The possibility of my having ADHD surfaced during treatment for moderate to severe depression about 9 years ago (it turns out ADHD is rarely a solo act. It more often plays in an ensemble – the other members usually being depression-both mono and bi polar, learning difficulties, or other co-morbidities – I never liked that term…sounds like multiple plots to do me in, but I digress) . As part of the diagnosis, he gave me a questionnaire for my mother complete. When I gave it to her, one of the first comments she made was “don’t mention this to your father. His approach to any challenge is ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps'”. Once she completed the form I had her place it in a sealed envelope which I gave to my therapist. Upon review of the form he stated that, according to her response to the questions, I was more or less a normal kid. She did mention occasional lapses in my studies and my less-than-stellar grades, but overall I was a normal kid…
Who are you, and what have you done with my mother? The same mother that read on every report card some variation of “Gary is very smart, and could be an excellent student if he would only apply himself”. Obviously, aliens had sucked out her memories of my childhood and replaced them with my younger brother’s.
Despite this somewhat white-washed version, I was indeed tentatively diagnosed as having ADHD. Confirmation had to wait another 8 years, owing to a sudden lack of employment and the health insurance it provided. This same insurance was covering my depression (remember depression, the other member of the duet?). I therefore was enabled to come off my anti-depression medication “cold-turkey”, which would’ve made my father very proud as now I could find those bootstraps and start pulling. But, that’s another story.
Since then, there have been two incidents that illustrate for me the likelihood of my parents ever understanding, or perhaps even caring to.
The first came several months after being layed off in 2003. My mother and wife were talking one day when my mother asked “so, is Gary still taking anything for his depression?” to which my wife truthfully answered “no”. My mothers’ response was “oh, so he’s all better now.”…
We still refer to that time as “the dark ages”
The second occurred about a year and a half ago. My parents were up for a visit (we live in Wa. state, they in Texas). As luck would have it, I not only had my weekly session with my therapist, but the monthly meeting of the local ADHD group. In the course of telling them I would be busy two nights that week, they began asking questions. I thought “what the hell, what have I got to loose?” So, I pretty much opened up about both the depression and ADHD.
2 hours later…
We had relived certain parts of my childhood, including school, grades, job history and life in general- and how depression and ADHD had affected them. By this time my niece had been diagnosed with ADHD. She was diagnosed while still in middle school, thanks in part to her mother (my sister, the doctor…You know, the successful one.) Because they had an opportunity to see it from another perspective – that of grandparents, as well as the credibility given it by my sister, they acknowledged the possibility/probability I had suffered it as well. For my part, I acknowledged “I had ADHD before it was cool”, and that no one’s to blame. It was/is what it was/is. They asked if the counseling and medications I’m currently on are helping, and I said “yes”.
They then commented “no one knew about these things at the time I grew up, and that you do the best you can at the time, but you can’t go back and do it over”.
I took that as recognition, but I think what I really was looking for was an admission…and an apology.
An apology for the hell I suffered for thinking I was not doing my best. Why? Because, if I were doing my best then my report cards would show it.
An apology for years of spending EVERY evening in my room after dinner “studying”. No TV or other privileges, no friends over, no diversions. When my grades improved was when I could enjoy those. My grades remained abysmal, however I read most of the entire set of both Comptons’ Encyclopedia & Encyclopedia Americana.
An apology for the ritual of “report card night” every 9 weeks. This included “the talk” from Dad, more of an inquisition actually, followed by the obligatory session with the chair and belt.
An apology for feeling completely different from how everyone else was, and not having A CLUE about why or how to change.
An apology for the years of knots in my stomach every time I was given a task or responsibility, as I was certain to muck it up, waste time, go wandering off “fiddle-farting around” (I’d forgotten that phrase until just now. Got’ta remember that for use later, as it’s a winner!), or get it half done.
An apology for being 54, and still feeling like “what should I be doing with my life, and why can’t I get/keep it together”. “Why does everything seem to eventually fall apart?)
An apology for feeling this way at all…
It turns out that’s not coming, at least not from them. I have to accept this, and give myself permission and authority to forgive myself…and understand they did the best for me they could/knew how.
Do I still want that fantastical apology?…Yes.
Will I get it…probably not.
Do I need it to move on and be who “I” am?…I’ll get back with you.REPORT ABUSE