While growing up, my family always went on a summer vacation. With nine children in all, the most economical way to travel was to camp. As we wound our way through the small farm towns of upstate NY and mountains of Vermont, the pop-up trailing behind us, we sang songs, told jokes, and took in the sights. Without fail, we would pass a shack or two somewhere along the side of the road, the type barely held together by tar paper with old vehicles and broken small machines strewn about the yard. Inevitably, someone would call out “There’s Helen’s house! That’s where she’s gonna be 20 years from now with her books and her cats!”

In the back of the station wagon, I slunk further into my seat, hiding behind whatever novel I was devouring at the time, two or three more packed in my bag for the rest of the trip. One year on an extra-long trip to Florida, my cat George had kittens while we were gone. I couldn’t wait to get back home.

I earned this prediction about my grown up self from my dearest loved ones, owing to the fact that I wasn’t much good at anything but reading or writing in my youth, and always had a book in my hands. I stunk at sports, didn’t fit in at Girl Scouts and got kicked out of band.  I constantly lost things, forgot things, and my messiness was scrutinized by the other siblings who just seemed to have a knack for cleaning up after themselves. At night, I couldn’t fall asleep until way after my sisters had stopped yelling at me to turn out the light and stop reading; the cicadas and crickets finally lulling me into to dreams as I fidgeted and squirmed in the sheets damp with humid summer air. 

A star student in middle school, I barely met expectations in high school and failed out of my first college. After four colleges and six years, I finally graduated and spent the remainder of my 20’s hopping from job to job (many of them lots of fun!) until I was married, and then stayed home with my children. When some of the moms in my circle started to talk about their kids being screened for ADHD (attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder), I looked into the disorder, thinking I should investigate whether my kids needed treatment. 

What I didn’t expect is that I found myself in my research. Like many who arrive at adulthood after surviving a childhood of untreated ADHD, suddenly my entire life made sense. I wasn’t lazy or an idiot or a failure. I had ADHD. I cried when my psychiatrist confirmed my suspicions. I mourned for all those wasted years. Treatment brought immediate relief and improvement of symptoms. 

Still a lover of learning, I dove into all things ADHD, eventually realizing that I wanted to help others that lived their lives feeling like a lazy failure who never lived up to their potential. Now I work with others, many of whom have ADHD and are neuro-diverse. I am lucky to work with some of the most creative, entertaining, and amazing folks. Watching them benefit from treatment and seeing their lives literally change for the better over a short span of time is one of my greatest privileges.

As for me, I didn’t end up in a tar-paper shack, but I still love my books and my cats. 

If this sounds at all like you, or someone you know, there are many resources available where you can take an online screening to see if you might need further assessment. Just click on the Resources tab on the website.