Growing up, everyone has their quirks that make them unique . At a young age, kids are trying to find their way in the world, taking in and processing every situation in which they may find themselves and applying these new lessons or insights into their daily lives. Some of which are: the way to behave, deal with certain situations and how to communicate and socialize correctly. And when someone doesn't pick up on these small nuances and they don’t act according to the “norm”, it can make someone feel alone, isolated and like a freak. That's how I felt growing up.
I grew up in a nurturing, loving home. However, often a daily point of contention for my family was my often well-intentioned, but disruptively erratic and chaotic behavior. I wasn't able to focus, get things done, and for the most part--fit in like the other kids. I had no idea at that time that I wasn't acting or behaving the way I should be. I thought I was just being me. This behavior was not limited to my home life; I also had a hard time reading situations and recognizing social cues, which made school difficult as well. Even the smallest tasks or assignments took longer for me to complete than for other students in my class. As for the bigger tasks? These just seemed totally impossible. My parents were patient and tried to help me, but at a certain point I, understandably, exhausted all the patience they had to give.
I found out recently that when I would go to bed, my parents would jokingly bet on how many times I’d come out of my room to finish recalling thoughts I had earlier in the day or excitedly telling over other new thoughts or whims on my mind. I consider myself lucky that they didn’t kill me, or send me away! Despite everything, they continuously gave me love and support. After years of struggling, crying, being bullied, my parents felt I needed a little extra help to deal with the behavioral issues with which I was struggling. It was an extremely difficult time in my life because we didn’t really have clarity about my situation. The only next logical step for us was to seek out the help of a professional.
Meeting with a psychiatrist was no walk in the park. It involved several hour-long sessions where I felt as though I was being asked to reveal my deepest, darkest secrets. I felt like I was under a microscope--every comment or action I made being judged by a “superior being.” I knew it was all for the best, but sometimes it was hard to put myself in such a vulnerable position, even though the end goal was for my ultimate benefit. Don't get me wrong, I was a child who loved to talk no matter what, but something about these visits, made me more reserved because it felt less natural, as my answers to the psychiatrist’s questions were jotted down. Despite how uncomfortable and challenging these visits were, I ended up with the answer I needed. A diagnosis--ADHD. I felt like I was a weirdo, or something was extremely wrong with me. The word that kept coming up in my thoughts was “outsider” , “not normal” and “freak”. This bled into various social situations I faced with friends. Firstly, when I would go for follow-up visits to my psychiatrist, I would lie to my friends about where I was going, because I didn’t want them knowing there was something wrong with me. And secondly, I was always afraid and anxious when I had to attend certain social engagements, because I didn't want to be the “weird one” or have people notice my issues. Despite these feelings I had, with the help and support of my psychiatrist and parents, I started to learn different ways to work on my ADHD. I went from a bigger school to a newer school that was smaller so I would get the attention I needed to help me with my unique situation. I had help at school and extra time for exams which allowed me to thrive despite living with this diagnosis.
Another adaptation my mother and father implemented to help me live with this new diagnosis was giving me “signs” that would help me pick up on social cues I was missing in certain situations. Have you ever seen in baseball when the coach/manager gives the players the call with hand motions and signals? That's what my parents did. When my parents touched their nose, that translated to, “Eli, you’re being too hyper. Take a breath and calm down a little.”. When they pulled their ear, it meant I was talking too much or interrupting. These little signs were subtle ways for me to learn and apply social cues in real time without getting embarrassed. These small things really helped me learn to control my tendencies. Little by little, I started to feel more “normal”. But like any struggle or challenge, it wasn't fixed. There were always hard days and difficult long nights. Crying and frustration were common occurrences.
With the mix of medication, therapy and practice, things started to get better. Medication did not solve everything but it helped me a lot. However, medication often came with side effects like appetite suppression, making me underweight for my age and height, difficulty sleeping, and the jitters followed by a crash of energy once the medication wore off. Understanding that with my new diagnosis came these side effects that affected my ability to focus in school, when it was time to pick high schools, I was stuck between two options: the bigger, cooler, and more social school, and the smaller school which had the perfect balance of quirky and cool kids.
This is the beginning of my story, this is where my confidence and power of myself starts. This is my origin story.
To Be Continued (Stay Tuned for Part 2 and Part 3)