Saturday, September 1, 2018

Adventures in Alyland

Until fifth grade, my report cards typically read, “She is bright, but she talks too much.” My name appeared on the board with such regularity it became a stain in third grade, and once my teacher almost gave me a check mark instead of a verbal warning until my classmates came to my defense (they still liked me then.)  
Occasionally I was even “island boy.” 
I grew tired of spending part or all of recess next to the wall. I also started to feel competitive, but I was nonathletic. School was easy. I tested well, but struggled to turn in completed work. I learned to keep my mouth shut and get my work done. It kept me on the honor roll (pizza! ice cream!) and off the wall, but didn’t make me very popular with peers. 

"And she had worked on her smile in the mirror. Usually May's smile looked like a
grimace. But she'd gotten it to look halfway normal, she thought. Girls with nice
smiles made friends."  


- Jodi Lynn Anderson, May Bird and the Ever After   

I had a hard time negotiating “girl world.” It seemed like everyone started playing a game to which I didn’t know the rules, and I don’t think I’d follow them if I did. And it wasn’t like I couldn’t read people, when I wasn’t in my own little world. Quite the opposite. I was overwhelmed. I also preferred books and video games to boys and gossip. 
At home, I could either be found in my room reading a book (several a day) with the radio on and the TV on mute, or pacing “like a caged tiger” (according to my dad.)  
I used to bite my nails until they bled, but kicked that bad habit the time I started to chew on a nail, and I forgot I was still holding the other end of a cord plugged into the wall.  
I ate out of boredom and because chewing helped still my restless mind.  
“...it was not until someone tapped her on the shoulder or said her name that
Coraline would come back from a million miles away with a start, and all in a
fraction of a second have to remember who she was, and what her name
was, and that she was even there at all.”  


- Neil Gaiman, Coraline 
I didn’t sleep well. My mind was always racing: either playing back the day’s events, trying to figure out where things went wrong, what I should have said but didn’t, and what I shouldn’t have said but did, or formulating my thoughts and opinions about every issue under the sun, making sure I was being as objective as possible, considering every side and angle. 
I was sick a lot, but I didn’t want to miss school because math was getting harder, and I knew if I fell behind, I’d never catch up again. Strangely, it seemed easier to concentrate even though cold medicines muted my senses, or maybe because they muted my senses. They also made me feel sicker, and nowadays I don’t take much more than Ibuprofen, if that. 

“And though, truly, she sometimes felt like something inside her had disappeared, it seemed that must be a natural part of growing up. Standing out too much made one feel too alone to do it forever.”  
- Jodi Lynn Anderson, May Bird: Warrior Princess


In college, I sometimes forgot to eat, but eventually it became a game of how long I could go. I was often running late because I would check and re-check my door to make sure it was locked (or maybe I only ever checked once - I could never remember.) I suspected what my problem was but I figured I’d gotten by so far, why bother doing anything now?  
(Except I wasn’t really getting by, and wouldn’t it be nice to do more than just get by?)
All was forgotten until I had the boys, and they became mobile. I could barely manage myself let alone twins, especially one who stuck out like a sore thumb around other children. For the first time in my life, I was socially ostracized not because of me, but because of my child.
But it was still because of me because I couldn’t manage him. We moved closer to family. He attends a good school with patient teachers that see his ingenuity and kindness, and some things have gotten better, but others...second grade, and he was already becoming socially isolated in a way I didn’t experience until middle school. 

“First Sight means you can see what really is there, and Second Thoughts mean thinking about what you are thinking. And in Tiffany's case, there were sometimes Third Thoughts and Fourth Thoughts although these sometimes led her to walk into doors.”  
- Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight 

Meanwhile I’ve been climbing the walls, I can’t hold a thought for any length of time, except the bad ones, and I’m tired of sticking out like a sore thumb in my own way and having a target on my back, or losing my keys or my phone or my sunglasses, or injuring myself because I’m angry or lost in thought. 
(And while my husband is patient and understanding, having to repeat himself, sometimes twice, because I zone out or even wander away mid-conversation must get old.)
I sought help for my son and I, and it’s still early in the process, but his well being is my main concern, as is maintaining his spark and creativity. While I should have taken care of myself sooner, and I wonder how different life would be if girls like me didn’t slip through the cracks for so long, I’m still proud I made it this far without too many negative coping strategies.


“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.”


- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 


I doubt anyone who has made fun of me for being weird, or a “spaz,” or the “dumbest smart person” could withstand even a day with my brain. I have ADHD, a term used to describe a specific set of very real traits I’ve dealt with all my life. According to my diagnosing psychologist, there isn’t a place where it ends, and I begin. 
It’s a part of me, but not the entirety of me.  
Whoever that is...
As originally posted on social media spring 2018 

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