I was invited to participate- as an individual, not as a professional- on a panel to talk about Twice Exceptional, for those with ADHD plus giftedness. I was told that some of the others participating were an ADD Mensa scholar with about 20 degrees, and a computer genius. What we all have in common is our ADHD. I was asked, not because of any intellectual giftedness, but for my so -called talents in art, music and writing. At first, I thought they’d asked the wrong person. Then I dug deeper and thought more about my discomfort with the whole thing.
It took me back to 6th grade, when my family moved from the city to the suburbs and I was thrown into a group of fast moving, smart kids who knew better than me not to wear white socks with skirts (back then, pants were not allowed at school- yes, I’m dating myself). I was naively purse-less, relying on pockets for lunch money. Add my gawky clumsiness, out of style haircut and worse, being behind in academics, and there you go- a kid that didn’t fit in who was bullied and laughed at.
Yessiree, this is a true story.
Before I’d moved, I had loads of friends. I was the teachers’ pet. My grades were excellent, save for handwriting and math. Still, even in those days, inside, I felt I didn’t fit in. Something was off…
To lick my socially bruised wounds, I retreated into the arts. I found that art and music made me feel alive, like I had my own secret world where I was accepted for who I was. Every day after school, while the other girls were walking arm in arm, chatting about boys, makeup and parties, I ran home to practice on the piano my mother had gotten from a friend. ADD hyperfocus kicked in big time, as I played for hours and hours, typically until dinner time and again afterward, teaching myself how to play by listening to Burt Bacharach songs on the (yes..RECORD PLAYER) over and over. After a few years, I became fairly proficient in both piano and guitar and later, added drums and bass to my repertoire (one benefit of growing up with brothers!). But I never could break that social barrier and only had a few friends during those lonely years. By the way, that’s a photo of awkward me at age 12 with my first guitar.
In middle and high school, it was much the same, except my grades torpedoed. I never studied nor did homework. Math was like a foreign language (I didn’t know I had a math disability) and I literally walked out of Geometry class and never returned. No one ever knew.
Back then, I had no idea that I had ADD. But I had my music and art and that’s what ultimately saved me. Finally, by 11th grade, I found my tribe- all artist types who like me, were on the fringe socially. We formed musical groups, took art classes together and hung out. Still, there was a nagging sadness, a deep sense that I was different- “off.” Being inattentive, kids criticized me for being what they called a snob, because I was so quiet and often confused. The remarks cut deep.
Getting back to the ADD panel. The surprise that I’d be considered gifted in anything other than being a bit eccentric (I mean, how many women my age play drums and bass guitar?), gave me much to think about. Slowly, I’ve been coming out and celebrating my differences, even thriving on them. Maybe what I saw as eccentric and weird, others saw as giftedness. Maybe it’s time to make that shift.
Maybe it’s time for you to come out, too.
Sari Solden, author of “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder” recently keynoted at the ADDA conference. Her topic: Celebrating Differences (you can hear it by downloading it HERE). Listen to it; it just might change the way you see yourself.
Have you felt out of step your whole life? Have you tried to hide it? Or do you embrace your differences? What are your secret talents? Please share in the comment section below.
If you dare.
Same, same and more of the same…
My mother had severe ADHD as well as my brother..
I believe I was mildly add. I was confused due to all the chaos in my family. I was quiet and shy…I did also have a math disability… was easily distracted as well. I retreated into fantasy. loved music, art..anything to escape. I have the gift of hyperfocus. I get bored with people. If that is ADD, then I guess I have it. I love art and I think I am also good at music but I have too many interests and tend start too many projects that I can’t finish, Right now I am focused on one interest which is better. I love to read now but hated it growing up. I enjoy writing letters. I should write a book as I have had the most interesting life! People would want to read my book!
What a great article. I really enjoyed it. I also had a problem with Maths. I loved it but couldn’t ‘get’ it done quick enough. I have recently been diagnosed and am learning to accept, admire, use my gifts of photography, painting, writing and singing. Here is my blog – I’d love to know what you think. I feel a book coming on. Are you in Australia?
Thanks for posting this Terry. I’m 56 and was diagnosed with ADD at 52 (my husband and I were diagnosed around the same time, after going to marriage counselling – can you say typical ADD problems?!). Recently I’ve been delving into ADDness, trying to find out more about it, more about why I’m like I am. One of the latest things I’m learning is how ADD can be similar to being an introvert (I think you posted on this recently on Pinterest?). I have always felt shy, although my friends find this very strange as they think I’m so outgoing. I’m NEVER comfortable going to functions where I have to “network”. I think this is all part of that feeling of being “off”, not fitting in, being the odd one out.
This brings back counselling my daughter when she was in junior high school (grades 7-9) because she was so unhappy and felt she had no friends, was a loner. I remember telling her that most of my good friends, I met when I started working, and that she would find people with whom she clicked. Now that I know that feeling this way is an ADD thing, it all makes sense. Our daughter has also been diagnosed with ADD (not surprisingly as both my husband and I are ADD), so I think I knew (without knowing why) how she felt.
I guess there is always something new to learn about life with ADD.
Further to my comment above… Great article Terry!! I relate 100 fold!! I feel incredible relief because for the first time in my life I can embrace me, throw off all negative people and attitudes and create to my heart’s content. Self acceptance in a world of unrighteousness judgement is delicious. Now I know what I am dealing with, know why:who:what:how I can be what I was born to be. My diagnosis has been incredibly empowering. Thank you for sharing.
I had similar issues growing up with ADD. I spent much of my twenties in therapy for depression, which I now know was mostly caused by trying to navigate the work world with ADD. My therapist kept telling me I just had low self esteem and that is why I perceived myself as different than other people. When I was finally diagnosed with ADD in my 40’s, I wanted to call up my therapist from my twenties and say, “See, I told you I was weird.”
Yep that’s me. I feel like a fish out of water most days. But I am learning to accept myself. It’s so hard to make a living as an artist. Have you ever heard, “Why don’t you get a real job”?
Wow, that’s almost my story, except I found music when I was 4, and then my acceptance came with high school marching band. And, instead of being quiet, I was loud and obnoxious. I was diagnosed with ADD last year, at the age of 44, suspected by my therapist (I was seeing for panic, anxiety, and depression). I celebrate my differences, but mostly alone because I’ve alienated most of my friends.
YES! I’ve felt “different” my whole life, 44 years! And not until my son was diagnosed last year, and then I was diagnosed, did I realize that there are others who feel the same…what a huge relief!!! As a child I felt awkward, alone, numb, and a whole list of other things. I retreated into art and acting and drifted toward others who were more like me…quiet, eccentric, socially awkward. My grades plummeted when I changed schools in 6th grade, all of a sudden I was a stranger and school was a place I hated to be, and in high school, I just quit trying…barely getting through the 4yrs. And now that I KNOW WHAT MY “PROBLEM” IS! I can FINALLY accept myself for who I am and embrace being “different”! Thank you for sharing your story and letting me know I’m not alone 🙂
You have been a great joy to me during my life. Your artistic, musical, psychological and loving gifts have made the world a better place. Who else can compose music (without reading music) so beautiful that it always brings me to tears? No other than you. Please accept all your important talent and gifts and let the other “stuff” ease into the atmosphere. You are so loved.
And YOU have been MY inspiration all these years, Sharon. You’ve always given me the courage to be myself and I thank you for that (and much much more). I love you! xoxo
Helloooo New York! What wonderful comments from you guys. It’s nice not to feel alone with these feelings, eh?
You are all heros to me, opening up in a public forum like this and sharing your thoughts and feelings.
We all have talents. We all have challenges. But we’re learning to put the two together and see ourselves as whole.
You guys are great! 🙂
I just have to say that I am thankful I found your “The Princess and the Pea Syndrome” article. I also just recently read the additional items from that page. I read that you grew up feeling “off” and a few other things.
You asked for personal stories, so I decided to write some. Funny thing: early in our marriage my husband used to call me “The Princess and the Pea.”
I HAVE ALWAYS felt “off” and still do…pretty much. Reading your words normalizes me a bit. I have always, and still do for the most part, felt like a flake who can’t get it together or get situated with who I am and what I want to be when I grow up (I’m 51!!). I am a licensed Realtor, Cosmetologist, have a banking background, a Bachelor’s degree (BA Psych) and an MSW degree. I play guitar and create jewelry etc. etc. blah blah blah!
I grew up hearing the words: flighty, fickle, “she’s a Gemini what do you expect?” high-strung, “if you could please stop talking for just 5-minutes.” I didn’t learn how to tell time until I was in probably the 6th grade (I still panic when someone asks me what time it is!!). And didn’t know how to count back change until I was 16 years old, and then I counted back in increments of 5, giving customers tons of nickels in change!!!! Oh, regarding smells, hearing sensitivity, clothes with tags, cooties, seeing one hair on the carpet when you just vacuumed and having to vacuum again (there is more!!)….yep that is me too.
I do take medication and have recently decided to begin therapy again. Thank you for reading this, and I am sure you get a gazillion messages a day. Mostly: Thanks for your words!
Twice Exceptional?! What a wonderful term! I wish it had existed when I was a kid, but then again, ADD didn’t exist back then either.
Much like yourself, I struggled thru elementary – every year they wanted to hold me back, every year the gave me another IQ test and pushed me on forward. And middle school wasn’t any easier. Finally in high school I found some academic traction and a tribe of very bright & creative friends that happily hung out in the middle ground between the uber popular and the outcasts.
I love “Twice Exceptional” – I think I’m going to have to make myself a sign & put it up in my office – it will come in handy on those days the negative self-talk tries to take over.
Woah, that resinated with me so much that I had to comment, daring me helped too. I am 49 and still having problems hearing about my gifts. I am realizing that my “giftedness” in math is selective, some days I’m a whiz, doing complex calculations in my head, other days, I just can’t figure out a simple subtraction. I enjoy writing and have been told that I’m good at it, but if I’m under a time constraint, I forget important details that complete the thought. So to compensate, I write poems. I enjoy and am good at all physical activity, dancing, skiing, basketball, bicycling, running, but have a hard time keeping track of my swim stroke. I’m a triathlete, which I switched to because I just got bored of running all the time.
I loved your piece, it reminds me to celebrate myself. Thank you.
Terry, I REALLY appreciated and identified with this post! Your school years were very similar to mine! Except, though I supposedly had a high IQ, I was never “gifted” and I never did learn to play guitar – I could play almost anything by ear on piano – and flute – even harmonica – though reading music (mild dyslexia) was always a challenge. I enjoyed band till the new HS band director introduced competition – weekly “chair challenges” – the frustration and stress took all they enjoyment out of it. Math was always a challenge – took me two years to barely get through 1st year algebra. Then we had a chemistry teacher (1971) who I think was doing his own out-of-class time “chemistry experiments.” Half the time, he’d show up at the beginning of class – say “free period – study this next chapter in the book” – then he’d leave. I finally got permission just to go to the art room and spend extra time on my art projects. Needless to say, I didn’t learn chemistry either but I sure completed some neat art pieces! Social awkwardness plagued me from 1st grade all the way through school. Terry, where your music was your passion and refuge, when I finally worked to get my own horse at age 13 – that saved me. I could go on about where that positive road led for many years. But what frustrates me is the recurring social patterns where I’m always the “odd-one-out.” I’m in an office with 2 other support personnel. Believe it or not, I’ve managed to hold on to this job since 1987 but the current dynamics are reminding me so much of 6th grade competitive petty girl stuff that If my position survives looming budget cuts, it or I may not survive the office politics. I know I’m not stupid, but some days it’s difficult to believe in myself when coworkers intentionally or unintentionally dismiss me. Thankfully, I have a loving, intelligent, supportive husband. We are mutually “unique” and he very lovingly, rather than critically, helps to keep me on track and focused when necessary.
Anyway, it’s so helpful to read the posts and comments by others on these pages. Thank you Terry and all who take the time to share. Hopefully, it’s not too late for me to try to learn to celebrate my gifts and mitigate my challenges.