I have been writing about how special my grandpa is to me, how close we were, how he was the only person in my family I could feel safe with, worthy of live, love and joy. He was the only person I could open up to, the only person I did not have to hide from and the only person that allowed me to just be me. I have also been writing about the abuse, the mental and physical pain my parents gave me, ever day.
Today I want to write about about the why. The reason behind the fact that my parents parents could not accept me, while my grandpa did. About how their differences in character caused a difference in the relationship I had, and still have, with them. The reason why my parents could not accept me and could only get angry with my ADHD devil, while my grandpa was able to see the good in him.
My mother, grandpa, and father are 3 completely different people, with completely different values and ideas about life. They all have a particular idea about what is important in life, and how we should live it. This results in a difference in thoughts about my ADHD devil and what to do with him, how to respond to him. I will try to describe how their values in life result in their different visions on ADHD and how this reflects on our relationship. I have used my mother, grandpa and father for this because I have known them my whole life, they have known every aspect of my ADHD, but when it comes to friends and colleagues I notice the same thing.
My mother has always valued fitting in. She is very scared of getting noticed, scared of doing something that is different or expressing an opinion that is not supported by other peoples ideas. When she has to shop for clothes or shoes, she would never pick a bright color, she would never pick a beautiful dress and she would never buy paints that are not straight forward and worn by everyone else. She would ask me, my sister and the saleswoman a million questions to figure out if what she has picked is normal enough. Is it ok, does it fit, is it not too notable, does it fit her age, are the colors not too much, is it something other people wear… Is it normal? It seems like she is extremely insecure and in order to deal with this, she will do everything she can to be as normal as possible. She will always think about what other people might think of her before she does anything, and she will always agree with the people that surround her. She will never disagree with anyone and always try to blend in.
My grandpa values love, or more specific, the well-being of the people he loves most. He mostly showed this to my grandma, for who he did everything, his entire life. He worked every day, evening and weekend to give her the house she wanted and still cooked her and my mom dinner every night. He would clean, bring presents, take care of her mom, my mom and me and my sister. He would do groceries for her, drive het anywhere and make sure she kept having some kind of social life. He did everything. My grandma is suffering from a depression since they lost their son, fifty years ago, 3 days after he was born. This changed my grandma but every day my grandpa has tried anything he could to make her feel a little better, even on his worst day, even if he could not. He did not care about his own well-being in the first place, he could only be happy if his loved ones were happy. He gave us everything, his entire life.
To be honest, I am not sure about my father’s values. He does not seem to have a thing in life that is the most important, he does not have one goal or one opinion he tried to live by. In everything he does, he seems to react on his first impulses. He can say he will stop drinking and return home 4 hour later, completely waisted. He can say he wants to be there for his mother but only see her once a year on his own birthday. He can say he will help my sister with fixing something, but we will never try. He can wake up early in the morning an disappear for a few days, leaving my mom alone, without even a note. My father can promise a lot, but almost never he is able to do any of those things. Like me, he has an ADHD devil, but he never learned how to live with him. He does not have a value, he does not think about things. My father just does whatever he feels like doing, no matter what time it is or what is expected from him. He just responds to his extreme an uncontrolled emotions.
My mothers value, to be as normal as possible, also reflects on me. Simply because she thinks that in order for her to be normal, her children have to be as normal as possible. When I was young, around 3 or 4 years old, I had an imaginary friend, Jack. I was always talking to Jack, playing with him and wherever I would go, Jack would come with me. My mother kept telling me Jack did not exist, he could not exist. She always forbid me to talk to him, especially when we would be outside the house, Jack was not allowed. But no matter how often she told me, or how angry she got with me, Jack remained my best friend. Jack made her feel embarrassed, ashamed and angry. After a while she felt so ashamed of my imaginary best friend, that she started to dress my sister, who was just a baby, as a boy. Whenever I would talk about Jack, or started a conversation with Jack, in public, she would say I was talking to my sister. She wanted to be normal so much, that she did everything to pretend I was normal. Everything about my ADHD was weird and strange for her. She believed that not only all my ADHD symptoms, but also my ADHD benefits, my super powers, where not allowed to exist, because they don’t fit her standards of fitting in. When I was diagnosed with ADHD, she was extremely happy, she celebrated the discovery of a pill that could help me. If it was up to my mother, I would be drugging myself with Ritalin, ever hour I’m awake. She would make sure I would be so numb that none of my true self would remain.
For my grandpa, my well-being has always been the most important. He did not care about what other people might think of me, he did not care about me not doing what I was supposed to do, and he definitely did not care about how I did things. He did not ever judge me on not fitting in or being different. My grandpa cared about me being happy. My grandpa, like me, also became friends with Jack. I never heard my grandpa telling me that Jack could not, or did not exist, he never felt embarrassed, he accepted Jack to be there. My grandpa would make an extra cup of tea, he would make sure there was always an extra chair for Jack to sit on and whenever we would play a game together, we played it with the 3 of us. My grandpa understood that I needed a way to deal with my many thoughts, he understood I needed a friend I could tell anything at any time. For him it did not matter if my friend was a real person or an imaginary one. My grandpa saw that Jack was helping me, he saw Jack as a solution to my problems that I was able to come up with myself, with all the hidden creativity inside me. My grandpa has always seen the positive things about my ADHD, he saw how I was unique, creative, smart and strong. He never agreed on me having a disorder, for him I was just me, and he would love even the strangest parts of me, as long as they would make me happy.
Now let’s talk about what my father’s opinion was on my imaginary friend. Since my father does not have values or opinions on the big things in life, he also did not have one opinion on Jack. My father’s opinion was always related to the situation and the impact Jack had on his own impulses. If I would be silently playing with my friend in the corner of the living room or in my own bedroom, he would have no problems with the existence of my imaginary friend. As long as Jack did not bother my father, he was allowed to exist. But as soon as my friend’s existence would become noticeable for my father, he would get annoyed really fast. When he would hear me talking to Jack, or when I would ask him to consider Jack’s presence, he would get really angry with me. Not because Jack existed, just because Jack would bother him in this moment, and my father got annoyed with everything that would interfere with his own expectations, his own way of doing things. If my father decide he wants to sit in the chair my mother is sitting in, he will make her stand up and move to another one, now imagine his response to a chair my imaginary Jack is sitting on. My father would just sit down and crush my best friend, which would lead to an episode of tears and blame from my side which my father really could not deal with so he would carry me to the attic on the limb he could grab first and finish with some extra bruises to make sure I would know I had done something wrong, that I had been annoying him. Besides the times that Jack would release my father’s ADHD devil with his presence, my father has also always been very protective about my mother and sister and the things “I did to them”. Whenever I would come home after embarrassing my mother with Jack’s presence at the supermarket, it would result in the same treatment, the attic and more bruises, even before my mother could finish her story about our shameful trip together. Like with Jack, my father does not have a vision on the ADHD devil, not on mine and definitely not on his own. For him, everything is fine as long as he does not notice, as long as it does not effect him. He does not see good things, neither does he notice the bad things, as long as it does not bother him right now. But as soon as he notices anything, his reaction will be unfiltered, extreme and painful.
My mother has always tried to change me. She has always been afraid of me being different. It did not matter to her if my differences were making me better or worse, every sign of abnormality, based on her idea of normal, of being the same as everyone else, should not be allowed. Even today she keeps commenting on everything I do. You should iron your clothes, own less plants, move to a house that’s not a basement, stop boxing, wear other clothes, don’t have a bunny walking around, loose weight, gain weight, have a dining table, own a hairdryer… She still can not let me be me, she still criticizes everything I do, have or want. She has never been open to the good things about me and my ADHD, she will never allow a part of it to be visible and she will never accept me, not in the way I am. After years of trying to reshape me to her standards of normal, she celebrated my diagnosis and my medication. But once she found out I will never fit in the mould she has ready for me, she gave up and is very happy I live far away and don’t embarrass her anymore.
According to my grandpa I am not different, and I definitely don’t have a disorder. He did see how I am able to make myself crazy with the many thoughts that rush to my brain, and although he has always supported me in taking my medication, because he knew the pills make it a little easier to live with myself, he also noticed how the Ritalin is taking away some good parts of me. He understood my struggles in finding a balance between being me and being “normal”, able to do what was expected from me. He understood how my ADHD can do many good things, how it makes me into the person I am, the person he loved and was extremely proud of. But he also understood the bad things that come from it and tried to support me with every single one of those. He not once got angry with me, not when I would not listen to him, not when I would have inexplicable mood swings, not when I was not able to do what he wanted me to do. He never got angry. He understood my ADHD brain better when I was 3 years old than I do today. He just wanted me to be happy, no matter what he would have to do for this, even if it would mean I was ignoring him. He would understand I would never ignore him because of him, or because I wanted to, that the reason was always my brain being to full and he respected this. He knew when to help me, when to let me be and to always accept, love and support me.
I have never spoken about ADHD with my father. He has it, and I got this part of his genes as well but not once did we speak about this devil that lives in both our brains. My father is not a talker, a conversation with him is just a sum up of his first reactions to whatever you will tell him, or complete silence if he does not care. I believe my father does not believe in the existence of ADHD, at least not when it comes to himself. He is now fifty-five, but in all the years he has lived, he has never tried to change, he has never tried to be better. I have not once seen him thinking about other people, I have not once seen him truly listening to someone and I have not once see him do something because it would make another person happy. My father does not have an ADHD devil, he is one. He is the reason I talk about my ADHD as a devil living inside my brain because all the bad things my ADHD makes me feel are reminding me of him. The extreme anger, the uncontrolled impulses, the selfishness, all him and all part of the ADHD devil I try to control.
The people I choose
When it comes to Jack, he is still in my life. Not like he was when I was young, but whenever I am alone and my thoughts start rushing and exploding, and I am not able to write about it, I talk to Jack. I try to have a conversation about what is going on, about what I am thinking about and what is upsetting me, I have a conversation with myself, with Jack. In a way you have become my Jack about a month ago, when I started writing, when I started a conversation with you. I think Jack will remain a part of me forever, but I did stop asking for an extra seat and an extra slice of cheese for him.
Whenever I meet a new person, I try to figure out what his or her values are, how they live their lives and what they think is important. Whenever I meet a person that wants to wear the latest fashion, owns the newest gadgets or is surrounded by a group of friends that all look the same, I know I should not invest much time in this person. I can see this person not showing any appreciation or acceptance when it comes to my “abnormal” side. Whenever I meet a person that is extremely impulsive, selfish, narcissistic or inattentive, I will also try to stay as far away as possible. I have known a lot of rejections, and these created a lot of prejudices when it comes to people, as a way to lower the risk of being hurt again. I always try to look for the people that are a little like my grandpa. The people that are kind, creative, thinkers, fun and a little strange. I try to look for the people that stand out without asking too much attention. The ones that have their own opinion but will never try to force this on anyone. The ones that are truly kind but will always think about themselves as well. I know that these are the people I can feel safe with, just like I felt around my grandpa, or my boyfriend, who are actually very much alike.