ADHD. So many things come to mind when people hear this term.
Hyper. Bad. Crazy. Distracted. Cop-out. Excuse. Lazy. Flakey. Working below potential. Label. Unfocused.
I used to think the same things. I was also a child, adolescent, and college student who spent most of her life distracted and working below her potential. I had so many ideas and so much energy, but it was so unfocused and nothing ever happened. Well, a lot HAPPENED, but not much happened according to plan. The things that happened properly sort of fell into place by accident, and the things that I worked so hard to do right generally went awry. People saw me as being really lazy, and my constant claims that I was doing my best got real old real fast. I seemed flakey and full of excuses, and eventually I started to believe that I was.
Then I was diagnosed with ADHD. Yup, I got a pill. And one day I discovered that it’s possible to think about one thing at a time. I learned that I could prioritize in my brain all the different stimuli competing for my senses. Turns out that, when properly wired, my brain can make birds chirping outside less important than the conversation I’m in the middle of. I was 23 years old.
I was pretty angry, but not because I found out I had ADHD. I was angry because of the 22 years I spent learning to believe that I was lazy, flakey, and full of excuses. Knowing I have ADHD is one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever been given, not because I have a legitimate excuse for not being able to meet all the expectations placed on me, but because I now have permission to meet them in my own creative way.
For Thou did form my inward parts; Thou did weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139: 13-16)
ADHD is a wiring issue. It’s a variation in the electrical construction of the brain. If I wanted to debate this I could pull out brain scans and cite studies and quote lots of information about dopamine pathways and prefrontal cortex. I’m not writing about ADHD today. I’m writing about who God has made us to be.
Psalm 139 has always been special to me as I wandered through the often confusing journey of my life, but even moreso since I discovered that my brain is different. I imagine God looking out from the beginning of time onto the history of the earth, spread out before Him like a beautiful front lawn sprawled in front of the porch swing He’s sitting on. He looks at each of us, smiles down at the anomalies, and says, “You will be like this. It is not the perfect Heavenly body that I will one day give you, but it will be perfect in my eyes nonetheless. You will struggle in ways that most people do not, but with those struggles will come strength and character and abilities that many people won’t have, either. I’m only going to make a few people like you because, quite frankly, there’s only so much of you the population can handle at a time. So, it will be a little lonely. I give you two choices: reject my gift and fight the challenges, or embrace it and enjoy the blessings that it will bring.”
A new friend of mine said last week that he loves exclamation points. He said that when he was born God must have put an exclamation point at the end of his name. What a great new way to look at how we fit in to the Body of Christ! When we think about our purpose and place, we usually think about abilities. How often do we think about personality? How many different kinds of punctuation does it take to create something worth reading or listening to? My friend truly is an exclamation point; his energy brings everything around him to life, and I don’t think I have ever been in the same room as him without smiling at the excited reactions he can’t keep contained. I have friends who are question marks, constantly questioning and challenging me. My dad is a period; his emotion is controlled, but you know that when he puts his thoughts into words he’s probably right. Just the way that – for the sake of humanity – God limits the amount of ADHD in the world, He also carefully parceled out punctuation marks. You can’t please everybody; there will always be people who get annoyed at questions, roll their eyes at exclamations, and fall asleep if there are too many periods. But we need them all.
Even though I have ADHD, I am not an exclamation point; I am an ellipses. Those 3 dots that mean a thought isn’t finished yet . . . I am passionate about what I think, but my thoughts are forever evolving. I think out loud. There is so much happening inside my brain that my thoughts overwhelm me if I don’t get them out in the open where I can shift them around. So, I talk an awful lot. I have learned that most people get real tired of ellipses real fast. They ignore the last two dots, assume they’re talking to a period, and then get irritated when the thought isn’t over yet. Part of having ADHD is realizing that there are times when you just have to pretend you don’t. You learn how to look like you’re paying attention, how to keep your body still even though you’re bouncing inside, and how to cut off those last two dots even though your thought isn’t finished yet. One of the biggest things I’ve learned to do is just shut my mouth. There are a lot of things I don’t say, sometimes because I think people are sick of listening to me and sometimes because I’m afraid I’ll have to ramble for 5 minutes before I can get to my real point.
One of the stupid things I have done in my life is shut people out. I’m fixing that now, in overdrive. It’s fantastic. What I’m discovering is how right I have always been when I tell people that we NEED each other. (It’s so difficult to take your own advice sometimes!) As I let in people my spirit wakes. As my spirit stirs so does that special gift that God spoke over me at the dawn of time. And my mind is filled to overflowing. My thoughts swirl and grow and merge and separate and develop and regress. A mass of dots that can’t figure out if they are the end of an unfinished thought or the beginning of completion. And I can’t sleep. I have a new appreciation for all those times that David wrote that he “meditated on God day and night.” It’s really exhausting. It’s not physically possible to do it for very long. After about 2 weeks of minimal sleep I started thinking I was under spiritual attack. Finally, I acted on one of the more dominant ideas in my mind: I shared some of the other ideas. And I slept.
I am an ellipses; I must accept this. My mind will always be full of thoughts and ideas; I must embrace this. My thoughts must get out of my brain so I can sleep; therefore, I must remove them. Why not try a blog? It’s an idea I’ve been mulling over for a long time but I haven’t done it just because I’ll probably flake on it and then everyone will know. . . Still, I’m a decent writer and this way no one has to listen if they don’t really want to.
I don’t plan on writing many journal entries like this one. That’s not the sort of stuff God’s putting on my mind. He is challenging me, and I want to pass that on to you.
What is your punctuation mark? Are you rejecting it or embracing it?