ADHD and belonging

PREFACE: This is being written at about 11 in the morning on EMU campus. I haven’t taken my meds yet. I left my wallet at home, I’ve had two phone calls interrupt me, and I’ve started this entry 3 times already. So, don’t take the negative tone too seriously – life is very good right now and I’m thankful for that.


This is (or at least should be) my last semester in graduate school at EMU. Between now and the end of the year, I am committed to putting together a performance piece, the last requirement for graduation. It will be about ADHD, probably about ADHD and relationships. Since that’s where I’m doing most of my work right now, it seems like a sensible choice.

As part of getting myself mentally and emotionally engaged, I’m trying to spend more time on campus. Today was the first day for that. Classes started 2 weeks ago, so the students are already in the swing of things. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy on the campus, it feels good to be here. At least in a general sense.

In a specific sense – the sense of “how do ‘I‘ feel being here?” – I feel like a tourist.

There are a lot of reasons for it, I expect.

For one thing, most of the people I’ve taken classes with have either moved on or are probably in class themselves right now – some of them teaching.

For another thing, I’ve always been a commuter student, so most of my time on campus has either been for a class, an event or prep for an event. So, there’s a limit to the how involved I was at any time over the last 4 years.

But, I think there are some important ADD components to it too.

For one thing, the very fact that I am involved in so many different things feels very ADD to me. Am I a musician or a writer or a performer or a visual artist or a code developer or X or Y or Z? The answer is “yes”. So, how deeply can I get involved in any of those worlds? With the people with whom I interact? How do I get a feeling of “yes, this is where I belong?” Answer: it’s hard.

The other ADD component is something many of us are familiar with – the feeling of being a perpetual outsider. I’ve heard this from a lot of ADD people and it’s all over the literature. (One of my favorite books is “What Does Everyone Else Know That I Don’t?” by Michele Novotni.)

It’s very important to recognize this because it can help minimize the effect. To the extent that it’s true, it is not an atypical side-effect of ADHD to not fit in, to not pick up social cues and know how to engage. Over and above that, it’s very easy to read other people’s actions as having a negative undertone. But it’s usually not a correct reading.

This is a blog entry, not a long analysis of the situation, so I’m going to stop now and go walk around the building again.

Who knows, I might run into somebody I know.

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