When I was growing up, I had never heard of Attention Deficit Disorder-ADD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder-ADHD. It wasn’t until my little brother’s teacher informed me that he should get evaluated. I was in the classroom watching him spin around like a whirling dervish and his teacher explained her concern. She said “If I ask Tommy to slide under the table, jump over the chair, and walk around the circle of kids to get to the door, he would do it. But, if I tell him to walk from here to the door, he would run into the table, knock over the chair and stumble into the circle of kids trying to get to the door. He’s smart but he is hyper and cannot sit still for more than a few minutes. He is easily distracted, and I’m worried that he will have a tough time getting through school.” I respected this teacher. She wasn’t looking to medicate an energetic child but I noticed, early on, that Tommy had a hard time focusing on anything for very long. He couldn’t sit still and would run himself ragged. He had many nights that his whole body hurt from playing so hard and not being able to relax. I had him tested by a group of neurologists that the pediatrician recommended.They told me that the drug Ritalin has been around for over fifty years. It is getting a bad reputation lately because too many people are using it on children who don’t need it. In Tommy’s case, Ritalin helped him sit through class. He said it felt good not to have to constantly keep moving; he admitted he finally felt comfortable in his own skin.
I started researching ADD to better understand and help my brother. A friend of mine, a psychologist, recommended Thom Hartmann’s book “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception”. Mr. Hartmann put forward a great understanding of this condition by using the analysis of being a Hunter or a Farmer. My friend said, “You might find this very helpful” and I realized she wasn’t just talking about Tommy.
I was never that hyper but I always had trouble staying focused when I was in school. I would try to stay in the moment and listen to the teacher but inevitably, my mind would wander to a million places. I fell easily into daydreams and when I would “wake up” I would realize that I missed the last half hour of the teacher’s lecture. Recess was not much different. I would be jumping rope one minute and then trying to catch a football in the next. The idea of sticking to just one game didn’t make sense to me.
I would constantly tell myself that when the weekend came, I would get my homework done first thing. I would not wait till Sunday night to do it. Yes, you guessed right, homework was not even looked at until Sunday night. Even now, I will put off work until the deadline is just a few hours away.
Case in point. I started this article last year. With no deadline, there’s no reason for me to even finish this. Why bother now? Well, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last couple of years. One of the biggest things is the decision to stop doubting and over analyzing everything I do. Oh, I hope that came out right. Maybe I should do a rewrite after all. Nope, I’ll just keep going. I’ve learned to write down a real plan of action. Seeing my goals set down on a daily basis gives me the motivation to move forward.
Wait, I need to stop here and file my nails. I will also go look in the fridge even though I’m not hungry. While I’m in the kitchen, I will do the dishes I left in the sink this morning which will lead me to cleaning the microwave, the stove and the countertop before I sit down and continue working on this piece. Okay, so I’m still working on the discipline part. Back to Thom Hartmann’s book. He writes:
People with ADD are the descendants of hunters. They’d have to be constantly scanning their environment looking for food and for threats to them:that’s distractibility. They’d have to make instant decisions and act on them without a second’s thought when they’re chasing or being chased through the forest or jungle, which is impulsivity. And they’d have to love the high-stimulation and risk-filled environment of the hunting field. It’s only a flaw if you’re in a society of farmers.
Mr. Hartmann goes on to explain that today’s society awards the Farmers. Farmers are people who can keep to a routine day after day. They can sit still and absorb information. They can pick a career and job that they will do for the rest of their lives. Hunters on the other hand, have trouble sitting in class for long periods of time. Their attention span is great when it’s information that they are interested in, otherwise, it is fleeting. They will also have a few different careers. Not because they can’t find something they like, but because they get bored easily. It’s a wonderful book to read whether to gain better understanding of yourself or perhaps your child or your spouse.
For me, it gave me a whole new way to look at myself. It was nice to know that there are so many other people who feel and act the same way I do. If we were living in a different time our skill sets would be envied and not frustrating to the people around us. Thom Hartmann’s book also explains how adults with ADD have been able to adapt and work out their own version of a routine. For example: If I want to know where my keys are, I have to put them in the same place everyday, otherwise, they will be lost forever. Time has never meant anything to me but I’m never late because I know to prepare the night before. If I want to complete my to-d0-list, I have to have it written out with a deadline for each task, otherwise, I will find plenty to distract me. Oh, look, it’s snowing.
My brother, Tommy, is all grown up now. He has turned his passion for cooking into the never ending study of being a chef. He likes the creative outlet of preparing new dishes. The restaurant life works for him because everyday has its own set of challenges. With a little guidance and a lot of patience, people with ADD have quite a bit to contribute to our community.
Now, where did I put my keys?