I Was Not Supposed To Graduate

Growing up I always struggled in my academics. My strengths were the arts, theater, public speaking (taking out the mumbling) and that’s about it. The other academics were hard for me due to my undiagnosed ADHD and my learning disability. Going to school was a nightmare. I wanted to like school… Watching how my other siblings studied and got straight As felt unfair regarding what I was going through in school. I studied just as hard, more prolonged and still came out with grades that were NOT straight As. I didn’t get why it was so hard for me especially when I was working my buns off! I would easily get unmotivated and depressed over my situation by comparing myself to my siblings. It’s hard not to compare yourself when you have successful siblings like that. It felt like I was an embarrassment of the family.

I’ve had terrible teachers and excellent teachers. I can identify real quick who are the excellent teachers and the inadequate teachers especially because I was a needy student. Not that I wanted to be that way, unfortunately, I just needed a lot of extra academic help.

Honestly, I think the best approach to helping special needs students is to think like you’re teaching a student learning a second language. Especially with ADHD, the short attention span needs A LOT of visuals to process the details fully. So when a teacher is just speaking and gets irritated that a student didn’t listen to what they said, it is because the students’ genetics needs MORE visuals. Only lecturing DOES NOT work.

I changed schools A LOT. My mom noticed that most schools and teachers weren’t giving me the help I needed. It isn’t entirely their fault, and they honestly had no idea how to help me overcome my obstacles.

Teachers told my parents “She’s probably not going to graduate high school or go to college.” These teachers were at private schools! Just goes to show private schools have their issues. In my parents’ perspective, God only knows the emotions and worries they were going through to hear this about their child.

Besides dealing with my limited academic success in elementary school, my peers bullied me for being known as the “slow and stupid classmate.” Kids can be mean and do not know any better. Despite having these experiences, I have chosen to take the HIGH ROAD of forgiveness; there’s less traffic. I deserve to give myself a better life than to carry my heart full of resentment. Why do that to myself? It is not worth it, right?

So there I was as the lonely, frustrated little girl that wasn’t feeling like I was getting anywhere no matter how hard I tried. Every time I failed a test or didn’t get the grade close to what I had desired, I cried a lot. Some of you might be thinking, “Well that’s just part of life, isn’t it? You gotta accept failures and learn resilience.”

 

When high academic achievers surround you, it’s extremely easy to get depressed. Have you ever felt this way and how did you overcome these feelings?

 

My parents were worrying incessantly about my future, finally found me a private elementary school that focused on helping special needs students. Once I was there, the teachers helped me immensely, and I was getting good grades. The instructors and staff recognized me as a higher functioning student compared to some of my classmates. The day I graduated from there, my loving and supportive principal patted me on the back and said, “You’ve come a long way.”

Going into a regular, private high school was a constant fight of academic exhaustion. In that state, I had to pass five standardized tests, or I was not going to be able to graduate high school. I passed the writing, reading, and history, but not the science and math. My entire high school career consisted of studying, extracurricular activities and rigorously preparing for the math and science test. I  passed the math exam during my sophomore year of high school, and then I was not successful in the science exam until the end of my junior year.

 

 

A massive sigh of RELIEF rushed upon me when I found out I achieved a passing score with all of those tests!

Despite not having straight As, I worked hard in high school which paid off on some level because I received scholarships and state grants that helped reduce my college tuition by half.

The first few years of my college career, I had to be put in some extra classes in essay writing and math to help with my academic performance. My college had a wonderful tutoring center that helped anybody who needed extra help which included students with accommodation. Most of the professors were devoted to improving the students succeed. It was a strict education, but their collaborative, discussion approach in class helped expand my mind.

Looking back, I remember the pivotal moments when my parents were driving me home from my high school and college graduation, I cried the entire way home from mental exhaustion because I previously thought I was not going to be able to get that far in life.

 

 

Did you ever encounter this type of situation and how did you feel during that time? Were you ever overcome with emotions overcoming these triumphs?

Finally Getting Help- Validating My Diagnosis

I have always struggled with disorganization, talking incessantly, overwhelmed emotions with fight or flight response, inattentiveness, hyperactive behavior, and impulsivity. As a child, I was tested for ADHD, but at that time, most types were the obstinate, aggressive, and argumentative. Despite my academic struggles to catch up to grade level performance, I was an extremely hard worker with an agreeable, sweet personality, so I think teachers and psychologists assumed I didn’t have it. Besides, I did not look disorganized because I had a mother who organized my academic materials. Instead, I was diagnosed with a language processing learning disability. This challenge may have been very well accurately diagnosed; however, I wish they didn’t dismiss my ADHD symptoms.

The past few years in my adulthood, I started doing more and more research on ADHD and had a feeling that I had it. Following my instincts, I was able to get an official diagnosis during my professional career. A part of me felt validated and relief for finally getting my issues out in the open for my mental health. The other part of my experienced overwhelmed emotions came with critical intrusive thoughts telling me “Why are you so late?”, or “If only I had gotten help earlier, I would be far more successful in my life than the time I am now.” A part of me feels this is very true, the other part of me tells me it’s a miracle I’ve been able to accomplish the goals that I have set out to do with my condition. Have you ever felt this way and if so, how did you get out of this frustrated mindset? Even if we have goals we want to achieve that we haven’t met yet, it’s never too late to do what we want. Give your life the love and respect you deserve right?

I didn’t have any close friends until and after college. Luckily those friends saw my true heart that could see I would never want to hurt anybody. Although I had an easy going personality and been told I’m very likable, in the past, I was a bit socially awkward. My problematic impulsive speaking habits got me into unfortunate situations with friendships. Then I hurt people that I cared about and was utterly oblivious on what I did. Then when I asked them what I did wrong, they would tell me that I knew that what I did was wrong, when I genuinely had no clue.

 

Have you ever unintentionally hurt a friend’s feelings and how were you able to get through the situation?

In the perspective of the friend that was hurt, he or she may feel, “Well isn’t it obvious? Why do I have to tell you that you hurt my feelings?” Unless you are lucky or have been taught very well, most people have their own socially awkward behavior that are weaknesses which can lead to miscommunications of intentions in relationships. This is where it’s beneficial to have the conversation with your friend saying, “I just want you to know that I value our friendship and if I ever say something that upsets you and hurts your feelings, please let me know so I can clarify what I mean if something comes out the wrong way.”

Have you ever seen the movie Adam with actor Hugh Nancy? The main character, Adam, has Aspergers Syndrome and despite his brilliance, struggles with social situations. There’s a scene in the movie where Adam is interacting with his neighbor, Beth, where he unintentionally said something that made her uncomfortable. She was going to leave the room when he opened up and told her how he has Aspergers Syndrome. Beth then showed compassion for Adam’s condition which led to a friendship, then a relationship.

Recently, I encountered a similar struggle with a friend of mine. Because of my conflicts with my attention span, a friend got impatient and frustrated with me because I missed something that he said and I asked him to repeat a part of what he shared. At that moment, I explained to him that I have ADHD and please know that it is nothing personal against him. It is something I struggle with, and please know that sometimes I miss details because of my condition. Please give me the benefit of the doubt. After I opened up about that, my friend paused and responded with “Well that’s true, I didn’t think about that.”

I really hate this part of my ADHD. It is INCREDIBLY DISHEARTENING. With my personality type you can see that I am genuinely trying to listen, but sometimes I can’t help but miss some details. Unless you know me, you notice that I am making eye contact, so people can’t understand how I miss things when it looks like I’m paying attention. There are times when I’m hyper-focusing, and I can remember what someone told me, but there are times when I’m trying to give someone or something my full attention, and I hear some details, but then miss others.

These types of situations lead me to self-loathing, intrusive thoughts which makes me hate my ADHD. Unless we have an awareness of these issues, people dismiss these causes and get angry when it’s not our fault. It’s our genetics. What makes it harder to cope is if you are like me where you are trying ridiculously hard to fix your ADHD and want it to be cured or go away. Social media comments say we should “embrace our ADHD as a creative gift and not fight it.” Well, here’s what I have to say to that. Yes, we should embrace our creative brains and not fight it, but let’s be real and say there are bad days where its hard to feel that positive way. It’s easy to encourage that mindset if you don’t have brain chemistry similar to ADHD or you have been lucky to get all the support you needed compared to late bloomers who have learned the hard way. 

If you have ADHD or know someone that has this, have you ever experienced this situation? How did you overcome these frustrating thoughts?