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March 13, 2012

I have ADD. I have been ADD my entire life, but only realized it was an actual disability, with a name, for about 16 years—since my mid-30s. Until then it was an invisible hand creating obstacles in the pursuit of relatively easy tasks. There were many things I wanted to learn, see, and do back in the days before school—receiving heavy influences from the family I grew up and the quiet community of a New York City suburb. The first thing I wanted to do was read. Mom took us to the public library every couple of weeks. I would pick out all the books I was going to read once I was able to. At an early age, I wanted to travel the world, learn about different cultures, learn different languages, and simply read book after book after book. Despite my excitement to anticipating the world beyond me, school and learning was to become drudgery. I couldn’t read very well, I’d get lost doing the assignments during the day; I felt like I was going nowhere. I managed to get by doing whatever it took for me to advance to the next grade until I finally was able to jump into middle school. There I would do a little better, but my reading ability remained slow. Even when I would tackle reading projects on my own, I would derive little pleasure at all reading.

To my disappointment these deficiencies would follow me up into my high school years. My family and I had relocated several times until we had finally settled on Southern California. It was there with the constant warm sunshine and the beautiful environment I thought I would be able to shake those problems from my life. Instead, it would follow me like a curse. Academically, I would stumble and fumble about. I then learned my deficiencies entailed more than academics. I found myself having significant problems engaging in even casual conversations with people. I wasn’t sure if the problem was me or California. I didn’t have any friends. I wound up being alone all the time. It was becoming as though I was invisible. I knew there was something wrong going on with me. On one level I was reasonably intelligent. When it came time to communicating with an intelligent older adult, I seemed to do ok. So what was the problem?

I did manage to squeak out of high school, though I had my doubts at the time. My one mission in my life was to figure out why I wasn’t learning correctly. I still had issues with reading. Why was that the case? I would get some answers along the way and manage to heighten my awareness to the world around me. I wanted to get a college degree. I found that I still had deficiencies in regards to learning. I would study incessantly for classes—history, accounting, economics, biology, mathematics, etc.—and still get low to failing grades. I still didn’t know about ADD by then, but I was beginning to seriously believe there was something wrong with how my brain was functioning. This was not “normal” as far as I was concerned.

Now, many years later, I know it was the invisible hand of ADD continuously tripping me up all along. Even after I knew ADD was the culprit, it was still negatively affecting me. Now instead of studies, writing reports, or studying for a exam, I am at a loss as to what to do for employment. I am now almost 50 and unable to become employed. That is partly because of the current sagging economy, but also because of my spotty work history. I was so consumed with getting a college degree back in my 20s. I didn’t know what to do that would enable me to become employed. Everyone was telling me I needed some kind of 4-year college degree if I wanted to do something substantial career wise. It was worth my time to keep pushing until I had some kind of credential behind me. All I had at that point was my certificate for my Associates Degree in Liberal Studies, which was basically nothing.

What has frustrated me even more is I am meeting many people who have ADD who had been able to complete their education and started a career in which they still worked. They seem to be living a functional life with a family. I seem to have been left behind in just about everything. These people have other pressing issues within their lives—they can’t keep themselves organized, they have marital problems, they have passes their ADD onto their children. Other people on ADD websites that I frequent say they have experience similar to what I had experienced in terms of learning and reading deficiencies. The fact is there are different forms of ADD that never seems to be mentioned in the media. Some people are hyperactive and can’t sit still for more than half a minute. Others can’t seem to get themselves organized. Their desks are normally crammed with piles of paper everywhere. Still other people tend to get in trouble with the law often. They act on inpulse like steal things. My form of ADD is called Inattentive ADD. I have difficult times keeping the information I learn straight in my mind; therefore remembering things or reading words clearly is difficult. I can spend hours learning something, but retaining very little. Therefore what I attempt to learn fades into nothingness over time, as though I never learned it in the first place.

Now, after many years of struggling to find employment, I struggle for basic survival.  There are many limitations to the jobs I can do now. I suppose I can learn to “dance around” the gaping holes of 3 – 4 years of unemployment on my pathetic-looking  resume, but then I need perform well once I have the job. I’m tired of needing to resort to working low-paying jobs. Instead, I believe I can be helpful to other persons who are struggling with ADD or anything that is holding them back. I know now that belief plays a big part in how we move forward. We need to start with believing we can have the life we want. By believing, we prepare our minds to accepting new stimuli that will enable it to find the environments that will enable us to get what we want. It is that simple, even though what I just wrote sounds confusing.

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