Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Testimony of How God Helped Me See A.D.H.D Has A Gift (Part 1)

If I was to ask you to paint a picture of what my life was like growing up and I told you I have learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyper Active Disorder, how would you paint the picture of my life?  Would you say that I got into trouble all the time, that I was an unfocused daydreamer who could not sit still and that I forgot and lost things all the time?  You probably would have thought that I wasn't that bright in school since I mentioned the words learning and disability in the same sentence. I bet the picture would include me having some sort of drug addiction or alcohol addiction. Maybe the picture could have even included me probably growing out of ADHD like it was some kind of phase in my life. It's a challenge to tell my testimony without mentioning how God helped me take my proverbial thorn in the side and see it as a gift. However, I have done a great job of avoiding the subject because I'm afraid that doors will be closed and the picture mentioned above will win out over my testimony. I hide the disorders like they are some kind of dirty secrets to be locked away. Recently, Christ has invaded this part of my life and told me to share my testimony. Christ has always been my trusted guide throughout this life, so I will leave this testimony in His capable hands.

After mentioning how I thought most people would paint my life, let's see how close my life matches up with society's depiction. Being a daydreamer is something I cannot deny, I had, and still have, a lively imagination. My parents have always told me that when I was little I could play with anything and be satisfied. Everything from a blade of grass to a cardboard box. The bad part about daydreaming and having an active imagination is that you live too much inside your own head.  Sometimes, I liked the reality I created inside my head more than I liked the reality outside of my head. I hated having to limit myself by focusing on school work, I could not wait to get home and do what I really wanted to do and that was to lose myself in my imagination.  Often this excluded playing with other children unless it was someone I knew like my neighbors, brother, or cousins.  A.D.H.D has a tendency to make you socially awkward because your mind and impulses have such a big influence over you that sometimes uncensored thoughts are shared that are normally restrained. I was often the source of entertainment for students because I was known as the kid who would say anything. This made me the class clown but the laugh was often at my expense. My mouth would always be getting me into trouble, which made students laugh but not the teachers.

Throughout my school years, I was in and out of Special Ed. classrooms. I would spend part of my time in a normal classroom setting in the subjects that I could keep up with the regular students and then go to special ed.. class for math and reading. I was always told that I was just as smart as other students, it just took me  longer to process information in some subjects. Having A.D.H.D did not make learning easy for me, especially when my brain can go into daydream mode without warning, which meant that whatever the teacher was saying was not being heard. This kind of daydreaming is like having a blackout moment and then finding yourself  coming back to reality only to find you missed out on an important conversation or lesson. I would usually do the best in classes that I could study the text book at home and learn what I missed in class. Having to work against a brain chemistry that was not wired for a long period of focusing, made me work harder than most students to do well in school.  I also tackled school life without the help of A.D.H.D medications like Ritalin. Mom thought that the medication made me space out too much and turned me into a zombie. This thought was actually positive for me because I became more resourceful at figuring out how to deal with A.D.H.D. Home life could also be a challenge at times because I was prone to break things and misplace my farther's tools. I was also bad for grieving mom about keeping my room clean.

Most of the time, I was the very opposite of someone who has  A.D.H.D with behavioral problems.  I hardly ever got into fights. I was quiet in most settings, if the people in the room were not familiar to me.  Most of the time I was shy, and I got bullied a lot which made me hate any situation where I thought that was the potential that someone could pick on me. I was kicked, punched, verbally abused, and picked on because I went to special ed classes. Kids don't know that the abuse from bullying can last a lifetime. I can still remember wounds being inflicted like it's yesterday. One of my most painful wounds came from some kids in class telling me that LD (Learning Disabilities) stood for local dummy. I even hated the boy scouts because kids would often throw rocks at me. Deal weed was a  favorite name they liked to call me because my last name is Deal, and I daydreamed a lot which made some people think I looked high.

The two places of safety where I knew I would not get teased was at home with my family and at church. I have been going to church ever since I was little. Believing in Christ was not a struggle to me. My active imagination often translated into having little difficulties with faith. I used to imagine that Jesus sat beside me on the school bus. I can always remember talking to God as if he were standing right beside me. I started my relationship with Christ at the age of seven after watching a Billy Graham movie called A Man Named Norman. I remember the characters in the movie saying a prayer to ask Jesus into their lives, and I repeated the prayer with the characters.  Later on, God spoke to me while I was walking down my aunt's driveway and told me that it was time to make public my decision to make Jesus Lord of my life. That Easter, I was baptized at North Catawba Baptist Church. I remember naively thinking that day that my journey with Jesus started after I came up out of the baptismal waters. I thought that I would never sin again the rest of my life.The litmus test for determining whether or not my idea of the Christian life would checkout is whether or not I picked on my brother. Needless to say, I failed the test miserably. Staying focused in church was always a challenge for me, especially when I started to think about all the things I wanted to do when I got home. I had a very sporadic relationship with Christ. I would feel like I was growing as a Christian every time the Church would have a revival or when I heard an inspirational song.  My relationship with Christ however, did not grow very much until after my senior year of high school.

During my senior of high school, I started to make more friends, and I was getting into sports. I remember thinking more about the meaning of life during this time. My mind as always processed an overload of information. I have a tendency to take apart and analyze just about everything. My wife is always annoyed  that I analyze movies and give away the plot. One person described A.D.D this way: if you went to a football game you would notice the game being played and the players. The individual with A.D.D would notice the sounds going on, the vendors going back and forth, the images moving across the score board, and the game being played, all at the same time.  I was excited during this year to graduate high school and finally gain my independence. The picture of adulthood for me always included me finally getting respect and being treated as a capable adult. Because of my sometimes slow reacting mind, I often did things very slowly and often people would take over whatever project I had started. They often would ask why I would pick the hard way of doing something. Therefore, I would spend a lot of time daydreaming of the day people would let me do life on my own.

During Christmas of my senior year, my mom got me a brand new Bible. This Bible had all kinds of features like a dictionary, devotionals and commentary. With a new Bible in hand, I decided to read the entire Bible for the first time. I loved the idea of taking on a new venture and growing in my understanding of God. This process was like flipping on a spiritual light switch in my life. My relationship with Christ increased with my desire to get to know Him more. A daily quiet time with God became the highlight of my day. At this time in my life, I also began college to study Horticulture (a form of plant science). At community college, I started attending a group called Students for Christ. This group of people showed me how authentic Christians acted. They hung out together, did Bible study, and respected me. Finally, I was getting respect and God was giving me a deep sense of self worth. Thus, began the process of God making me into a more outgoing person. God was starting to encourage me  to minister and share the Gospel. Church also became a richer and deeper experience. Instead of struggling to focus during church, I started to look forward to Sundays. A few years later I became a deacon at North Catawba and started going on mission trips.

In 2000, I graduated college with an Associates degree in Horticulture. This degree enabled me to get a job managing a greenhouse which served as a therapy tool for people with developmental disabilities. This job started a new passion in my life of ministering to people with developmental disabilities.

Part two of my testimony will tell how God called me into full time ministry and took me on the adventure of going to back to school at 29 years old and getting married. I will conclude with telling how God has given me control over ADHD and allowed me to see it has a gift.

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