Jerry's story . . .
I am a 46 year old married male diagnosed last month with ADD.
Six weeks, or so, ago, I was goofing off at work, surfing the net for satirical sites, when I stumbled across a link that brought me to a page run by a former writer for Harvard's National Lampoon. There he described the characterisics of ADD and I was shocked at how closely they fit me. I felt as if he had been spying on me. After considering the source, I figured it was a trick, some sort of generalization, like a horoscope, that would also fit the majority of the planet. Unable to get it out of my mind, I checked other ADD sites until I came across a legitimate set of criteria, the same as the Lampooner's. I was on to something and went for a diagnosis. The rest is now my history - distant history -I hope.
I was a misfit student. I was bright enough to begin 1st grade when I had just turned 4 years old, more than a year younger than the rest of my class. I caught on quickly to things, but was still less mature than my peers. I always felt a little behind them, not necessarily in academics - more in our differing interests. I was more of a daydreamer than an organized-game participant. I believe I didn't like the rules, the structure and the amount of attention it took to succeed in sports. I never developed the instincts for baseball, basketball, or football. It wasn't a matter of uncoordination, I just couldn't think in the context of the game: I'd throw to second when a runner was headed for home, wouldn't anticipate teammates actions, etc.
I also loved the thrill of danger, of doing the unpredictable, of bending the rules. Coaches used to bench me for sliding headfirst, tackling with my head down and taking unnecessary long shots and risks. I taught myself to swim by jumping off a stump into deep water when I was 5. Surviving breaking that taboo encouraged me to break others.
In school, I did okay in some subjects, excelled in others and failed miserably in a few. I managed to pass all my courses until High School. There I struggled unsuccessfully with Spanish and a Sophomore Religion class (yeah, Catholic School - where they didn't diagnose you, they either beat or booted you.) I couldn't - still can't, for that matter - comprehend the need to learn a second language since I had a perfectly usable primary one. Nor would my thinking adapt to conform with the Church's party line. I was invited to not return for my Junior year and went on to a public school. There the lack of disciplinary options resembled being on a holiday.
After High School, I was turned off to academics and preferred working over college. I figured the world could educate me better than any individual standing in front of a class. I ran through a series of low and semi-skilled jobs and a pattern began to develop, which over time troubled me greatly. When getting good at a task or process, attaining a standard of performance, or when reaching a set interim goal and it was noticed or appreciated by others, I lost all interest in continuing. I couldn't force myself to persevere. Soon after mastering a job, I quit or got fired.
Finally, I found a job where I lasted about 8 years: my boss was unpleasable. We made a great pair: me - striving for perfection, him - redefining his ideal everytime I got close. While working in that job, I began moonlighting in others. Just for the variety, I guess. It gave me the freedom to quit or get fired from those and still have a roof over my head. Then I discovered the ultimate risk - working for myself - and ventured out in business, knowing it was certainly not my forte. Maintaining records and keeping my customers happy were not my calling in life. What I most loved doing was launching an idea, seeing opportunities laying around in the open and pouncing on them. As soon as a business turned profitable and I'd proven to myself (and whomever else I was trying to impress) I could do it, it was time to bail out because I couldn't run it.
To date I've: apprenticed as a mechanic and body worker; contracted as an electrician, carpenter, and painter; supervised 40 plus employees for a fortune 500 company; developed and built spec houses (not profitable); imported household goods from Ireland (less profitable); and had a car rental franchise (least profitable); gone bankrupt twice, learned programming and CAD; and attended intro classes on almost every subject imaginable. Currently, I work for the government and am president of a multi-state union Chapter, sitting on our Agency's Executive Board - but only until somebody tells me I'm doing a good job.
My inability to choose a path and stick with it plagued me my whole life. I think back on the half finished projects, dropped hobbies, unwritten and unread novels littering my past; I rue the whirlwind of friendships abandoned as I rushed off to devote myself fully to a newer passion.
The list of regrets stowed away inside is endless. I always reasoned it was a very serious, deep character flaw that made me act so impulsively. In a way, I dreaded the next novelty to come along because it could mean chucking everything once again. At the same time, I was always looking for something else, knowing that destiny hovered just over the horizon a little ways.
The restlessness I felt caused me considerable discomfort. When young, wanting to please my folks and teachers, I often prayed to God to help me not give up on my schoolwork. I asked him to keep the devil from distracting me and let me do my homework rather than wanting to learn how to drum at that instant, or trying to figure out how the light switches work, or wondering about the girls in class and if they liked me.
Praying to God never helped. In fact, most often the prayers weren't finsished because a distraction would pop up. I grew up feeling very powerless, not feeling like I could do anything I put my mind to, regardless of what that old adage says.
I never ventured into the drug scene save for a few brief - very brief - experiments with psychedelics. Marijuana made me very paranoid. Alcohol was an entirely different story. I get drunk pretty easily and used to quite often. The alcohol reinforced me in social situations; it compensated for something I lacked, like maintaining a mental presence. Also, if the others were getting drunk with me, they wouldn't notice my bonehead and off the wall remarks.
The psychiarist who diagnosed me as being ADD put me on Wellbutrin and that has improved my focus, reduced my irritability, and boosted my self-confidence exponentially. Every day is better than the day before. I no longer live in fear of impulsively screwing things up to the point of no return. I can now pause or turn backwards and fix damage, there's no reason to only forge ahead.
Although it's too early to quantify any results, this past month has given me the hope that the madness is truly in the past. Finding out that I do have a treatable neurological disorder, that medicine offers control over my behavior, that I'm not lazy ,flaky or crazy is the best things that ever happened in my life. Long unasked questions are being answered as the net offers up more and more information on ADD.
Thanks to whomever for providing the forum to post my story. I hope it helps reassure another lost voyager as he/she stumbles across it: there is a way out of your fog, just follow the ADD links and get professional help.
please sign this as from Jerry.
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© 1998 Charles K. Kenyon