Category Archives: ADD/ADHD

Writing Short Essays

You have seen my ravings on this site for some time now.  I have written about not being able to write for many years, which I attribute to my Attention Deficit Disorder. I just did not have the focus.  Getting a diagnosis and treatment changed my life.  The ADD is still enough of a problem that I don’t think I have a novel or long nonfiction book in me. Maybe I could come up with a long piece on regional geology, but it has been done many times.  Someday, maybe.  

I love writing these short pieces.  I have wide interests, and there is no one telling me what to write.  I do think I will do some independent reporting the next time we have a big geology related event.  A good flood, landslide, or dam burst will do fine.  There is an opportunity to write for our neighborhood association, but I will not sit through meetings. 

Why not fiction?  I probably have as many ideas for fiction as nonfiction, but the craft is more demanding.  I can hammer out 500 to 1000 words in an hour or two, revising as I go, and it usually works just fine. I have a good editor/wife that straightens me out from time to time.   

I have always had some talent and encouragement from teachers in high school and college about my writing.  In college, I made some money writing papers for people for $10.00 a page.  It had to be a subject I liked and knew something about.  My best customers were forestry majors, who seemed to be only semi-literate.      

Now, with the help of a lot of stimulation in the coffee shop, I can scratch some things out.  My pieces seem to be getting longer, not because of any design on my part.  I also plan to write more.  No shortage of topics.  I just hope I can avoid politics for the most part.  Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert help me discharge most of my disgust for the current political climate. 

I would like to do more humor, but I don’t seem to have the reservoir of funny stuff people like Dave Barry seem to have.  People do tell me I am good at smart-ass remarks, however.  My favorite writer is John McPhee, who is the best expository writer in the business.

I have been published.  I wrote a book review for the journal of the Oregon-California Trails Association.  I plan to do more writing about pioneer trails and history.  The Western History section at the Denver Public Library is a good resource, but they won’t let you check anything out.  It is necessary to go there, and they don’t have a coffee shop. 

One thing is sure, I will keep inflicting my writing on you as long as there are a few of you to read my writing.  I would like more feedback and criticism, however.  Also, tell others about dofbill.com.  It’s easy to remember, dof stands for doddering old fart.  I started this with around thirty readers.  Now I average about 100 hits every week.  No Pulitzer yet, but I would write for just myself if that was it.  Extroverts do like an audience, however.

My Music

Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

I was growing up when Rock and Roll was born.  Prior to rock and roll, popular music pretty much defined banality.  Then, the blues and the beat.  Early rock and Roll was not always great either.  There was a lot of bad stuff out there.  The radio stations had to fill their space, and Buddy Holly, Elvis, and the Everly Brothers would not stretch far enough.  The music was born out of the blues, and there were black musicians who kept the tradition alive with some innovative infusions.  A lot of the trash came from Phil Spector, with his wall of sound.

Like most things In our culture, the real stuff got co-opted by white men in suits.  The real stuff stayed alive, but you didn’t hear it on top 40 radio very often.  There were some musicians far away who did listen to the real stuff, and they infused it with their own culture.  The British Invasion began, and music changed again.  A tremendous burst of creativity came forth, almost world wide.  Today, it’s called classic rock.  The suits, however, got to sell their schlock alongside the good stuff.

There was a parallel trend during all this change.  The folkies were alive and well, with the real stuff, Judy Collins (From Denver), Joan Baez, and others. We also got the Kingston Trio-like commercial music.  The king of the folkies was a Jewish boy from Hibbing, Minnesota.  Not blessed with a great singing voice, he developed a huge following because his lyrics managed to define the mood of a restless generation.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Then, he went electric.  Bob Dylan and his legion of followers and contemporaries created music that inspired and motivated many of my generation.  There also was this war lots of people did not like.  The music led and we followed it into the streets.  It wasn’t just the music that created the cultural shift of the 60’s; the civil rights movement probably started it all.

There were some parallel trends in music during all this.  People still listened to big band standards, the Burt Bacharach’s were out there, commercial bubblegum polluted the airwaves, and Jazz stayed alive through it all.  The 50s and 60s were probably the golden age of jazz, taking its roots in the blues to entirely new places.  I left rock and roll for a while around 1959-1961 for jazz.  I guess I needed the blues.  Today’s jazz seems like Muzak with chords.

Classical music.  There was not much of a classical music scene when I was a kid in Fruita.  My introduction came from the Brumbaughs.  They had a piano, and used it.  Tedd, the older son, was my age, and two blocks away.  The Brumbaughs took me to a violin concert at Mesa College in Grand Junction.  Tossy Spivakoski was the violinist. (How can I remember his name?  It must have been around 1956.).  He was a well-known concert violinist, but I think he thought he was casting pearls before swine in the middle of nowhere. .  He hated any coughing or other noise while he was playing, and scowled at the culprits.  I liked the concert.

J. S. Bach

J. S. Bach

After my mother died, I listened to a lot of classical blues.  Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is the probably the best musical lament of all time.  Classical, especially Baroque, is now my favorite genre.  Baroque seems to appeal to people with ADD. I can’t connect with the new stuff, pop is as insipid as always, and country is pop with a steel guitar.  The scene is so fragmented I can’t track it.

I am sure there is good music, I just don’t know where.  One place of genuine creativity that channels 60s protest music is Hip-Hop.  I don’t connect with the sound too much, I guess I am too old and white, but if you want to know what is going on in Baltimore, listen to hip-hop.

Yo Yo Ma

Yo Yo Ma

I can’t listen to classic rock, I have heard every song several hundred times.  Pop and country suck, so it is classical for me.  Recently Carol and I went to a Yo-Yo Ma concert at DU.  He is the most famous cellist in the world, and most of his program was Bach.  I was transported.  I have some old R&R in my truck, Bonnie Raitt, Dylan, the Cranberries, but it is mostly classical, mostly Baroque.  I am content with listening to music that has been around for centuries.  I am still a bit of a folkie, so that music is OK as long as there is no John Denver.

The Third Grade

Old Fruita Elementary

Old Fruita Elementary

I had a turbulent third grade. There were things I couldn’t do. I am so left-handed that I produced terrible cursive handwriting.  It was so bad as to be almost unreadable.  My ADD didn’t help, I tended to be disruptive, especially when I didn’t like the subject material or the teacher.  I did not like Mrs. Bastian.  To me she was just old, ugly, and mean.  To her, I was rebellious, noisy, inattentive, and defiant.  In retrospect, she was burned out and could not afford to leave.

My defiance showed up on the health chart.  Every day, Mrs. Bastian graded the class on several things, including cleanliness, combed hair, clean fingernails, and other things.  My thing was clean fingernails.  While walking to school I would rub my fingernails in the dirt, getting them as filthy as I could.  My health chart had all good marks except for the row of black marks for my fingernails.  Big black marks.  Bob Silva also had black marks, but not because his nails were not clean but because he was so dark the teacher thought his nails were dirty. She was so mean.

The other problem was with my dog.  Spanky was a black Cocker Spaniel, as exuberant and careless as I was.  Some mornings he would get loose and follow me to school.  I think he wanted to go to school.  If I saw him before I got to school, I would take him home and be late for school.  Mrs. Bastian did not like that and would not accept my excuses.  Other mornings he would make it into the classroom.  The other kids loved it.  The teacher was livid, and sent both of us home.  I had to have a parent bring me back to school.  Sometimes I just stayed home.

My father was the town telephone man, and my mother was the high school secretary.  I know I was an embarrassment to them, but they also knew how much I hated that woman.  The parent-teacher conferences must have been quite interesting.

I don’t think I learned a lot in third grade, but it didn’t matter a lot.  I was a good reader, and drove my parents crazy with my questions about everything.  I learned third grade on my own.  I don’t understand why they did not move me across the hall to the other third grade class, but that woman and I got to dislike one another for the entire school year.

Fourth grade was a complete contrast.  The teacher was fun, actually liked children, and encouraged learning.  The only difficulty was multiplication tables.  My ADD has never let me be a good memorizer.  My mother drilled them into my head, bless her.

So, third grade didn’t create any lasting trauma, just some lasting memories.  I can still see that row of black marks I was so proud of.  My dog somehow missed out on fourth grade as well.  I still can’t write cursive.  I finally gave up trying and went back to printing everything but my scrawl of a signature.

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.