This is the second image and blog post in my new series that is inspired by emotions or things that I’m struggling with and my way of understanding them in a visual way.
I’ve known that I have Attention Deficit Disorder for a long time but because I was never (and I’m still very much not) hyper, I didn’t realize that’s what it was. As a child growing up my younger brother was a hyperactive ball of energy, we used to call him the Tasmanian Devil because sometimes it did seem like he was a tornado of sound and movement and energy. That was my only exposure to attention problems, but I still knew that I was a bit different from everyone else. My mind would float in a dream world, flowing through make-believe stories or “could happens” or “might happens” and I would spend more time creating these fictional lives than I would spend living the one I had.
As I grew older I found myself disconnecting even more, finding my mind unable to focus on anything if there was music playing, if there was motion in the corner of my eye. Exams became stressful because the ticking of the clock would distract me, the movement of the shadows caused by the clouds covering the sun would pull my attention away from my school work. By the time I started working in the school system I recognized my attention problems for what they were but felt like I could manage them. And I did….sort of.
I spent a large part of my 20’s refusing to acknowledge in myself anything other than “that’s just how I am”. My messy desk and filing system of piling things up until they fell over was just how I was. My forgetful nature, daydreaming mind, lost keys and wallet, late paid bills, and clumsy large motor skills were all tell-tale signs of A.D.D. but I felt as though I knew enough about it to keep it from being a problem. But as time went on I started to realize that I was starting to become my own worst enemy in my fight for balance, organization, peace in my life.
My mind constantly feels like a million things at once, I feel as though I’m thinking 10 things at the same time, moving to each different thought and back again. My brother’s energy was a physical tornado of energy, mine is a mental one. When I finally got tested at age 29,the doctor asked how I planned on managing things. I knew what helped balance my overactive mind. Sleep helped give me the best foot forward, keeping my diet in check helped balance my mood, and running was my way of connecting everything together. Running was when I was able to turn my body to autopilot and let my mind fly through every thought that it could.
When I started to explain to people how I felt about being distracted, so many visuals came to mind. Having attention problems is more than just being like the dog from “Up”, it can be frustrating to not be able to type an email without the nagging urge to do 6 other things at the same time. It’s a struggle for me to remember to save receipts, to make deadlines, and to pay attention when people talk. I want to do all these things, but I feel as though it can be like running on a treadmill, I might be running fast but I’m not going anywhere.
One of the strongest visuals that came to mind was what inspired my image “Flutter”. To me, having Attention Deficit is like being in a room filled with butterflies of all different colours and sizes. Then you’re told to pick one, just one of them, and follow it around the room and memorize it. Imagine trying to track it with just your eyes as thousands of other butterflies flutter in and out of your view. Some of you may find it easy, some of us would find it incredibly difficult, but for me that’s exactly how I feel every day, a thousand thoughts and trying to hold onto one just long enough to know what it is.
For the image, I purchased a few packages of craft butterflies online, they’re wonderfully detailed and have magnets on the back which certainly help with keeping them in place! I did a quick photo in natural light in my bedroom, stringing the butterflies up with clear plastic thread and taking pictures of them from all different angles and perspectives. To me, I wanted it to be a simple photo that told more in its honesty than in its complexity.
Joel, I am just beginning to learn about ADD & ADHD as I wait (impatiently) for the professionals to follow up with all the necessary assessments for my child. Your description really explains a lot as I struggle to understand why my very smart, loving boy is failing socially and at school. Frustration is served up in a deep dish to everybody including this little man. Ironically the teacher who initiated the assessment is the most unsupportive when he is disruptive, probably because she’s tired. I’m so glad you found a way to embrace what is a natural part of what makes you unique and have the courage to share this with others. My child is too young to express what he’s dealing with – you have helped him already by helping me to understand.
Joel, this is so beautiful! Both the images and the post. I don’t have ADD or ADHD but one of my sons does, so I have had indirect experience with the frustration incurred. You are such a wonderful inspiration! XOXO
Thank you Thank you Thank you… This is just the way I feel all the time. At least I know now, that I am not alone.
I came across your work through facebook and since then I am a big fan of yours (i am aware of it, may be u r not). I think u will recognise me as we had few conversation on fb messenger. I dont kno if its true or not but I really feel a connection with u and ur work as I think we both have same turbulence in our mind. On my part, I always failed to potrait it and when I see ur images I feel my minds turbulence getting relaxed. I am a day dreamer and a writer too. I write poems. I love photography too. I always wish to meet u someday and talk to u. I hope to learn from u and be a good friend of yours,