not arithmetic but the learning and social disability

add is not funny.
it is not cute, either.

it isn’t oh he forgot his wallet again, that joel, whatcha gonna do.

it’s i can’t believe i forgot my wallet again, how on earth did i forget it, i knew i would need it, i feel stupid, i have to turn around and go back and get it, maybe i just won’t do whatever it is i needed to do, how am i going to explain this, especially since i did this just a few weeks ago, now this is going to take me twice as long and i don’t have time to do that other thing i keep meaning to do but don’t.

add is chemicals that make my brain
tell me half-truths
and leave me alone in the dark
feeling around with my hands
quietly asking ‘hello is there anyone else here’
too ashamed to ask for help
any louder than a whisper.

when i was in the fifth grade
i spent my entire christmas break
sick to my stomach, mortified
because i thought there was a project
i should be working on but since
i couldn’t pay attention in class
i wasn’t sure and since i felt like
it was my fault for not paying attention
i was too ashamed and scared
to ask anyone.

i wept openly at my desk with relief
i was eleven years old and in the corner
because i didn’t know how to behave
because i had add and wasn’t diagnosed
and felt broken because
i didn’t know how to behave and everyone else did
anyway
i wept openly at my desk in the corner
when i found out there was no project due.

add is drowning on air.
it is dreading every conversation
with a supervisor or any person
whom i may have let down by forgetting something
but i’m not sure because, well, i’m not sure.

my brain tells me
be scared, joel, you probably forgot something important.

it also does not tell me how to do things.
add is not knowing how to finish tasks or listen closely or be able to sit still
and not even knowing how to want to do those things.

add is being ashamed i cannot do them.
add is using a brick to absorb water
while everyone else gets to use a sponge.

or wearing an invisible 200 pound backpack
that even i don’t know i’m wearing
and nobody else has one on and i say to myself
‘why can’t i keep up?’
and everyone else says
‘why aren’t you keeping up?’

add is living scared and angry
inside myself and looking to most people
like a goofball with limitless energy when really
i am so tired.

add is why i can’t sleep at night.
my brain doesn’t know how to process
darkness = it’s time to sleep.

so the world sleeps and i am even more alone with these rampant thoughts marching down the mountainside, and i didn’t even hang the bell to ring in order to signal the guard, because i didn’t manage my time well and i locked myself out of the house again.

add isn’t an excuse or laziness.
it is an absolute fear of failure
it is a list of wounds and weaknesses
that cannot even begin to be patched and healed
until one is diagnosed.

it doesn’t go away once it’s named.
it doesn’t go away with medicine.
fear is etched in stone after so many years.
so even if the habits have hope of changing
the feelings of add
whispers snaking into ears
at any possible moment
do not rest.

my fear is a canyon.
fear of failure fear of losing what few things i know how to value
fear of being wrong
fear of being right about being a failure.

i wasn’t ignoring you
add means one has trouble processing
either sound or sight
we don’t do it on purpose
our brains do not work correctly.

i was not ignoring the kitchen timer
i could not hear it while doing something else
even though it went off in the next room
i’m so sorry i ruined dinner.

that is add.

and it never, not once, feels funny.

3 thoughts on “not arithmetic but the learning and social disability

  1. Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s really helpful to read this as my son has similar struggles and is not yet able to express in this manner. You gave insight, and I hope to show more compassion.

  2. add is writing a beautiful poem and not knowing why you can
    add is painting a beautiful picture and not knowing how you knew how
    add is cooking an awesome dinner and forgetting how you did it

  3. add is being able to figure out how to fix anything without ever being taught
    add is gentleness, kindness, caring
    add is a 200 pound pack on my back and a magic carpet at my feet

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