A day in the life with adhd at acting school

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A mash-up of all the worst parts of my acting school journey with ADHD.

Submitted: January 12, 2018

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Submitted: January 12, 2018

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(A mash-up of all my worst mistakes through my Acting School journey).

 

7:34am. I've woken up late, again. I couldn't sleep last night, my mind was too active to allow me to sleep as usual... I jump in the shower, rush to get ready, and ask my parents for a lift because otherwise I'd have no chance getting there in time by walking... My acting school have a rule: if you're a second later than 8am, then you're not allowed in for the day, unless you phone in and let them know in advance. Makes sense, they're preparing us for the real world. I phone them, "Hi, sorry just stuck in traffic but will be there soon!"... I get a bollocking about how I'm 20 years old and shouldn't be relying on my mum to give me a lift into college. They're right, of course, I just wish I wasn't always late... What even is time? 

In retrospect, I'm glad I was late and had to get lifts with my mum. It's funny how things work out. Little did I know that by the end of my third year I'd be staring at my mum's corpse in the hospital, at 5.30pm, having only just made it by the skin of my teeth (yet again) to watch her pass away from Cancer. Anyway that's another story...

I thank my mum for the lift and go in at 8:01... If only I were a single minute quicker... 

I walk into warm up late. Everyone is looking at me... Surely they should be used to it by now? I know I am.

1st lesson - Ballet. Not my favourite sport in the world but at least it'll strengthen... Shit, where are my ballet shoes? Are you fucking kidding me? I could've sworn I put them in.. Wait, no, I'm thinking really hard. I didn't pack them. Great. 

I go and explain to the teacher I've forgotten my ballet shoes. She tells me I can't be in her lesson. I guess I deserve it. Everyone is looking at me again... No doubt they'll ask about that later. 

So I sit outside and watch in through the window. I mean, It's not my favourite class in the world but damn I am bored.

Okay, onto the next class - voice work! I go in, monologue to hand ready to try my best, as this is one of my favourite classes... 

"Today we'll be working off-text. Who can go first... Ah, Luke!"

Are you shitting me. Why me? Why?! I've tried so hard to learn this fucking thing and it just won't stick in my head.

"uhh... I haven't managed to learn it yet". 

The teacher gives me that look as if to say "oh come on. It's not that hard". You're right, it shouldn't be that hard... Why can't I learn this? It shouldn't be that fucking hard. 

I can see people whispering to each other and sniggering... I know, my brain is messed up. Why can't I get normal things complete like this?

Next, Jazz. Finally I can relax, I don't need any preparation for this class, hopefully I won't fuck it up!

About half way through the lesson the teacher starts to talk about a specific move. I wonder what I'll eat for lunch later? Maybe a panini? Not sure if I'll have enough money for the meal deal but hopefully I...

"LUKE. Why are your arms folded?"

I look at my arms and realise, indeed, that they are folded.

"You look lazy and like you don't want to be in this class"

Why did my mind wander like that?! I was really enjoying this class, I don't want to come across as though I'm not! I try to think of an excuse, something that won't upset the teacher...

"Sorry, I didn't mean to look lazy, I was just feeling cold."

"Cold? COLD? We're dancing, you're meant to be warm!"

I have 0% idea of what is going on in reality right now, my daydream was nicer...

"Tell you what, let's warm you up! Run down to the train station and back. And to prove you went there, grab a leaflet or something".

Great. Now I'm missing out on the class. If only my brain could stay in the room... "Run down to the train station"? I don't want to run now, I feel so demotivated and it's all my fault as well.

I walk out of the building and look across the road to see the local library... That'll do.

I walk into the library and pick up a leaflet, and I start to browse the books. I pick up the first book I see with an interesting design and start to read. How to make paper origami... Great. This'll do for now. 

10 minutes later I put the book back and walk across the road and back into the class.

"The train station is only a 10 minute return run Luke, why did it take you 45 minutes?!"

45 minutes? What? I look at the clock and she is correct... That's strange, I could've sworn it was only 10...

"Did you even go to the train station?"

I hold up the leaflet, she grabs it from me.

"Oooh, they have some cool events going on this summer! An arts and crafts for kids day! Sounds right up your street Luke!". Everyone laughs. Ironically, maybe learning to make an origami swan could come in useful...

I feel patronised, but almost feel as though I deserve it. 

Lunch time. Finally a break... Now who should I sit with? I scan the room, and see various groups sat together... Nope, they all hate me. I know they do. They give me looks and snigger at me. I'm 'lazy' and 'careless', and I have a bad attitude in class... I feel embarrassed. Ashamed. I'm not a bad person... Am I? Or maybe I am...? I can't seem to get anything right. I tried, I really did, I don't understand why this is happening to me... My brain is just messed up and my reality is so confusing, why don't the two seem to match up?! I sit alone and hope no one notices.

Next lesson, song and dance with my entire year. Okay I'm determined not to get this one wrong. I get ready early and go to the class. On time, YES. Things go well until midway through the lesson we're given a 10 minute break.

"Oh Luke, can you go and get the hats from the office?"

"Of course". Not like I really need a break anyway, and I can't fuck this one up.

After bringing down the hats, I realise that I'm desperate for the loo. I run and quickly relieve myself. I walk into the class... Except everyone is already stood in position and staring at me. Shit.

"Luke, why are you late?"

"I was on the toilet". My cheeks must be glowing brighter than the sun by this point I'm so embarrassed. 

She turns to the class. "What do we think guys? Should we let him join the class?"

"... Well, we can't really have rules for some people and not for others".

"Yeah but in all fairness..."

Suddenly my year splits into two and they start debating whether I should be allowed to stay in the class. Before I know it my feet have already started moving and I'm out the building. I can't take it. It's just another fuck up, as always. Maybe I should've told someone. Or should've just kept it in. Or not got the hats... Either way, if anyone in my year didn't hate me by this point, they certainly do now.

Next I have a free period, great! I can work on... Oh shit. I left my phone in that room... For fuck's sake.

I walk down the stairs and to my satisfaction, it's a different teacher using that room now. Thank fuck. I knock on the door.

"Hi Miss, sorry I left my phone in here. Could I grab it quickly? I need it to practice my song."

"No. Get it at the end of my class."

"But it's right there..." I point. It's less than 2 meters from the door.

"No. Leave."

I mean, it's right there within arms length?

"LUKE, HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT ME".

"I'm sorry!"

I run.

Shit, I probably shouldn't have done that. But what else is a gal supposed to do? I would be in even more shit if I don't learn this song... I feel like my options are be in trouble, or be in trouble. If there were any other options, by brain was sure to have missed it.

A little while later the vice principal walks up to me:

"Luke, a word please". 

Great.

I get pulled into the office. 

"You do realise you undermined her in front of all her students? You can see why she's upset?"

I guess she's old school, and I did disrespect her. I know it was my own fault for leaving it in the classroom. But what's the use? I'll get shouted at or told off at some point anyway, so I may as well take my chances. What even is and isn't my fault? I can't even tell anymore. 

"I'm sorry, I'll be more considerate next time."

I'm going to get kicked out of college, aren't I? There's probably not much point in trying anymore. I just don't get it. Why do these things happen? They must be my own fault, it just doesn't make any sense. Why can't I get it right? No matter how hard I try, I physically can't do it. I feel as though I have no sense of reality anymore, I can't foresee anything and everything I do just seems to have a negative impact on me

Last lesson, thank fuck. Body conditioning. Difficult, but as is life...

I push myself. Hard. It feels good to give something my all. For once I didn't fuck up! I stand there at the end, beaming with pride. 

"Luke, you're lazy."

"... Excuse me?"

The pride vanishes and shame fills me up. What did I do wrong?! I did it all correctly and I worked so hard this time... At least that's how it feels. But by this point I should know that what's in my head and what's real are two very different things.

"Everyone else came and did an extra body conditioning lesson during their free period whereas you did not."

I scan the room. This was one of the groups sat together at lunch... They must've planned it then. I should've sat with my year, then I would've perhaps been included in this plan... But I felt like an outcast. It's no-one else's fault, I just should've kept on top of things.

"You're lazy. Ignorant. You have no respect for yourself. You're going to get nowhere..."

As she talks, I pick up my things and move towards the door.

"LUKE. I haven't said you can leave yet!"

"I think I better leave before I say something out of line". I just don't want to make things worse...

I walk upstairs. I fucked up, again, why does this keep happening to me?

She follows me up.

"You are so rude, how dare you walk away like that"

"I felt you were rude and I was upset" (why am I defending myself?! I was the one in the wrong!) "I think it best we agree to disagree". I leave.

I get home and lock myself in my room. I just want some time alone, where noone can judge me, or stare at me...

I better get on learning that monologue... Except I realise I left it at the college. Great.

My friend Ben messages me, "you ok mate?"

"Yeah, long day but I'll be fine"

"Honestly mate I don't know how you do it"

"Do what?"

"How do you cope?"

You want the honest answer? 

I'm used to it. 

I expect it.

I expect myself to forget things.

I expect myself to be shouted at.

I expect myself to fuck up, daily. 

 

I should probably introduce myself at this point. My name is Luke, and I have ADHD. I didn't know I had it at the time. In retrospect, it makes so much fucking sense. If only I knew back then. 

The main symptoms of ADHD include the following: 

Short attention span:
- poor listening skills
- difficulty focussing 
- distractibility/ wandering attention 
- struggling to complete simple tasks 
- spacing out 
- hyperfocus


Disorganisation/ Forgetfulness 
- chronic lateness 
- poor organisation
- tendency to procrastinate 
- constantly misplacing/ losing items
- difficulties starting/ finishing projects 
- underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a task
- frequently forgetting appointments, deadlines and commitments 

Impulsivity:
- poor self control
- frequently interrupting or talking over others 
- difficulties behaving in socially appropriate ways 
- blurting out thoughts that are inappropriate or rude without thinking 
- acting spontaneously or recklessly without regard for the consequences 

Hyperactivity:
- racing thoughts
- excessive talking 
- craving excitement
- becoming bored easily 
- tendency to take risks
- feelings of restlessness and agitation
- difficulties with sitting still or fidgeting 
- attempting to do a million things at once 

Notice a trend?

ADHD is a disorder where the frontal lobe of the brain is not as active as normal people. The frontal lobe could perhaps be described as our consciousness - the part that makes decisions, filters through information and stores it, and keeps a track of time. Very difficult for people with ADHD to do these 'normal' things. I have often felt as though I am 'unconscious' most of the time, hence the daydreamer label. 

The story I described above is perhaps all of my worst days blended into one. The honest truth is that all of those events were my own fault. But they also weren't. You see, it's difficult to explain how ADHD works to someone who doesn't have it, but I can't control or foresee anything. The only analogy to explain it I can give you is this: imagine you trying to listen to a radio station because there's some very important information you need to remember, but there are 10 other radio stations playing at the same time. As much as you try to make out certain words, other stations become louder and pull your focus away from the thing you're meant to be listening to. And trust me when I say, when people are frustrated with me, I'm frustrated too (usually moreso than them).

But the point is, it was a daily occurrence. Every day, that's pretty much what I had to deal with. And of course, it was my own fault. Every day. Looking back, I have absolutely no idea how I dealt with that every day for 3 years. Even in my third year, when we were working purely on shows, I would have to be reminded to go on stage because my attention wandered, and I often got told "you don't look like you're enjoying yourself on stage, you look bored. Do you even want to be here?" which I now know was the symptom of wandering attention and not being able to focus. 

Without knowing I had ADHD, this was very confusing. was enjoying myself, so why wasn't it coming across that way? Looking back I now realise I was spacing out and looking vacant, and not even realising it. I felt like I was putting more effort in than anyone else was - and in all honesty, I was. Not because I'm better or a 'harder worker' than everyone else... Simply because other people can get it right usually first time, or maybe sometimes a few tries later. However, I could try 20 times, and still get it wrong.

ADHD is a constant battle for me, a journey that no one else has to go on except me. Of course there are MANY people out there with ADHD, but this is the hardest part to understand - it manifests itself in different people in different ways. It affects different people in different ways, and this is how it affected my brain.This journey I'm going on is unique to me. And although I can find commonalities between myself and other people with ADHD, noone is going through the exact same thing. I often described structure, remembering things and being organised as things that seemed 'physically impossible' to me, and now it makes sense when my brain has a neurotransmitter impairment. I wish I could get these things right. But it's how my brain works, without any help or medication (something which still seems so distant to me as I wait on an 11 month NHS waiting list). 

But if I can share anything from this story, I have to say:

I'm not stupid. I know I can be bright, and had the potential to do well... And in some instances I suprised myself, like getting over 80% in my acting school's degree exams/ dissertations.

I'm not lazy. I have to try harder than anyone else, because other people can get it right first, maybe second or even third time. I rarely get it right. I promise I'm trying, I really am.

I'm don't have a stinking attitude or not care, why would I be there if I felt that way? Usually I'm so frustrated with myself that it manifests itself in my behaviour, something I try everyday to fix and that I cannot apologise enough for. 

And I don't mean to get it wrong. I try so hard, I just want to get it right. For myself alongside everyone else. Sometimes it is impossible though, and that's okay. So long as I keep fucking trying for the rest of my life, which I always will. Hopefully one day I'll get through the waiting list and find Ritalin helping me to achieve the things I've tried my whole life to do.

Thank you for reading. I'll probably post some more things up soon!


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