ADD is a Part of Me and Now, It’s the Best Part

By Evan Kirstein, M. Ed, ACC, CACP

I have ADD. Which means by the time I was 6, I was known for being lazy, short tempered, unprepared, forgetful, a daydreamer and a troublemaker. But also… the class comedian, a heart-breaker, a highly creative problem solver, and ambidextrous – but maybe that was because my handwriting was just as bad with the left hand as it was with my right.

ADD is a neurological disorder also known as Attention Deficit Disorder. An ADD brain affects the pre-frontal cortex usually creating obstacles in memory, decision making and task execution. Maturity can be delayed by as much as 4 yrs. This affects me because as soon as I was asked to be responsible for schoolwork and chores and behavior, I was labeled, judged and treated differently.

And for a long time… nobody new why. I was a good kid, but was always in trouble. I had good intentions, but always had to pay a price for doing something “my way.”

Once I was diagnosed, in the third grade, my parents took care in creating a structure for me where I was able to learn about my unique qualities and overcome some of my attention obstacles. Even with a working team of Dr.’s, tutors, teachers and meds, I was very easily distracted as well as stubborn. At times, I would still use ADD as an excuse to avoid tasks or get out of trouble.

Nothing was absolute or easy. Especially the medication – taking Ritalin was challenging on my emotional regulation and I had difficulty handling my own temperament, mental exhaustion and sensitivity. However, the challenges of taking the medicine at such a young age did not outweigh the confidence I developed. Once teachers knew I had these specific set of rules to follow, the game went a lot smoother and with less ego battles. There was a recipe to my success and I liked knowing that there was a treatment to help my lack of attention, my impulsiveness, poor self-esteem and squirmy body. It helped everywhere. I was finally able to follow conversations just as well as I was able to follow the ball on the soccer field. People started to shout my name in excitement instead of as a prompt to pay attention.  In this process of uncovering the benefits of my Attention Deficit, I was finally able to see my own potential to be great. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard work and worth the price.

Now, even with medication, I was still very inattentive. How inattentive was I?  Well, I fell asleep during my testing at the ADHD diagnostic office. Although the medication was so intense it kept me up at night, it was no match for the superpower of my boredom. In fact, my father really tried his best to keep me on my toes. While I recited spelling lists or practiced speeches, he would make sure I was paying attention by carrying around soft objects, like a rolled up sock, for a game of “think fast”.

My father used his tough love and priceless sense of humor to train me on life skills he felt were important. Like finding where I left things as I was constantly losing my belongings. And with my poor memory, I had a difficult time with directions. It was as hard for me to find my homework as it was to find my own house. After exiting the grocery store or shopping mall, my dad would wait until I wasn’t paying attention to hide behind a car while I continued to walk. I would then realize, that I didn’t know where we parked, where he was or at what point I’d lost him.  All I can say to other parents is that Hide n’ Seek in the parking lot was not the safest game. But I forgave him and I eventually started to take note on where I left things.

Now, although I was supported with creative, understanding parents… I struggled. You know how some claim their former high school years as a roller coaster of ups and downs. Well mine was more like the Grand Canyon. I had the misfortune of having my parents create traumatic events during their brutal divorce. The support network crumbled, and I was stuck underneath the rubble. I was back at the point of learned helplessness I had felt when I was younger. I was also no angel. Once again, there were no consequences that could frighten me and nothing more anyone could take away. When I wasn’t walking on them, I spread the remaining eggshells for my friends and teachers to tip toe over.

It wasn’t until I was labeled by my high school as an “at risk” student, while failing most classes, depressed and experimenting with drugs, that I met my first true mentor. He was a tutor… with ADD…. and a doctorate…. who knew what I was capable of, and who empowered me to work hard for myself. I was proud to find that someone with ADD had such a deep understanding and had been so successful in education. Most of all, he taught me that working hard meant VALUING myself. Over all, he taught me the enormous value that I have to first…

Work on my heart,

Before I’ll be able to use my head.

His mentor-ship, coaching and help with accountability fostered my sense of ownership in order to love my own life. Since that moment, when I decided to OWN my disability, my faults and my path, I feel I have made a turn in life. I learned how to create my own story. I can no longer say that anything other than ME can control my feelings or my decisions, including my symptoms of ADD.

When I look back at my jobs, I have been in construction, a photographer, and an educator at almost every level. From pre-school to high school, Special Ed to General and Alternative Ed. I’ve been a consultant, a sports coach, an after-school teacher and the Director of an innovative education company. Now, I am a life coach specializing in ADHD/ADD.

Throughout each job, career and relationship, I have invoked my ADD to become successful in what I do! So today, I take a skill from every symptom I have.

I use my…

  • Daydreaming to plan my future
  • My laziness to relax
  • Experience to pass on wisdom
  • My faults and forgetfulness to create forgiveness
  • Risky decisions to take chances in life
  • And my trouble-making spirit, to change the world I live in!
    • Dawn Mango
    • May 17, 2017

    You are right where you should be….Thank you!

    • Krys
    • February 1, 2017

    Thank you! This article was salve on a sore-for-my-just-diagnosed-son heart. Thank you.

    • Crystal Walters
    • November 30, 2016

    Thank you Evan! The photos are priceless and show how brave you are. I REALLY needed to hear a tribe member’s story today….well, o.k. to escape my own story, yes, but that is beside the point isn’t it? Why yes, it is! So why did I mention it? Nevermind. ? I especially appreciated your bullet points with the accompanying upbeat solutions. They might even become a refrigerator magnet! Next week… Cheers!

    • Matt Jenkins
    • November 24, 2016

    Loved this
    Very inspiring and wow look at what you came through to get where you are now.
    I have ADHD OCD after 46 years undiagnosed,now doing well .
    Thanks for sharing .
    Matt Jenkins

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