My food-sensitive life Age 14 to 17 – Grades 9 to 12 1960 – 1963 September 21, 2022 by Joan Breakey Blog An enquiring mind, but… I think it was after year nine that my school report commented: “Has an enquiring mind. Would do well if she would concentrate”. What this did was to make me try to concentrate harder. What was not understood is that the reason I could not concentrate was because my brain would jump from idea to idea. Parents of ADHD kids often report their “thinking is all over the place”. Now I understand it as having a brain that has all connecting files open all the time. This can be good when it helps to “think outside the box”, but not when you bring in ideas that are not connected with the direction the teacher may be going, or when your mind has attended to all the interesting connecting ideas but has quite lost track of the original topic! Later I connected this with a friend who commented, “Joan you complicate everything!” Even now, as I write this blog, I notice myself thinking about connecting ideas and trying to stay with what is relevant and will fit on one page.As a child I did not feel very clever as the sister two years older was three grades above me, and the sister two years younger was only one grade below. They are both very clever. However I usually came in the top percentage of my class. My hard work and good memory helped. I remember learning two pages on the one-hundred-year war in England off by heart and reproducing it on the exam paper. I also remember learning the names of the English kings and the years they reigned. I would go into the exam and write them out and refer to my lists when needed. I can still remember, “William, William, Henry, Stephen, Henry, Richard, John”.I liked geometry as it is learned using pictures and that suits how I understand ideas. But algebra was still a problem. I passed my exams by looking at what I was guessing and handing it in if it “looked right”. Since I did well enough there must have been some way my brain was solving the problem, but I could not have told you how it did so. I think I was a frustrating student as Sister R playfully said she would “break my spirit if it was the last thing she did”. This did not bother me as I knew I could not change after years of trying to concentrate, and to keep quiet. We had a brilliant English teacher who, despite the limitations of the black habit that nuns wore, and a very wrinkled face, managed to bring Shakespeare very much to life. She would use my creative stories as examples to teach better writing composition to the class. I still think it was allowable to have a ghost story where rabbits hopping in and out of a neglected house knocked a light switch on for a moment, even thought that had to mean someone had inserted the switch upside down!Sister A was my favourite teacher. She taught home economics and I was completely confident there. I used to ride my bike to the train to attend classes on Saturday mornings. I knew the diesel fumes of the train made me feel sick. As well we cooked delightful foods such as green-coloured, mint-flavoured marshmallows, or some fruit and chocolate cake which, in hindsight, added to my food chemical load. I would feel nausea with headaches on Saturday afternoons and it was associated closely to the radio football commentary my brothers listened to. The nausea/football commentary connection was so strong that many years later, when my own family wanted to listen to the football, I had to take months to undo the nauseating aversive connection I had felt as a teenager.The change in food from the time I was growing in the early 1960s to the loads of additives used by the food industry in the mid 1970s means I was lucky to have had home cooked food with little additives while growing up.