ADD – My Story

Like many in my field, I deal with Attention Deficit Disorder. Every day. Since second grade, when my parents and I sat in the principal’s office at my elementary school and were told that I’d be soon transferred into the special education program. (I’ll revisit this, later in this post.)

You may wonder why I would share this. Four reasons, really:

  1. I value vulnerability and there’s no shame in talking about mental health. ADD is core to who I am – why not discuss?
  2. I want to help people who, like me, live on the margins of ‘normal.’ I run a business. I help lead a family. I volunteer whenever I can. Just like everyone else, I figure out how to make it all work, but I do it while carrying a story that involves the word ‘disorder.’
  3. I believe that when properly channeled and supported, ADD is my super power. I may struggle to read my mail, remember my car keys in the morning, and keep my inbox at zero, but I also get to see things other, more organized people might miss.
  4. I want to share what works for me. And I want to hear from others what works for them. More specifically, I want to create content that covers how people in business can operate at an excellent level in a business environment while staying true to who we are as people.

Mostly, though, I just want to tell you my story.

Let’s go back to that meeting in the principal’s office. Old school. Fake wood paneling. Musty air from the swamp cooler. Citing the observation that I couldn’t read, my teacher and the principal sat with us and delivered the news that I was to be moved into the ‘portables’ – a collection of prefabricated buildings offset from the school where the special education program was housed.

My parents were blown away. I was actually an avid reader. My dad stood up, drove home (we lived a block away) and returned with one of my favorite fishing magazines.  I read from it for the group. Blank stares. Awkward silence. A bit of hand-wringing. In the end, their decision stood – if I was to remain at the school, I would do so within the confines of the special education program.

My folks pulled me out of the school, and enrolled me into a new, private school in the area. The Awakening Seed School featured small class sizes, a social learning environment. Best of all, they let kids’ passions inform their assignments. It was magnificently different. The founders – family friends to this day – were total hippies. We planted gardens and discussed global warming (well before it was a commonly discussed thing). I flourished.

We also visited a child psychologist, and then a psychiatrist. I was officially diagnosed and prescribed a new drug called Ritalin. I had officially become one of those ‘different kids.’

A.D.D. has been a dominant theme in my story ever since. I’m still haunted by the all-nighter with my parents the evening before report cards were to be sent home in sixth grade (I had turned in exactly zero assignments). Sports weren’t an outlet, yet, either – I’ll never forget the embarrassment of tackling my own team’s quarterback on the freshman football squad. And we still laugh about the look of shock on my parents faces when I brought home a far better than expected SAT score, despite my mediocre GPA at the one of the city’s lowest performing high schools. College presented new challenges, but also allowed for new successes. Work, as well. At each life stage, I’ve learned to leverage the unique tools that ADD provides me, and I’ve looked for support in the many areas where I’ve needed help.

I’ve also come to understand that at least in my case, this will never really go away. For me, that’s been more good than bad.

Thank you for reading this. In the future, I’ll be much, much more focused (ha!) about how I function with ADD in a business setting. I’ll cover organization, task management, stress reduction, team dynamics and likely much more. But first, I wanted to tell you my story.

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