Me and my ADD

January 21, 2010
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I hear the whip of the wind through the vents in my helmet. I can feel the heat rising up from the body of my horse beneath me; her muscles bunching, releasing, bunching, releasing with each stride that carries us towards the jump. Five strides away and a baby cries. Did something happen? Four strides to go; a dog barks. Is that my dog? Three strides left; a song plays. It reminds me of that movie. What is it called? Two strides away, too many thoughts.

What did I get on my last test? Did I remember to take my medicine this morning? Did I remember to put spurs on? My mind races with irrelevant questions that filter out what should be my main focus. I cannot feel my horse beneath me, or the ground under her feet. I cannot see the fence in front of us, or hear my trainer yelling at me to slow down. All I feel, see, imagine, and hear are the questions. A ball forms in my stomach. I imagine Indiana Jones, running from an increasingly huge ball of sand. I feel that ball, rolling around my stomach. A shudder wraps around my entire body, making my muscles limp.

One stride away from the fence, my horse feels I am unfocused, not ready to fly. She knows better than to jump without me, and all four legs halt at once. I, unsuspicious and unsuspecting, lose my stirrups and am thrown into the fence. It happens quickly; by the time I am on the ground, my horse has turned and run towards the gate. I pick myself up, brush the dirt off my clothes, and start walking shamefully out of the arena.

The worst aspect of attention deficit disorder, I have discovered, is that it takes away any self reliance. I can practice all night for a piano performance, but the next day I can only stare blankly at the smooth white keys that mock me with their composure. If I study for weeks for a test, I will walk into that class not remembering any information. I can ride a course, over and over again, in my mind, knowing what must be done at every stride. Yet, when it comes to actually riding it, my mind works against me. Where is the next fence? What was I supposed to do at this corner? I have learned not to rely on myself and in doing so, unfortunately I have taught others to do the same. Parties, birthdays, and plans made last month will most likely be forgotten until it is too late, or, never remembered. My best friends especially know this and joke, “Don’t bother telling Chelsey, her ADD usually kicks in right about now.” This does not bother me, but when I actually let them down I feel ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated.

Contrary to my “disorder,” as my parents refer to it as, I am known among friends as the one to go to for advice. Anything from schoolwork to money to relationships, I seem to hold the golden key of solution for all. All, that is, except myself. For example, my sophomore year of high school, I was doing well in comparison to my friends in geometry. As the final exam loomed upon us, I offered to tutor a few friends who needed a boost. As a result, each and every one of those friends scored higher than I did on the exam. This makes me known as the “nice person,” according to my two best friends. People who I hardly know rely on me as a back up to borrow books, money, or advice. While this should make me proud, it actually irritates me. I realize I have no one to rely on.

With my so-called “disorder” comes another negative in my life; anxiety. Anxiety, I believe, is one of the worst aspects of being myself. It prevents a normal sleep pattern, and refuses to let me enjoy anything to the fullest. While watching a movie, reading a book, or socializing, there is always something there, nagging at me. Telling me I will not forget. A test? A forgotten assignment? All I know is that sometimes I cannot eat, sleep, or even function correctly until I know what it is and have completed it. The problem is, by then, there is already something else there. When I get especially anxious over something, my speech impediment tends to appear. When I was younger I never spoke; my sister always spoke for me. It took me nearly three years with a speech tutor, but now I have perfect pronunciation, as long as I do not get too stressed out.

Attending the only private school in Stockton, I am grateful for being sheltered from dangerous activity caused by gang violence. However, public schools, by law, must give accommodations to students with disorders. I struggled through until the end of my sophomore year, when I was diagnosed. My school told me that it was ultimately the teachers’ decision regarding accommodations; a few teachers gave me private tests with extended time, but most did nothing. One teacher, who taught psychology, told me ADD does not exist.

Though my prime struggle has been ADD, I have dealt with many others. One of which was my grandmother’s death. She was the largest inspiration on my life. The summer before I started high school, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was left alone to cope with grief, my mother was distraught, my father busy with work, and my sister was in Europe. I realize now that I grew up that summer much more than I should have. Watching her die was one of the most traumatic things I have ever witnessed, and I will not ever forget it.
The memories I hold of her are strong and plentiful. But I know that one day I may forget. The sight of her working with the horses, or yelling at us on Sunday mornings to get ready for mass are ones that may, with time, fade from my mind. I listen to friends complain about having to do chores for their grandparents and I think they know not how rare it is to have grandparents at our age.

I wish she was here now to help guide me in the right direction. I realize I need her more now than I did then. How could I possibly choose a college or a career without her input? Although I know she is guiding me from above, I can only pray its strong enough to point me in the right direction. I know I make mistakes just like everyone else, but every time I do, I feel guilty that that is what she sees of me now. She always encouraged me to do my best, and to be as perfect as possible. I hope that I am meeting expectations.

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