Monthly Archives: October 2014

My Life With ADD/ADHD

My Song

My Song

At age 59, I was diagnosed with ADD. I was in a therapy session which was, like most of my therapy sessions over the years, going nowhere.  My therapist stopped, looked at me and asked, “Have you ever been evaluated for ADD?”  Well,no.  No one had ever suggested it and it had never occurred to me.

That evening a computer search brought up several checklists. On the first one I took, almost every question was a head slapper.  I was a match for 48 of the 50 questions.  That therapist was not a big help for the ADD; most therapists aren’t.  The diagnosis, however, changed my life.  I had always known something was wrong.  I just did not function like most people, and the stress of living in a world where I didn’t quite fit in was taking a physical toll.

add quoteI have a number of symptoms, including a short attention span if not wholly engaged, impulsivity, irritability, hyper focus at times, forgetfulness, poor attention to detail, trouble getting started, distractibility, poor memory, and absent-mindedness.  Did I mention I forget stuff, like people’s names?

In my fifties I was treated for a bleeding ulcer, migraine headaches, had prostate surgery, rectal surgery, knee and back problems, hernias, and was involved in years of individual and couples therapy. Much of this was due to the stress of trying to function in a world of normies.

Work had ups and downs.  I always had authority problems and often missed small details.  I was never in enough trouble to get fired, but I had several of those long sessions with several levels of supervisors.

School was much the same way. I am fairly smart, so I almost always got by.  In college things got worse.  I couldn’t get by on brains and charm.  I actually had to work, and found that if the subject matter or the instructor didn’t engage me, I literally could not do the work.

Brain Disorder

Brain Disorder

I remember a political science course with an instructor who was always patronizing with students and wanted us to learn about Communism by studying Yugoslavia. By the time I realized I was not going to learn anything there, it was too late to drop the course.  Another F added to my list.

I lived with anxiety that I would do or say something wrong. I also have a lifetime of replaying the things I did do wrong.  Even now, 13 years after the diagnosis, I obsess about things that happened long ago.  I sometimes do things on impulse I later regret.  To protect my self-esteem I defend situations I get myself into that are indefensible.

Recently at work I threw some things away that needed replacing, but the replacements are not ready. My impulse got my colleagues all stirred up, and the children who come to play don’t have stick horses to ride.  I don’t think they minded that the old horses I threw away were worn out.

I get irritated by noise. Big crowds, barking dogs, truck traffic, elevator music, and crying children all get to me.  A neighbor friend had a little girl that cried a lot.  I found myself getting angry at her to the point of wanting to harm her.  I decided then that having children was not an option.  To my first wife’s disappointment I got a vasectomy.  I’m not sure that was the right decision, but I often believe so.  I have poor impulse control.

The diagnosis at age 59 changed my life. The first thing that happened is all sorts of feelings I had not allowed myself to feel came to the surface.  Anger, bitterness, rage, sadness, frustration, and just plain pain surged out.  I was not much fun to live with for a while.  I told Carol that I just had to be those feelings.

After the old feelings subsided and I found a good therapist and a good psychiatrist, things rapidly improved. Cognitive therapy gave me coping strategies more effective than making trouble to get my prefrontal lobes to wake up.  The medication helps with focus and awareness.  I can sustain tasks, where previously I was terrible at mundane tasks.  Now, I am just bad at them.

For me, the biggest change is that I can now write. I have always wanted to write, but the ADD did not allow me the focus to produce anything.  Now, except for occasional bouts of writer’s block, I can write. All those years of not writing were not wasted, as I studied good writing.  I also practiced doing clear, concise writing when writing the daily shift reports in the water treatment plants where I worked.  One or two paragraphs, but I got some practice.

Today, I have gratitude. I can manage the ADD (mostly), I have a wonderful marriage, a comfortable retirement, and I can write.  What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Why I Read and Write


Writer and Helper

I have been a reader since I learned how reading Donald Duck comic books in kindergarten. In first grade, Dick and Jane were boring compared to Scrooge McDuck diving in his three cubic acres of cash.  I read most everything in sight.  I have to know.

At home, there was a lot to read. The living room was dominated by a round oak dining table cut down to coffee table height.  It was piled with newspapers, magazines, and books.  My father had subscriptions to Time, Newsweek, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, Outdoor Life, Redbook, National Geographic, and Cosmopolitan.  Mother had Ladies Home Journal.  I had Boy’s Life.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the weekly Fruita Times were always there. Mother belonged to a book review club, and we had those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  We had lots of railroad history and books about regional topics.  I read it all.  Well, not all.  Father had Cosmopolitan and Redbook for the romances they ran every month.  Not for me.

I read a lot of the stuff boys read in those days. Mark Twain, Jack London, Hemingway, Richard Henry Dana, James Thurber, and Dickens were influences.  I think my biggest influences were Mark Twain, with his descriptions and humor, and Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years before the Mast.  In fact, I think I will reread that one.  It combined a great adventure for a young man with fine writing.

Today, most of my reading is nonfiction. John McPhee is my favorite writer.  He writes on a wide range of subjects, almost all of his topics interest me.  He does have a book about fish for some inscrutable reason.  He combines humor, good stories about the people he finds, extensive research, and clear writing.  I even read his fish book.

I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but I just could not muster the discipline to do so without the pressure of a school assignment. Instead, I read.  I did do well with college writing assignments.  I think I had assimilated enough good writing that I did well as long as the topic engaged me.  Most topics did so for two reasons, I picked courses that engaged me, and instructors that challenged me.

I even wrote some papers for other students, usually forestry majors at Colorado State who could not write themselves out of a paper bag. I charged $10.00 per page, pretty good money in the late 1960’s.  Strangely, I still could not write things for myself.  I had to have a deadline.

At age 59, I found out why. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.  I got cognitive therapy and medication.  The therapy gave me skills to cope with the disorder that are more effective than the adaptation I had used for many years, mainly making enough trouble to get my midbrain revved up enough to fire up my prefrontal lobes.  The other method that worked was the pressure and anxiety of an upcoming deadline.

I still use those methods, but I can often just sit down and write. I still have to have a topic that engages me, and there are those times when the words just will not come.  The ancients wrote about the Muses, goddesses who brought inspiration to writers, and how sometimes they just do not attend.  I don’t know about the explanation, but I understand the problem.

I like to go to a coffee shop to write, it helps me focus on what I am doing. At home there are too many distractions.  I used to call writing the hardest work known to humankind.  Sometimes that is true; sometimes writing is easy and just flows out of me.  I do know it is one of my favorite things to do.