I have ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, Also Known As ADHD

I wrote this article in 2004 , about a year after I was first diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD).  It was originally published online by Attention Deficit Disorder Resources of Tacoma, WA.  If you have ADD or ADHD, suspect you might have it, or know someone who does you may find this interesting, perhaps humorous and hopefully informative. 

I am not a trained professional in the treatment of ADD, and the information in this article is not intended as advice for how to deal with it.  It is merely an explanation of my personal observations as one who has ADD.  I personally believe there are many undiagnosed adults dealing with this issue with no knowledge or support.  The most important part of treatment is simply being aware you have ADD and knowing how it affects you.  There are medications to help, but even with them knowledge is an important part of the equation.  With knowledge medication may not even be necessary.

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I have ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, sometimes known as ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I prefer to use ADD because I don’t have the hyperactive part. In fact, most people would probably accuse me of being quite the opposite of hyperactive. I’ve had it all my life or, at least. as long as I can remember.

The doctors and psychologists who study these things say that those who have it are born with it. Who am I to argue with all that education? Actually, maybe I would because one of the characteristics of people with ADD is an aversion to authority figures. It’s not that we always think the authorities are wrong; we may just not want to admit that they are right.

Even though I’ve had this disorder my entire life, I’ve only known about it for a little over a year , or at least that’s how long I’ve had a name for it. I had 54 and a 1/2 years to observe its effects on me before somebody told me I had it, and it was diagnosed. I’ve known most of my life that there was something different about me, that I didn’t think and act like most people do, but I never really knew why. I had never thought about the possibility that my brain might have been made a little differently than most brains, causing me to view and react to the world in a manner unlike most human beings.

Okay—at this point I will argue a little with the ADD authorities, as do some other people I know who have these special brains. I don’t think it is necessarily a “disorder.” After all a disorder indicates something is wrong, and I’m not ready to admit there is something wrong with my brain. It’s just different, and to me, that makes it special. My brain is not the ordinary garden-variety brain. I’m offended that someone might think it defective or disordered just because it is different.

Let’s make a comparison here. There are more ways than one to measure things. Two of the common systems are the metric system and the English system. Most of the world uses the metric system. Here in the good old U.S.A., we use the English system. Does that mean our system of measurement is disordered just because it is different from the one used by most humanity? I don’t think so!

Actually, someone with ADD probably devised the English system of measurement because it is far more complex and confusing than the metric system, and one of the characteristics of those of us with ADD is the ability to find the most complicated method for completing a simple task!

I also differ with the authorities that describe ADD as an attention “deficit.” That would indicate that people with ADD don’t pay as much attention to our surroundings as the supposedly normal people. Now, I can understand how a normal person might think that to be the case when they talk to us about something for a while, and then ask us a question, only to hear a response dealing with a totally different subject, or perhaps with information that is connected in a manner they are unable to understand. They probably think we didn’t hear anything they said.

Actually, people with ADD may pay too much attention to their surroundings. One or two things are commonly going on in our minds at any given time. Most of us are actually gathering (and attempting to process) far more information about our surroundings than normal people do.   As a result, we may have so much data in our heads that it becomes difficult to sort it out.

If you were to strike up a conversation with me on a busy street corner—assuming you are a normal person—you would probably expect me to shut out everything else and pay strict attention to you. That is truly a totally unreasonable expectation to place on an ADD person. I would be listening to you, but I’d also be listening to traffic noises, chirping birds, barking dogs, as well as the conversations of people around us. But that’s not all! I’d be looking at what you are wearing, your gestures, clouds in the sky, displays in nearby store fronts, billboards, street signs, cracks in the sidewalk, grass growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk, an ant climbing through the grass, the leaf the ant is dragging, and the hole in the leaf.

You’ve just finished telling me about your Aunt Gertrude’s appendectomy, and I respond with, “I never realized an ant could carry anything that big!” You probably think I’m crazy and wonder if I really think your Aunt’s appendix was that swollen, depending on how you and I pronounce “ant” and “aunt.This example may present at least an inkling of what is happening much of the time in the heads of those of us with ADD. You see, it really isn’t an attention “deficit.” It is more like an attention “excess.” Maybe, in that respect, we are hyperactive. Even though our bodies don’t always show it, our minds are in overdrive.

Then another thing sometimes happens to those of us with ADD—we become hyper-focused. Again, this is not a lack of or shortage of attention. Hyper-focused is highly concentrated attention. When we go into a hyper-focus state, we may ignore you when you speak to us. It’s not intentional, but we may be concentrating so intently on one miniscule source of data that you could put an air horn next to our ears, blast it for three seconds, and we genuinely would be totally unaware of your presence. It’s just that some subject, some object, some project has grasped and held our attention so powerfully that we become unconscious of anything else in our surroundings until we are completely through dealing with it.

Okay, so how does ADD affect our lives and how does a normal person recognize someone with ADD? ADD wasn’t even widely recongized by psychiatrists and psychologists until the mid-to-late 1960’s, and even then, many experts thought it was something that “happened to children, and that they would “grow out” of it as adults. We now know that is not the case. Most who are born with ADD, have it throughout their life.

The person with ADD may learn to understand it and how to deal with it and lead a productive life, or the person with ADD may never recognize it or understand it. Doctors, teachers, coaches, coworkers, police, and others he/she comes into contact with may never understand it or recognize it.  That person’s life continues as an eternal struggle.

Those of us with ADD know we are different, even when we don’t know we have ADD. As a result, we may think we are lazy or stupid when we fail repeatedly to complete what seem like simple tasks. People with undiagnosed ADD often have low self-esteem and feel like there is no place they fit in. As adults, they may jump from job to job and have difficulty with relationships, resulting in unhappy or broken marriages.

Okay, now I’m starting to sound like ADD is a total bummer; but when it is acknowledged and understood, it doesn’t have to be. There is a positive side to ADD. The typical ADD person is intelligent, often well above average. ADD people are usually creative by nature, and as a result, tend to excel in fields like art and music or even engineering because they are usually great problem solvers.

That doesn’t mean they are good at correcting problems. The person with ADD may figure out how to solve a problem, but often becomes bored at the point of implementing a solution. He needs the help of a normal person to see the task completed. Surrounded by competent, normal people, the ADD person may be an excellent leader. He may be a visionary when it comes to business, but he needs someone else to keep the records, handle the filing, and manage production.

The ADD person may be very artistic and produce paintings, pots, photographs, or sculptures that are beautiful and unique, but don’t expect him to replicate the same object over and over. His mind is always seeking new horizons, new challenges. As soon as a challenge is overcome, it is no longer interesting. Routine is the nemesis of the person with ADD.

The ADD person should never be an accountant or a file clerk. In such jobs his creativity would surely wreak havoc on the workplace. He has a compelling need to deal with new challenges continually. Continuing to deal with tasks he understands and has mastered results in boredom and can lead to depression.

There is no cure for ADD. I don’t think we should even be looking for one. There are, however, medications that help keep those of us with ADD focused and productive. There are also therapists and coaches who can help us understand how our thought processes are different from those of the rest of the world so that we can better understand how to survive in a world that surrounds us with normal people.

If we aren’t dealing with a deficit of attention, and it isn’t a disorder, should we come up with another name? Perhaps we should call it HAS for hyper-attention syndrome. For the sake of communication, I’ll stick to ADD. If we let people with ADD choose the correct name, each of us would probably come up with something different. To save the hassles with normal people I’ll knuckle under to the authorities this time.

I have ADD and I’m proud of it. My brain is special.

A Postscript

This essay is one more indication of my ADD. Instead of sitting here at the computer keyboard writing this, I should have been either packing for my impending move or doing some work for my customers. Something in my head kept telling me I have to write this essay NOW!

I am 55 years old, divorced, have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Parkinson’s disease (PD); I have $16 cash in my pocket and an unknown bank balance (Negative or positive? Not sure!) The Department of Revenue is looking for me; there’s a nearly full tank of gas in my ten-year-old car with 116,000 miles on it; my phone is about to be shut off; I have three ex-wives, two sons, and a girl friend (sort of); my 90 year-old father lives alone, is losing his memory and is in better shape physically than I; there’s the possibility of a new 90 year-old step-mother; I have back problems that are keeping me from working my most lucrative part-time job, a business that has just closed; a deadline to get out of the business location/home that I have just sold in 17 days!, work to get started for my other part-time job, and work needing to be completed for customers from my recently closed business. There are phone calls that need to be made to a disability insurance company, a real estate agent and to artists who have consigned work to me; then there are customers, creditors, and who knows whom and what else I need to take care of…. Where do I start?

After a shower, I think I’ll play solitaire on my broken computer…

Have a great day!

If you are interested in learning more about ADD visit these links:

Attention Deficit Disorder Resources of Tacoma, WA

Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Adult Self-Report Scale (Screener)

Comments Appreciated Click Here

Images and text are all Copyright Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

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5 Responses to “I have ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, Also Known As ADHD”

  1. George Lenard Says:

    Very well written, Dave. I assume things have improved somewhat since the postscript.

  2. Dave Michael Says:

    Thanks George. Things have improved greatly. My thought processes are still the same, but I have learned a lot about how to use them to my advantage and how to avoid situations where they work against me.

    I am mildly medicated, but the far more important portion of my treatment has just been knowing I have ADD and understanding how it makes me think differently than other people. At this point I see it as more of a positive than a negative. If someone said they could “cure” me I would decline.

  3. Trevor Butcher Says:

    Yes, I know what you mean, not your ADD to be specific, but my mind certainly works differently to many others, it continues to absorb and simplify sets of data. Everything around me is simply patterns that repeat across subject.

    Anyway, I compare what is considered to be a normal brain as relevant as defining English grammar – I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, you were, and they were. Fine, except where I came from the pattern was different and we use ‘was’ for singular and ‘were’ for plural, while elsewhere they use ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ etc.

    Brains, grammar, someone comes up with a standard based on the first ten examples they come across, and then you are deficit if you happen not to match this new standard. If you suggest the standard is actually deficit, people can get very angry because what they truly believe in is standards, not people.

    “This is the standard, I must be standard, are you trying to say I am not standard?”

    My theory is that the brain is like a box full of balls, each ball related to some brain function. You could pump up some function, such as memory, but the time involved in doing this will likely mean you abandon caring for some other function.

    No one gets 100% big balls on everything because they wouldn’t all fit in the box. Any specialist you meet will have a couple of big balls that allow them to be good at that subject, and a lot of small ones in compensation that they don’t need. Most people have some assortment of ball sizes, and everyone has a different selection of sizes – therefore there is no ‘standard’, no ‘normal’.

    Anyway, that’s my thoughts. Now get back to avoiding packing 😉

  4. eric Says:

    Phew
    My computer crashed and I am at a friends checking my email and flickr.
    I thought the I might check your blog, too. So i kinda of just skimmed your add piece..and I might be there myself…no shit…I might be in denial but I have suspected sometime is up for a long time and have put it on the back burner…I should check it out further, but then I again I am prone to procrastination.
    Eric

  5. ryandeimerly Says:

    Very well-written. I’m also one of those non-hyperactive types of ADD’ers, and I can agree with everything you said- especially the part about how it can break up relationships. Still, it’s just a different brain type. Great article!

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