I remembered to grab a towel before I got in the shower today. Not only did I remember to grab a towel, I that noticed that my bathroom was towel free before I even turned on the water. This is something that has become utterly normal for me the last two months and it never fails to make me smile. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but to me it is a miracle. The fact that the same thing happened yesterday and with any luck it will happen again tomorrow and again the day after that makes me so happy I want to cry. Hello, my name is Nerd Girl Rising and I am an adult with ADHD.
Huh, you may be saying to yourself, that’s nice but what does one this have to do with another? Everything, an entire life worth of things as it happens. My life.
Historically I almost never noticed if I had clean towels, or any towels at all for that matter. And if I did notice and resolve to grab some before making myself clean? Yeah, that was not going to happen. Between one moment and the next, between deciding to get towels and actually getting them, that decision will vanish. Even the memory of it will be gone, lost amongst the whirl until I get out of the shower and look for a towel. Then I remember. Oh, yeah. I meant to do that.
My entire life has been an endless round of; Oh yeah, I meant to do that. Things, both little and large, slip through my fingers; thoughts falling through the cracks of my mind to live under the floors along with the stray hair ties and cat toys. For decades I have been told I am ditzy, dumb, clueless, or an airhead who could any moment be blown away, floating off on a stray breeze. Always with the added dig of it being so odd, especially for someone so smart in other ways. “She’s such a bright girl, if only she would pay attention.” “She could do so well if only she would focus.” The words “apply yourself” are etched in pages of my past, if there is such a thing as a truly permanent record they are probably all over it. Those are the words that dogged my childhood and followed me into adulthood, hanging around the corners of my life waiting for the best moment to pounce and remind me that I suck. It was always implied, never said allowed because that would be cruel, that I was either lazy or possibly not as smart I seem to be. After all I was a girl, how smart could I actually be? The best message I ever took away from these unspoken lessons was that my brain was a gift I was clearly squandering and that I was unworthy of it.
Because I had a choice in the matter.
As I became an adult I violently rejected the label airhead and instead called myself absentminded, it made me feel better to link myself to Fred MacMurray’s erstwhile professor than any of the dumb blond stereotypes the media loves so much. I mean Disney made a movie about him, how bad could that be? I mean sure I was not saving China, or breaking any curses, but still as far as associations go it could be worse. That said the decision to ascribe my organizational and memory issues to absentmindedness, instead of outright stupidity, did not actually change the facts of the matter at hand. As far as being a functional adult goes, in many ways I was a total failure or at least I felt like one. Everything always seem so damn hard.
The entire world and all of it’s things were in my face all the time and there was just too much going on and I noticed all the things and then I’d freeze. I couldn’t do anything because my ability to do so just got swallowed up by an avalanche of everything.
This sense of failure, the feeling that I was fundamentally unable to handle life, has held me back both professionally and personally. Everything, even the most simplest of tasks, has felt like a herculean battle and I was armed with a pea shooter. Everyone else I knew seemed to manage life just fine and here I was flailing about wildly try to accomplish even the most basic of adult activities. This effected my confidence and I found myself unwilling to move and grow. Instead I found a niche and stuck to it. I more than stuck with it, I owned it. I was very good at what I did but I never tried to do more. I did not want promotions or more responsibility, in fact when offered it I outright rejected even the idea of forward momentum. Not because I was necessarily happy where I was, but because I was safe there. I knew what I was tasked with was more than within my capabilities, the same could not be said of anything else I was offered. I knew my limits, even if I did not know why those limits were there in the first place.
I was stalled.
Then everything changed in my life so I was forced to change everything. I moved, I left my old life behind and began a new one and in the process of doing so I made a huge discovery. It was accidental, I read something online and it sounded so familiar that the words on the screen could have been written by me. Absentminded, forgetful, loses track of time, my inability to deal with sudden changes, being easily overwhelmed but also capable of remarkable focus at times. My perceived systemic baseline lifetime of incompetence had a name, ADHD.
Now I take a pill once a day and I have a functional brain. I may not be at 100% but I now spend most days hovering around 80% as opposed to the 40% to 60% that was my norm before. Some days are better than others, but I had towels waiting for me when I got out of the shower this morning that I remembered to put where I could find them and that is more than I have ever had before so I can live with that.