“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”Philippians 3:7-9
I remember, before being officially being diagnosed with ADHD, I thought I was dumb.
Sure, I knew that I could function as a human being, but compared to my peers and siblings, I felt miles behind in academic knowledge and prowess. Teachers would ask me to memorize stuff, and all of my classmates would do it with ease, while I would spend days on end pouring over flashcards and writing the information down over and over in a desperate attempt to have the information stick in my brain.
I would panic about pop quizzes or sudden tests because I did not have enough time to cement the information into my brain. Teachers would say things like, “this isn’t stuff you should have to study for; it should be in your brains already at this point,” which would infuriate me.
I could tell you about the content or concept of what we had been going over, but I could not give you the exact equation or tell you a particular super-specific detail about the story we had read.
No one seemed to understand that just because I did not remember something did not mean I cared about it.
Far from it.
I would stress myself out trying to make sure I was never caught off-guard about anything and would never have to utter the hated words, “I can’t remember.”
After getting out of one of my classes, I would hop into my mother’s car and feel completely overwhelmed with humiliation from all of the I-don’t-knows and I-forgots that I had to mutter during said class. I would beam a phony smile to my mother when she inquired about how the class was, and I would lie and say that it went fine. That was often the end of it, except for the frustration brewing inside me about how much I could not remember.
Why was my brain so different?
I had to be stupid.
That was the only conclusion I ever seemed to come to.
I was given the same resources, teaching, and tutoring opportunities that my peers were, so this was the only answer I could accept for why I kept getting such different results from them.
It was not until I was professionally diagnosed in my senior year of high school that I truly questioned this theory.
Sure, I had accomplished a good bit by this point. My grades were nothing to sneeze at, my friends seemed to enjoy my company, and I did not embarrass my parents at parties or anything. But I still had that shame of just not being able to remember stuff.
My mother would tell me, “You are not stupid. Your brain just works differently”.
And I believed her. For the most part.
Whenever your parents tell you something, you always question how clouded their judgment is and if that dress does actually make you look fat. That was my thought process with this statement, too. I did not entirely believe her.
We went to get me tested because I needed updated documentation to get accommodations for the SAT. In addition, it is always helpful to have a professional diagnosis available for future higher education and career situations.
The testing was roughly what I had expected. I was asked to do some basic reading and writing comprehension, solve math equations, and write down my multiplication and division tables as quickly as possible. It only became challenging when it came time to do the listening test.
The psychologist rattled off a paragraph of information and asked me to repeat it back to him, word for word. We repeated this exercise a few times, with the sections becoming longer and more detailed every time. Even from the first paragraph used, I was a wreck of “ums” and I-don’t-remembers and barely got one answer correct.
I sat there, feeling completely humiliated until the psychologist said, “That is fairly typical for people with ADHD. They cannot retain the information they hear very well at all.”
I was shocked.
I was not dumb?
At the end of the testing, he explained to my mother that I did very well in almost all sections except for listening portions. He even diagnosed my IQ as above average. Actually, in terms of my IQ level, I was pretty close to my little brother, who I had regarded as an unparalleled genius due to his photographic memory.
Then I really thought about it. I considered the accomplishments I had overlooked.
I am good at writing. I can churn out high-grade essays within a day.
I have always been good with people. I had been able to raise a couple of hundred dollars for my middle school mission trips by selling my homemade jewelry around my neighborhood.
I am pretty funny. I can make my friends and family laugh so hard I think that they will puke.
I am a very hard worker and enjoy serving my church and community.
I had overlooked and dismissed so many things about myself because I had not felt that they fit the cookie-cutter mold version of intelligence that the education system constantly pushes.
Since being professionally diagnosed, I have maintained a position in my university’s Honors College Program, received several scholarships and have been nominated for a couple rewards within my university. I have also maintained close friendships with people I knew in high school and formed new ones with people I met in college. I have also been able to create this blog and connect with other incredible writers and creators.
I am not writing all of this to toot my own horn (very much, anyway).
Instead, I want to offer some encouragement to all of my fellow ADHDers who have not been professionally diagnosed yet.
Your brain is different. That does not mean it is broken.
You might have to work harder in some areas than other people. That is okay. People with ADHD are some of the most clever, creative and innovative individuals I have ever met.
God made you, and God never makes mistakes.
You are skilled and capable.
Do not ever let anyone call you dumb.
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Until next time!