I was sent to the school shrink at the age of nine. Official reason: She’s just too much! (too helpful, too cheerful, too inattentive, too much antsy feety…)
After an afternoon of tests, the shrink summoned my mother and the teacher and told them: she is the smartest, happiest and sweetest girl I have seen in a long time and if you don’t take that as a gift from God, you’re the ones who need psychiatric help.
And to me she said: be whatever you want, dream of whatever you want, but know this, some people will always find you different, because they are jealous of you. Being able to see everything at once, thinking different thoughts at once, is your chance to become someone really special, but it might leave others envying you. You are very, very smart, you just think in a different time zone. There’s nothing bad about that. Accept that and take it as an opportunity. Because that is who you are and no medication will ever change that.
WOW, sucker punch! Not really what a nine-year old needs right?! All I wanted back then was to fit in. It’s only after a couple of days of thinking in my „spaceship“ (my cabin-bed, the safe heaven), that my Grandpapa took me aside and explained why he had always be so headstrong. And that we where two of a kind.
I realised that this was why my mom looked a me that way. “It” had skipped one generation, and she could not understand us. She also could never forgive us for taking away her fathers love from her and giving it to me. I was then raised by my Grandparents. And what a wonderful childhood that became. The extensive travelling, endless hiking tours, the reading, discussions going on for days, the love, acceptance and human warmth, made me whole and accepting the fact that, we might be getting the cards to play, but we choose the game and how we play it, made me take charge of my destiny.
Growing up in my family and its polyglotism did certainly not help me fit in and rest my mind a bit.
Grandpapa was French, and he only spoke and responded in French to me. His wife, my Grandmother Mimi, had German family and she only spoke and responded in German to me. My other grandmother was British/Canadian and her hubby, my paternal Nonno was Italian. (WWII and its strange ways) After his death Nana emigrated to the lucky country (OZ, to all nonaussies) with my two uncles, leaving my dad to move to Switzerland…. see me coming? Switzerland being the only country truly living its four nationalities heritage is why I never claimed any of my other possible nationalities and Passports. I learned “Swiss” at the age of 7. And some other languages quite easily afterwards. This might have been cool in the “broaden you mind” way. But not for someone with a restless mind anyway. Made me even stranger. Because no one would, now literally, understand me. OK, a 10-year-old correcting its french teacher on the Latin etymology of a word, is rather creepy I reckon.
As for us, we have never been on a family reunion, where we actually finished a sentence in the same language we started it in. Nor an idea. Leaves our guests and other outsiders alienated and/or gobsmacked.
Strangely ADHD with a squirt of OCD runs in all our family tree’s branches, and has been diagnosed in all of them except in the Italian one. Maybe because Italians always talk with their hands and tend to be a bit too loud overbearing fast and excessive in what they do. Its regarded normal there. My Aussie branch, besides the Swissies (yes that’s a word-mix of Swiss and Sissies) take it with most humour I think. Our motto is: “Pick me, and never get bored again. And You’ll always know how many spoons are left in the drawer”.
Not quite as serious as the Canadian part who wants a pill for every ill!
My OZ Friends and Family are the fastest think-lane-shifters. We start discussing the question whether NOT believing in God and still feeling spiritual is contradictory or not and end up categorising TV hunks by their amount of Tattoos in five-0 seconds. (Just trying to find out who might be reading this) Included in our chat is a short side trip over to the life changing question about Deep Purples best song ever. Needless to say, we often end up just spending “family-time” without spouses… before any of us get “the look”. And because we’ve “self medicated” by living high paced lives, using adrenaline like others Ritalin to help us focus, and “sporting” to excess, our joints and knees are all kind of week points. My Doctor diagnosed mine as the ones of a 70 years old farmer! Cheers mate.
But how can I explain to the rest of the world, (not that I expect the world to actually read ANY of this) what it feels like to be a fish talking to a bird, while I’m a cat? Get my drift?
I’m not the typical ADHD combined type (Inattention and Hyperactivity-Impulsiveness) mine was diagnosed as ADHD with occasional OCD. Or as I like to call it a “restless mind in a restless brain syndrome, with an inbuilt brakechute”
But is an occasional OCD an oxymoron or a contradiction in adiecto? On the other hand so is a perfectionistic impulsive… (if you get this, you’re one of us)
Anyway, its like I see something that really catches my attention. Like that great scene with Halle Berry in Catwoman, at the restaurant with the fish in the Aquarium, remember? It’s not just the usual constant surrounding sounds and images bombarding me. Its something worth concentrating on, obsessing about for a while. So my brain goes “Oh, look at that over there (insert any interchangeable item) that’s interesting, you want to do that. Now. Right now. Go for it. You know it. You need it. NOW!!!” And I’m “laser-pointing” all my energy in to this one exclusive thingy. That’s when I drift into this YABA (yes, another bloody acronym) mode. I feel the physical NEED to move. To act. Or to react. The world around seems to slow down. I’m in hyper drive, one thought become crystal clear. Everything else goes blur.
But then the brakechute opens “OYE! OYE! Hold the horses, what are you doing? Do you know what you’re about to do? What if you do it wrong, you’re probably not good enough to master this, you’re gonna screw it up. You’re gonna hurt someone… you better count to three first and breathe deep… one… two… oh, that’s better… much better… three.” And its like a reversed explosion of my energy. Like in those movies where you rewind the blast of the bomb. I “channel” myself back inside. “that felt so good, let’s do it again breathe and count to three. One… oh yes… calming… warming up… two… now a little sequenced finger game… and three… there it is, the cosy worn out coat, put it on… now you’re safe, it’s all ok. And they’re safe because you didn’t screw up” And I/my thoughts/brain/mind slow down, while the world fastens up again…
And occasionally I kind of snap out of it, realising I just said something to someone, or answered a question, without noticing. And I get that look again! The “I don’t get her, but she’s kind of funny” look. And luckily enough its usually the right answer too…
But it feels like one side of me is outside me, the other one inside.
Yet ironically enough, its exactly what helped me become a decent fire-fighter. Because I do not “laser-point” my attention to the hose. When I’m in there with the “boys” I sense what happens around me. Change of wind, water pressure, my boys focus, getting tired, a manometer or “firefly” going off etc. Then I go through procedures (yes I LOVE procedures) in my mind, analysing possible outcomes and react. Hitting some of them by surprise, even now after 24 years.
I just have to continue learning new things. Keep my mind busy and interested. Like making my major as Safety Engineer and HAZMAT specialist, besides the combat medic, which came in very handy, when they started firing people. I did 4 jobs at once.
Ok, I did end up getting sacked after my cancer treatment. But now I’m back as Care-team member and official expert on inquiries. So Carpe Diem and to my sackers I quote Götz von Berlichingen by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe!
What I’m trying to say is: It doesn’t always need medication, sometimes a grandparent backing you, a recruiting Officer looking beyond your sex and other differences is all it takes… And yes military training helped a wee bit too. The tidy beds, rules and rituals there are pure and unadulterated OCD (And that’s my concentration going walkabout again…)
So parents, please: LOVE YOUR KIDS BECAUSE OF THEIR ADHD/OCD and whatever name we’ll find for humanity’s diversity, and not just “even though”… got it???
There are some great books from Thom Hartmann, for those of you who want to read about it from someone smart. Those books changed my perception on this matter, seeing it as the chance it was and not an infirmity. And remembering my shrink as the visionary she was.
But the real reason why I’m coming out tonight is an Australian actor named Alex O’Loughlin, whom I admire deeply not just for being fit as a Mallee bull and one true spunk, but who inspires me to come straight with it. Because hey, if he can do it and still be amazing without folks giving him “the look”, so can I!
Whether his confessions are public relation induced furphy or genuine, I don’t know. But anything’s possible in Hollywood. Even that the truth is being told once in a while. And, I don’t know why, but that guy seems fair dinkum to me…
Oh my constant checking if you really get me? That’s it as well… Wanting to be understood, but doubting I ever will.