Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Understanding My Own Processes

A friend (who's also a counselor and therapist) recently asked me how I "deal with" ADHD, especially given that I am not using meds or "seeing anyone" about it.

It made me sit down and clarify my "process," and I concluded that I have really been "experimenting" with my life, for some time, now. There are essentially two parts to this "gig" for me... and I recognize that they are probably "peculiar" to someone whose issue is the "primarily inattentive" variant.

One, I have learned to become very mindful of the fine line between what is simply "being an HSP" and "my Myers-Briggs/personality preferences" and what is "a condition." We must know-- and acknowledge-- where we simply are "wired that way" and where we have a "condition" we can actually do something about. But you already know that part, I'm sure.

Two, the most helpful thing I have learned is to live through a process of allowing and working with the ADHD, rather than trying to "combat" or "fight" it. Again, a mindfulness practice is essential to me... that is, being aware of the moments when I start "drifting."

It might be something like "Uh-oh, I'm writing this article and I just had an idea for another article...." So instead of metaphorically "slapping myself" and saying "FOCUS!" I "allow" a one-minute sidetrack to sketch out a few quick notes of the new idea, and then I resume writing the "main thing" I was previously working on.

I manage to at least give the appearance of focusing pretty well by (A) being a ferocious note taker when my mind wanders and (B) having a dozen-odd manila folders by my desk, roughly organized by topic/concept... into which my "loose side notes" get filed immediately.

As I have written previously on these pages, the notes serve the purpose of "pulling the idea out of circulation" (inside my head) so-- in a sense-- I can go back to thinking about the main thing on my mind. In a sense taking notes means I can tell myself that I have "acted on" the sidetack, and committed it to a form of "permanent storage" so I don't have to have swirling thoughts about it in "active memory."

It's basically a technique of functionally "taking away" from the swirling cloud inside my head-- a constant (and quite active) process of simplify, simplify, simplify. Somehow, it is easier for me to deal with the physical mess of all the paper scraps, than the mental mess of trying to track too many ideas in my head. From a purely functional perspective, it also means that I get a lot more done.

Now... I'll bring back up that this process works for me; in general the notions of time, structure and organization flow pretty "naturally" for me. This may not work as well for different personality types.

I have also found that "breaking state" (like going to a different part of the house to do certain tasks) can be quite effective, too. If I can remove myself (physically) from my venues of "easiest distraction" withOUT also removing myself from my creative "power spots" (not always possible) that can really help.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

ADHD Coping Tools: Record Keeping and Concentration

I have been "keeping track of things" since I was a little kid.

I always used to think that it was merely something to help me because I seemed to have a pathetically poor memory. Ideas would come into my head; I might act on them and then have forgotten everything, 10 minutes later. As I learned more about psychology, it occurred to me that my desire to "keep track" of everything might not be memory related, but instead signs of OCD.

And yet?

I really wasn't "recording things" because I felt any kind of obsession, but because it helped me keep track of things; in a sense, the recording served as "place holders" that allowed me to be somewhat functional in life.

All these years later, I still "keep track" of a lot of things. As I have come to embrace the idea that this "thing" that causes me to lose my place so easily is not "poor memory," I have also come to understand that there are "tools" I have been using for most of my life... and whereas they may seem "weird" or "OCD-ish" to some, they are actually helping me.

So what exactly does "recording" what I do, in the course of a day, do to help me? It helps me restart abandoned projects where I left off, rather than leaving me to fumble around to figure out my "place." It helps me "manage" my efforts to keep 4-5 "project lines" running, side by side, without getting overwhelmed.

Yes, I do "lose some time" because it takes time to write things down, in addition to doing them, but it is not a major issue for me. The bottom line... recording things allow me to create some "illusion" that I am able to concentrate my efforts.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD

I am a Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP).

And I am an HSP with ADHD.

Lots of HSPs are afflicted with ADHD, but for several years now I have been pondering the overlaps and connections. Being an HSP is not a "diagnosis," it simply means you have an inborn genetic trait; your body is "hard wired" a certain way. You feel more; you feel more intensely.

The "intersect," as I experience it (and other HSPs have shared very similar experiences with me) is that because being highly sensitive makes me "feel things deeply," I experience the effects of ADHD more "intensely." And sometimes those experiences feel "amplified" to a rather debilitating extent.

It is really important to understand that being an HSP and having ADHD are two distinct situations. One does not CAUSE the other, and one does not IMPLY the other. To the degree there are correlations between the two, they are typically "non-causal."

Stated differently, I am having "the same ADHD experience" as everyone else, but because I am an HSP, how that feels is more intense than most people's feelings.

One of the places I have struggled most is to manage the "limited bandwidth/energy" I often have because I am highly sensitive alongside the general distractability that goes with ADHD. The end result is this "state" in which I feel overwhelmed and overstimulated (the "HSP part") by the fact that my inability to focus (the ADHD part) is keeping me from being able to efficiently navigate daily life.

In a practical sense, it has manifested as periods during which I feel totally immobilized... not by my actual work and chores, but by knowing how much effort it will take simply to stay focused.

It's hard to explain-- and perhaps it doesn't really make sense unless you're also an HSP, yourself. I will of course add in here that my "issue" is the Inattentive form of ADHD (wikipedia), which is quite different from the well-known "Hyperactivity" form most people are familiar with.

I am still trying to make sense of the "intersect" of the two. Here's a metaphor that helps me a little:

I think of myself as a piece of machinery. I have a fuel tank containing a certain amount of fuel. As people, we all have "fuel tanks" of certain sizes. As a Highly Sensitive Person, I burn the available fuel faster than most people. As a result, when I am faced with the consequences of my ADHD, I have less fuel available to "fix things" and simply "keep plugging along," till whatever I needed to do is done. This leads to a "secondary feedback loop" in which I feel overwhelmed because it feels like no matter what, I won't have the fuel reserves to complete what I need to deal with.

Many years ago, I used to think of it as "Bailing out the Titanic with a tea cup." No matter what, the ship would "sink." My efforts were only sufficient to slow down the inevitable sinking.

Hence, a period of years during which I have been trying to "simplify" my life, so the "available fuel" will be sufficient to deal with the "stuff of life"... because there's no "increasing the size of the fuel tank." The answer, continuing with the ship metaphor, isn't to become better at bailing, but to make sure I'm on a smaller ship.

If you are an HSP with ADHD, "simplifying life" may be one of your single best coping tools-- and I also mention that because many HSPs are loath to resort to medications, because of the stronger impact of side effects.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Functional" Distractions... as an ADHD Coping Tool

I am eternally looking for ways to make my "scattered" life easier to navigate.

For a few years now, one of my most effective tools has been finding ways to engage myself in what I think of as "Functional Distractions."

The bane of my existence (and the underlying cause for much of my non-productivity) was always the fact that I would get sidetracked into doing "useless things" and end up with a day where I actually worked for maybe 30 minutes (net) and spent ten hours exploring a variety of mostly useless "rabbit holes."

Some part of me wants to rationalize that I was sidetracking because it was the only way to stay awake, and that maybe my research would "be useful some day," but that excuse has never really done me much good. Bottom line-- for 99.9% of the population-- is that unless we work, and actually accomplish things, we can't pay for our rent, power bill and groceries.

As a self-employed person for almost a couple of decades now, the temptation presented by alluring distractions has always been great. It is just soooo easy to stop to check email, check Facebook, follow a link, and before I know it, another two hours have been eaten off the clock. Of course, since my issue is "inattentiveness," I also have to be constantly on alert for simply "staring out the window" (for 45 minutes) or day dreaming.

I have already written about my "scattered work" which I call making a living... and it is really the result of deciding that it is inevitable that I am going to sidetrack... so when I do sidetrack, why not make it to something "functional" rather than something "useless?"

There is a certain irony in the fact that this blog was started as a form of "side tracking," because I felt like I'd be unable to find my ramblings about living with ADHD among the thousands of posts that make up my private personal journal. Besides... it seemed like a right thing to write this stuff "out in public," just in case someone else might see it and find it useful.

"Functional Distractions" is a system by which I give myself "permission" to get sidetracked from something that needs to be done... as long as I sidetrack into something else that needs to get done. Running a number of microbusinesses is ideal in the sense that I can switch between very different tasks-- all of which need to get done. I can write here, then go list five things on eBay, then do some photography, then do ten minutes of book keeping, and it's all "in bounds," even though I am flitting around like a hummingbird on crack.

It may not be the most efficient way to work, but it's a lot more productive-- at least for me-- than trying to focus on a single task and then zoning out permanently after 30 minutes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Cyclical" ADHD?

Sometimes I can't help but think that this ADHD thing is "cyclical" to some degree.

There are weeks/months when it seems like I am barely affected at all, and then there are weeks/months where it is all but impossible for me to focus on anything, even for a few minutes. It makes me wonder how the human "natural cycles" plays into the condition.

Haven't really found much discussion or documentation about this aspect of ADHD.

Of course, just because something hasn't been "discussed" doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Then again, it's entirely possible that there's no connection and "it's all in my head." Or it could just be a reflection of my natural tendency to "think too much."

Still... when I look back at my years in school, there were also periods back then when I was clearly bale to stay more focused and get my studies done. And yes, I am pretty sure I am not Bipolar.

It's all a learning process, I suppose. Being aware of the "cycles," and the fact that my ability to stay focused moves in cycles... teaches me that I must make efforts to "make the most" of periods where I am able to concentrate.

Friday, October 4, 2013

ADHD vs. ADD: A Matter of Semantics?

For as long as I have been aware that the "situation" applied to me, I have been using the acronym "ADD" to describe myself, because the "hyperactivity" part of ADHD has never applied to me.

I never paid that much attention (no pun intended), figuring that the whole "ADD vs. ADHD" debate was mostly an issue of semantics. Which, as it turns out, is not really true... my using "ADD" is actually outdated.

My "condition" is correctly characterized as "ADHD-- Inattentive Type," so I suppose I should start to use that term, to avoid ambiguity. The term actually annoys me a little bit because I always feel compelled to add "but the 'H' part does not apply to me."

Which, in turn, makes me think about how we often end up with major differences between the "clinical definition" of something, and the "public interpretation" of the same thing. When you tell someone you're afflicted with ADHD, they've already jumped to the conclusion that you were "that unruly kid bouncing around the back of the classroom."

I already know about this situation because I am also an "HSP" or "Highly Sensitive Person" (Dr. Elaine N. Aron, 1996). Whereas this refers to sensory-processing sensitivity and a heightened awareness of sensory inputs, most people "assume" that sensitivity means you get your feelings hurt really easily... which is completely wrong. And so, telling anyone you're an HSP inevitably includes a long ramble to explain what the acronym really means.

Interestingly enough, there are a number of similarities between how being an HSP and an how ADHD-Inattentive manifest. I should probably write about that, some day.

Anyway... I guess I should start using the "correct" terminology, around here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finding Your Passion... when you can't Stay Focused

I suppose it's part of human nature to want to work with something you feel passionate about.

There are lots of different definitions as to what it "means" to be passionate about something... many of which seem to revolve around some version of being "almost obsessed" with what you're doing, and it "never feels like work."

Maybe part of the "problem" here is that people experience "passion" in different ways... and our society has a narrower definition of what passionate is supposed to "look like."

So what's my point? When you tend to "zone out" and "drift off" as I do... it's difficult for others to accept that I am actually "passionate" about what I am doing. Even so, people see my difficulties with staying focused end engaged in what I am doing and then spout "helpful advice" and platitudes like "You just have to find your passion! Someday something will come along and you'll just know it and want to do nothing else!"

To be honest... I feel that way about my writing. And I feel that way about my collectibles business. And I feel that way about helping people. And I feel that way about my beach combing gig. You can go see the "My ADD-ish Work" page for details.

But I'm not focused (aka "passionate") about just one single thing.

What also needs to be pointed out-- which is a product of the "slow cognition" and "low energy nature" of many with inattentive ADD-- is that I am perfectly "capable" of "zoning out" and "going to sleep" on even the things in life I am most passionate about. That doesn't mean I am not passionate about them! I just means I can't hold a fucking train of thought for three minutes!

Sorry, I slipped out of the "G" rating there, for a moment...

Perhaps the real issue here is that people put too much emphasis on appearances. Being passionate about something is supposed to "look" a certain way; to manifest outwardly, in a certain way. But a true passion isn't really about what "others" see... but about what YOU feel. And when you have trouble staying focused for any length of time... you can be as passionate as all get-out, and still not have the near compulsive looking drive non-ADD people manifest outwardly.

And in response-- as a bit of a postscript, really-- to those who think I need to "find a passion," I'd like to pass along the observation (based on 50 years of life) that even if the most interesting thing on the planet is passing before my face, the possibility still exists that I'll go "oh shiny" about something else... or simply "zone out" to another place. That just seems to be part of "the nature of the beast."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ADD Issues: Getting Defensive about Organization

Sometimes I get a little defensive about my "need" to be very organized.

On occasion, I've even been told that my "systems" border on the OCD-ish. I'll be the first to admit that I probably spend more time "organizing" than the average person. But do I really need to "lighten up" and "stop keeping all those lists" and "just let things unfold... you know, like NORMAL people do?"

To be honest, I get a little defensive, when I hear things like that.

For one, I followed the strategy of "normal people" for years and years... and found my life to be an eternal state of chaos in which things that "needed to be done" never got done and "unimportant things" would get done. It really didn't serve me very well.

About the same time I started using the expression "my train of thought has left the station... but I am still standing here on the platform," I came to the conclusion that the only way for me to be at least marginally functional in life would be to always "write it down" as soon as "it" occurred to me. Back then, I always carried a dayplanner around, and I bought extra "blank paper" pages for my endless lists of "stuff."

Truth be know, I did get more functionally effective at dealing with life. It no longer mattered whether or no my train of thought had "left" because I always "took a picture" of it, before it could leave me.

And people in the business world got very impressed with my ability to "remember" birthdays, anniversaries and other stuff... and that served me well.

The point, here, is that I don't know how to be "functional" in life, if I don't keep notes and lists of everything... because I can't remember what i was thinking, three minutes after I thought it. Sure, I have tried "brain training" programs and software, but it hasn't really "helped" me... not in an "effective" sense, anyway. Even though I test in the 95th percentile in terms of cognitive skills/abilities, it doesn't really help me, in a practical sense. I can focus on a little "cognition test" for a minute, score better than 99% of the population... but then what? I move on. Doing the "brain exercises" hasn't even helped me stay "awake."

So... I NEED my "organizational systems."

If you want to call them a "crutch," I'll accept that. I'm not good with the OCD-ish thing, though. I'm not "obsessed," I'm just trying to function, in life. And I'm using whatever tools I can, to help me do that...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Inattentive ADD and Meditation-- Parallels

I have been told that many people have a "difficult time" with meditation. They find it difficult not only to sit still, but to "still the mind."

I was introduced to meditation (in the "formal" sense of the word) in the mid-1990s, as part of an enneagram and spiritual non-duality group I belonged to.

For me, the experience was never one of having "issues." Going into a meditative state seemed completely natural to me... sometimes to the point that it seemed like there wasn't any "going into" involved in the process.

I could sit still and "empty my mind" for hours and hours, without any provocation.

I never gave this much thought until the first time someone suggested that I might have ADD. As I have written before, for most of my life I never considered the possibility that ADD was an issue... because I was only familiar with the condition in the context of "distraction and manic/hyperactivity," as I'd experienced it with my ex. Sure, I had a hard time focusing... but (a) I could never relate to "bouncing off the walls" because I've always been a "low energy person" and (b) I rarely had significant issues with a "brain full of swirling thoughts"-- instead, I was just "going to sleep."

Narcolepsy was a consideration... except I didn't go to physical sleep.

But getting back to meditation... for me, it's almost a "natural state." My issue was never about how to "go into" meditation... rather it was about how to not go into meditation. My entire life has sometimes felt like a "meditative state" that I have had a difficult time "coming OUT of."

As I gain more understanding of inattentive ADD, I can see why meditation was always so easy for me... in many ways, it's "equivalent" to a meditative state...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cleaning my Desk so I can Do my Work

It is a new month.

So often, I find myself immobilized by the fact that I don't know where to start on the eternal "pile of things" that follows me around... and so, instead of actually starting on something, I "zone out" by deciding that I "can't DO anything" until I have cleaned my desk.

Where to begin has always been an issue for me. It was an issue when I was a kid and had homework in five classes, it's an issue now that I'm an adult with multiple irons in the fire.

I was seldom overwhelmed by the actual work needed to be done for my five classes... I was overwhelmed by figuring out my order of operations.

The irony of that is that I am a really excellent organizer. If you need me to figure out your event using CPM or something else, so you can get everything done on time, and in order... I can do it. Of course, planning your event is a "theory." Figuring out how to get started on my own stuff is the reality involving where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

Much of the time-- when I feel stuck-- I "busy myself" with reorganizing all the "notes to myself" about what I need to get done in the next week, month, year.

It's difficult to simply choose one note, and start work... because what if I missed something more important, that should have been done first?

A lot of needless "wheel spinning" results.

It was my birthday, a couple of days ago. My lovely wife gave me a framed picture of her (she was out of town for the actual day), and I decided I wanted to keep it on my desk...

... which necessitated cleaning off my desk...

... which reminded me that I needed to file a bunch of stuff...

... which reminded me that I had been meaning to design a better "filing system" for certain parts of work...

... which reminded me I needed to move some "other files" from my office to combine with the "better filing system...

... which inspired me to "do it properly" rather than just toss it all in a box "for later."

All I was trying to do was put my wife's picture on my desk. Seven hours later, the photo was on my desk where I wanted it... and I had started a new filing system for my web work (which is great, btw!), a new (better) way to organize my writing ideas, a new (better!) way to keep track of "ongoing projects" for a couple of my web businesses, and my desk actually was a better work space.

However, I didn't get any actual work done.

It made me pause and ponder... and I realized just how much of my life has been spent "getting ready to work" rather than "actually working." I'm sure I have lost untold thousands of hours in that distractionary space.

For years and years, I attributed this simply to "bad time management" and "being a slacker," but the more I learn, the more it seems like a significant part can be traced to how my brain works... and how it seems so incapable of holding onto a thought. "Slackers" typically slack because they want to... for me, there's not that much of a "wanting to" element... I'd much rather be "engaged" in things, but it always feels like I am paddling upstream against a very swift current.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trying to Understand my Fluctuating Brain Chemistry

All of us who live with ADD or ADHD have a pretty good understanding of the fact that ""distraction" is the bane of our existence.

I've been trying to learn-- mostly through reading lots of web sites and blogs-- about the brain chemistry issue. I don't know if I have gotten any smarter... but I've certainly "taken on" a lot of new information.

The thing that baffles me a bit is the way my tendency to "space out" varies so much in intensity, from day to day. For example, this morning I woke up and got started on my day with a great sense of "focus." And I was able to just "get into it" and get a whole bunch of stuff accomplished... by 10:00am... without feeling any significant compulsion to "go to sleep."

Now, the tasks were no different from any other day. I went to bed at my usual time; I slept about the same number of hours as usual. I had my morning coffee, as usual. So why does it seem "easy" to focus today, but on another day it will feel like pulling teeth.

I recognize that we all have our body cycles to contend with. Society focuses heavily on "women's cycles" but I'm pretty sure men go through monthly cycles, as well. Is that what I experience, when I can focus one day, and not the next... "natural" fluctuations in my body rhythms? Or is there something else? "Environmentally" speaking, it was gray and rainy this morning... does that have an influence?

Beats me. It seems that the more I learn about this "condition" the less I really understand it. The upside is that I have much better awareness of my "self" and what my body and mind is "doing" at any given time.

I guess I'll just keep learning...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ADD and the Struggle with eBay Listings

I derive a large part of my living from selling things on eBay.

Of course, in order to sell things on eBay, you have to list things on eBay... and that has always been one of my greatest struggles.

Yesterday, I was faced with needing to add a bunch of new listings for items that had actually been sitting around my office-- all photographed and ready to go-- for a long time. 66 items, to be precise. But I had been putting it off, for several weeks... even though there were "bills banging on my door."

I sell sea glass on eBay, to jewelers, artists and collectors
Just the mere thought of needing to focus and concentrate long enough to write and upload 66 eBay descriptions is enough to make my head explode. I can give myself 47,000 "motivational pep talks" but it still doesn't do me any good.

The process is interesting. Getting started is not terribly hard, especially when I set aside the contiguous block of time needed... in this case, "most of a day."

I get my energizing techno playing, and get started. I choose not to update my eBay helping application because I know from experience that the software is archaic and will ask for a system restart, which means shutting the 47 windows and applications I have running, which means having to bookmark and save them all, which means a minefield of distractions... and normally about 90 minutes wasted to install changes so inconsequential I can't even tell what's different.

Saying "no" to the update actually represents "progress" in my life with ADD. I'm willing to shove my perfectionistic tendencies into the background. Yay!

I get about ten lots into the process and am doing OK when "the tingling" first starts. It feels like I am wearing invisible headphones-- the big kind that fits over your ears-- except they are a bit like a vise clamping on my temples. I can feel my forehead tightening, as well. My focus is starting to go. I force myself to work to the end of the hour, before "giving myself permission" to check my email. Again, the value of clocks and timers is huge... somehow, having a visible finite horizon in front of me helps my ability to concentrate.

On the hour, I manage to only sidetrack for ten minutes to scan my inbox and delete messages of no great value.

On the whole, I manage to plod through pretty well, "promising myself" that I can have a break every time I get another ten lots listed.

And then I almost hit what I call "the 95% wall." That has been one of the banes of my existence-- both in childhood and as an adult. What is it? Well... I get to a point-- when doing a "large task"-- where I realize that I am "almost finished." And some part of me "sees the end in sight" and I relax slightly... and suddenly any forward movement feels like I am trying to swim through honey. All I want to do is GET UP and go do something else. From a psychological standpoint, motivating myself to do those last few things to truly finish the job can feel more daunting than the preceding 95%.

Somebody once suggested that I have a "fear of success." Meh... not so much. People who "fear success" usually still have anxiety once they are done with something. I'm just releived (and happy!) when I am done. And therein lies a paradox... certain personality types simply prefer "open ended" over "finished" tasks. I am not one of them, although I often behave like I am one of them.

The thing that's interesting to me... and where I realize "it's all about ADD"... is the literal physical sensations that go with hitting that "95% wall." I reach this point... and it really only seems to come when "the end is in sight"... where it literally feels like "my head will explode" if I have to concentrate for one more minute.

And the eBay listings? I did get them done. It took me ten hours instead of eight... given various sidetracks. But on the whole... a pretty successful day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm NOT a Kid!

Many moons ago, I spent quite a lot of time researching "giftedness."

At the time, I was trying to get a better grip on my sensitivity, and someone had told me that there was actual research showing that the more "gifted" an individual is, the more both introverted and sensitive they tend to be. I put quite a lot of effort into learning about giftedness-- and the studies done by Polish psychologist and physician Kazimierz Dabrowski-- as part of trying to get a grip on my "issues."

Needless to say, I also got involved with the global "G/T Community" (G/T = "Gifted and Talented") as part of my learning process.

One of the things that was interesting to me... a strange "G/T Community Bias," if you will... is that there was aaaallll this talk, and information, and support, and research, and conversation, and programs for gifted and talented kids. It was just one endless parade of stuff relating to kids, kids, kids, kids, kids.

Any time I started taking about trying to understand the ins and out of adult giftedness-- and the attendant challenges and life complications-- it felt a bit like speaking into a void. Once in a while, someone would make a very peripheral reference to "gifted adults" but it was pretty uncommon.

What I found ironic about this was that a majority of these parents totally absorbed in understanding gifted kids were actually gifted, themselves. And were having all sorts of issues trying to deal with their own lives... but were categorically either in denial about their giftedness, or steadfastly refused to look at it... saying things like "Oh no, that's not really important..."

Whereas I totally honor their dedication to supporting gifted kids, there was an unfortunate (and rarely discussed) dynamic there... in the sense that these "gifted kids" would receive all sorts of support, encouragement, programs and special treatment... and then they would turn 18, and suddenly "be on their own" because they were no longer kids. AS IF, you turn 18, and suddenly all the issues inherent in being "gifted" are magically switched off and you are suddenly a "normal" human being?

Sooo.... what does this have to do with this ADD blog?

Well, the more I peruse information about ADD/ADHD around the web, the more I seem to run into a similar "kid bias" in the ADD/ADHD "community," albeit not as pronounced as it was in the G/T community, some 15-20 years ago.

I can hear people say "Yeah, but it's important that we HELP kids with ADD/ADHD!"

I agree! Absolutely, 100%! And I'm not trying to be a grumpy old man, here...

But it's also important that we keep in perspective that ADD/ADHD does not magically "go away" just because you become an adult. What's more, if you keep in mind that kids are 0-18 years of age, and adults are 19-100 years of age... there are going to be a lot more adults with ADD/ADHD than there are kids!

So why am I ranting about this?

Well, I'm an adult, and I am an adult with the "inattentive" variant of ADD. Not ADHD. There's no "H" in my universe. And I'm telling you what... it is tough to get many Google search hits that aren't (a) about kids and (b) about inattentive ADD. Of course, it's tough search, because the first forty million results have to do with "adding" something... not the case with ADHD.

So if you read this-- and know more than me-- please leave a comment and suggest places on the web that have good information about Adult Inattentive ADD. Thank you!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

ADD and Thinking Things Through Before you Act

Sometimes I sit here and simply contemplate the deeper nature of "scatteredness."

How do I become so scattered? What is the mechanism that leads to hundreds of "started by unfinished" projects, by the end of the day? What is the "trigger" that causes me to abandon something I really need to get done, so I can "mess around" with some idea that has no current bearing on what is important?

From time to time, I talk about "Too Many Interests Syndrome." Of course, that's basically an excuse; a rationalization. Sure, I have more interests than most people... and lots of random things I see seem "interesting," but that's not the core issue. LOTS of people experience that. This is a "management" issue.

I used to think that my scatteredness was a result of "feeling resentful" of "having to DO things." I did years of psychoanalysis, chasing my own tail... thinking about being "resentful" of having been raised in a family od "doers" who (in essence) saw my value as tied directly to what I could DO, rather than who I could BE. I was only "seen" (and loved, I felt) for what I could DO for my parents, and so I ended up connecting "feeling loved" with my own ability to do things... even though I actually prefer not to be engaged in constant activity.

By extension, it placed me close to a frame of mind of resentment. A sort of digging in my heels when I reached the "freedom of adulthood" and could make my own choices... every time life gave me something I "had to" do I would space out as a passive aggressive "rebellion" against always having been told what to DO in my life. Of course, usually to my detriment.

But all that psychobabble was really a dead end. Back when I was in therapy, "ADD/ADHD" was exclusively focused on "that hyperactive kid bouncing off the walls, unable to focus and making trouble." And that was never me.

My "issue" was always getting me to move, at all. I'm only half kidding when I say "I have almost never met an idea that could inspire me to actually want to put forth any concentrated effort." Which is not to say that I lack enthusiasm about ideas... just that I invariably end up "dabbling a bit" and then zoning out or "falling asleep to myself."

But let's get back to the "mechanism of scatteredness."

The word I keep coming back to is "obligation." I have a nasty "allergy" to the idea of feeling obligated. The instant something I'm engaged in starts to feel like "an obligation" (like my self-imposed timetable that my eBay auction lots MUST be ready by 7:00pm on Sunday evening) I feel my ability to concentrate go right out the window. It literally feels like the cells in my brain responsible for "focus" commit suicide by jumping out of my ears.

When I am engaged in doing "Thing X" as nothing more than an "exploration" with "no purpose" and "no deadline" and "no expected outcome" I am actually very productive and focused. I can get an amazing amount of stuff done in a short time, as long as I steer far clear of any "you must" thoughts.

So that's a big part of it, right there.

Another aspect of this mechanism is perhaps an intolerance of drudgery. I was going to say "boredom," but that's not really accurate. I'm perfectly content watching grass grow for hours and hours... It's a zoning out "activity" that has no stated purpose and no obligation attached; so no concentration is required.

It's not easy digging around in this stuff, and trying to truly get to the bottom of it.

Getting back to the title of this post-- this "drifting away" often happens because I am not "Present" enough in my own situation (of that moment) to stop and think through what I am about to do, when I want to skip away. It "just happens." When I DO manage to stay present in my own process of the moment, I have far fewer issues with losing my place and zoning out. I "think before I act," rather than "act before thinking." And usually-- even though it requires a kind of "concentration"-- I manage to talk myself into just staying with what I am doing.

I feel that an active "mindfulness practice" is definitely (or CAN be) an important part of managing ADD.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Challenges of Being a Writer with ADD

Some observations on being a writer, and living with ADD... few of these will probably come as much of a surprise to anyone.

I have never (touching wood here!) had an issue with so-called "Writer's Block." My ideas flow pretty liberally at all times, and many of them are pretty creative and insightful ideas.

My problem is that my "execution rate" utterly sucks.

I am primarily an "article writer." Although I have ambitions to write books as well, I feel rather daunted by the prospect of "holding a train of thought" long enough to complete a book... even though I can intellectually convince myself that a book is nothing more than "a collection of chapters," each of which I can call a "short" piece of writing.

That's easier said than done.

So I'll just stick to my troubles with writing articles.

My desk is currently littered with several hundred small notes of paper, on which I have "rough sketched" (by hand-- I actually like writing by hand) basic outlines and ideas for articles I'd like to write.

In addition to this, I have the folder on my hard drive called "Ideas Repository," into which I have placed hundreds of articles in various stages of completion. The vast majority of them range from "basic outline" to "about 50% done." That said, there are also dozens that are nearly complete, and just require proofreading or "researching a couple of facts" in order to be finished.

And yet? There they SIT, most of the time. And rather than work on some of these "old" ideas, I am eternally adding "new notes" to the top of my article hopper.

Sometimes I laugh at myself-- and then get sad-- because I realize that if I'd actually finished and published them all, I'd probably be making about $1500.00 in monthly royalties from them.

That said, I have actually gotten better at managing my "circus." Good management of something like I am facing here revolves around picking my "battles" carefully. I have learned to "sort" my ideas into "hot" (things I really must work on... NOW), "next" (things I need to keep fresh in mind for the next open slot in the "hot" category) and "later," (which are basically the ideas I'm not that attached to).

I've previously written about using a system of "notes" in lieu of an actual to-do list-- and I do that with writing, as well. I "map out" the different steps I need to complete with each of my "hot" article ideas, and then write a "to do note" for each stage. Watching the "visual progress" of the to-do notes getting thrown away seems to actually inspire me to get focused and work. It has allowed me to more than triple my output of finished work that actually gets published somewhere. And that's a good thing, because I have ambitions to eventually "fund" my scattered self largely through passive income in the form of ongoing royalties from web writing.

Of course, "those days" are still a ways off... but I am seeing enough actual progress now that I no longer "reject" focusing, with as much force as I used to.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Vignette: Paying attention to how ADD "feels"

One of the things in life I have managed to "stick to" for many years is the process of self-inquiry and self-observation... perhaps a useful skill learned from my years of studying the enneagram and nonduality. What's nice about it is that I have little trouble "Being The Observer" of myself and my inner processes. In a way, it works a bit like dreaming: you can "be there" and-- with some practice-- you can observe and report back on "what happened."

One of the things I have observed about my life with ADD (and I'll add here that I can only speak from the perspective of the "inattentive" variant)... is how I feel about "starting" things and "doing things."

"Starting something new" simply feels better than "dealing with" or "continuing with" something "old." This is actually a bit paradoxical, because I am really not a "novelty seeker" in life. So it becomes important to observe exactly what happens... and exactly what I am referring to.

As an illustration, my being a writer serves as a good example of the experience.

My "issue" is definitely NOT that I feel "bored" and "distracted" when I am writing. I love writing. I can do it all day long. So it is NOT that I want to-- for example-- stop writing, and go bike riding instead. So, my distractions; my inattentiveness; my scatteredness all happens within the "known" area of writing.

Now, you can substitute in any other area for "writing." In other words, I am quite good at sticking to "known subject headings" and feel little need to move outside them to explore other "subject headings."

My "issue"-- when writing-- is that it feels much better to "start a new article" than to "work on an existing one." I am brilliant at outlining and sketching out an initial train of thought. But unless I am in just the right frame of mind, carrying that train of thought from concept to completed submissable article... that's like pulling teeth. Which is why my "ideas folder" often gets 8-10 great new "concepts" added every day... and yet, I plod along, completing maybe one, maybe two articles (and sometimes none) on any given day.

Naturally, when you "add 10" to the top of the "hopper" and only "remove 1" at the bottom, you'll end up with a massive cluttered landscape of things to "deal with later." And they all "call to me," crying for attention. I can think of many many occasions where I have sat down to organize my ideas file (I actually keep a folder on my computer called "Ideas Respository") and ended up looking at the hundreds (maybe it's thousands?) of outlines-- neatly sorted by "venue" of where I intend to publish them-- and maybe added 10-50 words to 100 different files (outlines) in the course of a work day.

Basically, a shit ton of stuff gets "contributed to" and marginally "moved forward" but nothing actually gets completed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ADD Topics: How Interruptions Cut my Productivity

I have written before about how "interruptions" are the bane of my existence, especially when I am working. Seems to be a fairly common experience for those who live with ADD (inattentive, or otherwise) that it's not only hard for us to get focused... once we're focused and then interrupted, it's extremely hard for us to get back to a focused place.

I already know that when I am 40 minutes "into" something and going well... if someone comes and "needs something" for five minutes... I just got "set back" 30 minutes on my progress with that task.

Yesterday, I was thinking about the subtle ways in which this can actually be a "double whammy." You see, there is only "so much time" in my work day. So here's what often happens: On a lot of occasions I end up not restarting-- at all-- because I realize (just an example) that "there's only 30 minutes till I have to run my errands."

How does that "work?"

Well, let's say I just got interrupted. Now I know (from experience) that it will take me 20 minutes to "get back on track." And it's only 30 minutes till I have to stop, anyway, for a "real" reason. Meaning I'll get in only 10 minutes of actual productivity... and I end up thinking "Bah... there's really NO POINT in starting up again.

It feels like a sort of "passive" or "inadvertent" time loss.

Of course, I often tell myself it's "just a rationalization" but I'm not so sure, these days. It feels like a very "real" and "practical" consideration, to me.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Issue of ADD and Taking On Too Much

I've previously talked about this thing I call "Too Many Interests Syndrome."

It seems like it might not be as "bad" if only I was able to take all those interests, hold the trains of thought, and then carry out the ideas to their natural conclusions. In fact-- in some fantasy world-- I think that would make me a marvelous, interesting and stunning human being with lots of interests.

Alas... not how it works. Having "too many interests" seems to do little more than set up a breeding ground for eternal sidetracking.

This morning, I was looking at my pile of loose "to-do notes" and trying to sort them. And the thing is... I have eight "categories" of things I feel like I would like to get done, today. I don't merely have "40 things" on my overall list, all clustered around one common theme (which is what I imagine neurotypical people do)... oh no, I have odd bits and pieces clustered around eight different "themes."

So even if I were a "focused" person, I'd still be "wandering all over the place" in order to keep up with what I find interesting... even if there were NO sidetracks involved. And just looking at the eight piles gives rise to a little anxiety, because I am acutely aware that I will be "wasting" time, trying to get my brain to switch from one "group" to another... it's that "losing my place" thing, again.

Anyway, it all makes me ponder whether "too many interests" is the common theme among those living with ADD/ADHD. In other words... we don't even start with "simple" minds; we start with something already complex (and potentially cluttered) and then derive ADD from there.

The irony is that there is actually a certain "compulsiveness" involved here... almost like I am a "hoarder" of ideas and concepts. I say "irony" because I actually love simplicity. There are few things I like more than having a day where there is "nothing to do." Unlike many, that would not make me all antsy and bored. And that's perhaps one of the "weirdnesses" of my life that made me question whether it was even ADD that was affecting me. After all... I once went and spent two weeks at my aunt's summerhouse in Denmark-- where there (literally!) was "nothing to do" but sit in a lawn chair and read. And with all the distractions of life absent? That's precisely what I did... and quite happily.

It may sound completely implausible (and like a lie) but I am actually a BIG fan of "voluntary simplicity" and it's one of my aspirations in life. I'm just failing miserably at it...

What's the point?

Sometimes it feels like I actually create the "distractions" in order to scatter myself all over the place to "pursue" them. It's almost like a "cart before the horse" issue-- I'm ADD because I take on too much. The issue isn't "ADD" but "taking on too much."

There's probably no scientific validity to this line of thinking.... but just putting it out there.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Referrer Spam is an Annoying Diversion

Maybe it's just part and parcel of the modern Internet that it is filled with idiots trying to find ways to get "money for nothing."

When you keep a blog, you also get to see your visitor logs. That can be kind of cool, because looking at statistics for page views and where people are visiting from is interesting to me... I like to know what posts resonate with people.

What is extremely annoying is this pervasive "referrer spam" everyone seemingly has to deal with.

What IS it?

In short lay terms: "fake traffic."

"Fake" visits that show up on your visitor logs... usually with a link back to some web site that's probably going to either put malware on your computer, or pitch you some stupid irrelevant product that should never have been created, in the first place.

In the past week, I have had "hundreds" of visits from a web site that sells some kind of diet plan, another that's about "how to pick up hot chicks," one about how to "successfully date women," and one that masks some kind of anti-spyware app, disguised as a "blog directory."

This post, of course, has nothing to do with Attention Deficit Disorder... except maybe for the fact that I am even "getting sidetracked" into writing this, in the first place.

This post is just an experiment, for my own edification. I'm expecting it to become the most read post on the site, because it contains all these phrases that lure all these "nuisance sites." Which is basically proof of just how stupid they are...

Anyway, if you have a blog or web site and see stuff like this... don't EVER click on any of the links, and don't stoop to even using the names of the sites. Because that's precisely what they want you to do. If you write "what is >> insert link to mystery web site <<?" you just gave them a free link. But of course, you got NOTHING.

I'm a highly sensitive person or HSP... and an INFJ by Myers Briggs... both of which make me an idealist. And ideally, I like to believe I can help make a small difference in containing this kind of crap behavior, by publicizing the truth about it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ADD... and the Ebbs and Flows of Productivity

I am not really sure whether it's a "good" or "bad" thing that I have chosen to be in business for myself and to work from home.

What I do know about myself is that my productivity ebbs and flows quite a bit. It's either "feast or famine," with very little in between. As I have "watched myself" over the years, I've also become more and more aware of what influences my productivity.

Clearly-- at least in my world-- suffering from "Too Many Interests Syndrome" is part and parcel of living with ADD. During what I call my "macro periods" of productivity, I am very aware of being able to "keep up with my brain" (or at least coming very close) and being able to turn the endless thoughts into something... "output," if you will. I may not be able to deal with everything "as I think of it," but using my system of "writing notes" about every idea that comes up... and then leaving it at that... I am able to function a bit like a cook in a busy kitchen. Each new idea-- on a slip of paper-- is "order up," and I am able to keep a "sequence" of work going... and get caught up sometimes.

These days don't mean I don't have "too much on my plate," they just mean that I don't "get lost" because I am too scattered.

On any given day-- or week, or month-- my ability to keep up seems inversely proportional to the amount of "pressure" (usually of a financial/practical nature) I feel like I am under. Some people really thrive when they are in a "pressure cooker" situation with their life... I'm really not one of them.

OK... not entirely true.

If I have a massive deadline on ONE thing to do, I work super well "to a deadline." That's different from the pressure of being overwhelmed by a large quantity of things to do.

As an example, I got a huge block of "eBay stuff" taken care of by the close of business on Sunday... meaning we'll have a substantial inflow of cash from those sales by next Sunday... that takes pressure off, and this week feels like I am being very "productive." Instead of just sitting there, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of my pile of "to do notes," I am actually feeling like I am going to get through it.

And I am saying that, even as I am well aware that I have "paused" several times to add new "order up" slips to this week's work load.

For me, part of effectively managing my life has a lot to do with making the most of my "macro creative periods" WHEN they are happening.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Musings about the "Restarting Issue"

When I try to do something, I eventually hit a "groove"... if only I stay with it, long enough. Once I'm in a groove... the worst thing that can happen is someone interrupting me.

The problem?

It takes me forever to figure out "where I was" when I was interrupted, and then get back to moving forward again. In other words, a 5-minute interruption by someone who has an "unrelated question" can lead to my spending 20 minutes just getting back to the spot where I left off.

I have heard others who live with inattentive ADD speak of this issue.

It feels like I have an utter and complete inability to "bookmark" stopping points in the daily process of life... and sometimes I end up wasting what feels like a huge part of my day doing little more than "running in place," trying to get back to work.

I am actually remarkably productive when I am left alone in a quiet room with only my music and no interruptions and my tasks I need to get done.

As a writer, I can turn out 1500 words of high quality article prose in less than an hour... but if someone interrupts me-- even when the article is 95% done... it suddenly becomes almost impossible for me to finish the task. It seems stupid. Or dysfunctional... because it's all right there. Yes? I can't "access" my train of thought anymore.

I used to say (jokingly) "My train of thought has left the station, but I am still standing on the platform."

Alas, it's far more "real" than a joking matter.

It's hard to describe what physically happens. I can only think of it through the analogy of using your web browser. The "tab" I am working on, not only "closes" when an interruption forces me to switch to another tab... but when I need to get back to the closed tab, I need to spend all this time searching through my "browser history" to find the page I was working on. And once I get the "old" tab opened again... then I am struggling to remember exactly what my last "operation" was... and what my "next step" was supposed to be.

It makes very simple tasks extremely laborious. And I have not yet found an effective way around it...

Monday, July 8, 2013

So... What's with all the Pictures?

You might have noticed that I use a lot of photographs here... and they are not "stock photography" or even directly related to what I am writing about.

Why do I do that?

It's a readability thing. And when it's hard for you to focus, large blocks of text can become challenging to read. People with ADD/ADHD are notorious "skippers" and "skimmers."

When I started keeping this blog, I spent some time thinking about "how" I read text... and what kinds of texts feel "easy" to read, and what kinds of text feel "difficult" to read.

I came to realize that I like "picture books," or at least illustrated books... and web pages... because the images tend to break up long pieces of text. It's nothing more than a "mind trick," of course... but it does work, at least for me.

My little short span of attention "thinks" something like "Yeah, I can read to the top of that picture. Then I can look at the picture, Then I can read to the bottom of the picture. Then I can look for the next picture. Then I can focus on the text to there..." and so on.

Since this blog and web site is mainly written with people with ADD in mind... it seems only reasonable that I don't present my contents here as an endless dissertation of featureless text.

I am also trying to keep the posts here reasonably short, also for readability purposes.

As a writer, I am often writing articles and papers that are 1500, 2000, 3000 words and even longer. Given what "ails" us, these pages will generally be written in a pretty "short" format, with very few posts getting much above 600-800 words-- that's a short-to-medium length article, in a newspaper or magazine.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

ADD Coping Tools: Using Timers

I learned-- a long time ago-- that I have a short little span of attention.

Well... DUH!

What I also learned-- which is perhaps not as obvious-- is that I am able to stay quite focused on a task, if I am only dealing with it for a short time.

For example, as part of my work I list large numbers of items for sale on auction site eBay. If, for example, I want to add 120 new items on any given Sunday (not an uncommon event, in my life!), I have to create all those listings-- each with a description, measurements of the item, statement of condition and photographs-- first. And that will most likely be a 12-hour odyssey.

Now if you tell the average ADD/ADHD sufferer that they need to sit down and focus on something for 12 hours straight, they will probably break into hives. For someone like me-- with inattentive ADD-- even the mere thought makes me feel sleepy and inclined to walk away to sit and stare at the leaves blowing in the breeze outside.

All that said, I have to get the stuff out there, or I'm not going to be making a living.

I used to struggle mightily with these "listing marathons" (I've been selling on eBay since 1998) and they were always the least favorite part of my work. It would just be soooo difficult to stay on task, and I would quite frequently catch myself "nodding off" in front of the computer because the "scope" of the task ahead was enough to put me to sleep.

After some experimentation, I discovered that I could "do quite well" if I started keeping track of my progress. I started having little "time charts" next to me, and tracking-- hour by hour-- how many listings I would create. I would turn it into a small "game" with myself, eventually determining that 10 items per hour was a pretty good rate of progress.

Out of these "progress charts" grew the idea that I could use clocks and timers to break large and seeminly overwhelming tasks into much smaller and less daunting parts. I now keep an alarm clock on my desk, next to the computer, so I can monitor tasks. My overall productivity (or "output," if you will) has increased tremendously after I have started chopping my large projects into small chunks.

When you have ADD... and especially the inattentive kind, where you are not "bouncing off the walls," using little tricks with time seem very beneficial.

In my last post, I wrote about my system of creating "task slips" to represent my daily "To-do List." As an example of "how that works," for my "eBay marathon" tomorrow, I have created a whole little stack of time slips, each representing "listing 5 items." Each small task represents about 25-30 minutes of focus... and I know I can grab a note, look at my clock... and before 30 minutes are up, I can throw that slip in the trash bin.

What's more... if I knuckle down and get the listings done in 23 minutes? I get to reward myself by walking around, or maybe looking at Facebook, or something else.

Using timers to break large time periods into smaller chunks doesn't really affect the actual volume of work I need to get done... it merely "re-frames" how I perceive the work. Or, you might say I am using "Jedi mind tricks" on my own brain.

It's a HELL of a lot easier-- and cheaper, and safer-- than pumping your body full of pharmaceuticals with God-knows-what kind of side effects.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ADD Coping Tools: Using Notes and To-do Lists

I have always started my day by writing in my journal.

In the "old" days, I would write by hand-- sometimes I still do-- these days I mostly sit down at the keyboard and start typing. Mornings always seem to be my best time of the day-- my mind doesn't feel "cluttered" yet, so I tend to be pretty relaxed and feel quite focused.

Some years ago, I read a book called "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. It's an excellent book, by the way, and I recommend it to anyone of an artistic or creative nature. Anyway, one of my main "take aways" from reading The Artists Way (and doing all the attendant articles) was a better understanding of why I always liked to journal in the morning.

Author Julia Cameron calls her version of writing in the morning "Morning Pages," and she advocated writing by hand... which I generally don't, alas. Morning Pages require you to get up and write-- whatever comes to mind-- FIRST THING. Don't turn on the TV, or the radio, or read the paper, or watch CNN or even talk to your spouse or kids... just sit down and WRITE, before your mind becomes "polluted" with anything but your own thoughts after you've slept.

One of the great "values" she lists is that Morning Pages help you "empty your mind" for the day.

When I first read that statement-- some years ago, now, I came to realize just how valuable "emptying my head" IS, to me, first thing every morning. It has become a "practice," a "discipline," almost like a form of spirituality.

Now, let's sidetrack for a bit...

I have depended on "keeping lists" for ages and ages. When I was a teenager, my friends thought I was "weird" because I kept lists, "just like OLD people do." Well, without those lists, I was pretty much non-functional. I don't know that I was aware of that, at the time... I just knew that keeping lists made my daily life a lot easier.

A pile of "task slips" created by the end of my journaling
As I have grown older, I've increasingly come to understand how important the structure of a to-do list is. If you have ADD-- and inattentive ADD, like me-- putting things like "paint the garage" on your list is worse than useless.


Because tasks that are "too big" will never get done. I will zone out before I ever get them taken care of. I was probably in my mid-30's when I realized that I was far more likely to get things done if I made a long to-do list of small tasks, rather than a short to-list of large tasks. The "net effect" was basically the same, but the "success rate" of the former was much higher.

Recently, I have developed the "small tasks" method a bit further... by writing each small task on its own small piece of paper, and then throwing away that piece of paper when I am done with the task. I tend to be very visual in nature, so literally watching my to-do list get thrown away, bit by bit, tends to keep me moving.

In addition, having individual notes-- like a small deck of cards-- allows me to shuffle tasks in order, and whenever I think of something new while "in the middle of something" (and we ALL know how often that happens!) I can just write it on another small slip of paper, and shuffle it in with the others in an order that "makes sense."

What's more, if I get to the end of the day and have pieces of paper with tasks "left over," I can just carry them forward to tomorrow-- no need to waste time on transferring today's undone items to tomorrow's list... because there is no actual "list" just small pieces of paper with "tasks" on them.

To some, this might sound really cumbersome... but I have actually found it to be a time saver, because I don't think of the things I need to do on any given day "in order." So when something relating to a "larger" project is suddenly remembered, I can just write it down and put it into the right sequence.

Now, let's get back to writing in the morning, and the process of "emptying my brain."

By sitting down, first thing in the morning and writing in my (online) journal, I can also "empty my head" of all the things I think of, that "need doing," on that day. I often end my journaling session with a whole pile of small "to-do notes," and my mind is pretty clear... instead of carrying a whole bunch of "OMG! I need to ____" bits in my head, they are "outta there" and onto my desk. That-- alone-- allows me to stay far more focused and clear headed, when it comes to dealing with that day's work.

Try it! You might like it!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Music Really Helps...

I have long used the saying "Music is my mind-altering substance of choice."

It has always been said as a bit of a joke-- because I tend to be "squeaky-clean" when it comes to addictive behaviors-- but there's actually a hidden element of truth there.

I do use music to keep my mind on track-- and I have, for a very long time.

We all know that music has the ability to "create a mood," and perhaps to bring up old memories. There are good reasons they use scene-specific music in movies, and good reasons why they play the music they play at airports, shopping malls and store. Your mind is "being influenced."

For me, there's a lot more to it, than that. I find that I can use music to "induce" certain moods that allow me to stay focused on certain tasks... where silence (or a different kind of music) would quickly drive me to distraction.

The same holds true for my wife-- who has the better known and more studied "conventional" ADHD with hyperactivity.

We both discovered-- independently of each other-- that techno and trance music (electronica) enables is to focus much better on repetitive and "long" tasks. Somehow, the upbeat, rapid drum-synth beat provides some kind of "brain interrupt" that improves out ability to focus.

What's particularly interesting about this is that even though we have quite different "variants" of ADD, we successfully incorporate listening to the same genre of music as "productivity tools."

Unlike her, however, I tend to use a more "chilled" or slower music style for when I write. It feels like it helps me access long term memories, while still staying awake.

It does make sense to me-- we "use" meditative styles of music in conjunction with hypnosis; at the same time, shamans use a repetitive drumbeat (very similar beats-per-minute as trance music) to induce altered mind states for people they are helping with things like soul retrievals and shamanic journeying.

Like other ways I have found to help me stay focused in life, I started "using" it as a therapeutic helping tool long before anyone diagnosed me with ADD.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Do We Intuitively Understand that we have ADD Before a Diagnosis?

Sometimes I look back over my life and can't help but think that I "intuitively knew" that I had ADD, long before I knew or understood or considered that I might actually have it.

Cryptic? OK, stay with me, here...

I look at some of the ways I've "arranged" my life and my interests... and the way they follow and resemble a number of generally accepted "coping tools" for people with ADD. And yet? I came up with these tools on my own, without ever really having read a description of the condition.

On some level, taking these steps "just made sense."

I am especially aware of the way I have created a work life that seems to "fit" my temperament. And that's it, right there: Until just a couple of years ago, my interpretation of the situation was simply that I had a "scattered temperament" and a relatively poor short term memory.

Humans are amazingly adaptable.

Give just how adaptable we are, it sometimes often distresses me that so much effort is being put into medicalizing perfectly normal parts of the human existence.

I managed to get to where I am through years of treating ADD as a bit of a joke: Around our house we'd regularly say things like "Yeah, you're ADD-ish as frak!" but it was mostly said in jest...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Inattentiveness vs. Boredom

One of the things I have heard a lot over the years is that I "get bored easily."

Actually, nothing is further from the truth-- I very rarely get bored; I'm one of those rare people who can be totally engrossed in watching an anthill or paint dry... for hours and hours.

When looking at ADD/ADHD and the people afflicted with it, it is (just my opinion) very important to have a clear handle on the difference between "boredom" and "inattentiveness."

To most people, when someone doesn't seem to be paying attention to something they have in front of them, it's a sign that they are bored. That may be true in a general sense, EXCEPT when you are dealing with someone with ADD, and especially someone with inattentive ADD.

I say "especially" those with inattentive ADD because of appearances. Most people with ADHD tend to "bounce" away, while those with inattentive ADD are more likely to "drift" away slowly and look like they are falling asleep. Hence the conclusion they are bored.

Truth be known, I am rarely bored with the things I "drift away from." My brain just can't seem to stay on track. And the harder I "try" to focus, the harder it gets to stay focused. This is one of the reasons why I sometimes fall asleep during favorite movies... and drift off while being in the middle of some of my favorite things, like reading a book or trying to create a recipe.

So remember this: Inattentiveness and Boredom are not the same thing!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Falling Asleep in Class

I think I was in about 4th or 5th grade-- back when we were still living in Denmark-- when I first became consciously aware that I had a difficult time staying awake in some classes.

I do remember the particular sequence of events... how it would happen, each time.

It was often during history class, which I found particularly boring. The teacher would be writing numbers on the board (dates) and droning on and on about some event in 15th century Britain that I really didn't care about. Slowly, I would grow aware of the hardness of my chair... that plain wooden seat... and I would start moving my butt around, a bit. Then there would be the sensation of tiny "pin pricks" on my butt... a little bit like the pins-and-needles sensation when your foot goes to sleep.

At this point, all I could think about was the discomfort in my butt. I'd look at the board and the teacher... and nothing would have changed. Or so it felt. Then I would look at the clock on the wall... and inwardly feel dread at the idea of having to sit there for another 34 minutes.

I was well aware that I was "supposed to" focus on what was going on in class... but my eyelids just felt so heavy, like I hadn't slept in several days. But I was acutely aware of how embarrassing it would be if I actually fell asleep in class, so I'd move my head to try to move on. I'd look out the window, at the weather; at anything the moved; trees in the breeze. Our "home room" was on the 3rd floor... and faced a road, across from which was the local train station. I'd watch people come and go, getting ready to take the trains. I envied them their freedom.

By this point, the teacher's voice was just a backdrop for my efforts to stay awake... and my wandering mind, which was mostly on memories of taking the train into the city to visit various family members. History was no longer even part of my awareness.

I'd only look out the window for a while... then I'd "look" back at my desk, or in my history book. I was extremely adept at looking like I was "concentrating" even though what I was looking at was mainly a fog...

From time to time, I'd "snap back" to where we were... in class... teacher talking about some battle.

The "danger zone" came when he finished his talking and started asking questions. I did NOT do well when called on, unless I knew the answer ahead of time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vignette: The Fly in my Room

There's a fly in my room.

I expect it got here because we've had mice in the crawlspace above my office, and something died up there.

I realize that my annoyance with the fly's presence isn't what most people's might be, namely "It's a gross disease carrying creature-- ewwww!"

When I see the fly, out of the corner of my eye, it annoys me because it represents "another moving data point" in my existence-- another "thing" to watch, and to pull me away from what I was doing.

So now... I must stop what I am doing and get the fly.

There are layers, at times.

I broke off writing an article, when I saw the fly... and realized that I wanted to add these words about how I experienced the fly, in my space. Now I am breaking off these words, so I can go deal with the fly.

Sometimes... it gets hard to get off the "branches" and back to the main tree...

Monday, June 17, 2013

I am not an Expert on Inattentive ADD-- but then again, I AM

What makes someone an "expert?"

It depends on who you ask. Some people would argue that you can't be an "expert" on something unless you spent 12 years in university studying the problem, and now how have a bunch of "initials" after your name.

By that measure, I am NOT an "expert" on Inattentive ADD/ADHD.

On the other hand, as of this writing I am 52 years old and have lived with the condition all my life. So you can argue that I have "52 years experience in the field." And that certainly accounts for something. Would you listen to someone who's been avidly gardening for 50+ years if-- however-- they did not have a Ph.D. in Horticulture?

Two important things to keep in mind about this site:

1. I am not pretending to be an "expert" on anything, I am merely sharing my personal experience. These are not "how to" columns, rather they are my stories of "I did this, as a consequence of which that happened." I'm not saying it's gonna work for you, merely that it worked for me (or not!).

2. I am not pretending that this site is an "advice column" or a place that "prescribes" a specific healing methodology. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. Again, I am merely sharing my personal experience, from living, breathing and eating "this thing," every single day of my life.

"Expert" is a bit of a nebulous term, in my experience. Somebody with a Harvard doctorate in business management will bring something different to the table than somebody who's been running a business for 30 years. Neither is necessarily "right" or "wrong." They are just different.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Early Memories of Cleaning my Room

It's funny how old memories re-visited can sometimes lead to insight.

My mother-- like most parents, I expect-- was eternally trying to get me to keep my room clean. Or, at the very least, trying to teach me how to keep it from looking like a bomb fallout area.

By the time I was eight or nine, it seemed like her frustration at my clutter-- and let's add here that my mom was a "neat freak"-- seemed to reach a peak. I remember her words, to this day "I just don't understand why something as simply as keeping your room tidy has to be SUCH a big production! WHY can't you just do this very simple thing?"

Retrospectively, maybe it was a fair question. I had a fairly good sized room, with a good sized closet, and we'd been to IKEA and had bought all manners of "organizational units." IKEA is really good for that sort of stuff.

And yet? My world was always a cluttered mess.

I remember responding to my mother-- on several occasions "Mom, I am just a FUNDAMENTALLY LAZY person."

My mother, of course, was horrified and insulted by that idea. She replied "What utter nonsense! No child in this family is lazy!" or something like that.

My point, though, is that it wasn't a "flip" comment, on my behalf. I'd actually thought about it, quite a bit. I loved my mom, and I didn't want to make her unhappy... and yet? Cleaning my room felt like... SO. MUCH.  WORK.

I distinctly remember how I would start off on a day of tidying up... and I would start to feel "heavy;" almost sleepy. I would get my Lego neatly put away... and I would feel so tired and groggy. Which was really weird, because I was "that kid" who could never take naps. It was so much "easier" to just stare out the window at the branches of the trees, moving in the wind.

My nine-year old brain reasoned that because I wanted to "sleep" rather than "work" it meant I was lazy. It was truly a genuine argument, not a "put off" answer.

Of course, 9-year old will go to some length to not have to do their chores. But looking back at the way I understood "not cleaning my room," it seems more evident that inattentive ADD was playing a part in my life, back then.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Explanation, of Sorts...

I need another blog, about as much as I need another hole in my head.

Ironically, my decision to start this one serves as a beautiful illustration of the condition I live with: I am an adult with the "Inattentive" version of ADHD. Or, rather "ADD." Because there is nothing "hyperactive" about me...

Even though I already have a dozen-odd "perfectly good" blogs, I have gotten sidetracked into taking on another one. "Sidetracking" is pretty much my middle name, as well as the bane of my existence.

There's a lot of information about ADD/ADHD on the web... but the vast majority seems to be about the "hyperactive" variant.

I'm not really sure what I am hoping to accomplish here.

Perhaps this is just going to be a "sanity journal," of sorts. Or it might end up being where I store useful information I find, insights and ideas. Then again, maybe it will turn into some kind of "social tool," through which I connect with others in the same boat as I.

I really wanted to use the name "Letters from La La Land," but that name (and the corresponding web domain) was already taken. So I nabbed this one, instead.

So what exactly IS "La La Land?"

It's the strange "brain fog" inattentive ADD sufferers live with. It's really hard to describe briefly, and by looking directly at... but in the months and years ahead, I shall endeavor to share experiences that might at least hint at what I am talking about.