Why Do I Really feel Totally different? How ADHD Distinguishes Me
I’ve always felt different – and it wasn’t a good feeling. I didn’t know exactly how I was different so I couldn’t change myself to fit the shape. I was not a social outcast because I had friends and participated in activities, but I rarely felt relaxed or comfortable in the company of others.
In middle school, a group of the most popular girls would call each other every night to chat and gossip about the school day. My best friend was in this group, and although I felt comfortable talking to her, I felt uncomfortable talking to anyone else on the phone. For example, the first and only time I spoke to Judy on the phone, I knew I was expected to speak to her for an hour or more. After a few minutes I ran out of topics, but had an uncomfortable and tense conversation for the remaining 50 minutes before hanging up and sadly came to the conclusion, “I’m different. I don’t fit in with it. “
In high school, I played on the girls’ softball team. I remember standing on third base yawning and yawning and trying to stay awake. It struck me as strange as I wasn’t tired. Who yawns while doing sports? I do, I thought, because I’m different. Now I know that I was yawning from boredom and struggling to stay awake.
Even as an adult, my apparent differences were questioned and observed.
When my five-year-old son injured his finger and came to me for comfort, I responded by bandaging him. He asked, “Why are you different from other mothers?”
Years later, when I was taking ballroom dancing lessons, the same son, then still a teenager, asked, “Why can’t you remember the dance steps?”
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Another son asked, “Why were you so mean to this bank clerk?”
Was I? I replied, “I don’t think I said anything wrong.”
A neighbor once said to me: “You are different.” When I was working in a senior citizens’ community, a resident said: “You are different.” I counted.
Was I sensitive when I was told I was “different”? You bet!
At the age of 49, I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. After being told and believed for so many years that I was different, I finally found out why: My ADHD made me different.
I didn’t mean to be different! I was ashamed and sad. To be different, I believed, meant to be less than others.
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But five years after I was diagnosed with ADHD, those feelings subsided. I came to recognize my ADHD strengths – creativity, problem solving, flexibility, and compassion – and appreciate my differences.
Yes i’m different But different doesn’t mean less than. Different simply means different, like mustard and ketchup or tulips and daffodils.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW is the executive director of the nonprofit, Inattentive ADHD Coalition, with a website at www.iadhd.org
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