Sunday, February 22, 2009


So a while back I offhandedly joked that I must be a bit ADD because I constantly fidget in church and I always have a bunch of unfinished projects around.

Then the time-before-last when I was at Emily's I was sitting there in the library waiting for the computer to warm up and glanced at the books on the shelf beside me and randomly chose one called something like ADD in Adults.

I flipped through it and there was a test to take to see if you have ADD.

I took it. And I cannot tell you how bizarre it was, as a 40-something mom and minister's wife, to mentally check off symptom after symptom. 40% is a positive diagnosis, said the book, and I was about 60%.

Obviously that piqued my curiosity and I did some research online. Now I will grant that a lot of these ADD sites have a not-so-hidden agenda of making money, so I took them with a grain of salt. But still. It is a strange thing to have your daily struggles delineated there, one after the other, with an actual name for them.

One website listed the following symptoms, all of which describe me to a T:
  • Procrastination; difficulty getting started on projects
  • Excessive disorganization and messiness
  • Inability to prioritize tasks
  • Underestimating the time needed to finish a task
  • Difficulty sustaining effort over long periods of time
  • Starting multiple tasks, but never completing any of them
  • Missing deadlines
  • Inability to screen out distractions
  • "Zoning out" when others are talking
  • Randomly skipping from topic to topic in conversation
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Constantly losing or misplacing things
  • Low tolerance for frustration and stress
  • restlessness, nervous energy
with these results:
  • have a hard time organizing projects and delegating work,
  • have difficulty completing projects on time,
  • spend hours at work, but get very little done,
  • get distracted by trivial tasks, while neglecting the most important ones
Other sources listed things like "white rabbit" syndrome, of always running faster and faster and getting farther behind, and "spider thinking," with one's thoughts skittering rapidly in all directions and not in any sort of order. Then there's hypersensitivity to noises and temperature, family/personal history of depression and other mental disorders, and a long list more that describes me far too well.

My biggest struggle has always been with housework, and I have always felt like a freak for this. Other women seem to have this mysterious magic way of just getting it done and having time for other things, while I feel like I can work all day and not get anything done and I am always, always, behind and most of the time it feels completely overwhelming.

[A situation that is not helped, lately, by never being at home. Sigh]

Anyway, this is a whole new thought, and a rather nice one, that maybe there is actually an issue with how my brain works, and it has a name, and there are concrete ways of coping with it.

As opposed to a moral issue, and a matter of just making up my mind once and for all to be more like my sister instead of so lazy and undisciplined and scatterbrained, and all the other lovely messages my frustrated parents fed into my head because they had no tools for dealing with me, and I have to say I feel more sorry for them than for me.

It has been gratifying to read how-to-cope websites and find things that I've already learned to do, such as using timers to keep myself on task for 15 minutes at a time, and making detailed lists. [My lovely sisters used to find my lists and giggle at how detailed they were, and then add "breathe" and "go to the bathroom" and other necessary items that I had "forgotten".]

And it has also been gratifying to find that there are definite gifts that go with ADD, including--
(Quote from this site)
  • Creativity – People with ADD excel at thinking outside of the box, brainstorming, and finding creative solutions to problems.
  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – People with ADD are free spirits with lively minds—qualities that makes for good company and engrossing conversation.
  • A quick mind - People with ADD have the ability to think on their feet, quickly absorb new information (as long as it’s interesting), and multitask with ease. Their rapid-fire minds thrive on stimulation.

Hyperfocus: A Positive Symptom of ADD / ADHD

While adults with ADHD have great difficulty maintaining attention, those same individuals often are able to “hyperfocus” for long periods of time on tasks or projects that they find interesting. When they’re “in the zone,” people with ADD often lose all concept of time. Hours pass as if they are minutes. This single-minded ability to hyperfocus can lead to significant accomplishments, discoveries, and creative breakthroughs.

(End of quote but I can't turn off the italics for some reason)

I am not saying, of course, that this is a definitive diagnosis and an excuse for everything. I am just saying it is a very cool thing to find words for vague things and names for nameless things and real people that share in something that can feel alone and shameful and secret.


  1. You are so not alone in your "diagnosis" however self determined! My husband has some degree of ADD and our son has ADHD which caused us all much hair pulling as he "came up." We chose not to use medication since his school phychologist recommended that his case was not severe enough to warrant it. Instead he learned coping mechanisms much like you've described. I'm so grateful that we were not stumbling blindly and were actually able to find tools to help. Our son is now pursuing a career in creating fine furniture and cabinetry, something he is passionate about. His attention to fine detail astounds me--especially considering the state of his room back in the day! Best wishes as you learn more about yourself!

  2. Wow, and I'm assuming ADD must be genetic, because most of those describe me to a T as well...

  3. well I find you refreshing. so there!

  4. Did you know that those are also signs of being gifted? A lot of gifted kids are diagnosed as ADD or ADHD because their brains are so busy and they are easily bored.

    I totally identify with all of those, too. Having children seems to have exacerbated the problem since I have 4 extra distractions running around. It is nice to know that it isn't just laziness(although I must confess for me it sometimes is).

  5. I would argue that many (maybe most) cases of ADD are a symptom of the information age where we are constantly bombarded by stimuli that keep us from being able to get things done effectively. How many cases of ADD were there in 1809, 1909... 2009?

  6. Interesting! I've checked them almost all off. I've been driving people to distraction with all my details. Mary H

  7. I have long said that I have ADD, and am glad that i'm not the only one. I must find one of those tests also. Would thrill my husband to know there is a name for my craziness.

  8. It's still possible to move out of the "labeled" box. As I'm sure you are aware, they are many other factors to consider. For one, two posts ago you guided us to a spiritual gifts test. This is a huge one. For example, organization may not be your gift. Do your best in that area but CAPITALIZE on your strengths. Another example, up your magnesium intake and see what that does for your noise tolerance level. Dare I say this? The drug industry came up with yet another label to increase their revenue. I'm perfectly fine with people of opposing views.:)

  9. Funny.. I could check off a lot of those too. But for me, while I'm at work (I do housecleaning) I can usually stay focused and get the job done. But at home, it can be a totally different case. I just though I wasn't disciplined enough, probably still particailly true. I may have to give the timer thing a try.

  10. Somewhat ADDish here as well, though it's never seemed like a huge deal to me. Reading over the list, though, one interesting thought occurred: with some exceptions, this could be titled "A description of homo sapiens in the Global North, 2009"! That many respects, long live ADDers! :-)

    Fitting CAPTCHA: ablip

  11. Twenty years ago I had an epiphany just like yours. I know all about the relief and the ongoing struggle to cope. But I know something too of embracing who I am and realizing that it is possible to be who God wants me to be, even if the ADD brain keeps right on acting ADD-ish. He is not shocked by any brain He made. I've even learned to laugh at myself and invite others to laugh with me. These careening brains take off in all sorts of amazing directions, and if it wasn't for the "affliction" there would be far less adventure and thrill and notable accomplishment. I, for one, think the world would be a poorer place without this blog, and you owe your ability to write at least partly to having ADD.

    My two bits on the "cause" of ADD--I think it is largely genetic, with some environmental conditions and nutritional compromises exacerbating the problem. You and I both were ADD-ish long before we were familiar with anything more tech-y than a rotary dial telephone. And I think more clearly when I am well-nourished, so I am a big believer in eating well and taking nutritional supplements. I have never taken prescription meds for ADD, and have a lot of reservations about doing so. Keep us posted on what you learn further.

  12. I think anyone who has a family and a job and church obligations and friends and community obligations, etc. is a litte ADD. I am always running around in circles trying to get everything done so I'm grateful for my ADD. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

  13. lavenderlou, this question is for you.. so you would say that if you increase magnesium some of these symptoms would go away? If so.. i'm out to buy a case-load of it! :)

  14. As a woman whose husband is severe ADHD who finally went on meds for it a year ago, I totally agree with you that it's so freeing to realize that there are genetic, medical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and learning issues directly attributable to ADHD. And yes, it is very freeing to realize that it is NOT always a "moral failing," as you put it, but rather a direct result of the way your brain is wired that you make some of the communication/attention/lifestyle/work choices that you make.

    Best of luck on your continuing journey with this--

  15. Must run in families. Besides your brother, at least one of your nieces also has ADD. Thank God you stated the ADD are usually the gifted. Whew, you saved my worry-ability!! SIL

  16. Now that I think about it, maybe this should be the topic of your next article