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    • Carolyn Wyler

      Columnist and C.E.O.
    • February 16, 2014 in Columnists

    The challenges of ADD and how to cope with…oh, look, a yellow bird!

    I’m not sure which is more difficult, having an attention deficit disorder (ADD) or interacting with someone who does. Either way, it can be very frustrating. If there are two people living together with attention problems (which is the case in my home), it only adds to the challenge.

    My husband and I have never been officially diagnosed with ADD, but we both admit we have a problem (though I believe Ken has a worse case of it than I do). Just trying to hold a simple conversation between the two of us can be very trying. We start discussing what to make for dinner and it turns into hiking in the Swiss alps, health complaints, who farted, is it wrong for vegetarians to eat animal crackers, then back to what’s for dinner all in a matter of seconds. How one topic led to the other, I can never quite comprehend. I find myself at times losing patience over what should be an easy, simple discussion.

    Ah yes. Patience. Yet another obstacle for those of us with ADD. We are in constant need of entertainment and often become bored, agitated and annoyed when there is not enough going on around us to stimulate our brains. If I have to sit in a meeting for more than 30 minutes listening to someone drone on and on about something management has concocted but really has no significance or importance, I start to fidget, doodle, wish I could pull out my hair, iPhone, iPad, get on my computer to play a game, check Facebook (as I probably missed something in the last 30 minutes), check my email and wonder what would happen if all of us quietly snuck out of the room. (If a manager is speaking, but there is no one to listen, would they still be talking)? After sitting still for just a short time, with nothing else to keep me entertained, I’m about ready to go bonkers.

    But much as we crave stimulation, it is those distractions, however, that can be our downfall. The other day I went to the kitchen to make some cookies. I noticed the stove was really dirty and started to clean it. I then noticed the kitchen floor needed sweeping. I went to get the broom and noticed a load of laundry needed to be put away so I carried that into the bedroom and noticed my dresser needed dusting so I picked up the duster and started dusting but there was too much clutter on my dresser and I needed to put some items away. I started putting those items away and saw my computer and thought, Ooooh, I wonder what is happening on Facebook. Two hours later, the cookies weren’t started, the stove was only partly cleaned, the broom was out but the kitchen was not swept and the clothes were not put away.

    On the plus side, I got to see the ultrasounds on Facebook of my two new grandchildren, a boy and a girl due in June and July. OMG! I am so excited. I’m thinking Christy would be an awesome girl’s name and…oh crap, what was I writing about? Oh, yeah, attention disorders.

    As a child, I often thought that my fidgeting, daydreaming and being easily distracted meant I was not as smart as everyone else in my class. There were many times I missed what the teacher was saying because the yellow bird outside the window was building a nest, or the new blond guy just two rows in front of me was super hot and I wondered how I could get him to notice me. As an adult, I realize I just needed to find ways to help me stay more focused.

    As a nurse, I am often accosted by four or five different situations at once. I have to be able prioritize issues in their order of urgency or importance and remember to get back to the one I had stopped because I was interrupted with another urgent issue. I have found ways to cope with my attention difficulties and stay focused when necessary by writing sticky notes to myself or setting alarms as reminders so I don’t forget the other five things I needed to do. I have never tried medication for ADD, though I do not have a problem if someone wishes to go that route. I wonder, though, if sometimes people are too quick to choose the drug option when there are other things they can try first to help fix the problem.

    There seems too to be more of an influx of concentration disorders in today’s society. Have psychology and drug companies created a diagnosis that is, in fact, just a normal child or adult issue that affects some more so than others? Perhaps technology has exacerbated the disorder. With so many gadgets and ways to engage us, is it any wonder many of us get distracted and bored very quickly? Perhaps we have created a society where it takes more and more to keep us entertained? What ever happened to just going out and riding a bike or building roads in a sandbox? Has life become so complex that we have lost the enjoyment of the simple things? Have we created a lot of extra stress and anxiety because there are just too many choices?

    Regardless of the cause, attention disorders are abundant and finding ways to cope can be a struggle. It is not an impossible task, however, and there are many very capable and functioning ADDers.

    You will have to excuse me now, however, as writing this reminded me that I really want to make some cookies….

    *Carolyn Wyler acknowledges ADD is a real medical diagnosis and that treatment is necessary for many patients. She only questions the way in which those dealing with the disorder are stigmatized, and sometimes over-medicated.

      • biographer4you

      • February 16, 2014 at 9:22 am
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      I have a strong memory of a particular day in my high school biology class. The teacher’s discussion of different plant parts was sawdust dry, so my brain left for about five minutes. When it returned, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but the class was almost over, so who cared.

      In fact, when my parents returned home after a parent-teacher conference during my middle school years, they told me that a teacher advised, “Julie is very bright, but has a tendency to not pay attention in class.”

      I’m easily distracted as well – put this down to go do that, now where is it, oh I need to look that up, what was the name of, oooh I love that song, put gas in the car in the morning, I really need to dust this room, Scott’s birthday is Saturday need to buy a card …

      Instead of ADD, I’m going with the leap frogging thought processes of those with higher senses of awareness. Others just move in a slower, monochromatic lane.

        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 16, 2014 at 10:10 am
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        I kind of like that theory, bio4.

          • Carolyn Wyler

          • February 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

          aka Julie?

      • Maya North

      • February 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm
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      When I saw the movie “Up” and all the dogs interrupted themselves with the sudden expostulation of “SQUIRREL!,” I knew I had found the perfect description of my constant state. My daughter tells me she thinks I have ADHD rather than ADD because I’m never dreamy/spacy (like she is — she lays claim to the ADD version) — I’m like a chipmunk on speed — and that’s my normal state! The whole business of starting in one place and suddenly being in another conversationally, I call “hopping a track.” I do it constantly. I lack formal diagnosis, but there’s no mistaking any of what I have.

      I am exactly the same way in meetings — and they won’t let me knit! I have tried to explain that knitting allows me to keep 4 or 5 of my normal 12 tracks occupied enough so that I can sit still, but that drawing takes a good 8 or 10 tracks so it’s harder to focus on what they’re saying, but if they won’t let me do ANYthing, I’ll either bounce all over the room or I’ll get so overstimulated I’ll actually go to sleep. Damn their stupid, masculine business paradigm — women, when left to their own cultural, multitasking devices, who have not bought into the man’s-way-is-better misconception, get it and let me do what I need to in order to focus.

      Thing is, everything that hurts or challenges us comes with blessings in abundance. Minor artistic talent taken to a higher degree than otherwise would have happened? Check! Ability to monitor multiple children at once? No problem! Skills such as knitting and beading and even writing and music learned and improved — definitely! I don’t think I’d trade my alphabet soup (which includes PTSD, a little OCD and probably Asperger’s on a high-functioning level) for anything resembling so-called neurotypical. I’d be giving up too much!


        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 16, 2014 at 10:49 pm
        • Reply

        I loved the movie Up Maya with the dogs ADD. My husband is the same way, more than I am with conversations and is constantly “hopping a track”. We can never get through a simple conversations without several interruptions and discussions as I mention.

        I can’t believe your work won’t let you knit during a meeting. I’ve thought about dragging in one of the exercise bike that we have in our cardiac rehab section of our clinic while sitting in a meeting because then I feel like I’m doing something productive. I’ll have to try it one of these times to see what they say.

    • I always get distracted but I get everything done. I keep lists and even though I start and stop during the day to do other things, I always finish the tasks needed. ADD works for me. I have never been diagnosed. But at 65 I am very productive and have never been called out for not finishing something on time.

        • Carolyn Wyler

        • February 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm
        • Reply

        Lists/notes are the only way for me to survive sometimes Madge.

    • I think all the “great” people are adhd. It didn’t work well admitting I had an executive functioning problem at an interview though. That was not great. I find my own adhd issues, which are impulsive, cause me to blurt “truth”. Which has sent me to the hospital once or twice in my life. 🙂 Great post, you pegged my flake disorder, with humorous accuracy.

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