Opinion Columns & Blogs

So I have ADD, but there’s more to – ooh! Squirrel!

Imagine going through life with one foot nailed to the floor. That’s what living with attention deficit disorder (ADD) is like.

You left-brain types have your lists of projects: Start one, finish it, do the next one. I have a list, too. Only I start one, run across something for another one and start it. Then I remember something useful for something else and derail to that project only to find I am missing something.

I’ve lived with 16 irons in the fire, dealing with whichever was hot at the time. Usually, I got everything done, but I took the scenic route every time.

Early in 2013, my grandson was cheerfully flunking everything. Trust me, if people always tell you, particularly teachers, that “you’re just not trying,” pretty soon, you don’t. His brand of ADD is “Inattentive.” Treatment addressed the focus issue – or lack thereof – which makes success possible.

Twelve months ago, that 13-year-old asked me to consider getting evaluated “because it seems that you struggle with the same things that I do.”

Amazingly, nothing snarky came out of my mouth, but the internal reaction was . . . unreasonable. The rational side of my brain (yes, there is one) mildly observed, “That’s a bit of an overreaction.”

I am proud to report I acted like a grownup and completed an evaluation. It only confirmed what I already knew. After all, my kids get it from somewhere, and if you’d known my dad, you’d know which parent that was.

I, too, have the “Inattentive” variety. Growing up, I repeatedly heard, “You are so smart; you’re just not trying.” “Pay attention.” “You just gotta focus.” (Umm, I thought I was.) In the meantime, my brain had gone for a walk, and when it came back, I was like, “I’m sorry, were you saying something?”

If I came with a label, it would read, “People say I have ADD, but they just don’t underst – ooh! Squirrel!”

I know someone who is an exercise zealot. She always expounded on the value of diet and exercise. Intellectually, I absolutely agreed, but “I just don’t have the energy.”

I wish there was a pill I could give people like her to make their brains work like mine for just one week. If there is not enough dopamine for the uptake receptors, no amount of will power is going to change the fact that there is no energy, let alone focus, left over for anything.

My attitude stemmed from a lifetime of enrolling at a gym and doing really well for a while. Then a few months later, I would realize I was paying for something I didn’t use, so I’d drop it – again. It’s a discouraging cycle.

I’m told Inattentive ADD affects the working memory of the prefrontal cortex. The doc said it’s the area that holds a thought about 10 seconds – long enough to decide where to go with it, except in brains like mine.

A prominent lecturer on ADD said that the goal of treatment is optimal function, not necessarily medication free. So I decided to try it. Prior to treatment, going to the gym sounded great at 9 a.m. When 5 p.m. rolled around, either I’d forgotten, or I needed to put my feet up for “just a minute” or – Squirrel! But crawling into bed, I’d remember, oh, yeah, I was gonna go to the gym. I’ve spent most of my life discouraged about one thing or another.

I’m grateful to my grandson. Accepting treatment was a good idea. Don’t get me wrong. I still see the “squirrels.” But I am no longer compelled to chase them. Life is a lot less work.

Deborah Morton is a Pacific Lutheran University graduate and a corrections deputy at Pierce County Jail. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email her at tntwriter12@gmail.com.