Mouse

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate January 2002

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Arrogant asshole. That's what they called it all my adolescence and adulthood. So, a label like ADHD is less a stigma and actually a kind relief. I'm not diagnosed but at 47, reading about my son's diagnosis and finding myself along the way, I'm tracing the steps from my 7th year and finding answers to issues which still plague my conscience and daily life.

The problem was, and remains, I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

Recently I had reason to observe the volume of people, organizations, mental health professionals, family and former wives and lovers who have all tried to change me. Teachers, bosses, girlfriends, counselors and shrinks make up the greatest numbers.

My mother was a single parent long before it became popular and with her absent much of the time my Grandmother put up with the brunt of my behavior before I was 17. Then mom got married and her new husband joined her in the daily amazement as I had my mood swings and outbursts.

"Concentrate!" "You're not living up to your potential!" "You don't apply yourself!" "Why do you do these things?" "What's wrong with you?" "What's your problem?" Teachers started hitting me regularly in the 3rd grade, by the 4th grade I was hitting back. "What the hell," I couldn't get in any more trouble than I already was. I was brilliant so I was protected. Unlike the guys who went to reform school for similar incidents it was always just a threat they used on me. I lived in hell, reform school was no threat.

When you feel bad about yourself all the time and someone gives you a drink or a drug and you feel good for the first time in your life, you're damn right I drank and took drugs.

When I was diagnosed with a tumor in my skull everything made sense. That's the reason I'm so weird! Three brain surguries later I'd lost that excuse but I still had the behavioral problems. Habits I thought. Seventeen years (16 sober), 8 shrinks, the loss of a wife and children later, and I still stand in wonder at the chaos I create unwittingly.

After 25 years of struggling with conforming in commercial broadcasting I thought I'd found refuge in returning to acting. At last my mind was free to wander, a terrific teacher gave me permission to fantasize, my life had emotionally crippled me and the prospect of spending my time in imaginary circumstances had a stronger appeal than any drug. I was at peace.& ;nbs p; After four years training I began to do what I loved most in the world, to teach and my problems began in ernest again.

I am forced to fix my attention on young actors struggling to learn a craft which was a greater struggle for me than it is for them. As I watch them I'm off in my daydreams about ice-fishing in Montana while hearing "Heart of My Heart" harmonizing in the back ground. When I finally switch back on (I notice that I'm staring blankly at an unused corner of the stage) I sense that my student's work was correct but I have no idea what just happened.

It's a terrible disservice to them, I have deep feelings of guilt which I cannot share with anyone.

One day I was off in my own private Idaho when a serious fight was happening in one of the exercises in class. I was only barely aware that it had happened. My students were so upset they complained to my teacher and owner of the school. I had forgotten about it until asked and then only recalled the incident as shadows, in black and white, no sense of the colors or textures of the experience. Because I didn't stop the exercise I lost the class's respect and I lost the class.

As little as I understand about ADHD, ADDS, etc., I could be describing a much more serious problem than this condition would explain but if it sounds familiar to the experts I would be so relieved to know my state is a medical condition and not just what I've always been told, by myself and others, that I'm a terrible human being. An arrogant asshole.

The way people see me must be that I care so little about anyone else that I don't pay attention, that the volitile way I react sometimes, out of adjustment with the problem before me, is because I think I'm better than they are, that the "poor judgment" I exhibit is just poor judgement and that it's just and earned that I spend all of my time alone and my only friend is a completely forgiving 4 year-old, Husky/Shep mix named, Lilly.

I gave up earlier this year, succumbing to the idea that I was just as an old girlfriend had described me, "Evil." That seems to have settled me down, surrendering to the notion that if I am evil, it would explain this lifetime of behavior and that I can be and must be satisfied by not messing up my life with other people.

If there is some fragment of reality to this estimable diagnosis, that I am ADHDDSODD and not evil as ascribed, I might be able to join the human race again.

My son Zachary has to go to the office for Ritalin at noon each day. The last couple of weeks a girl he likes has been selling tickets for a benefit, every lunch hour, at a desk in front of the office. He has missed his noon med's each of these days. He's embarrassed by his condition, can't let her know he's not perfect and I can't let him know he is perfect just the way he is. That his state is a condition of his existence and not a deformity, that he inherited from me, that it's not a punishment or a failure, would bring him a comfort I've never known.

I live in terror of what I will do next, however unwittingly and out of my control and what new chaos I will create from coming into contact with others.

My impulses are nearly always wrong and for an actor and a teacher of a real craft, who has to trust every impulse as being part of their talent, I am finally killing the last vestige of passion in myself. I'm forced to anticipate my impulses ... an impossible task. It's either that or remain alone and evil.