Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Difficult Advantage

I had to write a paper on an event, or events that have taken place in my life that have changed me, and molded me into who I am today. This is a true story about my life and struggle with ADHD. (Now the title of my blog probably makes more sense to you!) This is pretty personal stuff. I'm surprised I'm even posting it. But, for the sake of receiving other writer's feedback and for readers' enjoyment, I'm making it available. Enjoy!

“My Difficult Advantage”

Based on the Life of: Tanner Phillips

I get to go to school tomorrow Mom!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. I can only imagine the great anxiety this may have caused. Most mothers would be hesitant to send their children off to school because they were afraid they would develop a separation complex. Not my mother! That was never her concern. She was afraid for my new teacher’s emotional health and sanity. You see I have grown up my entire life with A.D. H. D., which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I never really knew what the last “D” stood for. I had always been loved and accepted in my home. There was always open arms waiting and available from a mother who understood and loved me. I never felt like I had a disadvantage, just a different advantage than all the other kids. Starting school would be a new adventure I had longed for a very long time. What I didn’t know was the world would turn out to be a very different place than the loving home I’d grown up in. I had no idea that not everyone would be accepting and understanding of my ADHD. For the first time I would experience people telling me “You can’t” instead of “You can do anything!” I had never experienced rejection because of the way I talked or acted. However, my whole word would change after my first day of school.
The kids laughed and hollered as if the boy had said the cleverest of things. They walked off laughing, positive that they had surely told me off. I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine that everyone wouldn’t like me. I had no idea that I was so different from other children. To be totally honest I still don’t quite understand why I was picked on as much as I was. I know I was loud and hyper as all get out but I wasn’t ever mean or rude to anyone. I tried making friends wherever I went but there were always the people who were suspect to anyone who didn’t act as they did.

An event happened that changed me forever. I remember very clearly one day walking home from school. A group of older boys, who had taken it upon themselves to pick on me, waited for my cousin and I to walk by a sand pile they were sitting on. One of them called out to me. The next thing I knew I received a huge wet sand ball in my face. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to react and close my eyes. To this day I have never felt anything so painful as my eyes filled with sand. I couldn’t even finish walking the rest of the way home. My cousin had to lead me by the hand while I blubbered like a baby. When I walked into my house my loving mother attended to me, taking over a half hour to rinse my eyes out until they were free of the stinging sand. Those tears I cried that day weren’t only from the stinging in my eyes. They were the realization that I was, in fact, different.

That event sounds extremely depressing, I know. However, I look back on it and am grateful. You are probably asking “Why?” It was that day I made an important decision to develop a trait I wanted to possess. I decided I would never treat people unkindly. I had enough experience to know what it was like to be made fun of, to be rejected by my peers. I knew how much it hurt to be disliked, as far as I could understand, for no reason. I made the decision to always be kind and accepting of other people. Later in high school I had a large group of friends, popular friends. But I always tried to include those people who weren’t often included. I would always make an effort to dance with the girl who never got asked, talk to the boy who sat alone, or laugh with the comedian that no one knew even existed. I’ve always tried to simply be kind. I attribute that to my own struggles and rejections as a lonely child.

What a shock school had been. I didn’t know there would be all this sitting and thinking. It was official. My favorite subject was most definitely recess. I really struggled with reading. In fact, I had to be in resource classes, which was a source of much embarrassment to me. It was just one more thing that gave kids ammunition to make fun of me. One of the greatest days of elementary school was the day I was “kicked” out of Resource class in 4th grade because my reading finally clicked.

I struggled in school for a long time. I never knew until a few years ago that for those first years my mom would hide my report cards from me. It wasn’t because of my grades but because of my teacher’s comments. “Has a hard time sitting still.” “Talks out of turn.” “Needs to learn to control himself.” “Is always making noise.” All that changed in 5th grade. It was the year I finally realized I had the potential to learn. Before this I had struggled with almost every teacher I had. I was infamous throughout my elementary schools as being a troublemaker and an uncontrollable child. However, Mr. Crandall would change all that! For the first time in my life I had a teacher telling me “You can!” I had a teacher who consistently told me how great I was doing. He even, in his patient love, rearranged the bookcases in the back of the room so that I could have my own little cubicle of sorts to go when I was struggling with distraction or just needed a break. He was the most influential teacher I ever had. He changed my outlook on school and what I was capable of. He made me realize that I could do it and actually do it very well. I learned that just because it was harder for me it didn’t make it impossible. I learned endurance and commitment. I learned I could take on the world. I have been eternally grateful for that humble quiet man at Hillcrest Elementary School. I even went back to him for years with my report cards, showing him the success I had in school. He always showed the excitement of a proud parent.

School still held its challenges for me. I still had run-ins with teachers and my moments of anxiety when I couldn’t concentrate on things. However, I’ve made it thus far. I have come to learn that my ADHD, if properly channeled, can be a huge advantage. It was extremely difficult when I was a child but I have learned to control it and use it in positive ways that will be a benefit for my whole life. I’ve had the advantage of having a father with ADHD. Seeing him as a very successful businessman and a great human being has always been a huge source of hope and motivation for me. I have advantage over many because of the energy I possess. It helped me in soccer, football and other sports. It has also helped me to be more energetic and upbeat than other people. I wake up in the morning after four hours of sleep and can be bright and beaming as a light bulb. People always ask with annoyance, “How can you be so happy this early and with no sleep?” It’s one of the benefits of ADHD.

There are so many life lessons I’ve learned from having ADHD. It has taught me so much about myself and about others. It has taught me to see the good in others. It has also taught me to be slow to judge. It’s given me an ability to relate to people, especially parents who think their children are doomed because they have ADD or ADHD, to not look at it as a disadvantage but see it’s potential. It’s not to say there aren’t times when I wish I was “normal” and didn’t have to deal with it. However, it’s then I think to myself how much I love being different and having the advantages that come with ADHD. The advantage isn’t necessarily the ADHD but the lessons I have learned from having it.

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