There is something a little satisfying about meeting a group of people who have something in common with you. I realized the joy of that when I attended an ADD support group recently.
Having been formerly diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder a few weeks ago, I’ve made up my mind to do something about it. Contrary to popular belief, the answer is *not* drugs. Or rather not *just* drugs. No, the psychiatrist who gave me the diagnosis said “wolf, you need to get to the point where you have more control over your impulses and focus.”
He grabbed a pen and pretended he was writing something. “Basically, when you do anything at all, you’ll want to be in the moment. When you pick up the pen like this, you’ll want to be aware of how it feels in your hand. What part of your fingers are touching it? Is it rough or smooth? And when you put it to the paper, you’ll want to be aware of the pressure your hand has to exert to write anything at all.”
I nodded, even as I acknowledged that, with the exception of the rent cheque each month, I NEVER write anything. And that got me thinking about what day it was and whether the rent was due soon.
The doc brought me back on track. “So…you won’t be able to do that right out of the gate. So you’ll need meds initially to get you to that point. But, the goal is to come to the place where you won’t need the meds anymore.”
I nodded. This sounded just about, oh I don’t know, pretty much perfect to me.
“You told me you long suspected you had ADD. What have you done about it so far?”
I looked at him. “Well, I’ve attended a couple of workshops and….” I thought for a moment. “Oh yes! I joined a support group.”
“You did? What is it?”
“It’s a group that meets at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health every couple of weeks.”
“Oh yes. I’m aware of that group. Good. Keep going. And see your family doctor for the meds.”
With that, I thanked him and left.
The other night I met with the support group, and a few of us “newbies” split off into a separate group, where we were encouraged to tell our stories. When it got around to me, I had so many different things to say, and I wanted to say them all at once, that I got stuck.
“Sorry – there’s about a million thoughts going on right now.”
They all nodded knowingly. Every last one of them. They knew. They knew exactly what it was all about.
Earlier, we had discussed Executive Function – that process in everyone’s brain that allows you to consider several things, categorize them, and put them on various shelves in your mind, so that you can pick them up at will and work with each one individually, until completion. The classic ADDer doesn’t have a fully functioning system. We take all of those things and we want to process them all at the same time. Executive function allows you to start and stop actions, anticipate stuff and adapt to changing situations. The lack of it can really mess you up.
Here’s the thing: when you grow up in this state, you have no idea anything’s wrong. You watch other people complete projects fairly easily, and you think that maybe you’re just not smart enough (because you know you’re *lousy* at doing projects). I used to truly truly HATE it when the teacher assigned projects to us.
Then, later on you realize that you really do “get” a lot of concepts, and often you’re leaps and bounds beyond others. So you know you’re not stupid. So you conclude maybe you’re just too lazy. Input from others (teachers, parents, friends) seems to confirm this self-analysis.
You discover you have a penchant for seeing “the big picture” in any situation. You realize that you’re well suited to managing conflicts, mostly because you can simultaneously see various viewpoints at once. You understand how they got there – and you understand almost instantaneously. Seems like a wonderful trait to have. And by God you’ll accept that one, since you’re such a miserable failure at other things.
You often do hilarious things too. Like turning on the tap to fill up the sink so you can do the dishes, then sitting down at the computer to work on something, only to realize twenty minutes later (if you’re lucky) that you left the tap running. This unfortunate circumstance is confirmed as you walked out into the hallway, straight into a mini-lake.
Or you come home from buying groceries, some of which are frozen foods. You put them down to get the key out of the door. You realize there’s a program on TV that you wanted to see, so you put the keys down and go turn the TV on. Then you remember an email that you wanted to send, so you go into your office and bang it out. Then something else, then something else and then it’s time for bed so you brush your teeth and hit the sack.
The next morning you come out the kitchen and you see the now-smelly “frozen food” that you left out the day before.
This is my life, folks.
There are a lot of positives about the ADD life: there’s an incredible creativity that comes with the “gift”. A lot of actors and comedians get into the entertainment business because of this knack they have. I’ve done improv comedy and I have to tell you: that was one of the highlights of my adult existence. It takes you back to the time when you were a kid, and anything was possible. “What if I was an old man, with a young trophy wife who wanted me dead? Or what if I was a pimp, with a stripper girlfriend and a four year old child?”
You get to play all these parts (the stripper/pimp thing was played out in real life on a crowded bus one day, to an unsuspecting audience.), and you have so much FUN.
The downside: you take on projects and never complete them. Not without some prompting. Also – you can barely stand linear conversations. You get so *bored*. So easily bored. It’s one reason I hate telephones.
There’s one personal project I’ve had on the back burner for quite some time. There’s a book I want to write. I have several concepts that I really want to share in it. When I say “quite some time” – we’re talking a few years here. And I’ve started it several times. Each time I got distracted and lost momentum.
A good friend of mine mentioned a once a year event, called NaNoWriMo. That’s a kind of awkward acronym for “National Novel Writing Month”. It’s a trans-continental event that takes place mostly on the net. The shared goal of writers everywhere is this: we have to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Entirely do-able – and this is evident by the fact that so many writers manage to do it every year. It’s been in existence for I think twelve years, and each year there’s an exponentially larger list of participants.
The other night I attended the local Toronto NaNoWriMo kick-off party. We had a ball! There’s going to be an all-night event where some of the participants get together at a large house, specifically to write as much as possible during the night. I frankly can’t wait for that one.
There’s another event, where we get on the subway at one end of the system, and we ride it for as long as possible, just writing away.
This is the aspiring writer’s ADD dream: to have input and a goad to get this particular goal accomplished.
I am *so* grateful to my friend Katy for having introduced this to me. She’s done NaNoWriMo herself, with great success.
I will too. Part of the method for getting this done involves making myself accountable to others. Telling as many people as possible about it. Potential embarrassment is a killer motivator.
So….this begins tomorrow. November 1.
You likely won’t see much of me during the month. I get emails when you leave comments on my blog though.
So here’s the deal: if you’re so inclined, please drop me a comment here at the bottom of this blog, now and then. Ask me how I’m doing.
I promise to answer. And I will tell you the truth.
Oh man. This is going to be good.