ADD and Me – Part 2

When we last left our heroes, I had just taken my first pill for ADD. In fact, I took it at 10:10 AM yesterday. I had a meeting at 10:30 AM and as I walked to the conference room, a feeling came over me akin to drinking 10 espressos. I felt pretty wired. Taking the pill on an empty stomach probably accelerated that feeling.

The meeting was about the design of some financial reports, a topic that would have had me fighting to stay awake and fighting even harder to focus on the mundane details of credits and debits. Instead, I felt alert, energetic and was intensely aware of the conversation. In the past, I would have drifted in and out of listening to people speak and have had to “catch up” by gleaning things from the conversation and trying to piece together things I had missed while my thoughts drifted elsewhere.

In fact, it seemed I spent half of the meeting out of my chair and pointing to the project on the screen to suggest changes to the report to make it easier to read. I left the feeling extremely excited about my new found attention abilities.

The next thing I noticed was my unwillingness to have unsatisfactory things around me. For months, the network cables that connect my VOIP phone were about 2 inches too short, causing my phone to rest nearly on top of my laptop keyboard. I just never did anything about it. It reminds me of a joke I once heard told by the motivational speaker Les Brown. It went something like this:

A man was walking down a dirt road down south. He passed an old rickety house and on the old rickety porch sat an old man and an old hound dog. The hound dog was just moaning and groaning. The passerby stopped and asked the old man “why is that dog moaning and groaning?” To which, the old man replied “because he’s laying on a nail”. The passerby, not quite able to believe it said “well, why doesn’t he get up and move?” The old man responded “because it doesn’t hurt bad enough to get up and move”.

On the surface that sounds like a story of incredible laziness. But.. what if one’s mind is just wired differently? In the eyes of a person with a brain wired correctly, it seems like a rational statement, but not when you’re brain is miswired; not if you suffer from ADD (BTW, I do not suffer from ADHD. No hyperactivity, just attention deficit)

And so, I wrote an email to request a couple of longer network cables. When they came, I calmly untangled the wires under my desk and plugged them into the phone and now the cables have sufficient slack to put my phone anywhere on my desk. I next tacked my chronically messy desk. I sorted the stacks of papers on my desk, filed everything in its place and cleaned up my top desk drawer. I’ll get to the others in due time.

Likewise, when I went home, I tamed the beastly stack of weeks-old mail and magazines from the top of the dresser in my bedroom. Each day, I would check for important mail on top of the stack, but anything unimportant… I would just leave there until the stack was so obnoxious that every couple of months, I’d waste an entire evening sorting and trashing stuff. Now, I have made a stack of magazines and have resolved to skim through one a day and then discard them until the stack is gone.

Returning to the workplace, the quiz I took to determine if I may have ADD ( http://add.about.com/od/evaluationanddiagnosis/a/adultaddsymptom.htm ) mentioned that many people feel completely stressed out, that the world is moving to quickly and that what they may actually be experiencing is undiagnosed ADD. I can complete testify to this. Whenever I worked on one task, I stressed that all my other tasks weren’t getting worked on. The bigger the list of tasks became the more I stressed because now I was spending ALL my time analyzing the tasks, trying to determine which was the highest priority. As a result, EVEN LESS would actually get done, intensifying the stress even more. I felt paralyzed.

Now.. I am still aware that all of these projects/tasks exist. I also know I can only do so much. I take what I think is the highest priority task and I work on it until it’s done, or until somebody decides something else is a higher priority. It such a relief to not feel that self-induced stress anymore.

In the past I’d either be unaware of them or ignore them with a nagging feeling of guilt.. “but not enough to do something about it.”

In the 21 years I’ve been married, the words my wife (Ramona) said the most to me were not “I love you” but… “you only hear half of what I say”. It was true. It was very hard to keep my mind focused on the person in front of me if my mind wanted to be somewhere else. All I can do is thank her profusely for hanging in there with a guy that must have not been too much fun to live with at times. I will make it up to you… I promise.

One last thing I thought was interesting about the conversation with my doctor… I told him that despite the fact that I have a great career and do very well, I have ALWAYS felt like an underachiever. I look at people my age or younger who are CEO’s, successful entrepreneurs, governors, congressman, etc and I think to myself “where did I go wrong? I think I am fairly smart guy…what do they know that I don’t know?”. And I’ve discovered that in the great competition of the business world, I’ve been battling with my hands tied behind my back, relative to my competitors. At this point, I have no great aspirations, but it IS helpful to finally know the answer to this mystery.

OK, I lied.. one more thing. The medication I am on.. Adderall is a pretty strong appetite suppressant. Today, I ate lunch BECAUSE I know it’s important to eat something, but I had absolutely no desire to eat food. I have a feeling there will soon be a lot less of me, and that’s OK 🙂 I have a bit of circular question though. If I lose a significant amount of weight, the first explanation people will come up with is “well, you’re on this medication and it causes loss of appetite. Of coure you’ve lost weight.. you can’t help it.” They may be right, but, we’ll never know if that’s the ONLY reason. In other words, I used to spend time on what I wanted to spend time on, oblivious to important but “mundane” things that needed doing. Likewise, if I wanted to eat, I ate. Was it a lack of “will power” or was it my brain simply focusing on what I wanted to do and not caring about the consequences. Interestingly enough, if Adderall had no appetite suppressant to it whatsoever, I think my whole approach to my diet and eating habits would be different now… now that I can think clearly and do what’s right, not just want I want to do.

But, I guess we’ll never know, because the medicine IS an appetite suppressant, so it will remain a mystery. If you suffer from the symptoms I mentioned in part one of this note, please take the quiz… a much more satisfying life could be just a doctor’s visit away.

Angels and Spirits

At risk of sounding like a nut… I’d like to share with you a couple of incidents that have made me an absolute believer in angels and spirits.

To truly get the most out of this blog post, you should first read another blog post of mine and then come back to this one.

I have two specific stories to share.

The Calculator

 

In the summer of 1992, I was taking an economics course at Macomb Community College. It was one of those summertime cram-down type courses that are only six weeks long when the regular courses were many more weeks in length. I think this course met twice a week, four hours at a shot for six weeks.

At the time of taking this course, my wife was very pregnant, expecting our first child, a boy, we had already named Joshua Grant. And then… the unthinkable happened. Joshua was stillborn at full term. The “review” session for our final exam fell on the same day as Joshua’s funeral, and I was in no shape to attend class that night. I missed the review. Two days later, I arrived to take the final exam. I was in shambles. I could barely focus and I had missed the review. To make matters worse, as we sat down to start the final, I noticed everybody placing calculators on their desk. We NEVER used a calculator in this class, as the math was very basic. I had never brought a calculator with me to this class.

I asked the person sitting next to me “why does everybody have a calculator? We’ve never used them before.” My classmate whispered back – “he said last Tuesday that on the final, we’ll need a calculator”. So now, on top of being a wreck over the loss of our child, I was panic-stricken that I was going to fail this exam.

I bent over to my book bag to get a pencil and some blank sheets of paper. And there, in my bag…..was my calculator. I never brought that calculator to class, ever… and I know I did not put it in the book bag… and yet there it was. I felt my eyes well up with tears, by now convinced I must REALLY look like I was out of my mind.

I took the final and amazingly.. I’ll never know how, I got an A on the final and an A for the course. And I owe it all to my little Joshy who made sure his daddy had a calculator.

The Voice

 

In 1996, we were finally blessed with a baby, our daughter Monica. My wife had undergone a cesarean delivery and so for the first several weeks, I was the one who got up at night with Monica.

One night, she awoke crying and I went to feed her. She was really crying quite intensely and she didn’t seem to be hungry. I checked her diaper… dry. I rocked her, sang to her and walked around with her, to no avail. After a while I was really getting concerned because she was unconsolable.

My mind began to wander into that “what if something’s REALLY wrong with her” territory. You know, the one where a trip to the emergency room enters your thoughts.

By now, I was really starting to panic. I didn’t know what to do. And then….. as plain as day, I heard in my head a male voice say “her throat”. I looked down and realized that Monica’s pajamas were snapped right to the very top and appeared to be snug around her neck. I unfastened the top snap and she instantly stopped crying. Considering her brother, Josh, was stillborn due to the umbilical cord being wrapped too tightly around his neck, it sent shivers up and down my spine as a I realized that her brother truly was acting as her guardian angel.