Overcoming tests, trials, and tribulations with ADHD

“I deal in possibilities and that’s what bridges are in a way—not so much the ones that already exist to take you from one side of something to another, but the kind we build for ourselves.”
“What are you talking about?"
“Say you want to be an artist—a painter, perhaps. The bridge you build between when you don’t know which end of the brush to hold to when you’re doing respected work can include studying under another artist, experimenting on your own, whatever. You build the bridge and it either takes you where you want it to, or it doesn’t.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
His teeth flashed in the moonlight. “Then you build another one and maybe another one until one of them does.”
-Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot, “Bridges” (pg. 317). 
My sister, Nicole, recently posted this image to Facebook. Spare a glance and compare the fantasy to its reality. In our modern world, it’s easy to click through photos of idols, mentors, family, and friends and gain a distorted picture of reality. People rarely share their true struggles via social media. (And I'm not talking #FirstWorldProblems here). Perhaps publicly voicing such depressions makes them all too permanent or else, shameful.

As we embark upon this New Year, its important to remember the hurdles we’ve overcome and those we’ve yet to scale. Such reviews highlight your strength to endure while also preparing you for the journey to come.

A lesson they don't “teach you in kindergarten” is that life thwarts your path to success. When faced with such obstacles, the lazy (wo)man claims “this is impossible,” while the determined negotiates what lies ahead. Whenever someone says “I wish I could, but…” a knot twists in my stomach. This mentality excuses rather than promotes your aspirations. The path to such “wishes” is paved by negotiating craters and boulders, and taking breaks to massage your muscles by the side of the road.

For those of us recently diagnosed with ADHD, the path may appear a steep chasm. I remember walking out of middle school and high school tests, dumbstruck by the idea of “good” grades. “As?” I’d think. “How can anyone achieve scores close to 100? There is so much potential for error.” Multiple-choice questions stand out in my memory. Faced with having to choose A B C or D, I elaborated my answers in the margins. Of course, this didn't improve my score or testing abilities. Eventually I faced that the computers that grade standardized tests don’t understand or care about your additional scribblings.

In school, we all must learn to study and conquer written tests. For some of us, it takes time, dedication...and a pick, some traction, and climber’s belay.

When it comes to such peaks, the hardest thing for those of with attention deficit to hear is “just sit down and study.” Or “apply yourself.” Or “pay attention.” Or “stop squirming.” These solutions, although correct, don’t acknowledge the frustrations of your current failures. You approach hurdles feeling that you’ve already stumbled or else, that your peers were granted a five second lead in the race.

What I will promise you is that you’re not alone. And those kids (or adults) to whom success appears a straight line, are dealing with their own squiggly lines. Theirs simply sketch different pictures than your own.

In 2011, what hurdles did you overcome? Which ones are you still scaling? How about those that lie ahead?