If you didn’t write it down for me, you didn’t tell me–that is what the psychologist who diagnosed my ADD told me to tell people.
I forget where I put things–Out of Sight, Out of Mind, one of my ADD symptoms–like where I left my [insert item–keys, iPhone, checkbook]. I also have trouble remembering exactly what people tell me.
My diagnostic tests showed that I do well processing the written word and visual images, which is why the psychologist told me to tell people to write things out for me. Audio input is a challenge. It goes in my ear as one thing, pingpongs all over in my brain, and then comes out the other ear barely resembling whatever it was that went in–if anything comes out at all because by the time it’s finished ping-ponging, I’ve forgotten most or all of whatever it was.
So I had a bad feeling about the audio test. I knew I didn’t do well. The shrink had me repeat lists of words he played from a tape recording. Just one word at first, then two at a time, then three, then four, and so on. I never made it past two. Then he had me do the same exercise over again, only this time I had to repeat the list of words in backward order. I never made it past one. By the last and longest list of words, I was so confused and frustrated I couldn’t remember the first word on the list. The shrink reached the sad conclusion that I couldn’t remember most of what people tell me accurately if my life depended on it. I gave myself high marks for not bursting into tears and calling him The Test Nazi.
At the end of the testing, the psychologist informed me that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I wasn’t lazy, crazy, or stupid. I was actually bright. I scored in the ninety-eighth percentile on the intelligence test. Who knew?
Then he broke the bad news. I had ADD, or as he put it, AD/HD Inattentive Type, which had gone undiagnosed for most of my life because, being bright, I had developed coping mechanisms that masked most of the symptoms. My family and friends all thought I was just absent-minded, pokey, and a procrastinator. None of us suspected that the reason some things were more difficult for me and took me longer to do was the result of a neurological condition.
At times, I bemoan the fact that ADD prevented me from reaching my full potential. How much more could I have achieved without being shackled by ADD all my life? How much easier would my life have been without the constant struggle to get things done better, faster, and on time–better yet, early? How much happier would I have been if I hadn’t always wondered why the simplest tasks were so much easier for everyone else?
When I whined to my primary physician, who first suspected I had ADD, she put some of that into perspective by asking me if I liked the person I was today. I thought about it and decided that I did, but I still couldn’t help wondering if I would like that person more if she didn’t have ADD.
During one of my pity parties, Macho Guy suggested that instead of dwelling on what might have been, I should be proud of what I accomplished in spite of having ADD. He pointed out that I managed to earn college undergraduate and graduate degrees while one of my high school classmates, who didn’t have ADD, dropped out of college after the first semester. He reminded me that I worked successfully in more than one field outside the home, I won writing contests, and I completed a book and have three others in the works. He was right, of course, but he left out my greatest achievement of all. I raised two bright, talented, successful, morally straight sons who graduated college–one of whom is an Eagle Scout and the other an outstanding high school athlete–who now have families of their own. ADD couldn’t stop me from doing that. Now that I think about it, life is good–even with ADD.