In this day and age, more and more awareness is being drawn to mental illness. Hurray!
However, there is one mental illness that is either disregarded or completely ignored. It’s the one I’m stuck with: ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. Disorder’s a pretty apt word for it, too.
Disorder, like my room after a few days of cleaning it.
Disorder, like my notes, or my homework folder.
Disorder, like my mind in general, really.
That last line describes ADD perfectly. I should probably explain what ADD is to the uninitiated. Basically, it’s ADHD’s chill sibling. Whereas ADHD describes Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, ADD describes plain old Attention Deficit Disorder. So, I have trouble focusing on things, but not because I’m too busy bouncing off of the walls to concentrate. ADD was renamed a while back, so most people refer to it as AD/HD Inattentive (note the slash; that means the H is optional). However, I was told I had ADD, all the books I read called it ADD, so I call it ADD.
How was I diagnosed? When I was about nine years old, I started having trouble concentrating (I know, “The kid with ADD? Having trouble concentrating? Wow,” but we didn’t know that at the time). My mother homeschooled my brother and me, and she noticed that while he was doing fairly well with long division, I was breaking down and crying because I couldn’t focus enough to actually comprehend the concept. So, she took me to see what I call an ADD Doctor (I never knew exactly what type of doctor he was). I remember that the office was so close I rode my scooter there. Man, that was cool - riding my blue Razor scooter into a medical building.
We played a bunch of games, like “Press the space bar every time an X appears on the screen,” and I got asked a couple of questions. The only one I remember was “Do you know what copyright is?” and I’m fairly certain that was conversational. (My answer was “whether or not you had the right to copy something.” ~Sigh.~) A few weeks later, I heard back with my diagnosis.
I felt really bad about it. I had something wrong with me, something that made me feel stupid and angry. I was embarrassed. A lot of things did make sense once we knew what was going on, though. ADD and ADHD both elevate emotions, particularly negative ones in my case. ADD causes a little social awkwardness - supposedly I develop socially at a slower rate than my peers, though I prefer to call it “selective maturity.” And I share this condition with a lot of creative minds. Monet very likely had ADHD, along with Amelia Earhart and Thomas Edison.
ADD does not determine how smart someone is. If anything, kids with ADD are often really bright. We just can’t focus on things as well as other people. We also have a strong sense of loyalty, creativity and compassion. That elevating-emotions thing I mentioned? While it does cause me to start crying out of frustration with myself because it’s been an hour and nothing is done, it also elevates positive emotions so I am super affectionate and loving with my friends. And while ADD can be a super-annoying condition to have, it’s also wired into my brain, so it’s part of me (contrary to what some concerned parents may have you believe, it’s a neurological difference in my brain, not a conspiracy to brainwash their children). It cannot be cured, and I will be dealing with it my whole life.
A lot of people compare their mental illness to a cloud around them, a separate entity they have no control of. A cloud of sadness for depression, a cloud of fear for anxiety. Well, I have a cloud, too. Except my disorder isn’t a mood disorder, so it’s not a cloud of one particular emotion, it actually feels like a literal cloud. Some sort of gray fog around my brain that makes my focus all fuzzy. The fog lifts when I’m trying to concentrate on something that I care about, like writing or drawing, but it completely obscures subjects I dislike, such as Algebra or practicing piano.
I have a medication that I take every morning that takes the fog away. It’s like putting on glasses. Everything comes into focus, literally. Now, this doesn’t make me suddenly hyperaware of everything, and it doesn’t give me an eidetic memory. It just grants me the same amount of focus that my classmates without ADD have.
And if you have ADD and you feel like this is a huge problem that you just can’t handle, let me tell you: Your cloud? It’s big and dark, but it can be tamed. Talk to your doctor about medication, don’t give up until you find the right treatment plan, be it therapy or Focalin. You got this. Your ADD is part of you, but you are not your ADD.