The blue cushions on my white wicker love seat have practically molded to my body from recent use. I haven’t been cheating on writing nights, just sitting, sometimes smoking cloves, with lots of private thoughts as I process my first week after being diagnosed with ADHD. It’s quiet now, the way I prefer… but the old school R&B was rocking next door an hour ago.
I was sitting here doing the final edits on my fifty-one page Italy scrapbook when my neighbor came out to enjoy the cool evening. I noted the length of tonight’s cigar and realized he’d be listening for the foreseeable evening. It’s really only happened a handful of times over the past 127 Tuesdays, most of them in consecutive weeks. Armed with the fresh understanding of why it’s such a challenge for me to write with the added distraction, I stopped worrying about the problem and walked over to his front porch.
Hesitantly, I shared my recent news with my neighbor and what it meant for K-Ci and Jo Jo music, and he offered to keep it down on Tuesday nights. He reassured me our relationship hadn’t been harmed in his tone, diction, and body language. I was grateful that he was gracious. I can sense his presence on the porch within earshot, and I’m comforted by it. He is a good, strong man, and I don’t think he was surprised at the new label for my creative mind.
As an English teacher, particularly in a grade that emphasizes writing, I’ve been uniquely tasked to guide learners of diverse needs through their maturation in their understanding and correct use of the written word. In college, I’d hooked on the implications of ADHD on an adolescent’s writing. Difficulty focusing or giving attention to detail challenges the foundation of maintaining his train of thought or making careless mistakes or quitting after the first draft because tedious tasks are boring.
So why is it that, in writing, I can balance several thoughts, bouncing between them, keeping the others like dialogue bubbles just within reach, and ultimately arrive at unity in revelatory synthesis? Tonight’s moment of epiphany starts with the realization that my passion for writing negates all associated boring, tedious undertones typically associated with crafting long passages. My love for the written word supersedes the confines of my condition’s reach.
No, for me, I’d say while I’m writing I’m hyper-focused… consumed with the significance of the discovery dig in process. The need to write led me to start blogging two and a half years ago. Six months later, my blog brought Charming from Facebook to my doorstep. About a year ago, I ended it because I worried about my timeline for kids and Charming’s inability to commit. Though we opted to give it more time, a comment by my childhood mentor on one my posts suggested I needed to close the current volume and start on the next one.
I truly believed the old volume was about my past: failed marriage, cheating ex-boyfriend, starting over in Hampton, online dating. The new one, quite naturally, must be about Charming. Still, the desire to get married so we could start having children before my ovaries expire dominated most of our last calendar year together. Six months ago, he suggested couple’s counseling to help us move forward.
It took a few months, fights, and doctors before we found the time and the right fit in Dr. Huff’s Saturday morning sessions. I’d mentioned the medication I’ve been taking for sleep for nearly a decade, and though I couldn’t explain why it worked, I hoped to get off it. The good psychologist suggested early on that he suspected I had ADHD. No one had mentioned it before, but it was out there in the spring before Italy. Dr. Huff encouraged me to do the extensive testing that landed him a positive diagnosis.
There has to be a balance between the private experiences and public confessions of a writer, but I’ve arrived at my disclosure scale concurrent with the journey that’s led me here to seek out this quiet solitude and type my way to sanity, taking the chaos of my attention-deficit brain and ordering it with meaning and purpose. I have ADHD. And I’m a writer. As a teacher, I know those things usually don’t go together.
Maybe Deb was right a year ago about needing to write a new volume, but I couldn’t have anticipated the journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-improvement that I would embark up in four seasons to come. I’ve written about every major failure, success, and change for two and a half years. How could I, in clear conscious, hold close to the vest what many people who cohabitate with an ADHD brain may never be able to put into words on paper?
After Tuesday’s meeting with Dr. Huff, he sent a report with my diagnosis to my prescribing physician. Friday, Leslie coached me through all my options for treatment, understanding my desire for the least amount of medicinal intervention. She arrived at a strategy she believed would be effective, but I understood that going off the sleeping medicine I’ve been taking for nine years would be a challenge.
Charming helped me through the transition this weekend, suggesting a keep a journal to log the process. It’s been four days, but I can tell you that taking one pill in the morning makes me a better person. Our conversations were lengthy, deep, and enjoyable. I was able to focus while driving on Charming while he shared about work and career plans, fully engaging in the present conversation. At Water Country, I wasn’t bothered by crowds or lines, and Charming had to remind me to eat. Loss of appetite: the one side effect, bound to help me achieve my ideal weight.
The days have been incredible. At church on Sunday, I didn’t stop to look anything up or follow any mental rabbit trails. I wasn’t fidgeting, not on the outside or on the inside. I was at peace in the pew beside Charming, grateful for every writing night that led me to this new understanding of myself and how my brain works, grateful that he’d risen to the occasion to support me in every way I needed.
The nights have been long. It’s temporary and it’s necessary. I’m not a doctor, but I imagine if you take any medicine as long as this one, your synapses need some time to re-lubricate with natural, synthetic oil. I’ve had a lot of time to think out here in the stillness of the night when it’s even quieter than now. Saturday night, I breathed in the silence and prayed God would help me get to sleep.
No sooner had the thought sounded in my cranium that I was aware my brain had already moved on to something else. The great revelation occurred to me, there. It was 4 a.m. No doubt, my mother was rising to go to her Agape corner, she calls it. It’s the sun porch in her house where she prays, reads, and spends quiet time with God every day. In Greek, Agape means the type of love that God has for us.
I never loved to pray like Mom. That’s where the brain bounced next. I didn’t like to pray because I could never concentrate. I didn’t like to pray because I failed God after three minutes max. My whole life, I’ve truly believed that I somehow loved God less because I couldn’t give Him my attention in prayer. My love for the written word surpasses the bounds of my diagnosis, why not in conversations with the One who created me?
On Sunday night when I couldn’t sleep, I sat here again, thinking about prayer, wishing I could find a way to focus. I realized I already had the idea in the Vatican Museum when I was purchasing a Rosary for a Catholic friend. The others on the tour explained how to follow the beads and the spacing to recite various prayers. I imagined it might be possible to focus on prayer if there were Protestant prayer beads. Inspired by my roommate Jeana’s purchase of a rosary that wrapped into a bracelet, I got out my jewelry kit at 2 a.m.
An hour later, I’d created my own bracelet with precious stones. Like the Rosary, I move from gem to gem, each one representing a different cornerstone in my life. Different colors and shapes represent the key people and concepts. While crafting it, I imagined laying in bed, even in the dark, starting with the first bead, The Lord’s Prayer, moving on to ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, then to my parents and my brothers with their families and friends and work and so on all the way to me, ending with the Serenity Prayer.
The bracelet means something for my relationship with God, the spiritual sphere not targeted by any medication. I call it my Agape Cornerstones bracelets. Little stones arranged to help me focus my abstract thoughts on something concrete, a strategy effective because God is the origin of the kind of grace Charming has been showing me since this diagnosis.
Agape love, God’s love, is not restricted by my ADHD, not disappointed by my hyper-distracted, high jacked train of thought. If my Agape Cornerstones bracelet helps me come to enjoy His presence the way my mom does, then maybe in another two and a half years, praying could be like writing nights, too.