We interrupt this regularly scheduled classroom experience to bring you, instead, a brief anecdote. This anecdote is brought to you by Josh’s running late and needing to spit something out there with brevity, Josh’s sad, sad collection of past embarrassing ADHD experiences, and the number four (that’s right. It’s day four. JSW FTW!).
As a caveat, I want to point out that part of what makes these stories so traumatic for someone with ADHD-I is the frequency with which they occur. I’m really hoping that over time, the cumulative effect of these anecdotes will help to demonstrate why this whole thing sucks so much–but just as with any disorder, most people will get a sense of “I’ve been there before” because they have experienced similar situations (just like, even though you probably don’t have clinical depression, you’ve most likely felt depressed, and even though you probably don’t have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, you’ve probably had a nail-biting, stomach-churning, anxiety-ridden day or two in your life, and even though you don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (qualitatively different than OCD btw), you’ve most likely caught yourself counting sidewalk cracks or checking “one more time” to see if the car door really locked.)
I look back on my childhood and get the sense that, a lot of the time, I was a space-cadet. This is one example of that.
So, I play the violin. I started at age 10, which is fifth grade. Of course, having my instrument at school when it was time to be taught by the lady that came in to teach us was a ridiculous comedy of errors, but somehow I had it there enough that I was really learning. I couldn’t pay attention enough to read music yet, but I had a good ear and high confidence, so when the teacher gave us a new song, I’d say “can you play it for us once?” and then be able to duplicate it well enough that she never realized I couldn’t read the notes during the two years she taught us.
By sixth grade, I was one of the strongest players. Possibly the strongest player (I can’t remember anymore). This was rewarded by my being invited to play a solo in a concert: it was a one octave D-major scale, but I owned that thing. I was to play my triumphant solo at a concert at another school. Some kind of invitational or something. Not a big deal to anybody but me, I’m sure. But I was excited.
The day of the concert finally came. I felt nervous as I got on the bus, thinking about playing in front of a crowd of non-peers. I always loved bus rides during a school day–watching everything pass in the daylight, wondering what the other kids in my class were having to do while I was away.
When we arrived at our destination, everything was chaotic. The moms that came with us were buzzing around, setting up music stands and the kids were milling around, waiting. My orchestra teacher was very preoccupied setting things up, and I was feeling some sensory over-stimulation, not really understanding the minutiae of what was going on, and not sure what I should do next. Then one of the moms said “all right guys, go ahead and get set up.”
That’s when the panic hit me like punch in the gut. I had forgotten my violin.
Yes, of course this was an orchestra concert, and of course I wanted nothing more than to have my moment in the spotlight. I wanted to feel the pay-off of the practice I had done at home, and I wanted to show off the songs I had learned. But somehow, for reasons I had no way of comprehending, I had forgotten the one thing I needed to remember. The one thing that was so obvious that nobody would even think to remind me of. And there it sat, in my classroom, by my backpack, while I was there at another school.
I couldn’t have felt more stupid. And I had no idea what to do.
I tried talking to my orchestra teacher, but she was no help. She was upset, and deferred me to one of the moms while she figured out how to restructure the program without my little solo. At that point my sole aim was to get a violin. “Is there one here I can play?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” the mom sweetly said. “I’m so sorry.” I remember being so relieved that she was nice to me.
She invited me to sit with her, and I squirmed in my seat a little as I watched my peers play our concert, wishing I could be playing with them. I don’t remember now if somebody else played my solo, or if it just wasn’t in the program that day. But I didn’t play it. I just had to sit and watch, and then field questions from my peers all about “why didn’t you play with us?” and “you forgot your violin?!” on the bus-ride home. I was humiliated.
I wish I could say that I “learned my lesson” and that after that, I never did anything like it again. But the thing that’s hard to remember about ADHD-I is that experiences like these aren’t cautionary tales. They aren’t “lessons.” They are symptoms. And just like any other symptom of any other disease or disorder, they will be seen over and over and over again until they are successfully treated.
My ADHD-I never was.