Dwight asked a question on a post two weeks ago, that I’m only just now getting around to answering.
I never really thought of ADD being something that lasted over a life, beyond childhood and yet I’ve had the experience of lacking direction, getting burried in life. Some of this time was marked by depression (I imagine poverty, not moving ahead, etc.) added to this
But I never thought of ADD as being very relevant until your posts. And as someone who spent many years in the foster care system, I admit I get almost Tom Cruise -ish when I think of things like medication, being part of the mental health system.
So my question was..how does ADD plug into your experience and what sort of actions did you take to change direction?
How does ADD plug into my experience? I think it’s colored my experience from day one, long before I knew anything about it.
How does it does it plug into my experience? Well, let me put it this way. For more than a week now, I’ve had four pieces of writing I wanted to do, including this one. So far, I’ve had time to write exactly none of them. That is, except for this one. And this one may yet take me more than a day or two before I’m done writing it.
Writing is an activity that I find immensely rewarding and enjoyable, but it isn’t my job and it doesn’t have to do with taking care of my family, so there is always something else that takes priority. That includes sleep, since I often find myself nodding off at the computer at night, when I finally do have the opportunity to write something
That’s partly because of ADD-related problems with time management, but it’s also partly because I’ve arrived at two entirely different places in my life all at once, and at a time in my life when there doesn’t seem to be room for both.
How does ADD plug into my experience? I started thinking about that question when I read this Feb. 1st article from The New York Times (which should give you some idea how long it took me to even find the time to write), about how children experience ADD It wasn’t hard to hear echoes of my own experience.
The students said they ended up “missing a lot of stuff” at school because of trouble listening, paying attention and completing homework. However, the students also described developing coping strategies like taking a test on a computer rather than on paper or recording lectures they could later listen to on their iPods.
The students’ recollections about friendships in childhood show that while their struggles with schoolwork were obvious, their attention problems also affected their ability to make friends.
I think if I had to sum up my experience as relates to ADD, “missing a lot of stuff” would be a pretty good place to start. I’ve always “missed a lot of stuff.” For a while, I could compensate for it; especially in middle and high school, where my reading skills meant I had a pretty good chance of being able to get what I “missed” in class.
In fact, I was able to compensate right through my freshman year of college. But what do you do when you’re already dancing as fast as you can, and the tune changes anyway? Mid-way through my sophomore year, I crashed and burned. When the smoke cleared, I went back to school, but had to take a partial class load in order to finish, and thus took longer to finish college. By the end, almost everyone I’d started with or met up with on the way had already moved on to other thing—marriage, grads school careers, etc.—while I was just getting started.
Moving into the working world was another experience of “missing stuff.” I realized pretty quickly that I was sitting in meetings, receiving assignments and “missing” them. I’d respond with the correct noises, when given a task, but I’d leave the room having not heard a single word in the meeting. The same thing held true in one-on-one conversations. I’d have a talk with someone, even agree to something, and realized that during crucial moments in the conversation my mind was somewhere else; like it had just wandered off without my knowing.
And, like something out of an episode of Seinfeld, I was faced with two choices: either ask someone to tell me again what I was supposed to be doing (leading them to wonder why I wasn’t “paying attention” the first time, or waiting until someone asked my about the project so I could glean the details (which inevitably meant I’d lost valuable time already). So, I was continually behind, and—as happened in college—I watched my peers get promoted and move on to grad school or careers. Meanwhile I just tried to keep my head above water.
By the time I was diagnosed with ADD, I was already with the hubby. A year later we became parents. Getting the diagnosis was the major step, then getting a combination of medicine and talk therapy. In between, I read every book on adult ADD that I could get my hands on, and learned a lot from them in terms of coping, because medication does not cure ADD.
Medication does not cure ADD. It helps alleviate some of the symptoms. In my case, it helped me to be aware of when I started to drift mentally, and “miss stuff,” and if I’m aware I can employ some tactic bring myself back to the meeting, conversation, or whatever it is that requires my attention.
But I also read a lot about acceptance; acceptance that it’s something I’m likely to always have; acceptance that the difficulties that stem from it are likely to always be with me in one way or another.
And, as an adult, acceptance that I “missed stuff,” in terms of being able to to move forward in a career or education when I was younger, had fewer responsibilities, could set goals and the pursue them unfettered; acceptance that I might never “catch up” to where I might have been by now if I didn’t have ADD or had gotten diagnosed and treated earlier.
By the time I was diagnosed, I had a husband already, and a family shortly afterward. Now, I guess I’m a full-fledged grow-up, with a family, bills, a mortgage, etc. And now, when I stumble upon my passion, the reality is that there are a lot of things that end up having to take priority.
Now, I find myself worrying that—and this isn’t intended to sound as self-pitying as it will—maybe I missed my opportunity to “be somebody” or “make something of myself.” There’s a feeling that something is passing me by right now, and I can’t catch it; that I missed the boat because I got to the dock a couple of decades to late. Right now, I feel like I’m doing far less than I’m capable of. But I can’t find a way to do it without stealing time from work, family, or sleep. It becomes a question of which I’m going to neglect.
Blogging has been great in the sense that it gave me an opportunity to write, publish my writing, and get feedback that’s given me a lot more confidence as a writer. It’s something that didn’t exist in my twenties, and it was an opportunity that would have been harder to get at a magazine or newspaper. But I don’t have as much time to write here any more either. And when I dare take a look at the traffic, rankings, etc., I see the inevitable slide in progress.
But, however rewarding it is for me personally—like I said before—it doesn’t pay my bills or take care of my family. I don’t get paid to write. Hell, for that matter, I dont’ get paid to think, much. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to change that.
In the meantime, I still have three other things I want to write. I’m not when or if I’ll get the chance, or if any of it will matter any more by the time I do.
I don’t know if that answers Dwight’s question, but that’s the answer that came to mind for me.