Missing the ADD diagnosis, what does this feel like for a child?
I was 27, at home, couldn’t work, had a burn out, and my psychologist suggested to go to the ADHD clinic to take a test. Tadaaa. At age 27, the ADD centre gave me the ADD diagnosis.
Though I had some problems as a child, nobody ever thought off ADD. ADD in girls is highly underdiagnosed.
After this ADD diagnosis, I took some time reading about ADD.
‘DUH, that is soooo me’, I thought.
It explained my whole life. It made me cry. On the other hand, it made me laugh so hard. But mostly it made me cry, from both sadness and happiness.
One ‘little’ add diagnosis made me feel like ‘finally, someone understands me’.
All hyperactive kids have ADHD now, right?
ADHD has probably the highest ‘diagnose-rate’ at the moment, when you talk about ‘mental disabilities’. Some people argue that doctors are giving this diagnose too quickly. This might be true, but I think that statement is a little too black and white.
I read a lot about ADHD, and about the neurology of this ‘disorder’. I think the name Attention Deficit Disorder is wrong. It’s not a disorder, and it shouldn’t be treated as a disorder. It also shouldn’t be treated with medication, because there are other solutions. Solutions which treat the source instead of the symptoms.
I guess people with ADD/ADHD just have a different type of brain, and this brain doesn’t fit perfectly in our society.
But this is another story… Let’s stick to the subject: What does ADD feels like, for a child, without having the ADD diagnosis?
ADD is less obvious than ADHD
ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder (without hyperactivity) is not so obvious, because kids with ADD, mostly girls, are not hyperactive.
The symptoms are more subtle. Not for the kid, but for the outside world.
What’s an ‘ADD kid’ like?
Children with ADD aren’t especially hyperactive, as kids with ADHD are.
Kids with ADD are more dreamy, impulsive, unpredictable, chaotic.
Highly sensitive, often overwhelmed by their surroundings.
As a kid, I started a lot of things (little projects, hobbies, etc.), didn’t finish anything.
I wanted to play guitar, piano, violin and sing, all at the same time.
One day I wanted to be a professional dancer, but a week later it could be a professional basketball player. Or a writer. A be journalist.
I was losing things all the time. Keys, shoes, clothes, schoolbooks…
I always arrived at school with something missing. A book, clothes, lunch…
During the day, I couldn’t focus. When people where talking to me, I often couldn’t bring myself to listen.
I was easily frustrated or overwhelmed.
During the night, I couldn’t stop my mind from spinning. I had the worst insomnia.
The most common feeling for me as a child with undiagnosed ADD was the feeling ‘nobody understands me’.
At home, I had a lot of fights with my parents, or discussions, however you want to name it. I always had problems with ‘authority people’. I often felt like the world wasn’t right, that things were not fair. Why didn’t they understand me?
People called me lazy or stupid.
In the middle of my sentence, I forgot what I was talking about. Well, that is stupid, right?
My mind was never quiet. Always full with creative ideas, but sometimes a lot of negativity. I had non-stop conversations with myself. Some people have an imaginary friend. Well, I was my own friend. Or enemy.
I was exhausted a lot. Also very impatient.
Having the ADD diagnosis, would probably have helped me a lot.
ADD in school
My results at school were mostly good, even above average. But they could be terrible as well. I remember feeling bored often.
I also remember feeling ashamed, when my mind wandered off and the teacher asked me a question. 9 out of 10 times I had no idea where they were talking about. In my mind, I was in a completely different world.
Mostly it happened like this:
The teacher was talking about a specific subject, and after a few minutes I got it. But then he kept talking about the same thing. I tried to listen, but after a while, I lost my focus.
Ten minutes later, when the teacher asked me a question, my mind was somewhere else.
Oops. I was wandering… In my own world. Completely left the classroom.
The result was a blushy head and an angry teacher who thought I was not paying attention on purpose.
With math, I often had the right answer but couldn’t explain how I got there. The teachers always thought I had cheated.
It was so unfair.
I can still feel the despair I felt. I was so angry and sad at the same time.
At some point, I even remember thinking ‘ok I just give up. From now on, I’ll just pretend that I don’t get math. There’s no point in trying anyway.’
I was about nine years old.
I still remember the teacher asking me what was suddenly going on. Why I couldn’t do the basics anymore. I had no answer. I couldn’t tell her ‘oh I just stopped trying, you don’t understand me anyway and you will think I cheated’.
As a result, I didn’t like math. this turned into a backlog and this never improved.
I still hate math, and I’m terrible at it.
Now I know that I could have just said ‘no miss, my brain just works differently then yours. I sometimes skip some steps’. I don’t think she would have believed me, but anyway.
ADD at home
I drove my mom crazy, on a daily basis. As I mentioned, I always forgot stuff and I always lost stuff. Keys, clothes, books, toys, anything… When I came home from school, completely exhausted because of all the stimuli, I literally dropped everything on the floor and went upstairs. I left the doors open (except for my own), my room was always a mess.. The result: tension at home.
Each morning, my mom needed to pull me out of bed, because I had just fallen asleep at around 4 am. Before that, my mind was wandering for hours. I just couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop my brain from spinning. I would now say my brain exploded, every single night.
Exhausting, right? It was all I knew… I couldn’t imagine having a proper sleep, or even proper ‘relaxation time’ as I know now.
A time without thinking? Never.
The result: a struggle every single morning (and sometimes falling asleep during the day).
Children with ADD know what they need, they know what’s good for them.
My intuition as a child was very strong.
I also remember having pretty clever stories, questions or requests. When I was young, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I needed.
Most of the time, the people who I was talking to had no clue what I meant. They thought it was nonsense. They told me it was nonsense.
The result: I became insecure about everything.
I stopped speaking my mind, because ‘I knew it was nonsense’.
Now I know, I knew exactly what I needed as a child. I remember saying to my mom ‘I want my bed on the other side of the room, because then it’s easier for me to relax. Or let me at least put my pillow on the other side of the bed’. I also remember always wanting to create corners, and wanting to be able to see the door from my bed and desk.
‘Nonsense, it doesn’t matter where your bed stands’ was the response of my parents. I can understand why, because how can you understand when you’re brain is not wired like mine, but at that time, it was infuriating.
And this is how a child with ADD stops trusting their (highly developed) intuition.
During one of my first ADD coaching sessions, my therapist told me how important space is, for people with ADD, to be able to have focus or to relax.
As a child I already knew, but when the people around you keep telling you it is stupid, you start losing to trust your intuition.
Children with ADD need alone time
The society we live in has so many physical and emotional stimuli.
People, noises, smells, emotions, expectations, possibilities, access to information, schools, offices, other buildings, cars.
The brain of a child (or adult) with ADD has difficulties to process all these stimuli.
When I came home from school, I always was in desperate need of alone time.
At school there were so many stimuli. I was exhausted. My mom, as any loving mom, wanted to talk to me about my day. I just wanted to be left alone.
Must have been hard for my mom.
Again, the ADD diagnosis would have helped here.
Now that I know this, I just take my alone time when needed.
ADD and hobbies
As I said earlier, as a child, I wanted to play piano one week, guitar the next. I had the desire to sing in a choir, but I also liked to write a song and participate in contests.
I wanted to do sports. Handball, basketball, soccer, tennis, taekwondo, I wanted it all. And when I got bored, my wish was to do something else. I was so mad when my parents didn’t want to buy that piano for me, or provide for singing lessons.
This is one thing that really sucks about ADD.. Not having the focus to start something and stick with it, without getting bored. I wish I kept playing the guitar or the piano. I wish I had the focus to practise on a daily basis, because then I would be a good musician now.
The only thing I was able to do for a long time, was classical ballet. I don’t know why. Probably because I could just lose myself in it. I could forget anything, needed my full attention to control my body. Unfortunately, a case of ‘bad feet’ killed my dream of going to the conservatory.
Wish I had the ADD diagnosis earlier on?
I don’t see the ADD diagnosis as a bad thing. Except for the word. There is no Attention Deficit Disorder. Our society is disordered, not me, not all those kids! 😛
I wish I had the ADD diagnosis years ago. It would have helped me to understand myself. It would have helped my parents, friends, teachers and other people around me help understanding me.
The only thing I’m grateful for, for not having the ADD diagnosis when I was a kid, is the fact that I lived my childhood without medication.
Now that I’m grown up, I can make my own decisions about how I feel about the ADD diagnosis.
I take vitamins instead of medication. I meditate, do physical exercise, take my alone-time when needed. While traveling in New Zealand, I found out that gluten increase my ADD symptoms, so I adjusted my diet.
Also, thanks to the ADD diagnosis, I was able to find a good coach who teaches me a lot about ADD and how to cope.
I could never have hoped for being able to concentrate for hours. Now I can.
So do I wish I had the diagnose earlier on? I believe life always happens how it needs to happen, But if I could choose now. absolutely (but without medication treatment :P)