Capturing life in words…
I have probably had Attention Deficit Disorder all my life, however, it was not diagnosed until my 30’s when balancing motherhood with college and work. I initially wrote it off as fatigue. However, in being a social worker, I couldn’t deny for long my behaviors met criteria for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I chose to have a psychiatrist evaluate me, as not all general medicine practitioners are schooled in Adult ADD. And, truth be told– I didn’t want a wrong diagnosis afforded to me if I really was just over-extended. Some physicians to tend to over diagnose ADHD/ADD.
Obviously, the standardized inventories (questionnaires) and office evaluation revealed I do have ADD. I was given a trial of medication, which I responded favorably, and I take the medication only when needed. Otherwise, as a social worker and lover of literature, I am interested in people, metaphorical events or symbolism, art, relational activities (interaction with others) and etc. Yet, ask me to fill in a spreadsheet and my cerebellum literally shuts down. ‘
One day, after two solid work weeks of spread sheets I had temporary ADD overload– I had desires to resort to childish behaviors, such as spinning in my office chair, just to maintain consciousness. Boring activities cause my brain to seek stimuli, and if I do the grown-up thing and force my mind to attend to rows of data in Excel, my brain becomes passive-aggressive and decides to check out on me. So I do use medication for those terribly, mind-numbing tasks. Your physician can guide you on your specific needs — some people need no meds, some cannot miss a dose.
Doing monthly, quarterly and annual reports are hell for me. I sit down with coffee and a sincere desire to bang it out. After a mere five minutes into monotony, my ADD kicks in– transforming the way I see the world. Suddenly I notice the desk is dusty, so I clean the desk. Well, then the phone looks dull and dirty sitting on the fresh desk. By this time my computer has timed out and I log back in and my banner prompts me to all new emails. I glance at the hard copies awaiting entry into excel and the computer — my ADD screams, “Check the email” and my super ego insists I return to the reports immediately! As this inner tug-of-war goes on I notice the secretary has delivered mail to my in tray. Well, I’ll just take a glance through the snail mail– only to ensure there is nothing pressing since the report will take all day. So I flip through the mail and darn, a co-worker is selling Thirty-One and my mind cannot resist the glossy pages of the magazine because my ADD is reminding me I need to get my daughter-in-law something for Christmas. This is just a five minute snap shot.
However, when I am performing therapy or problem solving with a family on a loved one’s behavior issues, my ADD works for my benefit. I am able to manipulate diagnostic info mentally as I also observe the little nuances and subtleties most individuals over-look. I can function within the main-frame and process what is in my peripheral vision. ADD allows me to take in more of the situation. I am in my element when problem solving because my brain fires so fast. I can intake info, process possible solutions and eliminate the less ideal solutions incredibly fast. Having ADD allows me to view multiple perspectives while I envision and forecast.
Being able to hold multiple variables in mind at one time, provides a creative side in many adults with ADD. Hence, my ability to envision multiple options or outcomes easily and quickly. Creativity can be applied not just in the arts and writing, but to business enterprises and any issue in which thinking outside of the box is beneficial.
Even though personality testing lands me smack in the middle on the range from introvert to extrovert, ADD allows me to talk at length, if needed. This is a positive trait when working with clients who need education, encouragement and counsel. Research has also shown individuals with ADD/ADHD are typically compassionate and sensitive which lends support in personal and professional relationships. Even co-workers or superiors appreciate empathic and considerate people on their team. Yet, too much of a good thing , such as providing support or compassion and I can become drained. When overly-taxed, I am irritable, more likely to be hurt easily, impatient, and develop headaches. So self-care is paramount with ADD. Time must be made to tend to the body, mind and emotional needs–it is preventative care. Additionally, learning to draw boundaries is critical. Saying no is an example of boundary setting.
I can see in hindsight how living with ADD increased the risk of becoming over-stimulated more quickly than others adults. When younger, each of my children begged for birthday celebrations at a not-so-beloved-by-me arcade pizza place which caters to young children. I acquiesced, because I love them. However the place is a sensory nightmare for me. I welcomed the day my children out-grew this festival of flashing lights, sirens, songs, constant motion and children screaming with delight as an animated band played on a stage off to the side. It was a tornado of sensory stimulation. I always left the place with a headache and an overwhelming longing for a dark, silent room. It was too much for my ADD brain. On the contrary, other parents were talking about getting together for coffee and desert. My ADD brain could not compute this happening.
Basically, I have learned finding balance is key. Perhaps off set the chaos with some meditation, sitting quietly with scented candles, listening to music which relaxes you– slow the brain down to neutral. For my son, he finds petting our cat is very relaxing. I meditate or watch mindless television (I won’t insult the producers and list what shows). Research has shown our brain waves mimic light sleep when we watch TV.
No matter what it’s called– ADD, ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder– I cherish the strengths this socially constructed diagnosis gives me, and care for the body and mind to negate the undesirable.