Born to Explore!   The Other Side of ADD


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Books I recommend:

edtrait

The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)

 

BEYOND.GIF (8227 bytes)

Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann

 

The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...

 

 

Readers' Stories

This section was started in October 1999 and was inspired by a webpage about colic that I found very helpful.  The page was simply a reprint of letters from about 50 parents of colicky babies. There were so many different perspectives and experiences! On this page I plan on reprinting letters (with permission only) that others might find interesting.  I hope to include a variety of perspectives and stories to show that ADD can be different things to different people and that some, but not all, people benefit from trying alternatives. If you would like to contribute, please send your story or thoughts to me by email, and be sure to give me permission!  All reprints are anonymous unless you indicate otherwise.

Medications Teenager's Experience With Meds
Teacher is Pushing For Ritalin
Adderall/Clonidine Side Effects in 6 Year Old
Lost Spunk Under Meds
Medication Helps
Ritalin Side Effects
Prozac and Adderall Side Effects
Fighting School Pressure to Medicate
Giftedness Polish Psychologist's Thoughts
Gifted Kids Often Told They Are ADD
Hyperactivity Stops in Gifted Class
Alternatives Omega-3 Fatty Acids Helped
Edison Trait Book Made All the Difference

More Help From "The Edison Trait"
Homeschooling Did the Trick
Feingold Diet Helped

Nutritional Supplements a Cure
Meditation Helps Depression and ADD
Discipline Techniques Help
Montessori School Made All The Difference
Positive Likes Boyfriend's ADD
What I Like About ADD
Bubbas ARE Good, Treat Them Well...
Family of Gifted, Visual Learners
An Understanding Teacher
Positive and Creative Side
Stories Air Traffic Controller
Late Bloomer
College Student



Teenager's experience with meds:  "I am a 16 year old girl living with ADD. I was diagnosed with it in 6th grade. I was not doing very well in school. I have almost no attention span at all. I was getting all D'S and C's. I always considered myself creative and tests showed that I was intelligent. I was a very good piano player and could make up my own songs very easily. I was good at writing stories. I was the class clown and I thought I made friends very easily. I was very happy. Then in 7th grade I went on Ritalin I noticed a difference right away. When I got my first report card I had gotten all A's. I somehow enjoyed paying attention in class. But I don't think I was happy. I lost a lot of my friends because they thought I had changed. I was quiet in class. I lost a lot of my creativity. I couldn't make up songs anymore on the piano. I couldn't even think of an idea to write a story on. And yet I was getting straight A's and I felt my gifts go down the drain. I feel that Ritalin not only makes it easier to concentrate but also affects other areas of the brain such as creativity. Now I know your site isn't an anti-Ritalin site, but I was wondering what your views are on Ritalin? Please write to me and tell me what you think? I want to know if other people have experienced what I so strongly experienced? Thank you for your website it has helped me realize that medication is not the answer to everything, and maybe God made me ADD for a reason."  - CJ 8/16/99

Likes boyfriend's ADD:  "My new boyfriend has it and I didn't really know much about it so I did some reading on the net and found that so many of the things I really like about him are apparently 'symptoms'. Made me laugh coz I don't think of his impulsiveness as a sign of disease!! I like it. He is very smart and he makes me laugh. I don't care if he hasn't got a great attention span - he pays attention to things he finds interesting and I must be pretty interesting coz he pays lots of attention to me!" - M.S. 10/25/99

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Helped:  "I have two boys, 14 and 12 years old, diagnosed since grade school with ADD. They were on Ritalin for a long time, but I have been searching for an alternate way. I've been giving them each a capsule of Omega-3 daily for about six months now, and the results have been wonderful. My youngest is now off the Ritalin and doing great in school and at home. My oldest son, who has a more serious ADD problem according to his neurologist, is doing much better but still has trouble concentrating." - CAR 1/26/00

***Follow up letter:
"You asked me in your email if my oldest son was able to concentrate on what he finds interesting. Yes! He can spend hours pouring over airplane model catalogs or taking apart any mechanical contraption and putting it back together again. He can do very intricate and involved work when he is motivated, and we all consider him a genius except where his grades are concerned!"

Teacher Is Pushing For Ritalin:  "My son plays the piano, speaks two languages, and is reading 3 grades above his age level. Now a teacher says she thinks he should be medicated. The teacher is on Ritalin, her daughter is on Ritalin, and her friends' children are on Ritalin. Why should my child be on Ritalin? Well, he doesn't act up and is not violent. But because he gets distracted and he wiggles! Not constantly and not jumping off walls, nor with any repetitive motions. He just turned 6 years old. And has so many talents like those I mentioned above, plus is learning to speak a third language, uses a computer and knows some geography. I always felt that education in this county was poor and have considered home schooling for some time, many people in the area home school." - SAA 1/7/2000

Adderall + Clonidine Side Effects in Six Year Old: Ever since my Grandson, who is 6 years old and in kindergarten all day, was diagnosed and put on Adderall I can hardly stop thinking about it. He has always been considered to be very bright, has a large vocabulary for his age, and easily converses with adults. My daughter had told me when the school officials wanted to test him for ADHD but didn't tell me right away when they put him on Adderall because she knew I wanted her to do a little research first before putting him on any drugs. When he was first put on the Adderall he was taking 15 mg twice a day!   From what I have read on another website this is a very large dosage for a new patient, especially one so young. It was later lowered to 10 mg twice a day. Which may still be too high. He is experiencing some side effects which are very alarming to me.

My husband and I stayed overnight with him about a month ago at his home. The next day while I was with him he was experiencing tics about every 10 seconds, sometimes more often. I started counting in between and sometimes I would count only to 6 and then other times up to 40 (this seemed to be when he was concentrating intently on something). He blinks his eyes real hard and then sometimes opens his mouth wide like a hard yawn. Occassionally when he was walking he would stop and blink real hard and then continue on. Also, I've noticed that he picks at the skin around his fingernails a lot (something I didn't notice much before). [Note from Teresa: Several people have written to me about stimulants causing children to pick at their skin, sometimes severely].

My daughter had told me that he was taking two meds---the Adderall twice a day and another med called Clonidine, I believe. I thought it was only to help him sleep better because she had told me to give it to him at bedtime. When she returned home, I told her I was very upset about the dozens of tics he was having that day, she said "did you give him the Clonidine, that helps with the tics". I told her, "no I thought it was only at bedtime". I asked her, "So you give him one med that causes the tics and then another to counteract them---does that make sense to you." I won't go into the rest of the details of the argument, but suffice it to say we had a heated one and she told me the psychiatrist knew more than I did.

He is getting so thin and isn't the same energetic, enthusiastic little boy that he was before. Recently she forgot his meds when she came to our house (we live 100 miles away) so his behavior change was very drastic the next evening. He was hyper and challenging her authority repeatedly.

I have asked my daughter to go to your website, I hope it gets her to consider alternate ways of looking at his behavior and his health. I hate to jeopardize my relationship with her, but I will continue risking it for the sake of my Grandson. - GAR 2/14/2000

Lost Spunk Under Meds: "I must compliment you on a well structured site and balanced perspective on the subject. My eldest son was labeled ADD from the age of four. He is now 10, extremely bright and challenging. We threw out the pills after one year when all he became was a drugged zombie losing his spunky personality. We learn new things about him daily and that's what makes him special." - DAV 5/18/2000

Medication Helps: "We knew that our son was different almost from birth. He simply didn't act or react like any other baby we knew. He was a lot more alert, yes, but he also cried a lot more, was fussier and would not settle to a schedule. We knew, almost from the start, that he was very intelligent. We thought some of the problems would resolve themselves once he was able to occupy himself, and they did, but only slightly. He still was busier than others, he still cried more than others, he still needed less sleep than others and sleep pattern was.. well, there was no sleep pattern.

Things were hard for a while, but were tolerable, as long as he was cared for in our home by an aunt he simply adored. However, when he was 3 1/2 years old, his aunt sufferred a heart attack and couldn't look after him. That's when trouble really started: before the age of 4, he was expelled from two in-home day-care facilities and was having a very hard time comforming to the rules of an institutionalized day-care. By the time he started 5 yo K, he was about to be expelled from that day-care. The first year of school was hard, but there were only two major events: one time when he became totally out of control in the gym, and the whole thing had to be documented and once when he was upset and attacked the bus driver with by hitting him with his cast (he'd broken his arm playing on monkey bars).

Things became very hard in 1st grade and culminated to his being sent home, everyday, in second grade, until the principal was in hot water over something else and, my guess, got scared and re-admitted him in school. However, he was not allowed to have lunch at school and we still had to agree to go and pick him up if things got out of hand. Things only got better once we had him in psycho-therapy, on meds and ourselves in family therapy and being taught coping mechanisms that we could impart to him.

As far as meds go, we have literally seen no side effects in the use of Ritalin, other than a very slight drop in appetite, however, he compensates by eating more than he ever did once the meds wear off, in mid-afternoon. Therefore, he eats more than he did before and eats a whole let better, because he can now control himself long enough to balance the pros and cons of having a balanced diet.

As far as the compliant child issue, well, let me phrase it this way: he's still the same person he always was:) Therefore, when he's upset, perceives an injustice or is simply excited about something, he still tends to over-react and to have melt-downs, melt-downs and overreactions that will, most certainly, get him into trouble. It's just that with meds, he can focus long enough, most of the time, for us to communicate with him and to use some of the behavior modification methods that we have found to be effective." -CHE 7/12/00

Ritalin Side Effects: "My 9 year old son was diagnosed ADHD at the age of 4.  We did try Ritalin for several years, seemed to help in the beginning.  Then at age 7 he began having severe mood swings, crying one moment, laughing the next.  He was under an M.D.'s care (someone we trust and respect) and he was seeing a therapist weekly who specializes in children with ADD/ADHD.  They both insisted it couldn't be the Ritalin.  They implored us to only reduce the Ritalin and see if it helped.  We tried for a week with no improvement.  Our gut told us to stop the Ritalin, so we did, against medical and psychological advice.  He IMMEDIATELY improved, so we have kept him off ever since.  His moods are not so extreme (though I believe it is his temperament to be somewhat extreme), and he is doing as well as we (his parents) can expect of him in the rigid environment of public school.  He reads at at least 6th or 7th grade level.

His current teacher would like us to medicate him.  He has a lot of difficulty with movement, making voice noises, controlling his anger (=frustration!).  We keep a dialog open with her, and have implemented some of an IEP, but mostly we ignore her because the year is almost over and she just doesn't get it.  We have had numerous conferences, discussions, notes back and forth, etc.  She thinks he'll be happier if he conforms.  We think SHE would be." - TIN  3/31/00

Prozac and Adderall Side Effects: "At the request of the school social worker, we visited a pediatrician who  "specialized" in ADD/ADHD. After a 3 hour session with just my husband and I, then an hour session with my daughter, a diagnosis of ADHD, Anxiety Disorder and Depression was made. I felt devastated. The doctor recommended Prozac 10 mg once a day to start. My daughter began this treatment in April of 1998 (thus leaving just 2 months of school). We were warned of the side effects to expect, such as, decreased hunger, inability to sleep and lethargy. She exhibited all of these and more. She became more impulsive than ever and was almost uncontrollable. I described her to my friends and family as a toddler going through the terrible two's with the mentality & capabilities of an 8 year old.

We were in touch with her doctor at least once a week sharing our experiences as well as her behavior. This, he said, was all to be expected. We met with him again when I was at my wits end and he prescribed Adderall 5 mg twice a day in addition to the Prozac. He said that in addition to her diagnosis there was a chance that she could have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, in which he would have to increase her meds. She began her Adderall in August 1998. By this time, she was again extremely impulsive, she was lying and stealing (something she had never done before), she was talking in detail about how she would kill her 6 year old sister, she would describe how she would kill animals, she would have temper tantrums that I had never in my life witnessed before. She was trying to hurt herself by making herself bleed (usually picking the skin around her cuticles, picking scabs, or making mosquito bites look like some kind of  flesh eating disease). She always felt the need to bathe even though she just showered earlier in the day. She eventually bathed 3-4 times a day. She would complain that her legs, arms and body felt itchy. She would scratch herself so hard that she would mark up her body if I didn't allow her to bathe. She had also began making strange noises in her throat all day long. My worst fears had come to realization. In addition to her initial diagnosis, she had also developed OCD.

A new school year began and we met with her teacher, principal, and guidance counselor prior to the first day. She was placed on a 504 program which essentially is schoolwork, classroom and homework modification. I felt a great deal of support from everyone at her school which helped us tremendously. Her artistic and musical talents were acknowledged and she felt a sense of belonging. From September to November our child spent 70 percent of her school time at the nurses office. She couldn't sit in class for more than an hour at a time. She'd complain to the nurse about headaches, stomach pain or she'd be half asleep. The nurse called us up after a few weeks and described our daughters behavior as being "drugged." She attempted to call our doctor, as did I, but he was mourning the loss of his parents, therefore unavailable. Over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1998 she fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. She had an emergency appendectomy and because of the pain medication, we were asked to discontinue any other medication she was on for the time being. This was truly a blessing in disguise. She recovered well from her surgery and we discontinued her meds for good. After a few weeks, she stopped with her tick, her need to shower several times a day, and her angry behavior. I had my daughter back.

Having a child with problems had had a tremendous amount of strain on our marriage and on our other children (ages 6,15, & 16). We began counseling for my daughter and our family. Although she still exhibits all of the initial signs of ADD, reading books, speaking to health care professionals and finding great websites such as yours, has helped us navigate though a long and winding road of uncertainty.

I hope that sharing our experiences gives at least one person a sense of hope and the will to push forth.

PS. I almost forgot to mention one thing. What was thought to be an appendicitis turned out to be a disease called Heinoch Schoelin Purpura or HSP. This disease closely resembles appendicitis with severe lower abdominal pain, elevated white count, and vomiting. It is self limiting where it disappears as mysteriously as it appears. My daughter showed signs of bruising all over her extremities about 5 days after surgery. It was thought to be an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. Her platelets were fine and her white count was back to normal. She suffered from severe pain in her joints, swollen feet as well as the bruising on her body. Her urine had to be tested frequently so that her kidneys could be monitored for hemorrhage (due to HSP). My daughter asked me everyday if she had cancer and if she were going to die. I cried in my pillow many sleepless nights but I never lost hope.

This lasted about 5-6 months or until May 1999.  She has shown no other signs or symptoms since. Could this been brought on by the meds? I still wonder. I have never witnessed a child go from being perfectly physically healthy to one of medical mystery!" - MCR 4/13/00

"Edison Trait" Book Made All the Difference:  "I just wanted to thank you for creating and sharing your website. I found it at a time in my life when some alleged experts were trying to convince us our gifted son suffered from ADHD and ODD and needed Ritalin to control it. I especially want to thank you for your reference to Dr. Palladino's book, 'The Edison Trait.' This book literally made the difference between another disasterous year of school and one of learning and understanding for our son. I read it and passed it along to his teacher this year. She was so excited, because it described our son exactly!! She wanted to know if the author has written anything geared to educators on how best to teach Edison trait children. Things have improved greatly at home and in the classroom." - 1/20/2000 LIS

More Help From "The Edison Trait": "Ever since my son was a tiny baby, I have know that there was something about him that made him 'different' from the other kids. Until he was 2 1/2, I thought he had some kind of learning disability. Then, all of a sudden, he went from being about 1 year behind in his development to being miles ahead of most of the other kids. I was happy and confused at the same time. When his behavior problems got to be more than I could handle, I searched the web for ADHD and found your web page. Because of your glowing recomendation, I read "The Edison Trait" and it changed my life. It was the most perfect description of my son that I had ever seen. After reading the book, I realized that it also described me. It helped me to make sense of a lot of very bad childhood experiences. My son is almost 4 now. After using the 3 discipline techniques that you suggest, he is much easier to live with. In fact, he is trying to learn to read. I have also discovered that he behavior improves when he is being challenged by something. I think he gets bored and starts pushing my buttons when he is looking for new information."  - CAL 5/6/2000

Homeschooling Did the Trick: "We've taken our two boys to: pediatricians, a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist, and have had countless medical tests (EEG, MRI, blood tests). The only real help we've found has been from the occupational therapist, books that I've read, and this webpage.

I just wanted to add that we also homeschool our two boys and have found that to be the one best thing that we've done for them. Because of that they don't have to be medicated, they are learning at their own pace, which is a rather fast one, and are not being overstimulated, abused by their teachers, or teased by their classmates. By the way, they have more free time to run around and get rid of all that pent up energy. They also have more friends now than they did when they were in school." -  NMI 11/18/2000

Discipline Techniques Help: "Thanks for the support! I have a very challenging ADHD son who is responding well to the discipline I have found on your web page. I'm turning into a 'backbone' parent!" 6/2/00

Montessori School Made All The Difference: "Jason, now fourteen, was a dynamic, happy baby and an extremely active toddler. When he was two, a friend of ours who is a psychiatrist expressed some "concern'" regarding his "hyperactive behavior" suggesting that perhaps we were giving him too much apple juice. Actually, this may have been true. As a twenty-six-year-old mother, I found his activity level to be challenging, but highly enjoyable.  When my younger son, David, was born, Jason's impulsivity became more difficult to handle. Three-year-old Jason was very rough on the new infant. He frequently tried to hurt David and could not be left alone with him for even a few seconds. Jason had trouble in preschool. His teachers felt that he was unable to follow rules, and, according to them, he suffered "strange" outbursts. They finally asked him to leave. He was placed in two other preschools after that. Each place eventually asking Jason to leave. We finally hit on the Montessori Learning Center. A place that considered Rudolf Dreikur's "The Child, The Challenge," to be their bible. Jason's new school did not put much stock in long circle times where kids had to sit quietly and listen to the teacher read stories. Instead children were given choices as to what they wanted to work on. These were different stations in which they could examine learning tools, complete tasks at their own pace and move on when ready. Discipline was set up as natural consequences, and most importantly the child was not judged, the behavior was. Children were always given a great deal of positive feedback. Jason attended Montessori for three years. David went for two years. Both loved it.

After the school closed, we put him in public school in the second grade.  He was there two weeks when his teacher strongly recommended we medicate him because of his inattention. In fact, she and the school's principal didn't think Jason would survive public school without it. Jason had been previously diagnosed at five as "an extreme case of ADD."

My husband, who is a physician, was more inclined to medicate him  initially, but I was hesitant. Finally, I went along with it and we put Jason on Ritalin. Immediately, his inattention improved. But there were side effects. Headaches in the beginning, and mood swings that appeared after the Ritalin wore off at the end of each day. Not to mention the incredible backlash of impulsivity and anger that appeared when the Ritalin was out of his system.

When David entered public school, the teachers also found him difficult to deal with. His first grade teacher thought that David was a belligerent child because he would refuse to change course when he was in the middle of a project. They saw his need to do his work at his own speed as an oppositional behavior. In reality, David is one of the most easy going people  you'd ever want to meet. But when he's hyperfocusing, wild horses couldn't drag him away. He also often got lost in his new elementary school. Sometimes he'd forget how to get to the cafeteria, or the art room. His   teachers thought he might have some sort of brain dysfunction. (Actually, what was really happening was, he didn't hear the direction such as "It's time for lunch," or "It's time for art class," and so he'd just wander the halls.)   When David was tested it was found that he, like his older brother was gifted. But he was also diagnosed with ADHD. The difference with David was he wasn't hyperactive. It was suggested that he also go on Ritalin. Once again, I acquiesced.

Both boys were on Ritalin for several years. Last year we switched their medication to Welbutrin. We did this after Jason developed Reynaud's Syndrome. The Welbutrin seems to be a better agent for both of them. Jason is able to attend better, and his impulsivity isn't quite as out of control. However, adolescence has been an incredible challenge. Two weeks ago he took  my cellular phone to school, had it confiscated, crashed my computer for the millionth time, stuffed his brother into the hideaway bed, swore at me in an xxx rated tongue, and kicked my car windows after I took his CD player away  from him. All this in the space of twelve hours. On the other hand, he's an A student, ( except for the occassional F when he's forgotten to do a project). After school he has a job as a cashier in a  fruit market. He talked his way into this job, dispite the fact that he's the youngest employee they have and never had any experience on a cash register. Of course, he picked it up immediately and is a model employee.

When he's not crashing my computer, he's developing websites. Jason also loves to make films. In the sixth grade he won regionals for History Day. He can tell a great story, makes everybody laugh and seems to be able to get along with all kinds of kids. (Except his brother, of course.) Speaking of David, he's a phenomenal artist, good violinist, great inventor and so-so student. He has a memory for trivia that will blow your mind. This year, he and his team won the district-wide Black History Bowl.   He's also extremely intuitive, polite, and compassionate. And yet his public school teachers don't really appreciate his gifts. Just last week, his fifth grade teacher told me that David often gets confused and doesn't seem to know what's going on. This maybe true, but he knows what's going on in his own mind and it's a far more interesting place than his teacher's classroom.  Thank goodness we've found a middle school that uses the Montessori method.

If it sounds like I'm bragging it's because I'm extremely proud of them  both. They've suffered many indignities over the years, (too many to recount here) often in the hands of experts, teachers, classmates and even extended family. And they've taught me so much about accepting my children for who they are and not what I want them to be. And, they've given me the courage to venture into a new career. I now work with at-risk kids in the city school district where my own kids attend. I teach an experiential curriculum that deals with Conflict Resolution, Self-esteem, Prejudice Reduction and Social Change to kids who many teachers have written off as unteachable.

Guess what, many of them are kids with ADD. And every one of them is teachable. It's simply a matter of teaching to their needs, not the teacher's." - SST 5/29/00

What I Like About ADD: "I thought it would be fun to jot down all the reasons I like being ADD.

I say what I'm thinking but don't think before saying. Always a good conversation starter!

I love to question authority.

I'm forty years old and act like I'm fifteen (my wife says twelve)

Imagination is everything, my boys have brought that back.

Everything interests me. Exploring has gotten me everything.

Being overly sensitive means great depth of feelings. Music, theatre, art, operas, holidays, my kids, good books can all move me greatly.

Awareness of all things going on around me. Sights, sounds, colors, touch, smells, taste, intuition. I say God or whatever gave us six senses might as well use 'em.

I can out talk anyone.

I'm always ready for a new challenge.

Anything I've wanted to do, I've been able too.

People expect me to forget things, so it's okay when I do.

I'll be friends with anyone. ADD has taught me not to judge anyone because everyone is interesting." -BRI 1/27/00

Feingold Diet Helped: "My daughter Elizabeth was on Ritalin for a year and it caused her to have muscle spasms so bad that she would end up in the emergency room.  I had always known that when she ate certain foods that she would be out of control.  My neice told me about a diet that would change her life and I was ready to try anything at that point.  She went on the Feingold Diet.  Which is an elimination diet of all artificial food coloring and flavorings and of BHA, BHT,TBHQ. I also found out that she was sensitive to chocolate and most salicylate foods.  It took 6 weeks for her to start to calm down and be able to focus and we were able to take her off of Ritalin forever !!  Now she lives a drug free life.  She is only 10 and unfortunately has gotten so far behind in school that I am thinking about homeschooling her to help her to catch up.  I am sorry that this letter has been so long, but I get so excited when I think about how far she has come.  Anyway, if you are interested in researching the Feingold Diet any further they do have a web page as well. They are a non for profit organization made up of moms who donate their time to gathering  information for people on the diet."  [note from Teresa: The Feingold diet doesn't work for everyone, but can have dramatic effects for some, especially those with signs of allergic reactions or sensitivies: nasal congestion, ear infections, asthma, eczema or problems sleeping.]

Nutritional Supplements a Cure:   "I'm 27 years old, male, and only started treating my condition about exactly a year ago.  Right now I'm about a week away from graduating university, something I thought I might never do.

I have all the classic symptoms of an ADD "superior mutant":  I hear cathode ray tubes hum, I see florescent lights (all florescent lights) flicker, I am cross-dominant (left eye, right hand, left foot), and I have an insatiable curiosity about everything.  I knew my entire alphabet when I was a year old.  I have knowledge of about thirty languages, and speak six of them well.  I also hated life in general.  I very nearly failed out of high school, I dropped out of college, and for five years after that I kept having to get a new job every six months or so when my boss would finally get sick of me and fire me.  Every day felt like dragging a garbage bag full of sand up a gravel driveway.  I had occasional fits of depression that really frightened my wife.  What they lacked in frequency they more than made up for in intensity.

Even so, I never really thought anything was wrong with me.  I didn't pay any attention to boring things like homework, or work, because I didn't care -- which was true, they bored me to death.  Everything I was interested in, I seemed to do an exceptional job at.  

What really puzzled me was, after I went back to school, (I told myself it was to finish my degree.  But let's be honest, I was already bored with the computer industry and desperately wanted to do something else.) I still did poorly, even though I was studying things I was very much interested in.  I could *not*, to save my life, finish any of the books I was assigned.  And they were interesting books!  I came up with a trick, where I would sit out in the cold (to keep me awake), chain smoke a pack of cigarettes, and down one gallon of coffee in the course of three hours.  Doing this, I was sometimes able to make some progress on my books.  Of course afterwards I would be completely spent, and have to spend the rest of the day at home.  I missed a lot of class.

Then one day I saw a flyer in the stairwell on the way to class.  It read: if any of these things describe you, you might have ADD.  I went through the list, and eleven of the thirteen items described me perfectly.  The only two that didn't were the more "hyperactive" symptoms.  (I think they aught to have a subclass of ADD called ADLD: "Attention Deficit Lethargy Disorder".  That would have described me perfectly)  I went to the Psychological Services office, and told them I wanted to get tested.

The testing took a couple of months, which were like torture.  How can you diagnose somebody with the inability to be patient and then make them wait that long?  I decided I needed some quicker answers and started to do some research myself, which was when I first came across borntoexplore.org.  One thing that kept coming up that really interested me was the reported effects of stimulants on ADD'ers as opposed to "normal" people.  If a person really did have ADD, the stimulant would "calm him down", etc.  I decided *this* would be the way I would test myself.  I asked one of my friends and, I'm ashamed to say, I bought a little baggie of what I guess was pure crank.  Almost the same stuff in Dextrostat, and used clinically to treat ADD.  I also bought the 1999 Physicians Desk Reference to try to figure out what a "safe" dosage would be, and "medicated" myself with street crank for about two weeks.  Needless to say, DO NOT DO THIS!!!  It was an extraordinarily stupid thing to do, and I think I was addicted the first minute.  I got my answer though, I felt calmer than I ever had in my life.  The problem was coming down off of it, I wouldn't wish *that* experience on anybody.  I made the decision to just use up what I had and never buy any more.

The testing process was finally over in January, which means I finally had the privilege of paying $60 a month for little yellow dextrostat pills.  The results were nothing less than a miracle.  I went from C's and F's to straight A's overnight.  I quit smoking in literally the first week.  I was able to read books and did so frequently.  I also stopped doing things that I thought were just parts of my personality, like talking incessantly and arguing with everybody about everything.  I quit listening to gothic death metal music and started to enjoy classical, and I started taking violin and kung fu lessons.

On the flip side, I also got the side effects.  Severe eczema on my face and hands, insomnia, loss of appetite, and impotence (that last one really scared the crap out of me).  As anyone who has ever been treated with stimulants knows, for the first couple of months as they work you up from 50mg. to 400mg. (or whatever your ultimate dosage will be), you feel "high" nearly all of the time.  It really feels great, a lot like the crank did.  After a couple months though, the euphoria began to go away.  Thereafter, I started to try to supplement my medication with other stimulants, like iced tea and of course those wonderful Red Bull energy drinks.  (I studied much better when I felt that euphoria than I did otherwise.)

During this time I was still searching for a way off the medication.  I might have stayed on it all my life had it not been for the fact that I had been planning a move to Japan after I graduated for three years, and I don't think the dope flows as freely over there as it does here.  I learned a lot about biochemistry, neurochemistry, amino acid chains, etc.  This seemed to me like the answer.  I have read studies that indicated ADD-ers' hair samples show that they are defficient in some important minerals.  That made the most sense to me: I can't metabolize my minerals properly because I don't have the right enzymes, and I don't have the right enzymes because I am deficient in the minerals that in part make up those enzymes.  *If* that is true, then the answer should be simple: chelated minerals, which are minerals that are pre-metabolized so even a broken metabolism like mine can absorb them.  I talked about these things with my "doctor", and he didn't seem to know anything about it.  In fact, none of the doctors in that office that I spoke to had any idea what caused ADD, nor did they know anything about any current research that was going on.  What's more, they were distinctly disinterested.  My main doctor didn't even know anything about the known side effects of what he was prescribing to me.

About three months ago, I ran out of little yellow pills, and accidentally missed my appointment to get another.  I went to the office to ask for some sort of emergency prescription, as it was final's week.  I was told in a very condescending way that I would not be given any for three more weeks, as there are rules to prevent students who are addicted to the stuff (like me?) from "abusing the system".  I was furious.  How can they diagnose me, and then knowingly refuse me treatment?  At the same time I was terrified at the prospect of three weeks without medication, I had been on it non-stop for almost ten months!

The very next day I went to the local health food store, and bought about $50 worth of vitamins:  Evening primrose oil. flax oil, those chelated multi-minerals, a multivitamin, a B-complex, and a multi-amino acid.  The results were spectacular!!  I don't know what most of the vitamins may have done, or whether they even did anything, but those mineral pills turned out to be *exactly* what I needed.  They were not just helpful, my uneducated personal opinion is that they are the cure.  I am able to do as much work, reading, etc. since taking the mineral pills than the dextrostat, if not much more.  At the same time I feel calm, happy, and in control as I have never felt before.

To me, it feels like the difference between a car engine that is always ready to seize up, and a car engine that is well tuned and oiled.

As I said, I'm almost graduated.  I have been on nothing but vitamins all quarter, and it has been my most productive one yet.  I am taking twenty credits, way above full time.  This quarter, beyond my schoolwork: I have a part-time job tutoring students in classical Japanese, I kept the house clean, kept my finances in order (well, better than normal), and have been making all the temporal and diplomatic arrangements to move to Japan.  I'm finally able to work hard, and it feels great!" - WIL 12/3/00

 

Polish Psychologist's Thoughts:  "I dreamed about creating a page like yours and - pop! - it is already here. I was so irritated and annoyed with all these "serious-brain-disorder" theories. Thanks for mentioning Dabrowski's theory; I am a Polish psychologist and I admire his work.

We come to U.S. two years ago. One of the first things I learned here was that our son "has probably ADHD and should be tested". Intrigued (despite my professional background I had never heard about such a "disease") I started to investigate... Wow! I realized I "have it" myself and so my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandparents.... But all my life my parents and even teachers, although often irritated, kept telling me, that my behavior is a sign of being gifted.... Can you imagine a happy country, when ADHD does not exist? Lately I have read an article in Polish press about Columbine shooting. A journalist ask a psychologist if we should be afraid about such tragedies in Poland. "Definitely no" answered the psychologist. "First our children are less competitive. Second, in most of all the cases boys suffered from that serious mental disease, called ADHD, which we do not have here". "Why they have it in U.S.?" kept asking the journalist "I don't know" answered the psychologist "Maybe because of air pollution..." Sounds like a good joke, doesn't it? Did you read books by Thom Hartmann about ADD? I love them!" - OGR 1/24/2000

Gifted kids told they are ADD: "I am an educational psychologist who specializes in gifted (children and adults... I primarily end up working with families because the schools aren't interested in this population unless they misbehave).  Most of my clients are male and about half of them have had it suggested that they be screened for or have ADD." - Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D. Her website contains several good articles on the gifted.

Hyperactivity stops in Gifted class:  "My son has been labeled ADHD and has been on Ritalin for two years. The first day I found your website, I felt like someone who had found religion for the first time. My son, whom I now think is most likely an INTP (I'm still researching, but that seems to fit so far), is highly intelligent, definitely a divergent thinker, and has been "hyperactive" since the day he was born, possibly also in the womb, thinking back to those jumping jacks he used to perform in utero. I did not want to medicate him in the first place but gave into the pressure and opinions of those around me. I am now in the process of changing our diets and weaning him off the medication. I'm sure the school will not appreciate this, but I am also looking into alternative schooling and in the meanwhile plan to put more pressure on the school he attends to provide for his needs.  He attends an ELP (extended learning program) class once a week. It's our district's version of a "gifted" program. He thrives in the environment there. He does not fidget, he does not disrupt. His teacher in ELP would probably find herself in your website, and from day one she has taught them to value thinking divergently, and even uses that term with them. If my son could be in that environment 5 days a week instead of 1, no one would have ever labeled him as ADHD. In fact, his kindergarten teacher (he is now in third grade) said he just had a LOT of energy, and called him her little sponge because he would suck up any knowledge she put in front of him. It was his first grade teacher and the school psychologist who convinced me that medication was warranted.

My thanks today is two fold. I have found a brand new light concerning my son. I'm not just a biased mother who thinks his differences are wonderful, and not burdensome. He is differently wonderful. The second "fold" of my thanks are for myself. I tested on the Keirsey tests as INFP. I feel truly validated for the first time in my life. When I got my test results and read about INFP's, my first thoughts were "no wonder". No wonder I clash with so many around me, no wonder I am seen as a boat-rocker and non-conformist. No wonder I am so emotional. And I feel now that I am GREAT just the way I am. All my life I have felt compelled to try to change, to be like everyone else. I am NOT like everyone else, and neither is my son. I have dived into your website and the links there many a day and read with misty eyes. I love my INFP traits, and now I know I can tell the world around me that this is who I am, and I am not going to change. " - GIB 2/29/00

Family of Gifted, Visual Learners: "I have seven children, six had "learning disabilities" they could not read and had to be labeled broken in order to learn to read. My children tested in superior range of intelligence but could not recognize letters or hear the sounds. It's a shame schools cannot accommodate their learning styles without being labeled broken. They all love to draw and draw well and are very musical. They are well adjusted because we accept them for who they are and do not care if they get straight A's.

I love your humor and love the concept that we are not broken. I also am a divergent thinker but went to Catholic school, that's another story, and learned to conform or you know what. I was also "neurologically impaired" according to the WISC. I did not realize I was smart until I was 33. I am 46 now. My husband did not learn to read until he was 12 and he taught himself, he was a doctoral candidate and is ABD (All But Dissertation). I always thought I was an imposter. That is why your page is great. It let's people see they are unique and not broken. Thanks for writing it. I've given so many parents this site. Educators too, but I doubt many read." - CMU 3/18/00.

Bubbas ARE Good, Treat Them Well:  "Thank you for your website.  I learned of it through fiar.com and have held many of the ideas expressed on your site - it's good to have support.  Our family physician sat us down upon our first visit, told us that "Bubba"  at age 3 had all the traits of ADD but he refused to medicate.   He told us to consider our alternatives to public school since the district would press us to medicate.  Since then, we have moved to an organic farm and homeschool.   Bubba, our elder son, has room to ramble and dreams of joining the Navy and becoming a volcanologist.  He has 10 years to prepare.  I told Bubba, as he looked over my shoulder, that I was on a website about the care and feeding of "Bubbas" (the name he chose for himself the first time he spoke).  He asked, "Does it tell how to control and make us be good?"  I was delighted to answer, "No, Bubbas ARE good, and this site tells how to treat them well."  He's smiling. " - PAT 5/1/2000

Understanding Teacher: "I did not know that I was ADD and Gifted until I became a teacher. I always thought there was something wrong with me while I was growing up. As you say , there is not much positive information about being ADD. Our kids are always tagged as problems, not as resources. It is very hard for our ADD or /and Gifted students to go through our schools without being bruised in the process. I have promised myself that I will do my utmost to aid all my students to understand themselves and their environment, and ease their way through the system.

When I was a kid, I hated going to school. I love learning, but I couldn't stand the structure, and the emphasis on conformity. As a teacher, I try to instill on my students the joy of being unique. I relate my experiences in school to them, and I explain to them that I was far from a perfect child. Presently there are a few of my kids that are either ADD, or LD. Most of my students are surprised when I point out that I resembled these students when I was growing up more than the rest of the class. That has helped the rest of the class see the other children differently, and lets the "weird" kids know that I understand how they feel. It helps us find a common ground where we can solve problems as they arise." - VIR 4/13/00

Positive and creative side: "I would like to thank you for advocating the positive and creative sides to ADD because so many people misunderstand the mental condition. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 2 and was given ritalin since age 4. I was also tested and determined a gifted student. Thanks to my encouraging mother and people like you, I am now 18 and attending college. I am still taking ritalin at my discretion, and I have found ways to let ADD help me such as in music, writing, and artistic creativity. Keep up the good work, and continue to let parents know that a child with ADD isn't 'doomed'".  - MH 10/27/2000

Fighting School Pressure to Medicate: I have a 9 yr old who is ADHD and I have fought the school system since he was in kindergarden to keep him off medications. I have been succesful until this year and we had the teacher from #@$$. She began the school year with Eli at the back of the classroom with his desk facing the wall. I have been to the school repeatedly and I finally removed him from the school system 5 weeks ago and we are homeschooling for the rest of this school year. I have a new MD who agrees that he does not need to be medicated and we are working on renewing his spirit.

Meditation Helps Depression and ADD: "I'm 37 and have known about my ADD for 4 years. I'm the so-called "inattentive" type, and I've also been struggling with depression for pretty much my whole life, which is really tied in to my ADD (and being raised by ADD and depressed parents). I've been meditating off and on for the past few months and I've found it's really changed my outlook on both my depression and ADD. I thought I'd look up "attention deficit" and "meditation" on the web, and "Adventures in Hyperactive Meditation" was the first one I found...

To me, there are at least two things about meditation that are really important. The first is awareness of my thoughts. I find that I'm constantly trying to "zone out" because my little ADD brain is bombarded with thoughts that I don't think I can control, but then I can fall into a stupor which leads naturally to depression. Also, there's also all the negative thoughts that I've learned over all the years as I tried (not very successfully) to keep that ADD brain in line. Yes, a big mess, but as I increase my awareness I find I can start to sort things out and find out why I'm so unhappy.

The second is acceptance. This is mostly acceptance of my ADD and the fact that if I want to reach my potential I'll probably need to give up my wish to fit in like everyone else, but in doing so, I can learn to value that which makes me special. One thing that comes up in meditation and Buddhism is the importance of kindness and compassion toward yourself. I've found that this is especially important for me and probably other ADDer's because we can be pretty hard on ourselves, and this can lead into crippling depression.

The third (I did say at least two things!) is awareness of what's going on around me. I've had problems with making friends and dealing with people, and my ADD and tendency to withdraw have contributed to this, but by learning to be more aware, these problems seem more surmountable. One thing that's been important for me in approaching meditation is to try not to let goals, value judgements, or expectations get me discouraged. When you first read about meditation, you think "there's no way my crazy ADD brain can do that!" but if you just shoot for some level of awareness that you didn't have before, even if that's just "wow, my brain is especially crazy today and I'm not good for anything",  then you've gotten somewhere. It just may not be the place that you expected to go, but you've learned something new by being open to it.

One book that's been especially helpful in learning about this is "Diamond Mind--A Psychology of Meditation" by Rob Nairn, published by Shambhala. Another is "The Depression Book" by Cheri Huber, published by Keep It Simple Books." - BOB 5/3/2000


Late Bloomer: "At age 45 (I'm now 50) I was finally recognized as gifted, (IQ150 WAIS-R verbal scale) as well as 'severe ADD.' Until first years of young adulthood, I was completely detatched from the real world, mentally, living in an autistic-like state, having cultivated a vivid, almost hallucinary fantasy world, such that I missed out on formal schooling beyond knowing how to read and write. As a late bloomer I am now rapidly absorbing knowledge and concepts in several areas of interest, scientific, artistic etc., I'm assessed to be INTP and through your material on 'overexitabilities' can see myself as very prominent in the imaginational as well as in the emotional and intellectual (hunger for thought and learning), as shown in my work as a poet and essayist (self-taught). Just one more thing, I experience great difficulty in solving logic puzzles. For someone supposed to be bright why would this be so? Perhaps because I am a 'right brained intuitive with little gained left brained skills?" - JOH 2/13/00

Follow-up by JOH 6/18/00: "The book, 'In the Mind's Eye' by Thomas G West has been a great eye-opener and indeed a welcome answer to why a potentially gifted person with the inherent capabilities for advancement such as myself and others like me, have, at the same time, come up against inexplainable walls of hindrance and setbacks in my effort for progress and self-advancement. The examples taken in the book from the life experiences of famous gifted persons from the past, have assured me that I'm not alone in the struggle. For too long, I had consumed my time grappling with why on earth I'm stuck with earning a small wage,  mindlessly pulling weeds and potting up seedlings when surely I should be 'in a crisp white coat, surrounded by microscopes and test tubes, in a research lab', or in a prestigious university; yet even when embarking on courses of formal education to advance my options, I end up weeks later, slamming my pen down and flinging the textbooks aside in untold frustration at not knowing why I just cant seem to get it together, when seeing other students who seem to have ' only half the iq ' that I've been told I have, appearing to have no problems, completing their assignments on time, no trouble getting thoughts on paper etc.

No, what I've read in T. West's book has truly lifted the veil. I'm not inept, disordered, retarded; I simply have a wonderfully different style of brain and mind, little understood by conventional circles and which when allowed free reign, is able to express my God-given potential in excitingly creative ways. My fellow gifted/LD/ADD/dyslexic or whatever label they like to pin on you; rise up, throw aside the chains of seeming failure and despair; Your hour has come !!"

College Student: "I'm a 22 year old woman and was diagnosed with ADD last October. I get very frustrated when I look back at my earlier years. It was so obvious! Too obvious I guess, cause I missed it and so did parents and teachers. I'd hyperfocus on one course and flunk the rest, tune out if teacher wasn't interesting, I was a loner, preferring a book to playing ball or hopskotch. I was CONSTANTLY bugged in school, and then an awful thing happened. I started believing what they said. Suddenly I was convinced I was stupid, space cadet, lazy, crazy, etc. My IQ test caused me much distress as my score was in the 140s Genius level. But I still failed. In my mind it confirmed I was lazy and I hated myself for it. As if in a daze, I managed to graduate high school. Now college was looming. Very rough time there. No one understood me in high school and it was even worse in college. I stuck to that annoying trait I had and got 80's and 90's in selected courses and barely scraped through the others. By my second year it was starting to get to me and by my 3d year I was so depressed. I hated myself so much and wondered why I was on earth. I had an amazing teacher who helped boost my self esteem, and she made me realize I should get out of there and I did, opting to study at home.

During that time my mom's friend told me she suspected ADD. Of course I was in denial (isn't every one at first?) then I started doing research and I realized I may as well have been reading my own biography. What a weird feeling. So finally I got diagnosed as ADD. Without medication I've managed to turn my life around. Just by knowing it wasn't my fault. I will begin university next year and I'm ready. They already know about my ADD and are willing to give accomodations. With my new found self worth I will get a bachelor of education which will qualify me to teach special education. I want to do this cause its a deep need for me now. Save these kids by teaching them to love themselves. If I can stop one child from growing up like me, not knowing, a lifetime of depression, then ive done my duty and life has been worth living!" - BIM   1/30/00

Air Traffic Controller - While in high school I had vowed that if I graduated I would never sit behind another desk in an academic setting ever again. I knew from age 11 what I wanted to be, and it didn't require the humiliation and shame of sitting in a collegeclass room for four more years. In the end when it came time to graduate high school , I ranked 340 out of 345 kids. In my school a total of 90 accumulated credits was needed to walk down the line. At the end of 4 years I walked with a total of 90.25 credits. Most kids had somewhere around 115 to 120. I made it out, and knew that I would never go back to the classroom environment.

Though in December of 98, after having been out of high school for 17 years, I decided to take a shot at my first college course at a local community college.  It was more of a keep myself busy kind of thing rather than setting out to accomplish something challenging. Over the years I had toyed with the idea of college, but the fear and the memories of my academic career in school always held me back. One of the things this community college required was a copy of my high school transcript. I requested a copy from my high school, and was stunned when it arrived in the mail. It had been a long time, and I knew it wasn't going to be impressive, but I had forgotten how bad I really did. In four years of high school I accumulated 6 F's..14 D's.. and 2 C's. I thought to myself, No way they're letting me into college!

A few days after receiving the transcript I made a trip north to visit my best friend of nearly 12 years. He unlike myself is a brilliant academic achiever, and a lawyer as well. I had the transcript with me, and showed it to him expecting to get a good chuckle out of him. He didn't even crack a smile, and had a very serious look as he read. "What's this all about" he asked? The best answer I could give him was simply, "High school sucked" He then said, "well this doesn't make any sense". I said what do you mean? He said, " A bright guy like you with grades like this.? It just doesn't add up". I then quickly reminded him what my home life growing up was like in an attempt to find a logical answer. Surely my bad grades had to be the result of growing up in an abusive, alcoholic, divorced household where depression was rampant. My friend said, "no, I think this is something else".

During the long pause as he continued to gaze at the transcript, and before he spoke again, I was trying to guess why he called me a bright guy? I've been called a lot of things in life, but Bright was never one of them. I actually found myself uncomfortable with being called "bright". It just didn't fit the image that I had of myself at age 34. His next words stunned me. He said, "Have you ever been tested for ADHD"? I said " are you kidding? Come on, you know what I do for a living". He said, " Yeah I know, but this just doesn't make any sense". I changed the subject quickly to other matters, but found myself in a state of agitation , and curiosity. My friend had helped me though many difficult times in 12 years and I knew him to be very successful in helping other people get to exact nature, and to the real source of their problems. He then asked me, "what happens when you read"? What a strange question to ask I thought. What do you mean? Well, how much, and how well do you read? he asked. I said, I don't read at all. Why not? I don't know?. Now I was really uncomfortable. I felt put on the spot with a question I had no answer to. I felt shame and that old sense of failure surfacing. Then I answered the question correctly without even realizing it. I said, "I don't read because I can never finish anything I start." He simply said "Go get tested, I'll bet you lunch on this one." I tried to push the conversation with my friend out of my mind, but it hung on nagging me for two days. I believed there was just no way that I could have ADHD. Not with what I did for a living. I had worked as a highly accomplished Air Traffic Controller for the past 17 years, and having an "Attention" problem isn't something that would exactly fit well in my field. Little did I know what I would find out later on.

Over the years I had formed some very strong opinions about what I called "The ADD Craze" of the 90's. I called it irresponsible parenting, a cop out by public school systems, and blaming our children. I considered it a crime that so many children had been put on Ritilin thus giving the medical profession another source of income. I am embarrassed to say that up until last year, I had never actually read one piece of literature about what ADD/ADHD really was. I went with what I heard, and read in the media. I went with what my emotions told me, and I always saw the issue as an example of how our society had become a victim culture. I had also never heard of adults having ADD/ADHD. I just assumed it was a kid thing that one always out grew as long as the Ritilin didn't destroy them in the mean time.

I finally called a therapist friend to ask him what he thought about the notion. He said that he didn't deal with the subject but recommended I read the book Driven to Distraction. Not more than 20 pages into the book, and I was in tears. This was finally the answer I had been searching for . I didn't know whether to feel joy, sadness, or anger. In the past 14 years, I have been in therapy numerous times to resolve the troubles and pain from a childhood spent in an abusive, alcoholic home. I am also a recovering alcoholic of 14 years myself. During these years I've been severely depressed several times and even made a brief visit to the Psych ward of a VA hospital. Deep inside I knew that there was something else going on, but I just had no idea what it could be.I had nothing to go on, and had no idea how to explain to anyone. I felt I had turned over every stone, yet my life always seemed in some state of chaos as if it was something I enjoyed. I had moved 22 times in 13 years. My relationships always failed for a myriad of reasons, I was always loosing things, forgetting groceries at the check out counter, I even once walked away from an ATM machine without taking the money. I always thought this was just the way it was for everybody until I started to talk about it. I decided to pay a visit to the Hallowell Center in Concord Mass, and to go through the testing process. I still had a touch of denial left as I started the process. It was my profession that kept this denial alive. I kept wondering how I could have possibly survived 17 years as an air traffic controller with an "attention problem".?  

I have to include the story about what happened the morning I went to the Hallowell Center for my first evaluation. It tells the story of my life, and it quickly shattered any denial I had left in me about being ADHD. The night before my first evaluation I attended a Billy Joel concert with some friends. The seats were floor seats right by the stage and the sound was deafening. I was unable to get to the concession stand for a napkin to plug my ears and save my hearing, so I felt around in my pocket and found a piece of folded up paper. I wondered what it could be, but figured it couldn't have been too important being in my back pocket. I was on a first date that night and didn't want to let my new friend on to the fact I was plugging my ears up. So I casually tore the paper up in my pocket, moistened a couple of pieces in my mouth, and stuffed my ears. No one noticed a thing. I stayed at a friends house that night who lived 45 minutes from the Hallowell Center. I got up the next morning, got dressed, had breakfast, and climbed in my car for the drive to Concord. As I was driving it occurred to me that I didn't know where the Center was. They had given me directions over the phone the day before, but I hadn't a clue now as to where they were. I sat there in traffic wondering, "Where the hell did I put those directions"? I looked in my bag, my wallet, and my glove box. Then it hit me. The paper in my pocket!. Sure enough, the now half torn, chewed up piece of paper that I stuffed in my ears had the directions on it. I eventually found the center by process of elimination, and the first questioned I was asked by the receptionist was, "Did you have any trouble with the directions"? I said," yeah I chewed them up and put em in my ear".

Huh??

The first Doctor I saw got a good laugh out of the story, and by the end of the first evaluation she said that I definitely had ADHD. I said, "well how bad is it".? She said, You could be a poster child based on what you have told me about your life. The most significant thing I shared with her was something I had forgotten about for almost 25 years. It came to me during the evaluation when answering questions about my childhood.

In 1975 while in the 5th grade I took some tests for the school I was attending. Based on the results, they determined that I had an unspecified learning disability, and strongly recommended that I be put in a special education class. Or as it was called back then by kids in school, " The Nut class". My mother refused to allow this to take place. She told the school, "My kid is not stupid, and I won't have a special ed kid label put on him. It will stay with him wherever he goes" she said. I know today that her motive was more about what her friends might think or what she might think of herself. Back then there was a stigma about having special ed kids that I don't think is as prevalent today. So I stayed with the pack, and with it the threat of being held back each school year loomed over my head. That never happened, but I came close several times. The unspecified LD was simply ADHD. The Hallowell Center concluded that an associated reading disability may accompany the ADHD, but that the limited testing done by them was not enough to confirm it for sure.

As I began to learn more about ADD/ADHD I couldn't help but feel that something was still not right about the way we as a society, and culture are approaching the whole issue. Why is it called a disorder? And why is it such a problem that parents, and schools are handing out Ritilin like candy to children in order to calm them and keep them in check? Are they afraid of something? Just how much are we helping kids in the long run by telling them, there' something wrong with you, so here take this pill.  

When I was 11 years old, I made the determination that I was going to be an air traffic controller when I grew up. My intuition told me that this was something that I could do, and be really good at. It was almost like a calling. I was driven by sheer passion, and spent every free moment at the airport, and listening to the controllers on the air radio. I could look up in the sky and see a plane and know exactly where it was going based on time and type. I learned the capital of every country in the world just by reading airline timetables. As the school years past teachers and counselors tried to steer me away from my dream. You need to be good in math, or you have to have good grades in order to do that, were the reasons they gave. No teacher ever encouraged me or told me how to go about being a controller. No counselor ever suggested anyone to talk to about it. Actually they didn't have to. It was a solo mission for me and I knew it. I set my own course, and taught myself everything I needed to know about the process of being an air traffic controller. I would have to join the military first. This wasn't an easy task by any means. I failed the ASVAB entrance exam twice before finally scoring high enough to get in . Then I failed the medical exam twice before finally passing. Once I finally made it in to the military after high school, and arrived at my ATC school I was ordered to take an academic achievement test before I started ATC training. I failed this exam terribly, but I finally I got to my school a month later, and was faced with a difficult challenge. I knew I could keep airplanes apart if they gave me the chance, but how the hell was I going to pass the academic portion of the school. It was here, under extreme pressure that I discovered some very creative ways to study, and ultimatly passed one of the most difficult and complex schools in the military.In fact I graduated on the honor roll to the surprise of everyone back home. It was the proudest I have ever felt about myself.

I recently came across an article about the farmer/hunter concept regarding ADHD kids. In it the writer mentioned how that if ADHD kids can survive the challenge of the public school system then they would probably have what it takes to go on and be a competent "air traffic controller" or successful entrapenuar. Talk about feeling validated!. I nearly jumped when I read this. No wonder I picked air traffic control. I have the perfect mind for it. I may not be able to sit behind a desk, but put me under fire and stress and your in good hands. It was here that I really began to see that having ADHD as the medical community has come to call it, is not a liability, but an asset. Instead of focusing on what I wasn't good at, I started to focus and to see what I WAS good at. Since this has all happened the nagging low level, hard to define state of mild depression that I have always encountered is finally gone. I know who I am today. I understand how my mind is wired, and I know now that the 12 years of near academic failure, and the humiliation that accompanied it wasn't because I was stupid. I just needed more excitement than what a boring class room offered me.

The rest of my story is simple. I know I am not in the majority in my opinion about Ritilin or other medications. I don't take them, nor do I believe that most of the children who are on meds need to be taking them. I'm not a doctor, a parent, nor a teacher. Just a person with a life experience that has shaped me, and has determine many of the decisions I have made for myself. My ADHD is still there alive and well, but I embrace it like one might embrace a good friend, and don't beat myself up when I forget to do something or find myself on six different tracks going in six different directions. I spent the first 34 years of my life not knowing that my brain was built, and wired for constant excitement and stimulation. Now that I know it, and have an understanding about it, I have been relieved of the shame, fear, and sense of being somehow defective that has been by my side for so long. I can also manage it and have the tools neccessary now to dance in this world with the hunters as well as the farmers. - DCO 12/21/99

Note: If the above story interested you, rent the movie "Pushing Tin."


If you have a story, please email me!

 

All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."