Friday, November 20, 2009

ADD not +, or is it?

I have the condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder. It is, for me, best likened to an old reel to reel tape system with the thought processes like the tracks on the tape: I can have eight different 'tracks' going on in my head. When I am on it, all the tracks are running parallel and I can make some pretty astounding leaps of intellect. Much of the time, however, the tracks are running in different directions, disjointed.

ADD is differentiated from ADHD in that I do not have the hyperactivity that is so much more clear for teachers, parents, and doctors to observe.

The condition has played a large part in my development. The fact that I hid my condition (somewhat successfully) for nearly thirty years, also contributed to my development, or lack thereof. I felt the need to do so because a family member, diagnosed with a similar condition, was placed in a special school and special education classes. I insisted that there would be nothing about me that would make that necessary.

I detested lateness in myself, mostly because I learned that if I was early, no one would notice I wasn't organized and I would have time to compose myself.

I never completed my college education. I had, until recently, been unable to complete a novel. My wife had noted (with varying degrees of disgust) that I never finished anything.

Growing up, my mother often observed that I would say, "Sure, I'll do it." and then never complete the task she had asked of me.

Things were much worse if I was under stress or fatigued, with me unable to get out the door with everything I needed for the day. Or even carry on a straightforward conversation.

Teachers would say, "He's so talented, but he just doesn't seem to apply himself."

Things came to a head for me three or so years back. Things were so bad, I went and talked to a professional. She was very good at helping me see what was up, and incredibly smooth at getting me to see how simple the solution could be.

I, in the midst of depression and rage, was whining about my lack of achievement.

She said simply, "Well, you know there are some medications you could take if you wanted to get some of these things finished."

I nodded and changed the subject, one track in my head processing that information while I went on about the other stuff that made me miserable. At the end of the hour or so, all my tracks had reached a resolution, and snapped at me, "Grab the lifeline."

I started treatment the next month. I'll have to take the meds for the rest of my life, but it beats not getting the shit I want to do done. The meds have no appreciable side effects, and keep me in that zone where all eight tracks are making the same music. I've completed the first draft of my first novel, and I'm writing my second one now. I have an agent. I think I might make it happen.

Flash forward to a conversation I had within a year or so of starting medication. I was talking about the condition and what it was like, and how simple it was to treat.

The man I was speaking to, a friend of mine for almost sixteen years, has a stepdaughter he loves very deeply. He went silent for a few moments, then reiterated the symptoms I spoke of. He then told me that he thought his stepdaughter might have a similar issues, describing for me some of the things he'd observed. She wanted to do well in school, but the teachers were saying, "She's gifted, if only she would apply herself." They took her to the doctor, and sure enough, his stepdaughter does have the same condition I do.

We were talking last week, commiserating over some tough times we are both facing.

"There are some bright spots," he told me, "My daughter came home with her fourth straight report card: All A's. You had a lot to do with that."

I choked up a minute, and tried to gloss over it.

He wasn't having it.

I got more choked up.

He let it go, point made.

The point, for me, is that while the condition has and continues to make many things harder for me, it has also made me wiser than I would be otherwise.

Hence, ADD not a -, and maybe even a +.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing revelation this must have been for you. Sometimes, just knowing what is wrong is all you need, even if you can't fix it. But lucky for you, there's medication. It must have felt like a small miracle. I know someone that was diagnosed with ADD as an adult, and it was such a light bulb moment that helped to shed years of disappointment and self-hatred. It's not to say he's perfect now--still has his quirks and makes mistakes, but they're all things he has control over. And that has made such a huge difference in his life. I think perhaps he feels empowered.