Tonight, On a Very Special Flotsam/jetsam, Learning to Live with Attention Deficit Disorder by jimmycanuck
September 28, 2006, 4:58 pm
Filed under: family

Time Magazine - ADD Cover

I’ve had a problem with concentration and focus for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I mentioned it to my parents. They took me to my doctor who told me there was nothing wrong with me. Ever since then, I’ve just had to learn to cope. For the most part I’ve done pretty well. Mind you, I’ve tried to avoid situations where these damaged skillsets would pose a problem, and I’ve managed to adapt as best I could in situations where I couldn’t.

But now, for the first time in my life, I’m in a position where I have to do something about it. As many of you know, I’m in school again. Athabasca University to be exact. I’m working towards a BA in History via correspondence which means an awful lot of reading – reading being the one area where my concentration has most seriously been lacking. So I decided to start looking into it. It turns out, by my best assumption, that I have Adult ADD.

Now a lot of you may not think ADD is real, and to a certain extent, it’s not. People with ADD neither have a deficit of attention nor a disorder. It turns out that ADD is really just a nasty name for the way some people’s brains work. In many ways it’s quite beneficial – those with ADD can focus on a number of things at once, have a low tolerance for boredom, and when interested in something can hyperfocus on it in a way that most people can only dream about. Unfortunately this multi-track thinking and intolerance of boredom make certain tasks like reading incredibly difficult at times. But enough about what ADD is and what it isn’t, back to what I’m going to need to do.

I first stumbled upon the possibility of having Adult ADD after reading a list of 21 possible symptoms in the Adult ADD wikipedia entry. When I followed the list back to it’s original source, it said that having 12 of these symptoms makes you an excellent candidate for an evaluation by ADD professionals. I hit all 21.

So I did what any sensible person would do. I made an appointment with my doctor. When I arrived, I was seen not by my actual doctor (as is almost always the case) but by another doctor new to the practice. He immediately dismissed any possibility of ADD without even asking me about my symptoms. When I told him I was concerned and handed him the list of 21 symptoms, he barely gave it a glance and said “Everybody thinks they have ADD.” He then proceeded to tell me the reason I can’t concentrate is that I’m fat, and that I shouldn’t be pursuing an academic career if I have trouble concentrating. He then told me to get a part time job. What that had to do with my ability to focus is completely beyond me.

So as you can tell, I’m obviously not going to be getting much help (or even an proper diagnosis) from the medical community. After several calls in an effort to find a doctor willing to discuss this with me, I soon realized that if I was going to do anything about this I’d have to do it myself.

I’ve been looking around online for the better part of a week, and I’ve been amazed by what I’ve found. A community of smart, successful people, all living with ADD, and all coping without the aid of psychotropic drugs. People that embrace the gifts they’ve been given by their biological make-up, and have found ways to deal with the parts that they want to change. I love my obsessive nature about things when I’m interested in them. I love my ability to be involved in a dozen or so projects at a time. I love the fact that I always feel like I need a creative outlet. I love everything about me that is a symptom of ADD. I even like the things that cause my reading comprehension issues. I just need to learn to manage those things so that they don’t interfere.

But the question still remains – what am I going to do to overcome my ADD-related reading problem? Well, there’s no real quick fix solution, but there are a number of things (some of which are quite out of character for me) that I’m going to need to make part of my daily routine. First and foremost is meditation. That’s right – I’ll need to become a filthy hippie riddled with patchouli stink and flobitis. I’ve never been able to meditate, and I think that comes with the territory of having ADD. I’ve actually read a great article about learning to meditate with ADD that summed up my concern perfectly; “Many of the ADD books talk about how great meditation is for ADD. Oh sure, just sit there and think of …. nothing? For someone with ADHD, this sounds vaguely like some sort of sinister torture.”

So how does one go about learning to meditate? Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of good resources online to point me in the right direction, but instead I’ve decided to go a fundamentally more low-tech route. Tonight I’ll be attending my first ever Buddhist Meditation class. Like everyone else I’ve always held a passing fancy with Buddhism (it’s great in theory but I just like stuff too damned much) so I thought this might be an interesting way to go. I’ll have to let you know how it went in the coming days.

I’ve also discovered that, whether I like it or not, regular exercise and proper nutrition play a pretty big role in getting this thing under control. Walking the baby an hour a day just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Luckily, there’s also a study out that suggests playing DDR can help improve concentration in kids with ADHD, and I just happen to have two DDR mats gathering dust in the closet behind me. I’d assume that the improved concentration has more to do with the very nature of rhythm games then it does the exercise, but I see no reason why I shouldn’t be killing two birds with one stone. Fuck better nutrition though – eating like crap is one of my . I can augment my diet with some healthier meals some of the time, but let’s face facts – multivitamins were invented because of people like me. So those too, will be added to my daily routine.

So all in all, I think I did good. I had a problem, I identified what it was, and I’ve taken the steps to get informed and work towards fixing it. Keep your fingers crossed for me, dear readers!

(I know this whole post has been pretty self-involved and a tad preachy, but I think it’s time for a little bit more jetsam than just a shopping list, don’t you?)


1 Comment so far
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Stumbled across your blog from my RSS feed on AU. I am in the MDE program and wanted to encourage you. I took Psych 655 – Psychology of Self Management from the MAIS program and had several other students who were also in your situation. What you have indicated as the way ahead – serious exercises, meditation, etc. Good for you for getting on with getting on!

MDE Grad student

Comment by Peter Ball

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