Hi. My name is Dave and I have ADHD…….
I am writing this piece in response to “Mr Know It All” who gives no credence to this thing called ADHD and believes that the medication used to treat ADHD is all nonsense and a good “Twack on the arse” would send us on our way cured and repentant.
He thinks that medication for ADHD reduces children to some sort of state sponsored zombie and robs them of their individuality, he mutters about conspiracy and pharma companies.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a medical professional of any sort so I cannot offer credentials to back up my theories. I do however have fifty two years’ experience of living with my own ADHD and the same number of years living with all the other monsters that inhabit the earth.
I was born in 1964 and by 1968 started to show all the hallmarks of being a “bold child”
I was described as.
What I felt was
You see I didn’t know I was a rude, disruptive, disorganised, rebellious kid. All I knew was that I was different.
I saw things in a different way. I saw the world around me in too many colours and heard it in too many sounds. It was a terrifying place where everything moved too fast and situations developing too quickly for me to understand or control.
I became confused and disoriented in group situations. I couldn’t play team sports because all the shouting and running and rules equated to conflicting signals that I could not decode. (Sensory overload)
I was labelled
Not a team player,
A bully; (At times I tried to slow the game down and I hurt people.)
I could not cope with group conversations where several people were talking at once because my brain tried to lock-in on and decode all of the separate strands of the various conversations and my head would feel like it was burning.
I was labelled
I knew I was none of those things. I was still unaware of ADHD.
A practical demonstration of one aspect of ADHD
Imagine for a moment “That” movie in which the hero has been beaten over the head with a club.
Picture the scene in the hospital bed when the hero wakes to a fuzzy reality.
The director wanted to show “disorientation” and “confusion”
so the sound track is
layered over more noise
layered over strands of disjointed conversation.
The screen flickers from one disorienting scene to the next, faces swimming in and out of focus.
Are you getting the picture?
Now imagine living in that state permanently. For me all group situations where that frightening. The order of the school room was fine, the chaos of the playground was a nightmare.
The bold boy grows up.
I grew up as a loner, wild and uncontrollable, or at least that was the image I projected
“Bold” was the “box” I was placed in
The “label” attached said “open with caution”
I was that bold kid. I was judged as a brat and spent my younger years carrying that label and its attached stigma. I was not invited to other kid’s birthday parties, I was not picked for football games, I was the butt of jokes. I was bullied by older kids and feared by younger ones.
I had a temper and I was six feet four inches tall by the time I was twelve years old, when I acted out, releasing my pent up frustration, I was liable to do damage. I bent myself in half trying hard to conform but it was not possible.
A little bit about Filters
For a “Neuro-normals” (Norms) social interactions are easy, the Norms have built in filters that separate thought from word and so they “Say the right thing” “Do the right thing” exercise tact.
Understand this. For an ADHD person it is difficult to control impulsivity.
We tend to say what is on our mind with little thought to consequence, we tend to “do now” rather than wait for the right moment. We are not known for out tact.
This impassivity (Unfiltered behaviour) can make us unpopular and it follows us all of our lives. Despite the opinions of a world of “Mr Know It All” types, it is not something we can control unaided.
A practical illustration of the agony of ADHD
Do you remember the Jim Carey movie Liar Liar?
Carey, (An ADHD sufferer in real life) plays a character who, as a corporate lawyer is known as a compulsive liar.
Because of his son’s birthday wish Carey’s character is altered, left unable to control the words coming out of his own mouth.
He suddenly cannot lie,
He must speak the truth even though it will impact negatively on him and on his clients. He is catapulted from one crisis to the next as his life is turned askew. We laugh at the agony of this joker who despite his inability to lie, still possessed a brain that knows immediately the damage he is doing by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Hilarious wasn’t it?
Now imagine living the life of that character 24/7.
This propensity to speak out without thinking included me telling teachers and lecturers exactly what I thought of them, often with hilarious results.
It later led to me telling employers what I thought of them often leading to periods of enforced unemployment.
I spoke out and my regret was instant but always too late, I hurt people and I hated myself for it.
I was labelled
A trouble maker
I knew I was different, I knew I lacked certain social graces, I felt handicapped. I shunned the company of strangers and often even the company friends. (I still do)
I still didn’t know about ADHD.
I found it difficult to hold down a job and so was for most of my working life self-employed. I was judged as.
I was almost 40 years old before I began to understand WHY I was different, it took another four or five years to accept and reconcile myself to the diagnosis of ADHD.
At first I struggled with the label but as I came to understand more about it and as I saw my son growing up with it I eventually came to embrace it and to see it not as JUST a curse but I began to see the positive side of ADHD. I began to see its potential as a force that could be harnessed for good.
The Awful Damn Name
Is a bit misleading and tends to trip up people like “Mr Know It All”
Those who have plenty to say without ever having read any of the real research
The clever fuckers who have educated themselves by way of Facebook and those funny memes you sometimes see.
So…… Let me clarify the name as it applies to my experience and what it means to me.
It is currently 5:35am on Monday 19th of September, I started writing this essay at 3AM and I have, in the same time period, written two poems and read a number of pieces on various websites and here I am at, now 5:36 with 1033 words of this piece completed.
I would say I am pretty much focused on getting this job done and dusted and I will lose a night’s sleep to achieve it.
That has been my story always. I lock-on to something and I become super focused, I want to do the best job possible. This need to be really good at things has been exemplified in my forays into Photography, Gardening, Farming, Writing, Web design etc. I aim high and will not rest until I achieve my goals, I am not satisfied with being OK or Average. I MUST be the best I can be.
So where’s the deficit? You ask
The deficit is that while I am hyper-focused on those things that drive me, I lose sight of all other things. I lose sleep, I ignore my children (Never for long) I neglect other simple duties, I sometimes forget to eat, wash, exercise. I become so focused I lose sight of all the other very important things.
I strive to complete, compete and be the best, photographer, gardener, web designer, etc. that I can be and when I achieved a level that is acceptable to me I often quit.
(Writing & Horses have been constants in my life and I think now that they will remain so forever because they have become so deeply ingrained that they may well be coded into my DNA J)
Yup, the hyperactivity is evidenced by the drive to be more than good at something, the desire to be among the best or at the very least to be the best that I can be.
This hyperactivity manifests in research, hands on experience, continual learning, browsing of websites, libraries, archives trying to imbibe as much information as I possibly can on the subject which is biting me at that time.
It involves such immersion in my passions that as I said earlier I often lose sight of other important things. It involves a driving need to know and understand the subject right down to its nuts and bolts.
ADHD people are never happy to understand PART of a process, they rebel against the illogical nature of starting something in the middle, they will never be satisfied with half answers, they do not want to “round up” or “round down” they want and demand absolutes.
If I garden then I must grow all of my plants from seed or from cuttings, I must understand the culture of every plant in my garden, I must know their needs and their habits and then I can be a good gardener. When I achieve this level of expertise I may very well lose all interest in the garden and allow it become wild and unkempt.
I have heard ADD/ADHD called a disease, I object strongly to that as it is by definition NOT a disease.
I also object to its classification as a disorder unless we first accept that a massive percentage of the human population suffer from a dis-order.
A practical demonstration of Normal v ADD/ADHD
-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 0 +1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1
The 0 in the centre is Mr Neuro-normal. he is a freak, a dead centre type of guy who is not a dreamer or a schemer, he thinks INSIDE the box only, he has NO flare No quirks, No exceptional talents, he thinks at average speed, he reads what he needs to read, he learns what he needs to learn and he retains information for as long as he needs it.
Mr Neuro-Normal will never invent anything, will never make a scientific break-through. He will never write a book of any value. He will never have a Eureka moment.
Mr Neuro-Normal is the most boring guy you will ever meet. Thankfully Mr Neuro-Normal is pretty much non-existent because all humans have unique thoughts and unique insights, we all have foibles.
To Mr Neuro-Normal’s left are the “Norms”
Mr -1×10 is an ultra-conservative thinker who sees the world in black and white. He is tactful, thoughtful, unselfish. He will never create waves, he adheres to the status quo and is happy that way. He is normal to the extent of abnormality.
Mr -1×5 is your average Joe, a guy who contributes to the world, is known to swear from time to time, is a persuasive arguer, and is passionate about many things. He is restrained by his (- minus) from acting out his passions, or taking his argument to the next level, he is restrained by his filters. He seldom acts on impulse or pursues his dreams, he is a responsible solid citizen
The Crazy ones
To the right of Mr Neuro-Normal are those who are the crazies. Those on the Autism Spectrum
Mr +1×10 is profoundly autistic, often demonstrating signs of genius. He is locked into a condition where he functions outside of the realms of our normality. He is of course abnormal.
Mr +1×5 is very similar to Mr -1X5 except his brain does not place filters on his thoughts, he acts on his passions and he will argue his point vehemently. He is likely to be a good debater, a logical thinker and a generally decent all round citizen. Mr +1X5 is likely to be inventive, persuasive and likely to do well in business. He will also be a low grade ADD/ADHD person though not diagnosed as such because he is close enough to neuro-normal to be acceptable to society’s view of normal.
As we work our way up through Mr +1×6 to Mr +1×9 we work our way through ADHD/ ADD & Asperger’s Syndrome.
These people are the ones who “Mr Know It All” thinks are fakers, those that need a good “Twack on the arse” And those who become zombies when they are administered drugs such as Ritalin or Concerta.
The people on the +side of the scale are those who excel at cryptic thinking, they contribute to society by exception, they are likely to be less respectful of laws and rules that they disagree with. They are creative, inventive, do not except limitations, think outside the box. They are seldom team players but often leaders.
They are often either unemployed or self-employed, many run large businesses that they grew from scratch. They are often only average parents or worse. They are seldom happy with the status quo.
These are the ADHD People.
They include some of the most successful business people on the planet, here is a sample of some very successful people with ADHD
some of the most creative artists, actors, innovators. These are the people that are judged as having a disorder. I don’t agree unless, as I said we view over half the world population as having a disorder.
So what about the medication:
I am coming to the close of this piece and I have, in stereo-typical ADHD fashion, yet to address the issue of medication which “Mr Know It All” claims turns us crazies into Zombies. He would rather administer corporal punishment to the “bold” kids.
He believes that we are drugging kids into a state of sameness, that we are robbing their individuality.
I can tell you categorically that Mr Know It All is an idiot who has no idea what he is talking about.
My first encounter with medication for ADHD was the use of Ritalin on my son who was diagnosed early with ADHD. I was of course worried about this drug and its potential to do him harm, I researched side effects and found little to scare me. I still watched him closely, check daily for changes in behaviour or attitude. In other words I was monitoring him for signs of Zombie transformation. It never happened, my son remained a unique individual who thought outside the box, asked weird and wonderful questions, spoke his mind.
The medication simply helped him to filter the excesses of his ADHD. He still thinks the same thoughts but he does not verbalise everything. He can focus on study and homework but his mind still surfs the edges of clouds and chases impossible dreams. He is not judged as BOLD, he has a great bunch of friends, he is popular and socially adept.
I took Ritalin myself for the first time in 2009. It didn’t alter me in any way, it didn’t cause fangs to protrude or hair to grow in unexpected places. It did allow me that extra few seconds to think before I spoke, it allowed me to focus on singular things. I still take Ritalin when I am facing difficult situations but I am not a regular user.
At fifty two years of age I know who I am. I embrace my ADHD. It makes me what I am, it has been a curse at times but has mostly been a blessing.
I look at my son who is turning into a complex, multi-layered adult who sees the world in a thousand colours and hears it in a cacophony of noise, none of which frighten him.
I do not feel hard done by because I was born as Mr +1×6
I do however feel thankful that I am not Mr Neuro-normal, how awful would that be.