THAT’S What’s Wrong With Me

As a child, I was messy. My room was messy, my work was messy, my desk was messy, and I was just messy. I was written off as a slob. This was 1977. I never paid attention. Instead of focusing in school, I laughed at my fellow kindergartners. My mother was a room-mother and helped with some testing, and well I didn’t do too well with something, which upset her, because as a teacher I was a reflection on her and me laughing at a classmate and having fun was something bothered her deeply. I was held back that following year. Reading Readiness, which caused me teasing among friends. “It’s not real first grade. You are stupid…” So, I spent my “room to grow year” looking at little letters in shapes of fish, kites, and so much more. You thought that would “fix” me, but first grade was a series of not getting my work done, daydreaming and just not catching on. Imagine the humiliation my mother felt? She came in to “observe” and saw there was no structure, but STILL I disappointed her when I had to meet with the psychometrist and there was a deep seeded disappointment in me. She had my hair cut because she thought that would fix me, but I looked like Dumbo and was made fun even further. First and second grade were years where I missed a lot of recess because I didn’t get things done. It was okay though. At least I didn’t get picked on. Third grade, I did get my work done, but I lived in my head where I was smart, could do gymnastics, and I had friends. I was the “weird” kid. I either didn’t talk or it was a mile a minute. I wasn’t invited at a lot of people’s tables. I loved living in my head where I wasn’t made fun of and people liked me. Mother decided to get me the strictest teacher possible in fourth grade, but she couldn’t get me out of my head. She even said, “Those D’s would be F’s if I didn’t try harder.” I did. I just didn’t like school and her hard stooled ways of teaching didn’t scare me. So, in fifth grade I became withdraw and had to see the psychometrist AGAIN. I was just one of those people who couldn’t complete tasks in one sitting and I needed many breaks. Should have been pointed out as ADHD… However, it was not.

Middle school was great, at first. It was fun to change classes, but soon it started to not be as great when I was put in the lowest math group. Math was a sore subject to me and at home it was always a lot of crying and fighting. So, when I was adding two digit numbers, THAT was another blow to my mom, who announced to my family that I was in the “DUMB” math class. By this time shame was the name of the game. If they wanted me to do better, shaming me to do better was the key! However, my dumbness cost me socially. My friends who were in Horizons all started seeing I was “stupid” and I got kicked from my table and sat with the infamous rejects because I was not smart enough. I got my first (and only two F’s) on my report card because someone was more interesting than turning in my spelling on time or learning the concept of multiplying decimals… Teachers didn’t see my homework and say “Hey, there’s something wrong”, it was fail her or “pass her with a D- because it’s the thing to do.” I just didn’t like to do my homework because taping a song on the radio or writing a poem was more interesting. So, I muddled through, teetering on the edge of special ed… However, I did have GREAT high school math teacher who made it fun and I got an A in the class. Honor Roll was tough for me. It took me ALL year to get on the B. My second to last semester, eighth grade. High school was much of the same, but the classes “segregated us” and I got a D in Sophomore English, and the teacher told me, “Wouldn’t you feel better in a General class? I think General English would help you?” Well the thing was, I knew my work, I am a great writer, but I just don’t like to study when I get home. It’s more fun to look at my yearbook or write in the slam book than write about Shakespeare, and much to the teacher’s chagrin, I stayed in the class. I worked hard for my B’s, classes were just too hard, and then there was college.

College was fun. It was the first time away from mom and dad and I took a liking to the social aspect of college. I wasn’t like the other girls in my dorm. I never studies as reading about History was really boring. I knew it, but not like the book I was supposed to read did. I got C’s. Girls shamed me about never studying. I tried. I just could not absorb what I read and I zoned out in lectures one time too many… I barely passed. I got a 2.13, a stunning graduation gpa in my family of overachievers. That was fodder for years.

I did a good job at work. I worked at Taco Bell for years, until friends said, “Aren’t you embarrassed about being in fast food?” Honestly, I felt tired of being called stupid and being labeled as stupid, so I became a waitress. In all honesty, I sucked. Fast food was that. Fast. Serving was hard because I had to wait on tables, get orders, fill drinks, and make sure the customers were happy. Oh, and make sure that salad bar was filled, but there were times I “forgot” customers and my manager would say, “Helen, table of five” and I would not hear him, and it wasn’t a place to get lost in your thoughts. Being a waitress one has to be ON and I rarely was. I was the worst waitress and it took so much out of me to try to even be mediocre. Then I resented those servers who were naturals, the ones who never missed a refill or “forgot” a table, as it seemed, even as a veteran server I was always “in the weeds”. I was angry at Tammy as she did everything right and deeply hated her because she’d call me on it. I didn’t want her to see me as the failure I was. I wasn’t a failure. I was in the wrong career. I had sections limited, tables limited, and just treated a little differently. I had horrible reviews from really bad to “you try so hard and you get an E for effort, but you are not really server material.” Being nice had its perks, but really, serving was not the career for me. I just didn’t have the mental capacity to do the job and do it well.

As a government worker I did well in one office because it was interesting to me. I was a top performer there. However, in others the work was hard and boring, and by then I was looking at my live journal between breaks and being told by fellow elljayers, “Hey, don’t do that at work”. which made me defensive. Hey, I knew I was doing wrong, I was just so bored and bank balancing was not my cup of tea. I finally got a good gig, but I barely listened during training, and that cost me. I ruined the financial system and that had to be repaired. I ruined a filings system as well. The reports which looked so nice were dog eared and I was always told, “Write neater”, “get it together”, “quit talking all of the time”, and really messing payroll up where I should have been let go. I made grave errors due to my carelessness. However, I was not caught… yet. A new elected official came to office and I blamed the former official saying, “Oh she was senile so she forgot.” It was easier to place the blame on them. “Oh the girl who showed me how to balance the bank statements was all wrong and she told me wrong,” I would day. Well, I got that taken from me and I was pissed. How dare they? A lot got taken from me because it was too tedious and I ramrodded through it so I could get it out of the way. Then there was the social media. Some days I had long facebook conversations with people rather than the task at hand. I didn’t want to do it, so I got behind. Plus, there was something soothing about looking at a friend’s page rather than writing checks.

Then I was a personal assistant and I was with someone who was VERY OCD, someone who demanded the right answer, and didn’t appreciate my “weird” answers, which were answers wrapped in excuses and we just did not work well together. She wanted that answer now and she didn’t understand my train of thought which made her madder. In the end, I ended up working for someone else who was a lot more sympathetic to my situations and it was nice not having angry texts of “I am not getting what you are saying? What are you trying to say? You need to communicate better.”

Deep down, I always wanted to be the good student, but I was so busy looking out the window. I always wanted to be the good daughter who made their parents proud as well. I wanted to be more than this mess of ADHD… However, I now know and know the steps of fixing this and working with this.


I like to do journal prompts and you should, too. Picking various ones and doing them towards my own healing….

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Helen VanPatterson-Patton

I like to do journal prompts and you should, too. Picking various ones and doing them towards my own healing….