I was having the pleasure of being out with a very old friend the other night, someone I’ve known since we were both very young but haven’t gotten to spend time with in many years, and I did The Thing: I was telling a story about going through counseling and learning more about myself, and I told her about learning that I have ADD. And I literally saw her eyes roll.
I can guarantee that anyone with ADD, but adults in particular, who has ever told another soul that they have ADD knows the Eye Roll all too well.
Because you don’t tell someone without weighing out their reaction first. Will they get it? Will they think it’s crap? Do they actually know anything about ADD? Or do they just think they do. Because everyone thinks they know. “You can’t sit still.” “You can’t pay attention.” “That’s just an excuse for teachers who don’t want to teach.” And unfortunately, that was where my brain stopped because my friend is a teacher and someone I consider intelligent, learned, enlightened, and open. My mind said, “she will probably be surprised to hear this about you, simply because you did excel in school, and maybe you can have a conversation about what ADD really is — maybe it will even help her students for you to talk about it.” Except my mind forgot to go the extra step and consider another option….
“Yeah, but, really, don’t we all have a little bit of ADD?”
No, we do not.
Do we all have times when our attention span stinks? Yes.
Do we all have times when we are more distractible than others? Yes.
Do we all have times when our mind races in several directions? Yes.
Do we all have challenges of our own and have to figure them out so that we can figure out strategies to deal with them successfully and assure our strengths are working for us and mitigate our weaknesses working against us? Absolutely.
But, no, we do not all have a little bit of ADD. Just like we do not all have a little bit of autism (yep, I’ve heard that too — last time we went to that dentist).
Do we all struggle daily with the most commonplace of decisions, such that we become paralyzed when faced with sorting the mail? No.
Do we all live in constant fear that we will be discovered as a fraud in our role as mother, wife, husband, dad, coach, team member, cook, or secretary? No.
Do we all abuse ourselves because it is literally genetically impossible for us to ever arrive somewhere early without it requiring an act of Congress? No.
Do we all suffer from the anguish of repeatedly letting down our friends, family, and coworkers because we cannot decide where or how (or when) to start? No.
Also, my mind doesn’t “race” and I don’t have “trouble paying attention.” It’s more like you gave 3000 toddlers cherry popsicles on a warm summer day, turned them loose in a backyard, and told me to follow the drips of one popsicle. It’s fast-forwarding through your DVR-ed movie at 400x speed: There’s a tremendous amount happening every second, and while you’re going to get from the beginning to the end, good luck having any idea what you saw or what you missed in the middle.
But back to the eye roll…
I wish I had better advice for the eye roll. When my son was younger, I would have had the stamina to set about correcting misconceptions. I would have busted forth with quotes from Edward Hallowell and Sari Solden. I am now in my 40s. I have a teenage son who drives. I’m divorced and in what can only be called my “second life” because it and I are so dramatically different from the first life. So, I’ll be honest: I’m not all that interested in explaining who I am anymore. I’m more than happy to have a stimulating intellectual, spiritual, political, or religious conversation with someone who is as open to my thoughts as I am to theirs. We need not agree — at all. But the moment judgment is thrown my direction, a preconceived bias that is stated as a fact, I close off a little. I am less likely to let that person into my physical, mental, or emotional space.
That counselor that I mentioned? One of the many brilliant things she said to me was: “What we share with people is our gift to them.” Not everyone will want or appreciate your gift, and that’s okay. But there are times you hope someone will recognize that you are offering it, and when they don’t and meet you with judgment instead, it’s important that you learn from that moment, both about them and about yourself. That lesson took a long time for me —
because I used to be a little bit of a bad listener when people were giving it.
But not anymore.