“Why does our house look like this?” That was the question tossed at me one day by my then eight year old son, upon returning from a play date at a friend’s immaculate and organized home. He walked into the kitchen, looked around as if he smelled something funny (which may have been the truth), fixed me with a suspicious and accusatory glare, and asked the same question I had been asking myself for years.
Why indeed did my house look like this? “This”, being precarious piles on every flat surface, calendars from 5 years earlier still on the walls, and endless projects of every description with no end in sight. Cleaning house was an archeological dig. and my desk had become the Bermuda Triangle of important papers – the more important the paper, the quicker it sank from sight, never to be found again. The best response I could come up with was, “Honey, I honestly don’t know.”
I was tormented by other burning questions that also seemed to have no obvious answers. Why did it take me three times longer than everyone else to do something? Why were things that seemed so easy for others, so hard for me? Why was it almost impossible for me to follow a conversation in a noisy restaurant? Why could I never remember where I parked the car, hid the Christmas presents, or even what I went upstairs for? And of course the grandmother of them all, the question that roared through my head several times a day,
“What is wrong with me!?”
A near death brush with Red Measles at age five left me with significant hearing loss in some frequency ranges. This seemed sufficient explanation for why I couldn’t follow a teacher unless I was sitting in the front row, or why I needed verbal instructions repeated despite a reading level 5 grades ahead. It also seemed an adequate explanation for why I would pass out cold during a boring history class, why I hit an academic wall in grade 10, and perhaps even for why my grades continued to slide downward from that point on. Talk about a red herring. This one even had spots!
But it didn’t explain why a bright, academically committed student needed to do 6 hours of homework every night to maintain a solid C average. I secretly suspected I was a brilliant but misunderstood genius, probably from a far more advanced planet. I prayed the mothership would come soon and explain me to the rest of the world. In the end it did come, but not for many years, and many tears, later.
Fast forward through two hard won degrees that took forever to complete, a stimulating and rewarding career as a high school Math and Physics teacher that nearly brought me to my knees, and three gorgeous baby boys in 4 years. As time rolled on, the unanswered questions piled up with the laundry and clutter. The day my son asked me that question I felt deeply shamed. The gig was up, it was time for some answers.
I enlisted the help of a wonderful counselor who told me about another client she had with similar “symptoms” to mine. This client had just finished reading a book that “explained everything” and changed her life. Sounded good to me. The book, written by Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey, was called Driven To Distraction, Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder, whatever that was.
Within days I had bought and read, no, make that devoured, the book. Next came Sari Solden’s, Women With Attention Deficit Disorder. Every page sprung an “aha” moment of self recognition. That was ME they were talking about! The ship had come, I had found my people.
About this time I re-entered the classroom as a grade one/two teacher. It was easy to notice the 7 year old boys doing cartwheels across their school desks. I could even feel a grudging admiration for the sheer energy and athletic agility it took to go from one end of the room to the other without touching the floor. But it was another type of student that really caught my attention – the little girl staring out the window, not causing any trouble, not being disruptive – and not getting anything done. With a clutch to the heart, I realized I was looking at myself 40 years earlier. So this is where it all began.
My determination to help girls, and the women they grew up to be, with ADD gave me a glimpse of my next career.
Three years later I left the classroom as a teacher and re-entered it as a student, studying first to be a life coach at the ICF (International Coaching Federation) accredited Adler School Of Professional Coaching, then ADDCA (ADD Coach Training Academy), also ICF accredited, and graduated as a trained ADD coach.
According to the World Health Organization, over 5 million women in North America alone have ADD, but only a small percentage of them have any form of diagnosis, treatment, or support. As an ADD coach to women, I am working hard to change that – and loving every minute of it!
Epilogue: Mother: (to college student son who unexpectedly brought friends home)
“Sorry the house looks like this.”
Son: (look of genuine confusion on his face):
“What do you mean? The house looks awesome.”
And so it did!