A Love Letter to People with ADHD or ADD

Dear Tribe,

I am 44 and have had my diagnosis for three years. For most of my life I thought I was just nothing but a mess. Now that I know more about ADD and ADHD, I have other ideas.

I have been teaching for 20 years. In that time I have gotten to know many, many kids and adults with ADHD or ADD.

I love them all.

Everyone’s brain is wired differently. The term ADHD is used as a catch-all for many different behaviors, the most common being “inability to focus on the thing you are supposed to be focusing on at the time you are supposed to focus on it”. 

It isn’t a disease. It’s a neurological difference that causes us to be maladapted to the culture we live in.

But the culture we live in is maladaptive to continuing healthy life on earth. 

We are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

ADD life for me goes something like this:

 “I don’t know which cereal to buy, because this one is organic, but this one is locally sourced but not organic. Will my kid eat the organic one or does it taste weird?    I need to stay in my budget, so I guess I need to choose the GMO Monsanto cereal because it is so much cheaper. But it has so much sugar!. But the Monsanto one also has palm oil which is burning the Amazon rain forest. And now my kid is singing loudly trying to get my attention, and there are people behind me as I am blocking the cereal aisle  agggh”

Every decision, all the time. 

 These are not  problems that humans should have. The multitude of choices, many of them laden with ethical implications, is dizzying.  First world problems, right? Now add “guilt” to the pile of things making the decisions harder. Human executive function isn’t meant to have to deal with this many variables. 

Here is what I know about people with ADD. They think” too much” or they feel “too much”. It isn’t really too much, y’all, it’s just more than the normals. I am  either zoomed all the way out, thinking of every single ethical implication of my cereal, or zoomed in, focused on nothing in the world but my kid singing, while other people around me get angrier and angrier about my failure to just pay the right amount of attention to what I am doing and get out of the way, even though the chemical insecticides are ruining farmland and the rain forest is burning and  ouch my budget and the psychological well being and physical health of my child all are hanging on my head and they just don’t seem to care. 

Do all these  angry people really know what the right thing to do is all the time? HOW THE HELL DO THEY KNOW???

The answer is, they don’t. Most people who demonstrate lack of patience (who aren’t triggered by some larger life circumstance) suffer from the illusion that their narrow  illusion is the true reality, and that life would be easy if everyone would either get in their narrow reality with them, or just disappear from earth. They don’t see the millions of other factors that we see.

This illusion is not their fault. It is the way that they perceive reality. It is how they stay sane in a culture of fakeness. It is how they continue to function. 

The normals do not see, as we do, that actual  reality is a huge luminous whole that humans, with our tiny faulty senses, understand like 1% of.  That every person walks around filled with notions of truth that are in fact just oversimplifications that we unconsciously cobble together to keep ourselves from losing our minds.

Human minds simply cannot grasp the complexity of a single human being with its billions of cells, nerves, and mitochondria,  much less the complexity of a whole classroom, town, or country; so people develop oversimplified beliefs. Those with ADD have problems with the zoom function; how exactly do I do this oversimplifying? Do I examine things on a microscope level or a telescope level? I wanna do both at the same time. 

            The only way I  proceed forward is to not only strive to correct my  negative thought patterns, but to consciously cultivate new, positive, SIMPLE  thought patterns to live into. This has helped my thoughts and my actions to become clearer, and helped me to prune away information that isn’t needed at that moment. 

The ADHD/ ADD students I have taught are often the most empathetic,  bright, and creative kids. Their misbehaviors are caused by stress, not malice or deception. They are often bullied and misunderstood.  They have a difficult time understanding why they are supposed to pay attention to the tiny meaningless details and ignore the big interesting picture. They need to do and be, and the structure of school squashes their spirit with all its sitting down and shutting up.  It is time to see these kids as the beautiful gifts they are, instead of as a drag on class business as usual. As a teacher I work hard to provide opportunity for all the neurotypes in my classroom, and I wish all teachers had the resources and circumstances to do the same.

Nonneurotypical kids such as those with ADD or Autism add so much insight to the experience of those who never looked at life a different way. I have an autistic kid in my middle school class who, when asked who his favorite person was, without a trace of embarrassment or hesitation, said “my mom.”

The other kids looked around, expecting the usual barrage of ridicule for such unusual middle school behavior, but none came. The kids learned “hey wait, it is ok to still love your family even though people ridicule it.”


2 thoughts on “A Love Letter to People with ADHD or ADD

  1. This piece of writing encapsulates so much of my experience and understanding of life… the interconnectedness of it all and my lifelong despair at those moments when kindness is uprooted by short term thinking. I was diagnosed earlier this year just before my granddaughter turned 4. My favourite way to be true to my self in regard to this is to talk about what we leave for “our grandchildren’s grandchildren” because it is the most succinct way of describing what motivates me in a way that more people will understand. Thank you so much for writing and publishing this and for being a teacher who will, no doubt, make a profound difference in the lives of many kids. ♥️🙏🌏☀️

    Liked by 1 person

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