My Experience with ADD

by Catherine Driver

I had offered to pass along what I thought might be helpful, about what it was like to have ADD.  In attempting to review my life, I began to ponder what exactly had to do with ADD and/or being from a military family and some attendance at Catholic schools.

Between my father being an officer in the Army and the teachings of the church, I was expected to be "perfect."  I am old enough (65) to have been physically punished by both.  Fortunately I didn't "act up" in school very often but I was hit on the hand with a ruler, which I did, even at the age of 10, object to.

Several times I tried to make suggestions to the Nuns about how to do something they seemed to be in a quandary about and was thoroughly and loudly, verbally dressed down in front of everyone and was quite humiliated.  My ideas were good ones and I didn't understand that you don't correct the teacher or even appear to be doing it.

Now I know it is part of boundary setting.  During WW II my brother and I had paper routes to help support our family.  It was my responsibility to get up on time, deliver the papers, fold those heavy Sunday ones, deal with adult customers and collect money.  A lot was expected of us at an early age.

After the war and my father came home from Europe, I had to cook, clean and take care of my younger sister and older (by 14 mos..) brother.  My mother liked having her own paycheck, after having worked through the war years, and refused to come home permanently.

At 11 I knew I was being expected to do what amounted to my "mother's job."  My father was determined that I would learn how to be a homemaker.  He made sure I understood that was what a woman was to be.  I was not allowed to have any kind of outside job, including babysitting. College was just for finding a man, in his thinking.

Of course I had to make many decisions on my own so I was used to making them.  Most of the time I did well but then I would "goof" big time.  My mother said I was like  the little girl in the nursery rhyme, "There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad, she was horrid."

One thing that still puzzles me was when I would knock myself out all day, trying to perfectly clean the house and did the livingroom last.  They came home and I wasn't finished.  They had a fit and yelled at me for the mess and that I wasn't through.  I always felt stupid for not doing that room first since that was where the front door was.

Or would they have been just as upset if it had been another room? They told us a lot how we would never amount to anything and couldn't do anything right.  I knew I wasn't stupid but was very confused and fearful about what to do and how to do it. 

In school, if things weren't too bad at home, and I could concentrate, I took in everything and didn't have to even study.  I had an excellent memory and for detail.  Unfortunately a lot of the time I was so upset that I had to memorize a lot, or thought I did.  I wasn't able to "think on my feet" when I was upset.  I spent a lot of time upset and confused.  No one understood my inconsistent behavior.

My mother used to refer to me as "the responsible one."  There were three of us. I realize now that she really depended on me and it upset her and the whole family when I "goofed."  I'm sure it rattled her and shattered her sense of confidence in me.

I don't know if my "boundary" lack of skills was due to having so much expected of me at such a young age, ADD, or both.  I was a very curious child and could get pretty excited at anything new, especially ideas.  Since I was rather inventive, Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson were two of my idols. 

Since we were literally "beaten" at times, it did keep me somewhat in line.  When I was 13 I decided to go to the movies with a girl down the street without asking my parent's permission since they were both drunk. Her mother knew where we were.  We went to her house after the movie and it started to snow.

My parents had come to by then and started looking for me.  They even called the girl's house, suspecting I might be there.  Her mother told them I wasn't.  I DIDN'T know what to do.  When I finally got up enough courage to go home at one a.m., my father who was out looking for me, rammed my head into every tree and telephone pole on the way home.  He then threw me into bed.

My mother got me up and beat me for several hours with his leather belt trying to get out of me where I had been.  I refused to tell her and she finally gave up.  I think now that I was a victim of a dysfunctional home. We were all victims.  Neither of my parents ever reached their full potential nor did any of the children. After that incident, I straightened up somewhat but still felt a failure because I wasn't more perfect.

I did learn well how to be a homemaker as far as skills, except the emotional.  I have "mothered" so many children and adults over the years.  I actually had such a poor image of myself I used to say "the worst bum on the street was better than me".  Yet I KNEW deep within I was actually rather unique and a worthwhile person.  I didn't understand why others couldn't see it.

What was I doing that I was considered strange and I had practically no friends?  Of course even If I made a friend, I couldn't bring them home because I never knew what condition my parents were in. 

Both of my parents have passed away and I know they couldn't help themselves.  They had their own issues that they didn't handle too well.  I learned a lot from my childhood and am grateful for what I am able to apply to my present life.  My husband and I are retired  and I am a homemaker and love it.  If I had more confidence and could do it over, I would have had an outside career, and had a very different life.

The book that made me realize I had ADD was: TOTAL CONCENTRATION by Harold N. Levinson, M.D.  IT was like he had stepped inside of me and written my life story.  A light bulb went on in my head.  I could identify with and understand so much of what he described.

The next that I could relate to is:  A.D.D. AND CREATIVITY by Lynn Weiss (not sure of last name and can't check it right now).  It showed me I really am unique, curious, creative, worthwhile, etc.  But I do have to learn about boundaries.  An example is when I get excited about an idea and try to share it with someone else, even after they give all indications that they aren't interested.

I am still trying to sort out what the issues really are and use my new found knowledge, to have a less confusing life.

I don't know if this is of any help and I realize I need to put a lot more down on paper, to help sort it all out.  I have forgiven my parents but found it a little harder to forgive the Nuns.  I expected them in their "perfect" state to know I was a troubled child.  Several teachers did see that something was amiss and tried to talk to me.  Of course I had to be loyal to my parents and say everything was fine.  However I did appreciate the teachers interest in helping me.

In my opinion, teaching coping skills to children and adults is critical.  We don't really know what "normal" expectations and behavior are.

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