What it’s like to live with ADD as a Hasidic woman

What it’s like to live with ADD as a Hasidic woman

UPDATE: In a few weeks time, I will try medication as the psychiatrist believes it might help. Edited to add that EFD is not recognized in my country so for now my condition is as described below without a name attached to it.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 8. After reading about it I was sure I suffer from it too. The symptoms were all too familiar to me. The forgetfulness, the being overwhelmed by every little thing, the brain fog, the starting of projects that never get finished, the absolute impossibility of doing something I hate, like housework and so on.

After his diagnosis I decided the time has come for me to get tested too. I was actually excited to start the process and was dreaming of being diagnosed and prescribed Ritalin and suddenly becoming superwoman. Ha!

The process took a few weeks as it was a multidisciplinary testing. I gave my history, they checked my IQ (No, I’m not telling you how high/low it was ;)) and other testing…  I went in for my results all ready to hear about my ADD diagnosis and lo and behold they had something entirely different to tell me. I was told I have something called Executive functioning disorder.  Essentially, if our brains are like buckets, mine is smaller than the regular person’s. So when you take all the stimulus and you put it in there, my brain gets full much quicker, hence the overwhelmed feeling. And sadly, there is no medication for it. You just have to live with your limitations.

what it's like to live with..

Imagine having a child with the same problem. You, the adult, need to make him charts, think FOR him, remember FOR him while you can NOT do these things for yourself. Yes, it’s chaos, exactly like you would imagine. I’m able to keep up the charts for a  week, then we go back to regular, same old routines.

Imagine that thinking what to cook for supper is like solving a complex math puzzle. It’s a real struggle. If you tell me what to cook, it’s much easier.

Then again, let’s not even start with the cooking itself. It may sound crazy to you but when I think of cooking a meal it’s not just making soup and rice and chicken nuggets. It’s soup: Taking all the vegetables,  peeling and cutting them and then cooking and mixing. For me that’s four steps and that’s for soup only. Then I’m thinking rice. That’s peeling onions, frying them, adding rice and cooking. Then the chicken cutlets? Too many steps to even think about. It becomes so overwhelming to only think of all the steps I have to do that I become paralyzed. And that’s just the cooking. I think G-d knew what he was doing when He gave me a husband that cooks.

Imagine being a Hasidic woman who has to prepare two sabbath meals every week with such a condition. A Sabbath meal consists of many courses: Fish, chicken soup with noodles and matzo balls, chicken, farfel and potato kugel and salads plus dessert. We prepare this every week and that’s only the Friday night meal. By day there are fewer cooked foods but it’s still a multi-course meal. I cannot even begin to think of how to prepare all that weekly, so there comes the husband to the rescue again. Let’s not even talk about all the Jewish holidays that are filled with meals upon meals.

Imagine the feeling of failure as I go through life failing at one of the most important ideals in Jewish culture-that of being a homemaker capable of putting nutritious food into the bodies of our offspring in order to nurture their physical and spiritual growth. And to be able to cook for the holidays and host guests too.

Imagine the feeling of shame as I cannot offer home-cooked meals to my friends who have had babies or have a sick child in the hospital. Our nation is known for its acts of kindness for which I cannot contribute. It doesn’t help my self-esteem.

While it does sound a lot like ADD,  people with ADD have the option of medication, which can help put their life together a little bit. For my condition, medication will not make a difference.

By writing this, I hope to raise awareness of this little-known condition. I have some friends who consider me lazy and I’m sure many other people who suffer from this condition are perceived as such too. It’s a pity because as my friends can attest, I am not my condition. I may have many weaknesses but I have many strengths too.

While I cannot manage a household very well I can give plenty of emotional and loving support to my children. I have a very strong emotional IQ and I am a great listener who can advise many of my friends. I help my friends who have problems with their electronic devices and computers. EFD doesn’t define me.

If only one person changes their opinion of their spouse/friend/child and sees beyond the word “lazy” – maybe even identifies EFD- I have achieved what I wanted by writing my painful truth.

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