couple of seconds. It's almost like my brain short circuits and for a few seconds there is nothing. I mean, nothing. Maybe a little static. And then it comes back on-line, and sometimes I remember what I was talking about, but then other times I don't. If I am in the middle of a conversation or – yikes – praying out loud, it is super awkward, and then I'm scrambling to remember what I was saying and where I was going with that sentence or thought. It's nerve-wracking. Sweat-inducing. Heart-pounding.
Which is why, when I was getting my Communication Arts degree with an emphasis in Theater (yes, that was the name of my actual degree), I quickly realized I couldn't act. Not because I couldn't actually act, because I had at least some talent to play characters. But I couldn't trust myself to be on stage, delivering my lines, and not blank out at the most inopportune times. Because it happened a few times. I even still have occasional nightmares about acting in a play, being in a performance, and completely going blank on all my lines. And of course, in my nightmares, I also can't find my script to refresh my memory. I wake up in a cold sweat.
Now, this is not a post to mourn my lost acting career or anything like that. I'm pretty sure I was never meant for the stage or the screen, LOL. I've wanted to be a writer since at least 3rd grade – I was probably writing poetry about my feelings instead of doing my math at the time and then asking fellow students if it resounded with them. You know, market research.
But there are days when I say, “Man, why can't I just (fill in the blank) like a normal person?”
And then I have to remind myself that normal is BORING.
Just kidding, what I really have to remind myself of is that everyone has weaknesses and everyone has strengths. They are different combinations for each of us. Nobody's perfect, nor should anyone aspire to be. (I'm not talking about being more like Jesus, I'm talking about judgy and debilitating perfectionism.) I am reminded of the saying, “Don't allow perfection to be the enemy of good.” That goes both ways, in how you perceive others and how you perceive yourself.
I also just recently watched a video from a very popular motivational Youtube channel that, while it is very secular, it did have a message that resonated with me: Don't focus on fixing your weaknesses like all the propaganda tells you to. Focus on and develop your strengths instead.
So, instead of doing the things everybody expects you to do, what are you good at? Instead of trying to fit the mold that you think you are supposed to fit, what unique gifts did God give you? Focus on those, not on everything you can't do.
And I'm going to add to that: Maybe even just embrace your weaknesses, they are part of who you are.
(We're not talking about moral faults or personality flaws here, just weaknesses and personal challenges. Saying, “I'm lazy and I'm good at it, so I'll just accept it” or “I'm great at being a jerk and that's okay” is missing the mark completely here!)
Accept that you might not be known for your musical talent or your decorating skills or your ability to keep a room enthralled with your motivational speeches or your ability to insert tidbits of wisdom into the conversation at the appropriate time.
Because you have better stuff to do than sitting around being grumpy about the things that might come easy – or easier – to others that are challenges to you. That doesn't mean that you never try to challenge yourself or develop new skills. But spend more time and energy focusing and developing your strengths instead of trying to make yourself into someone you're not. And don't avoid developing your strengths because it's too scary. Life is too short for that nonsense.