Giving makes me happier than receiving, and it's time I released the past and connect: Image courtesy of Master images at Freedigitalphotos.com
When I was in Primary School, I am told, for I don’t personally remember that I was quite anxious that I was not capable of the work that was required at that age - I was 5 when this started, grade one. I certainly don’t remember anyone ‘pushing me’ or putting any pressure on me. And the fact was, it was Grade One!
As it turned out, I started reading before I went to school, and particularly with English (not so much with mathematics) I had little difficulty reading and spelling.
As I got older- I think this started in Grade 3, I recall that I attended to very little of what the teacher was saying. This was not on purpose: it was not due to purposeful naughtiness, or perverseness. I don’t think I was even aware that I wasn’t aware in class – except for perhaps reading, which came naturally to me.
I still recall my Grade 3 teacher being very angry when, in October, I was asked a question which revealed I hadn’t grasped the very basic concepts of graphing, which we had worked on throughout the year, and was introduced to us in the first month. I remember feeling shame. However, despite this, throughout primary school, I did very well, achieving As and Bs.
I have just realised this article is drifting toward a piece concerning ability to pay attention (and I have been diagnosed with ADHD) which wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 25, because with an overall position of 4, despite little work it was not blaringly obvious that I had some kind of learning difficulty.
It is the ‘little work’ that I wanted to discuss.
The conscientiousness manifested as anxiety to be competent in Grade One waned as difficulties with paying attention made it hard for my desire to do well (which has always been present to a high degree) to be fulfilled.
During high school, I certainly did not work as hard as I could have. Again, I desired to do well. I first became extremely depressed during high school. I was severely bullied and unhappiness underlaid my lack of motivation.
During my first 2 university degrees, I was happier – I found it easy to make friends, and unlike the present when I have returned as a mature age student, but without going into issues of blame the degrees I completed were not my choice, and I was not allowed to do what I wanted to do – psychology. I achieved 4s and 5s – average grades. I achieved a grade of 7 in Psychology – because I loved it – it was a subject that was incorporated into my studies for ancillary studies were allowed.
However, upon completion of my Pharmacy degree, because of very little experience, and untreated Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) I was actually sacked – fortunately dispensing was checked by the main pharmacist. However, I was told, correctly, that ‘there were no room for mistakes in pharmacy’ and I lost my job. I recall that I put everything into what I did, it was completely unintentional.
However, at the same time, I remember reading a book about ADD. Again, I am digressing, this article is actually intended to discuss workaholism. So, I will cut straight to the point – I was prescribed stimulant medication. To discuss the effects of the medication succinctly: it was a miracle. No silly mistakes (or a very acceptable level). I could read novels. I could listen to what people were saying.
I began to enjoy learning, and all the other effects that the medication facilitated. For the first time, I was reaching my potential. Oh, if only it had been detected early. But because of a high IQ, the compensation that incurred made it hard to detect.
Again, without going into issues of blame – every parent I believe does the very best they can. My mother loved me immensely. Children are rewarded for ‘good’ behaviour, and punished for ‘naughty; behaviour. I don’t recall rewards and punishments in any other area but I do recall it vividly for academic achievement.
So, suddenly, doing well meant I was ‘okay’.
To complicate the picture, I have a tendency for addictive behaviour. The medication used to treat ADD in itself is addictive – it is almost like an amphetamine. As this also treated my depression (which I believe still existed as I saw myself inadequate – my reasons for being bullied at school included ‘being too quiet’). I have this personality that is extremely extroverted at times. When I am aware that I am quiet, I suddenly feel the urge to start talking. I perceive this with fear of rejection. However, lately I have been told I am too talkative, thus I resort to my ‘true self’.
This again is another issue: who is our ‘true selves’? Is it innate, a matter of nature, or nurture, what is reinforced and punished. I believe I was naturally quiet as a child. However, my father dying at 5 meant mum had to go out and work. My play mate was my brother. I recall it difficult to make friends at school. I thought there was something wrong with me. People said there was ‘nothing’ wrong with me. However, immaturely I recall things like always not being thrown the ball when I was deemed competent enough to make the team. Comments I made were often overlooked.
So there was another factor at play for my basis for self-esteem being based on achievement. Now I was being treated for ADHD it was possible. It didn’t involve other people – there was no risk of rejection. Importantly, it was something I could control.
Finally, I will come to the point of this essay. I am partly writing it because I wonder whether the process of how it emerged will help me learn where it came from, and most importantly what I can do so that other values I have can surface.
While I have been doing my psychology degree, and when my mental health is good, my priority is study. It was reinforced when I was young, it is something that I can control, and doing well makes me feel like I am an okay person.
What are my other interests? Very boringly, I have to say, I love Zumba. Zumba has been a blessing – it is an exercise class that is actually extremely fun – there are opportunities to meet people. I can be friendly. I am still fearful of becoming very close to anyone there in case I am rejected. However, it has brought some balance into my life.
I love reading. I recall mum used to say proudly “she loves reading” and thus it was reinforced. I also did enjoy it. It was something that I reached out for. My mother nurtured my love of reading. It is a solitary activity, and again, no social interaction means there is no risk for hurt.
I love cats – not just because they won’t reject me, but I think the safety factor means I probably interact more with my pet than anything else.
However, I am trying to find myself developing and possessing the skills necessary for employment. I did pharmacy for a while. However, when an opportunity for writing for a magazine came, workaholism actually played a large role in this not being continued. I would write, and have to re-write it, until it was exactly right. If I stopped at good enough, where else could I find positive reinforcement?
Of course, children and adolescents can be cruel. Of course, it is silly and unproductive of me to believe that adults behave the same way. I have lovely neighbours who have reached out to me, who have not hurt me, and wanted to spend time with me, no strings attached. I have also met ladies at Zumba who have also demonstrated the same unconditional friendship. I have a very special friend I go to uni with, that I can really relate to, and who is also unconditional.
I do suffer depression, and I have been told ‘if you cry around me again that’s the last time I will see you.’ I have been told ‘you just don’t do it’. I have been told ‘You’re not much fun when you are depressed.’ When I am depressed I become quiet. I still remember, and I acknowledge immaturely, the high school ‘the reason people hate you is because you’re so quiet.’ Hate. It’s a strong word. So I feel around people I need to be happy and talkative.
However, the special people mentioned earlier have not pressured me to be happy or talkative. My fear of rejection is improving. My lack of socialising to a greater degree and of taking up further interests is in an area I can control which I intend to do.
I have to start reinforcing myself. If I keep relying on external, superficial measures such as grades to tell me I am okay, then I will stay stuck. And at the end of the day, a grade of 6 or 7 doesn’t mean I’m worthwhile. If I give unconditionally, help make others happy, then that is contributing. Workaholism for me is a weakness (I am not saying it is for others – it’s probably praise-worthy conscientiousness) – it’s safe, it’s something I can control, and I feel good about myself.
I have to say I have been offered opportunities to do volunteer work, to give of myself to others. I remember that I had tried very hard, gave it my best, but got told off because I categorised things the wrong way.
So, I am not going to feel sorry for myself anymore. “Giveaholism” is something that I need to embrace. And I am not a child. I need to reinforce myself. And when somebody tells me that something I did helped them, I feel surprised, it’s refreshing. Giving makes me happier, I have found that, and I need to forget
-stop overanalysing and staying in my head
-being brave and going up and talking to another person – about them. Not about myself. I did this the other day in Zumba, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be.
-realise that everyone is scared to some degree. We’ve all been hurt, rejected, felt we’re okay conditionally at some point. I’m no different to anyone else.
The expectations there are there because I put them on myself
When I am 80 I don’t want to say “I have 3 university degrees, and read 1000 books. I’d rather say. I gave with my heart.
I am me. I can’t change me. If someone likes me, that’s okay, but people don’t have to like me. Not everyone likes everyone.
So, today I am going to make a promise to myself – to forget about myself and give….