Monday, January 28, 2008

Umm... What was the Question?

I was listening to an interview of a psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, on the radio a while ago. He wrote a book called Driven to Distraction about adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. As I listened to his description of the characteristics of adults with ADD, I thought "that sounds like me." So I bought the book.

I started to read Driven to Distraction and then got distracted. It sat on the shelf for about a year when I decided I should finish it. It shined a light on many of the things I have felt while growing up. These are symptoms of Adult ADD from Wikipedia:

- A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one's goals (regardless of how much one has actually accomplished). Yeah.
- Difficulty getting organized. Oh, yeah.
- Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started. Where do I begin?
- Many projects going simultaneously; trouble with follow through. Yep.
- A tendency to say what comes to mind without necessarily considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark. Open mouth, insert foot.
- A frequent search for high stimulation. Not so much this one.
- An intolerance of boredom. Yes.
- Easy distractability; trouble focusing attention, tendency to tune out or drift away in the middle of a page or conversation, often coupled with an inability to focus at times. I'm sorry, what were we talking about?
- Trouble in going through established channels and following "proper" procedure. I'll do it my way.
- Impatient; low tolerance of frustration. Okay, maybe a little.
- Impulsive, either verbally or in action, as an impulsive spending of money. Maybe you should ask Tabitha.
- Changing plans, enacting new schemes or career plans and the like; hot-tempered. Not really.
- Physical or cognitive restlessness. Does a bouncing leg and drumming fingers count?
- A tendency toward addictive behaviour. If french fries are an addiction then yes.
- Chronic problems with self-esteem. Yeah.
- Inaccurate self-observation. Not me.

As a child in school I was always a step behind in the classroom. When the teacher asked me a question I usually had no idea what she had been talking about. I was lost in my own little world. Every school year I told myself that I would work really hard and get good grades. I would usually do well for the first month or so and then I would slip back into my old patterns. There was always a gap between my test scores and my grades. I tested well, particularly in reading, but had mediocre grades because I failed to turn in assignments.

I've talked to my Dad about this. As a child I remember lots of unfinished projects around the house. He was also a day-dreamer in school. I watch Abigail and how she behaves, and I see the same issues rearing their ugly heads in her. At least for Abigail we know what to look for. For my Dad and me, there was no answer to our problems other than "Pay attention," "sit still," or "if only you would try harder."

Imagine how frustrating it is for Tabitha, a highly organized, high achieving planner, to live with me. I'm unorganized, I don't plan ahead, and I procrastinate. I have trouble relating to people in social situations and am constantly saying things or behaving in ways that embarass her. She calls me a "social moth."

I look at the symptoms and they seem to fit my situation, but it is impossible to accurately diagnose a condition in yourself. I need to make an appointment with the psychiatrist, but I keep putting it off.

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