Several years ago, I traveled to Austria to see the homestead of my great grandfather, Christian Maas. I marveled at the skill of the current owner of the farm as he carefully maneuvered his tractor along the steep slopes of the farm to avoid tipping over. I wondered how my great grandparents managed to farm that same land without modern day machinery and conveniences.
While visiting I also inquired the reason why copies of birth certificates, etc. of my ancestors were labeled Austria when I was standing in land identified as Italy. A quick history lesson later, I learned the province of Sud Tirol, Austria, had been claimed by Italy following World War I. Christian Maas was indeed Austrian, but the posterity that followed was Italian.
Touring the surrounding area of the Italian Dolomite mountain range, complete with its hiking trails and ski resorts, took me through some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.
A Lost Village
As we descended to the lower valley along the shores of Lake Reschen, the peaceful, serene experience was interrupted by the shocking image of a 14th century church bell tower projecting upward in the middle of the lake.
After reading historical plaques along the lakeshore, I realized I was observing one of the travesties of war. The once thriving village of Graun had been submerged to make way for the man-made, 70-foot deep reservoir now known as Lake Reschen. More than 160 homes and about 1,200 acres of cultivated land were now underwater.
I tried to imagine the lives of those displaced by the reservoir; the amount of money they may have been offered for their land was scant compensation when compared to lost livelihoods, dreams and aspirations.
Where had the villagers gone? What did they now do? How had their lives changed? Was any of it for the better?
A Metaphor For My ADHD Life
Once, while reflecting on my European trip in the comfort of my home, I looked down at the ADHD book on my desk and thought how similar my life had been to the sunken village of Graun prior to my new self-awareness.
I may not have been overtaken by an opposing army, but the unknown enemy of ADHD had defeated me all-the-same. Being underwater is somewhat comparable to the constant feeling I had of being overwhelmed--living a life so demanding I knew it to be a Mission Impossible, or what I've come to know as ADHD Freeze.
Fear of failure, wanting to do things perfectly in order to disguise my flaws, overthinking the smallest detail, inattentiveness to teachers when the butterfly outside the window was much more interesting, limitless options to the smallest decision, lack of understanding by family and friends—I was indeed underwater.
"It all suggested to me I had little or no value."
I don’t know what happened to the villagers of Graun; I speculate they must have found a new perspective on life along with hope for their future. Gaging from my visit to the village closest to the sunken church bell tower, it appeared to me many had taken full advantage of this unexpected detour life had thrust upon them. Busy shops, businesses and restaurants now dotted the shoreline, suggesting the entrepreneurial spirit surfaced for many whose lives had to be reinvented.
An ADHD Perspective
As I reflected on this imagery, it impressed me I had undergone a similar transformation after having been diagnosed with ADHD. Anger at being identified by a label—one with a seemingly long list of negative, preconceived notions—eventually subsided as I gained an understanding of my real self. My ADHD brain might function differently, but I have talents and abilities unique to me. My newly emerged self-awareness allowed me see myself in a completely different light and I liked what I saw. I do have value and a lot to contribute.
I no longer feel ADHD overwhelmed and underwater. I can make decisions. My fear of failure has given way to a confidence I never knew I could have. Perfectionism, a self-defeating way of life, has yielded to the ability to take a chance, or risk at things I’d denied myself for years—even decades. On occasion I still struggle with inattentiveness, but I know how to combat this tendency and take delight in doing so. Not only have I learned to study, I can apply myself to a topic almost tirelessly—especially if the subject is one of great interest.
Like the villagers of Graun, I’ve found hope in my new ADHD life and I embrace it!
In fact, I've learned to own my ADHD.
Now, if I only knew where to find my keys!