As the mother of teens, I am familiar – whether I like it or not – with many of the most popular internet gifs, memes, and comics. Recently my kids showed me a comic personifying four different browsers: Google, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. The comic portrayed the first three browsers as alert and quick to respond, while Internet Explorer was spaced out and woefully slow on the draw.
I thought the comic was hilarious, but I stopped laughing when one of my kids exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, mom! That’s you! You’re Internet Explorer!”
He didn’t need to explain. I admit that I’m painfully pokey and unfocused. The reason for this is a chemical imbalance that is estimated to affect 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults. It goes by the name of Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD.
The symptom most commonly associated with ADD is distractibility. A distractible person will react to different stimuli in the environment by shifting his attention from one to another, depending upon which stimulus seems to be “calling out to him” at any given time. The t-shirt slogan “They say I have ADD, but they just don’t understand…oh look, a chicken!” is a dubiously amusing, albeit accurate, reference to ADD distractibility.
Another condition that affects people with ADD is Sensory Sensitivity, which is a heightened sensitivity to noise and visual stimuli. Sensory Sensitivity explains why adults with ADD can be distracted by the sound of bath towels being folded in the next room or the sound of meditation being practiced down the hall. Often, they can be distracted by something they can’t even identify. For example, I was writing at my desk recently, but something didn’t feel right. I was growing more and more uneasy until, after an hour or so, my husband walked into the room, said “Wow, how can you work in this kind of light?” and flipped on the light switch. That’s what had been wrong: it was dark, and growing darker because the sun was setting. Who knew? I didn’t.
Medical research shows that marriages can be affected by ADD. One symptom, charmingly called “exuberance,” can be especially problematic. Exuberance is the tendency to speak before one thinks, and it can happen when an adult with ADD is carried away by enthusiasm. Here’s an example: my very competitive husband and I were on a team playing Trivial Pursuit at a family reunion. The question was asked, “How does James Bond like his martinis?” and I, in my ADD-fueled exuberance and without consulting the solid, level-headed non-ADD members of my team, shouted, “Stirred not shaken, stirred not shaken!” instead of the correct answer, “Shaken, not stirred.” Yep, take it from me: exuberance can strain a marriage.
People with ADD often have many projects going simultaneously; unfortunately, they usually have trouble with follow-through. Now I’m going to ask you a favor. Please don’t Google my name. Because if you do, you’ll find links to two blogs and one website, none of which has been updated in a few months. And I will be very embarrassed.
The good news is that adults with ADD undertake so many projects because they tend to be very creative. They will get excited about new projects every few weeks. Or days. Or hours. From the time I was a kid, I’ve periodically come up with ideas for home businesses. The earliest was a crafting venture called bottlecap creations, in which I tried to sell soda bottle caps artistically filled with colored bits of glass that I’d found in the street. Later business ventures included personalized letters from the Easter Bunny, tissue paper collages, hand-lettered bookplates, and “Feline Fancies,” deluxe accessories for cats. And I don’t even like cats.
People with ADD can have serious trouble with directions and navigation. I was driving my son to Cub Scout camp for the first time and I got lost. So I went into a gas station to ask for directions. Then I asked the attendant to repeat the directions. Then I repeated the directions after him. Then I got back in the car and my son asked me “Mom, which way we should go?” and I was at a loss to answer because I couldn’t remember anything the attendant had said beyond, “First, you make a left at that traffic light there.”
What are common treatments for ADD? For many adults with ADD, medication can be very effective. My daughter Grace, who is thirty years old, tells this story: “My doctor prescribed medication for my ADD, and I had just taken it for the first time. My husband Dan and I were in the grocery store, standing in front of a display of oranges when the meds kicked in. Suddenly, I realized that I was able to see the individual oranges instead of just a blob of color. ‘Dan,’ I cried, ‘Dan, look at the oranges!’ It was as if I were seeing oranges for the first time.”
If medication for ADD is not an option, help may be found simply by honing organizational skills. Making lists and sticking to them is a top priority for ADD adults who want to get their lives in order, and I’ve witnessed the effectiveness of list-making by friends who have trouble prioritizing. Unfortunately, lists don’t work too well for me. My lists usually consist of one- or two-word notes. Sometimes a note is so scribbled that I can’t read it. Sometimes I would be able to read a note if only I could find it. And sometimes I can find a note AND read it AND do the task that it says I should do, but before I complete the task, I get distracted by something else. The upshot is that I often start the day with a list of things to do, and end the day with a list of things to finish.
So there’s my snapshot of the ADD-driven life. If this article seems a little slapdash, there’s a good reason for it. You see, I knew I had to submit my article on June 26, and I knew that today was June 26, but I didn’t realize that I had to submit my article today.
Copyright 2015 Celeste Behe
Image: “Chicken”, Eva Rinaldi, July 9, 2011, via Wikimedia Commons