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"...written by three professionals who have Attention Deficit Disorder, providing a positive look at ADD."
From Chapter 1
We pick up a lot of excess negative baggage growing up with ADD as our constant companion. Some of the problems we struggle with are a direct result of our biological differences. Many of our difficulties, however, are compounded by the experience of living our lives with a hidden disability. We don't know why we act as we do, and the people who observe our struggles haven't a clue either. It is in the nature of the human animal to come up with theories and quasi-explanations for phenomena we can't understand or control. In ancient Greece, for example, the gods were the culprits for just about everything people didn't like. It was a nifty system. All you had to do was please the gods, through sacrifice, or good behavior, and they would stop ruining your crops with floods and sending lightning bolts in your direction.
Of course, in our greater scientific wisdom, we know better now. At least we don't actually believe that there is a stern-faced God up there, physically tossing bolts of thunder at misbehaving humans. But we still have false beliefs, based on made-up and untested explanations for things that puzzle us. ADD is one of those brain teasers. We are just beginning to ask the questions and do the research that will lead to a better understanding of this complex disorder.
Of course, human nature being what it is, the lack of real information hasn't stopped people from voicing untested theories about ADD, theories that morph into axioms with enough repetition. You have no doubt heard many of the educated guesses that are presented as gospel truth. "ADD is a problem with motivation — if you would just try harder..." and "You can do it when you want to" are a couple of myths that come to mind.
As ADDers, after a lifetime of hearing and absorbing these myths, we start to believe them ourselves. Not totally, because these "words of wisdom" don't quite jibe with our life experience. But on some level, we internalize this, and begin to feel that the problems are all our fault and that we could fix them if we worked hard enough.
We suffer from an enormous amount of self-blame, guilt, and shame as a result of false beliefs. Getting rid of these crippling emotions, however, is not an instant process. It is not just a matter of telling the people who spout the myths of ADD to take a powder. We need to search our own souls and examine the beliefs we have absorbed from our culture, looking at them in the light of new information.
"If it isn't the sheriff it's the finance company. I've got more attachments on me than a vacuum cleaner."
— John Barrymore
We hate to generalize about such a large group of people, but we would venture to guess that most of us hate to be tied down too much. Of course, it is impossible not to pick up some baggage along the way, but we believe that we are more sensitive to things that pull or clutch at us than the average person. So, some of us go from one limited relationship to another, or avoid relationships altogether. Others job-hop, or try out a million hobbies without really mastering any one of them. We fear being dragged down by the weight of someone else's expectations or becoming trapped in a dead-end situation. But the result of merely skimming the surface can be an empty and unfulfilled life.
A Way Around It — Do continue to monitor the attachments in your life. But realize that it is not really a numerical problem, but one of quality control. Sort through your commitments to get some sense of your priorities, and then jettison some in order to do justice to the ones that remain. Remember, however, that it is possible to travel too lightly.
"Doctors think a lot of patients are cured who have simply quit in disgust."
— Don Herold
And many of us do. First, we discover that ADD has been causing us a lifetime of problems. Then we obsessively educate ourselves about it, finally presenting ourselves to doctors for help. More often than not, we have to convince them that ADD is real and that we have it, and then we have to educate them about its treatment. This is not easy, considering the role and status doctors have traditionally held in society. Many do not accept a patient's knowledge and experience when it conflicts with their own "expert" opinion. Their medical training probably did not include a course on "new" and "weird" diseases, and how to help and learn from the people who have them. And so we go around and around, looking for a physician with enough humility, patience, and time to work with us as partners in treatment.
A Way Around It — Be persistent. There are doctors out there who have emerged from medical school relatively open to their patients' input. If you can't find help where you live, go to the Internet for resources and referrals. There are a number of ADD Web sites available, as well as the many discussion groups available to ADD adults. And don't rule out going out of state for help. (See the resources section on page 255.)
"Consistency is a paste jewel that only cheap men cherish."
— William Allen White
When did we start worshiping the god of regularity, uniformity, and predictability? Having some of these qualities, some of the time, is a good thing. We all need to be able to count on a certain amount of familiarity in our daily lives. Otherwise, our psyches would disintegrate in the chaos. But a perfectly ordered life is not necessarily to be admired or emulated. True, the terminally constipated don't make messes, but they often don't produce much of value either. Creating works of art, inventing new products, and finding new ways of doing things all require the ability to tolerate mess and uncertainty.
A Way Around It — Build enough structure into your life to form a support system for your psyche. You will have those days, after all, when you need to get out of bed but you just don't feel inspired. That's when you can fall back on your routine to keep going. At the same time, learn to overlook the disorder that is always present when one is creative and determined to live life to the fullest.
Copyright © 1997 by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo
1. Excess Baggage -- The Shoulds: Blame, Shame, Guilt, and Other Useless Emotions
2. Coping with Differences
3. Emotional Roller Coaster
4. From Chaos to Balance
5. Relationships and Communication
6. Work, Work, Work, Work...
7. Organizing Time and Space
8. Learning and Memory
10. ADD: A Disorder or an ADDed Dimension?
Resources for Adults with ADD