When your 61 years old and have lived a lifetime of freedom of expression and actions, the idea that you are abnormal is sort of cute and it’s not too bothersome to find out that you probably have had severe ADHD all your life.
In fact, teachers, ministers, school administrators had all warned my parents that I was not normal, had severe antisocial tendencies, was disruptive and lead others astray. In my working career, I’ve been accused of being a long ranger and not a team player and told that I just don’t fit into structured organizations. My children thought some of my antics were embarrassing.
In fact if you have ADHD, in all your activities, you just don’t believe that you have done anything abnormal or unusual and can’t understand how others can compromise their standards just to get along..
At age 5, I got in a fight and sent another kid to the hospital with a broken foot. This is the same year I was so excited about the snow that I went out sledding alone, in the middle of the night and hit a tree in the dark jabbing a sled runner into my leg. By forth grade I hated my teacher, was kicked out of school, and the IQ test gave a substandard 90 IQ. In fifth grade I loved my male role model teacher excelled in school, and they tried to skip me a grade. By 7th grade, I hated the retarded male bully teacher and was kicked out again.
The pattern was repetitious. I got booted again in ninth and eleventh and only lasted 29 days until I was kicked out of college where I was attending on a full scholarship for brains and football. I eventually graduated with honors. This abbreviated version ignores getting shot at 14, spelunking without resources or telling anyone that I was in an uncharted, unrecognized cave or going cross country alone at age 16 and neglecting to call or write my mother while going to Mexico where I promised not to go. Oh yeah we used to climb prohibited cliffs, and dive off the cliffs into a shallow river.
Did I forget to mention, hammering on bullets, building zip guns and black powder guns, making rockets and bombs and sort of being generally curious about all chemicals and electricity. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the hot dog electrocutor where you put two nails in a board and put each half of a lamp cord to a nail, put the hot dog on and plug it in. The hot dog is electrocuted and ready to eat in about 30 seconds if you ignore all the zinc from nails that gets into the meat. Most of that was done before I was 12 years old and discovered football. The list really goes on forever like use a airesol hair spray can as a flame thrower or teaching my daughter to build a bomb as her science fair project because her high school science teacher was stupid – he never did figure out it was a bomb but my son did and he wanted me to teach him too.
I repeat for emphasis; When you have ADHD, you just don’t believe that you have done anything abnormal, unusual or wrong.
Now since I grew up poor, doctors, shrinks and medicine was out of the question and this was before the welfare revolution of the 60’s that got everything for everybody. So where did that leave me and society? Only two things saved me and allowed me to cope with a world I would never really understand that is sports (or other high energy activities) and love. My mother loved and loves me like no other and taught me to love in the same manner. She would beat me with any handy device; broom, wire hanger, hair brush or cooking pan but would defend us to the hilt to outsiders. She would treat our wounds, both physical and mental, hug us and put us to bed. She lived her dreams through us and insisted we all get college degrees. Four of us came out of poverty and all have advanced degrees. Mom got her high school diploma after we all graduated from college and were married. Obviously, Mom believed in tough love.
Football was the other normalizing influence. Imagine 1 hour of high intensity activity from August to December every year from 12 years old on. I rarely got in trouble during football season. All I had to do to get praise was to hurt other people. Instead of being yelled at people were cheering. I loved it and was natural at it. I had endless energy, was angry at the world and enjoyed hurting the people who tormented me. I made all conference, all county and all state and got a 100% scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. I had to behave in the fall semester but that was a price for all that adulation. Obviously, my coaches believed in tough love and I towed the line to play the game.
In college I fell passionately in love with my one and only wife and I wanted to excel for her. I found out that scholarship and publication were just one more game to win. After a screwed up first year, I made deans list graduated with honors and went to grad school. I wrestled for three years and starved myself into submission to stay focused. It all worked for me.
Neither of our children had ADHD and indications were almost the opposite because of an abnormal ability to stay intensely focused. However, my daughter married a guy just like dear old Dad i.e. He also has untreated ADHD. His experience is different that mine and I wouldn’t dare to describe it for him, but since there is a tendency for ADHD to run in families his oldest daughter has it. We all share the feeling that ADHD is real but nobody should be drugged to control irrational exuberance. Hell the world is depressing enough without killing the spirit of hyperactive people.
Like her father and grandfather, our little girl does well in school when she loves her teacher and poorly when she doesn’t. If she has unused energy, she gets in trouble. She now has taken up karate and moved up a few belts but more importantly she is doing it with her father’s participation, love and discipline. Yes my son-in-law and daughter have learned to be much firmer and are developing an appreciation for the concept of tough love.
When it comes to offering advice, first and foremost, I am not a Doctor. I visit with my friend who is a Doctor every week, but as a doctor, I visit him in his office about 6 times a year for flue shots, annual check-ups and STD’s With his advise I have tried medicine to treat chronic pain, high blood pressure and the other ailments. Other than vitamins, aspirin, alcohol and my blood pressure medicine, I avoid excess medication because I don’t like the way they alter my body, mind or libido. With respect to ADHD, there are Doctor’s who believe in diet, medicines and behavior modification. Doctor’s are human just like everyone else.
I have not written a book on ADHD and my observations are based on the lives of 3 individuals between the ages of 6 and 61. Those who have read my blog for a while realize that I do a fair amount of research. I personally believe that an infinite reserve of love, the ability to guide with discipline and involving the child in a high energy high reward (fathers love or coaches praise) activity is a good way to channel the activity. However, who is to ever be able to judge which approach would yield a better more productive member of society. The choice is the Fat Savage with a lifetime of ADHD and self medication with wine or a societally approved version of the drugged human. One path will always be not taken and there is really no way to compare the real individual to the other potential individual. This is the same as a doppleganger (an evil twin in an alternate universe) where no one can tell which is the good twin and which is the bad.
I have never had the experience of working with or being friendly with a person on Ritalin but keep in mind the original and repeated warning.”When you have ADHD, you just don’t believe that you have done anything abnormal, unusual or wrong.” A child’s desire to argue when reprimanded may be because he has not yet been drugged into complete submission. Sounds like he needs some firm tough love or more drugs.
The Fat Savage