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.