Friday, March 14, 2014

ADDing it up

This probably won't come as a surprise to most of you, but it does to me.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading on attention deficit disorder as of late. It seems to run in my family. Based on many of his habits and behaviors, my father probably had undiagnosed ADD. At least two of my siblings have been diagnosed with ADD as adults. Some of their kids have been diagnosed. And since Miss V was diagnosed as well, I've paid much closer attention to my friend Douglas' excellent blog on the ups and downs of ADD and related health issues. (In fact, one of Douglas' links to an article on girls with ADD was what led to Miss V being diagnosed in the first place.)

I've noted before that I share some of the behaviors common to people with ADD. I didn't think much about it, because as noted, I'm usually capable of sitting still and paying attention in classroom situations. But a physician who specializes in ADD noted to me this week that attention deficit disorder is considered a spectrum disorder, somewhat like autism, and that not everyone with ADD presents all the symptoms, or presents them equally. (For instance, some people deal with hyperactivity and frequent mood swings, while others don't.)

Finally, the kicker. With the aim of helping Miss V get her room in order, I picked up a book titled ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life (it's a good read, btw) and started going through each chapter dealing with specific ADD-related challenges to getting organized. And chapter by chapter, I began to notice something. All the traits common to people with ADD were, with very few exceptions, painfully familiar. At one point I just put the book down and said it to myself:

"Sooz, you have attention deficit disorder."

Frankly, it explains a lot. It explains my almost congenital inability to finish anything, and my tendency to start multiple new projects rather than see a single one through to completion. It explains the constant mess of my house, the way I become easily overwhelmed when I think about tackling the clutter. It explains why I tend to leave things to be done out in plain sight, why I tape tickets and reminders to the wall, why I tend to drop everything and do whatever's been most recently given me to do -- because if I don't do it right away or there's no visual reminder, I quickly forget all about it. It explains why I'm constantly late for birthdays and appointments and everything else, because I have trouble with time and constantly underestimate how much time it will take to accomplish things. And it explains why my attempts to make friends have mostly backfired, because I'm socially awkward, say whatever pops into my head, and have a tendency to come on too strong, scaring people away in the process.

At this point in my life, I'm reasonably sure I don't need ADD medication. Some things I've learned to work around. But becoming aware that I have a brain difference is useful information, if only that it helps me recognize when I'm engaging in self-sabotaging behavior. It could also teach me to be more empathetic toward the people I know or meet who are dealing with some of the same issues.

So why do you need to know this? I'm not trying to present ADD as an excuse for bad behavior; it isn't. Nor do I want anybody to feel sorry for me, or tell me that attention deficit disorder isn't real. (I've already had the whole "oh, you poor thing" and "if you're depressed, just snap out of it" routine from people, and I'm thoroughly shut of both of them.) Here's why you need to know: I want my friends to hold me to account. If I made you a promise and for some reason I haven't kept it, please don't assume it's because I don't like you or I don't want to do it. It may have simply slipped my mind. If this happens, please be patient and remind me of my promises. I will figure out ways to create memory-joggers at regular intervals, methods for working on long projects, so I can accomplish the things I said I would do. I don't want to be seen as a screw-up or a disappointment, and I'm convinced I can make these positive changes happen.

As always, thanks for reading.

No comments: