I remember when I was about 13 years old, being teased mercilessly by my fellow schoolmates. I’d just moved from the city (Detroit) to the suburbs and learned quickly that I was socially about 3 years or so younger than these new, fast paced kids. My city friends (and I) were still wearing white ankle socks, simple cotton button down blouses, no makeup (God forbid!), thought purses were for married women, and, well…you get the picture. This was in the mid 1960s when everything was starting to change.
It didn’t help that I had undiagnosed ADD and didn’t notice or figure out that I looked remotely different from these new kids. I only knew that I was being treated horribly, even though I thought I was a nice kid.
What a target an ADD kid can be, eh? I was inattentive, except when it came to the anxiety that was growing and growing inside of me. I was truly clueless, and the kids saw that and took advantage.
I’d walk home from school, hearing girls behind me laughing: “look at her clothes- oh my gawd, she’s such a joke.”
Being new also made it hard to make friends. I was painfully shy, which made matters worse, and the taunting only made my already fragile self-esteem crumble even faster.
Why am I sharing these painful memories?
Because I know I’m not alone. Girls with ADHD often miss social cues and get lost in the shuffle. We don’t generally cause problems behaviorally in school, so we’re often over-looked. In fact, I was such a quiet, lost shadow in my school, that I walked out of Geometry class after three days, since it was complete gibberish to me, and not one teacher or staffer questioned where I was 3rd hour. For the rest of the year.
These- and so many more- negative experiences took their toll. Though I’d started off as a popular A student in my city school, I dropped to a C student within weeks of transferring into the suburbs. I never studied, never did my homework. High school was even worse. I stopped caring.
Until something wonderful happened. I discovered I had talent in art and music. I took those classes in high school, made friends like me (many who were a little…out there, like me) and finally found my way. A supportive art teacher pumped back self-esteem into my frail ego.
I was lucky. Though I had no clue about college, because my mother was so absorbed with just getting by as a single mom in those days- she didn’t really know how to even pursue college options for me- I was on my own. Luckily, my good friend’s mom took me under her wing, showed me how to fill out a college application, and got me in to the city college, where I took off, embracing the idea of learning and studying hard to the point of earning scholarships- ONLY because I took a course of study that interested me back then.
What’s my point?
Since around 1995, I’ve worked with thousands of women with ADHD, and I hear the story over and over again: “I’m a failure. I can’t figure out my life. I’ll never make it. I’m such a loser.”
We all have our histories to reflect back on. We can continue on the path of feeling misunderstood and embracing the anger we’ve felt all these years. Or, we can acknowledge the hardships, thank them for giving us wisdom, and then move on, carrying our histories along with us for the ride. We can choose to remember that our past can serve as lessons learned, but we don’t have to repeat them moving forward.
With therapy, meditation, self-awareness, and personal growth, comes freedom from the dark stories we carry. We can turn those stories into rich experiences, even if they are hurtful, and use them as a launching pad towards a happier, more fulfilling life.
What’s your next step? Are you ready to take on a new job, a new relationship with the understanding that you don’t have to let your history hold you back?
Share your thoughts in the Comment section, below.