My 16 year old daughter was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder and then, at the age of 57, so was I. A lifetime of struggle was placed into a context that made sense of a lot of failure and frustration. This blog documents and celebrates what has happened to me since.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

An Old Dresser

In my Labor Day garage cleaning I got around to the old dresser. It was a cheapie, from that famous Swedish furniture and what-not store. It was in RR's room for ten year's or so, and after a lot of hard use it was replaced. Today I took it apart, so it would take up less room in the dumpster.

It was just a matter of undoing the hold of the screws and fancier hardware then tapping the plastic covered particle board pieces so as to break the hold of the pegs that were glued between them to create the joints. Drawer after drawer I followed the same procedure; I removed the handles, placing the screws in a pile and throwing the handles, themselves, into the trash. Then I put the screwdriver on top of the freezer and picked up the hammer. A top on each end loosed the front of the drawer, which I stacked neatly to one side. Putting the hammer down I put the side and back pieces of the drawer on top of the front pieces, next to which I put the thin pieces of pressed board that made up the bottom of the drawer. Then I picked up the screwdriver and repeated the process on the next drawer.

On the third drawer I realized how methodically, deliberately, I was working, as though I had all the time in the world to get this task done. And I realized how different that was from the way I worked when I put that dresser together, a decade earlier. I worked then like I did on most assembly projects I ever undertook, like most projects of any type that I ever undertook. I did not lay the pieces out, I did not read the instructions all the way through, I did not gather the tools I would need in advance. I worked as fast as I could and made mistakes that required me to undo and redo, along the way. I was frustrated and angry when I finished, and I am sure I had several drinks which, considering how much coffee I drank that day (as I did every day, in those days) I probably would have had, anyway, that evening.

It wasn't as bad, of course, as projects I undertook in the thirties, or my twenties, or my teens or pre-teens. I had learned something from a life time of going at things, as my father used to characterize it, as though I were "killing snakes with a hoe." He also used to say that I would go off "half cocked," and that I didn't have my "head and ass wired together." Through years of bad results, and of reading a lot of self help, time management and organization books, had given me plenty of strategies to work around it, but the basic pattern was the same: I did things in an impulsive, rushed and distracted way. I did not plan, I did not prepare, I did not anticipate or think things through.

A part of why it went better taking the dresser apart than it did when I put it together has to do with those strategies. I worked hard to develop those strategies, the ways to compensate for what was "wrong with me," and those strategies have helped me to accomplish more than a lot of people who didn't seem to have the problem I do. But that was only a part of what made today's effort more successful and more pleasant. The other part was Concerta; 54 milligrams in a twelve hour, time release, tablet. Better living, as they say, through chemistry.

A lot of people have a lot to say about Attention Deficit Disorder, and about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Setting aside, for now, those who say that there is no such thing, some people who think about such things believe that therapy (i.e., teaching people strategies to improve performance) is the way to treat ADD/ADHD, while others advocate medication. It does seem to that each approach seems to actually work, for some people, while the other does not.

As for me, when I went through the evaluation process I learned about those strategies and learned that I had already figured them all out, on my own, right down to working at a stand up desk. Even though those strategies helped me, when I began taking medication things starting going a lot better for me.

Interestingly, for my daughter who, at sixteen, did not have a lifetime of learning from bad outcomes and so had not developed the behavioral strategies, did have a major improvement in performance with medication, but still struggles. Why? We think, now, it is because she doesn't have those strategies. She doesn't have time management and study skills strategies. But we are working on those, now.

Since I began on medication, six months or so ago, I have often stopped and reflected on what was now going on with me, as I did, today, dealing with that dresser. I have also thought that I want to share this with people who have had similar struggles, who may be still struggling. I am a success story for overcoming ADD (I do not have the H component, which is one reason it took so long for me to be diagnosed) and I want people to know that there is such a thing (as ADD and as a success story). I especially want people who might benefit from getting evaluated, or having their children evaluated, to know that it can be better than it is.

So this blog is about how it's going with me, documenting my experience living with ADD both before and after beginning this regimen of medication. I will also be documenting my daughter's experience, beginning, as she is, dealing with this condition in her teens, rather than in her fifties.

About Me

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I am a convinced Beanite Friend, a member of Bridge City Friends Meeting, Willamette Quarterly Meeting and North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Notwithstanding the doubts of some who claim the name, I am a Christian who does a Buddhist practice and believes that God talks to everyone, all the time. I have worked in the judicial branch of government, as well as being a trial lawyer, a public school teacher (counselor and coach), a kite merchant, and a Marine Corp Sergeant. I am currently working as a consultant to public and private agencies on issues of child welfare, juvenile justice, and substance abuse treatment courts.