I felt a Cleaving in my Mind--
As if my Brain had split--
I tried to match it--Seam by Seam--
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before--
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound--
Like Balls--upon a Floor.

- Emily Dickinson (1864)

Attention deficit disorder (ADD for short) is a neurological condition which occurs in both children and adults. It's a syndrome identified by a chronic inability to concentrate or focus on one particular thing at a time, impulsiveness, forgetfulness, and easy distractability. Many people can be described with these words at one time or another, but the word "disorder" is used when this behavior is chronic and characteristic of an individual, so much so that it impairs their ability to interact with other people. It's similar to ADHD, but without the hyperactivity, and can be anywhere from a mild impedence to a severe inability to get things done.

Children with ADD are often described as "lazy" or "defiant" or "restless". They lack the ability or desire to focus on their lessons in school, the instructions of their parents, or the conversations of their friends. As these children grow into adults without diagnosis or treatment, they remain this way, and certain other attitudes become prominent: a sense of underachievement, chronic procrastination, many projects going at once, unstable moods, impatience with "proper" procedures, difficulty starting projects, and a tendency towards addictive behavior. Secondary symptoms of low self-esteem, anxiety or depression are not uncommon in adults who have lived with the effects of ADD throughout their life.

Interestingly, ADD is usually coupled with high intelligence and/or creativity, along with a tendency to hyperfocus on certain tasks. (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was probably ADD, and if you watch the movie "Amadeus" you can see effects of it everywhere -- hyperfocusing, impulsivity, impatience, disorganization.) As a result, a child with ADD may do very well in school until their natural intelligence fails, then plummet when he needs to pay attention to the teacher's lessons; an adult may perform phenomenally in jobs where she has a particular gift, but be crippled when it comes to interacting with her superiors because of her impatience, procrastination or forgetfulness.

Mature individuals with ADD often develop coping mechanisms so that they can interact with others at work and home. Structure, such as to-do lists and filing systems, is vital because it's the only way they can make sure important things are done or found after they've been forgotten. A familiar routine becomes necessary to make sure basic duties are accomplished. Background music while they're working may be a necessary "distraction" so that they can focus on the task at hand. Alcohol or cocaine may be used to medicate the ADD because it actually works, even if the sufferer doesn't understand why.

For most people with ADD, a successful diagnosis is the best part of the treatment. Besides identifying ADD as the cause instead of hyperthyroidism or other conditions, it gives them a framework in which to understand their own behavior and difficulties. Medication with Ritalin or a similar stimulant is often helpful but sometimes ineffective. These drugs, like the abused cocaine, increase the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system and improve the individual's focus. Psychological counseling is always necessary; it helps both the individual and those around him to understand what the disorder causes and lifestyle changes may need to be made. In addition, ADD may cause or be accompanied by secondary disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, or others, which need to be treated separately.

Information taken from the book "Driven to Distraction"
by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
and from the noder's own experiences

The advice I’m about to give is only based on what I know. As a young elementary student, that isn’t too much. Maybe you’ll think I’m dumb, maybe the advice seems too out there. I’m just hoping to help at least one person out there. And it’s not just a BS title, it is real in many cases. Sometimes overused, yes.

If your child chants inappropriate language you should encourage them to use other words like, “Dang” or, “Shoot”. If your child is between the ages of 5-10 and does this, start out with talking it over with them in privacy. If they continue to do it around 5 days after, it’s time for serious business. This next piece of advice is for all ages (even adults!). The next time your child or anyone in your family has a doctor appointment, bring your difficult child with you. Then, at an appropriate moment, tell your doctor about your difficult child (don’t let your children hear you) and ask your doctor if they may have Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. This is treated by taking medication, usually in the morning and sometimes around lunch everyday. By doctors these are called medication or by their brand name. Ritalin is a common one.

Most children call them “Meds” or just “The Pills”. It is recommended that these pills be swallowed with a drink, or with a scoop of ice cream. I know because I used to be considered ADD. Sometimes I still use the medication. Mine is to help me calm down, to concentrate, and mainly to help me get good grades in school. There are many reasons to take ADD pills: to calm down, to concentrate, to get good grades, not to cuss, and to make good decisions. There are many different reasons, but those are the most common.

I recommend that if your child goes to public school, get the medication that your child must take once at breakfast and once at noon. That way, your child will be embarrassed to tell their friends and teachers why they have to take medication. This embarrassment can help. Sooner or later, your child will realize that it’s not worth it. They will continuously tell you the medication doesn’t work, or that they refuse to take it. If they refuse to take it, hide it in their cereal or just make sure they take it. Soon, your child will begin to make good decisions on their own. To make sure they are good on their own with out any medication at all, you should give them a break from “Meds” for at least 6 weeks. If you start to see good decisions and actions, your child might no longer need to be considered ADD.

You should keep an extra bottle of “Meds”, in case your child needs them again. You should probably try the break after at least 8 months of medication. This is the route that I took, and it worked. Of course you should consult your doctor before carrying any of this out in your specific case. Also keep in mind that doctors are hesitant about trying things that haven’t been tested plenty. This experiment won’t harm your child, so I think it would be a good thing to try.

If your child still shows bad signs during the break, keep them on medication. If your child shows irritations, rashes, or any other health problems and you think it’s because of the medication, contact your doctor and/or School Nurse. This disorder, at least in part, deals with imbalances in chemicals. This will take time to cure. A part of it is the child’s attitude too, and that’s the part that I think this will help with. Give them a chance to prove themselves.

I recommend that anyone checking out this node who has more than a passing interest in Attention Deficit Disorder check out Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception by Thomas Hartmann (ISBN 1-887424-14-8).

The main thrust of the book is this: ADD is neither a deficit nor a disorder. It is merely a difference in the way the mind works. The ADD mind is referred to as the "hunter" mind, as opposed to the more prevalent "farmer" mind. Ritalin and other pharmaceutical straitjackets simply force the ADD hunter brain to operate like a farmer brain as opposed to recognizing the inherent strengths of the ADD mind. I won't go so far as to regurgitate the book in its entirety, but I will make one observation: more than 3 million Americans are on Ritalin to medicate them into behaving like "farmers".

I'm very passionate about this topic seeing as, at the age of 29, I've recently been diagnosed with ADD. This explains many of the difficulties I had as I was growing up, coping with the archaic school system that we have here in the West. I've recently begun a new form of therapy for ADD: EEG Neurofeedback. This has been training my brain to increase the levels of "focused-awareness" brain waves while decreasing the power of the "distracted-awareness" brain waves. I am happier, more effective, and working better than I ever have as a result. Furthermore, I am not cursed with having to take my Ritalin every morning, doomed to a life of having my brain chemistry monkeyed with.

Famous Hunter Minds: Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Richard Burton, Ernest Hemingway... and so on.
As someone who has never been presented with a diagnosis, but clearly exhibits its symptoms, I can say a few things about ADD. Until narzos pointed it out to me, I had never heard of ADD and I have difficulty believing that it is actually a consistent syndrome with a common source. Rather it's just 'something I was born with'.

I do think it's closely related to Asperger's syndrome.

Some observations.

It wears off.
When I was 4-14 years old I would enjoy myself by doing things like counting to a thousand. I used to have a great memory for facts, which helped me in school, and gave me a reputation of being intelligent. I was fascinated by sets, arrays, collections, logical order, systems. I found it completely impossible to approach strangers, or to approach anyone without a good rational reason. I didn't know the concept of 'smalltalk' or talking about 'personal' things. I made a point of never attending any parties. I hated birthday celebrations.. I did have close friends, with whom I would play Monopoly for months on end, or something similar. I didn't socialize. These Asperger-like things gradually wore off as I got older. I suppose they are normal for children, and to grow up is to overcome them. Or maybe it's just hormones.
It doesn't mean I'm insensitive.
I am sensitive, in the same way that other mammals are, in a nonverbal, intuitive sense. What I find hard is to be sociable, and this includes sensitivity as social behaviour. I will be the closest friend you'll ever have - unless you expect me to do something for you.
It doesn't hurt.
In my daily life the worst problem I have is to organise myself. I'm always late with everything, if I show up at all. I won't, and can't, plan ahead. Given a plan I won't stick to it. I'm lazy. Somehow, other people seem to have a sense of urgency and focus; I don't. It doesn't worry me enough to turn things around. Sure I try to improve, and on occasion I do, but trying to get rid of it would be like trying to get rid of my legs: it's part of me.
It doesn't mean I'm nervous
About all this fidgeting movement. Please do tell me to sit still and concentrate - I always forget, and it really helps - but don't suspect any psychological trouble behind it. It's just the way I am.
It doesn't mean people don't like me.
Everybody likes me. That is how I get away with all the failure and the systematic underachievement; one smile, one clumsy gesture, and people will see me for the harmless fool that I am, and forgive me. Competition frightens me, judging others is beyond me - from the first day of kindergarten I tried to stay out of the pecking order. This is why everybody likes me: I'm totally harmless. If, by mistake, someone takes real interest in me and starts to expect things, I'll get them straightened out soon enough.

My true role in life is to be a clown. That's not bad. Meanwhile, I'm trying my hand at some of the things that other people find important - working, having meaningful social relationships, pretending my life has purpose, blah blah blah. I usually enjoy it; sometimes I even manage to achieve something. While some things in life are a little out of reach for me, I'm just as well off as the next person. But I can imagine how a more serious degree of the same traits can lead to serious problems.

Further observations.

Bob Seay's description at http://members.aol.com/BevKPrice/HTML/web43.html
if you ever need a guide for "things you'll notice when dealing with rp", this is it
David Keirsey's point of view at http://keirsey.com/addhoax.html
this really isn't about ADD, but rather, about the basic moral values and attitudes of psychotherapy
the various nodes on the Myers-Briggs type indicator, which seem to be altogether more useful than any single label like ADD or ADHD could ever be. I'd rather just call myself an ENTP or INTP
ADD is one of the more misdiagnosed and abused treatments in grade school and middle school students today. Many children who are simply hyper and off the wall somehow fit this description, and they are given medication to control their behavior, and make parenting and teaching come more easily. The medical profession has recently turned up an eyebrow to this seemingly catch-all diagnosis. They are more wary of what constitutes a fast moving child, and what constitutes one with ADD.

A friend of mine clearly has ADD; you can see it in his eyes when he hasn't taken his medication. He's definitely a lot of fun to be around, very creative, and very smart, but he has a mind that clearly works differently. He gave a presentation once on it for our Honors Bio class back in high school. He said it was like having the radio always on "scan"; five seconds of any given topic, and then moving on to something else, without control of it. His mind moved very quickly from one thing to another, so watching him study in college was remarkable, as it meant he had to sit down and wrap his head around knowledge in a conventional way.

You can cope with ADD in many ways without medication. In fact, the good majority of diagnoses for this disorder, many doctors now feel could be attributed to parenting styles (or lack thereof). I do not want to give the impression that this does not afflict younger children, but that people in the past have rushed into this "trendy" diagnosis.

I believe that behavior-altering medication is almost too powerful, and should be used only in extreme circumstances. Medication for things such as depression and ADD are too often prescribed for people looking for an excuse, and a crutch to blame their inability to handle life. While clinically these are very serious problems, the severity of most cases does not it what it should be applied to. My mind works in a very fast moving way, and I need something to fill the gaps in the downtime. It means I move from one item to the next quickly, and seemingly randomly. Does this mean I need medication? Hardly. Does this mean that I should not be responsible for my own actions? Again, the thought seems ludicrous, but that is what we are telling our children when they have "mild ADD". They "can't help it". There is a certain line where medical condition begins, and lack of personal responsibility ends; I (and many doctors, educators, and parents) believe that the bar is not where it should be set.

I've dealt with ADHD without medication for my entire school career. It's been a lot of difficult times and stress, but I feel as though I've accomplished something after all these years, without sacrificing my individuality in the process. Kindergarten was a great trouble for myself and the rest of my family. I'm pretty sure I was diagnosed with ADHD by one psychatrist and another said I might not have it. My parents decided not to medicate me for the problem, going against the teacher's suggestions. They did take her suggestions to limit my sugar intake and other various things, I can still see my cake from my 6th birthday, a catterpillar of some sort, it tasted very odd. I continued misbehaving through most of early elementary school.

Not everything there was bad. I was pretty introverted as a young child, still am in some ways, and it led to me learning about all sorts of things. I remember the fifth grade girls talking to me when I was about 7, they would go around the school parking lot covering name plates of cars and asking me what they were, I knew every one, even the obscure Toyota Cressida. I had few real friends, but I still tried desperately to fit in. I didn't seek the superficial playtime friends of my peers, I wanted more than that.

The school system did little to help me. Conversations between them and my parents always revolved around molding me to fid the school, never them coming anywhere close to meeting me halfway. They didn't like what they didn't understand, I was punished for programming BASIC on the school's Apple IIs. I was told to "go play" when I sat on the bench during recess learning binary. I read every technology related book in the little library of the school, it fascinated me, robots, motors, computers, all of it. My parents couldn't afford to buy that kind of stuff, and the school failed to realize my abilities.

In fourth grade, my family moved into a nicer house, further out from Philadelphia. My new school experience was unremarkable, the same lack of friends and parent teacher meetings to discuss "the andrew problem." It was during this time that I met Ramsey, who was also interested in computers, but had trouble dealing with me at times. My fifth grade teacher was one of the few who actually appreciated how my different method of thinking could be beneficial to others. She listened to what I had to say and let me do what I wanted on the classroom computer. Eventually my hyperactivity subsided, and I became more appreciated by my peers.

Middle school was a time of great change, I made and lost friends, learned how to deal with problems, and managed to get out generally unscathed. I had difficulty with doing my work in class though, which affected my grades quite a bit.

In high school I have my major problems pretty much under control, though I do have a lot of difficulty with procrastination and lack of motivation to do much in the way of schoolwork. But the ADD also brings me the ability to hyper focus on tasks which I find important, which even includes schoolwork on occasion. I have an excellent ability to remember various obscure details about events. When it comes to finding solutions to problems, I look for more than the obvious, I'll consider anything and everything, often coming up with a (somewhat odd) solution which works better than something more normal. I use these abilities on a near daily basis, and they make my life much easier, and often can be used to help others.

If I were in the position to speak to a parent of a child with ADHD, I would recommend that they avoid medication if at all possible. The road to success is long and hard, but when you get there, it seems worth it. Life is meant to be a journey, a "magic cure" does nothing but put off real personal growth. Through my dealings with the issues of my own personality, I've learned a lot about how people fail to see the value in those who are different, even when they have a lot to offer, and it isn't good.

This is probably a little out there. Bear with me for a moment, as I expound on a theory entirely without any kind of real educated basis

Has it occured to anyone that ADHD (originally referred to by neuroligists as two seperate disorders: Attention Defecit Disorder, and Hyperactivity Disorder) may just be a haphazard coping mechanism that our brains have devised in order to handle the massive amounts of information that the modern world throws at us on a day to day basis?

Consider: ADHD is marked by an inability to concentrate on one single task at a time, a tendency to daydream, a state of mental and physical high gear, and generally not fitting in seamlessly with the rest of the teaming masses of future proles surrounding a child in his or her classroom.

Is it not possible that, in fact, this is evidence of mental multitasking, at the expense of inability to focus on only one thing at a time? Perhaps the hyperactivity is just a way to deal with an environment that moves at an equally hyperactive pace?

Evolution is never seamless. It is always sloppy; trial-and-error. As someone diagnosed with ADHD as a child, I have begun to wonder -- more and more -- if ADHD is not a disorder, but an adaptation.

Something to think about

There is, or has been a trend going among elementry school students in the past few years regarding ADD or ADHD. Many teachers, who do not like unfocused or unattentive children label them with having one of these disorders. How do I know this? In my 5th grade class of about 31 students, my teacher labeled about 5 in the class, including myself as having it a rather unusually large amount for any class. This turned into one long, stupid, annoying, and most importantly unecessary ordeal that I will explain below, as this has gotten so out of control that a few years ago Time ran a cover story about the issue.

During my 5th grade year, my teacher (My other, they tried to "team teach," teacher, was just a complete jerk, don't ask.) labeled me ADD. Why? Mostly because, I do not like to sit still...unless I'm doing something. Also, when we had silent reading at the beginning of the period I would have my nose stuck in a book for about 3-5 minutes after and not recall what he had said. Granted, I would understand that this would annoy anyone. Although I firmly believed he absolutely despised me, I asked him a question once and he yelled "SHUT UP!" in my face. But this isn't where it started, it began about 2 months after the beginning of the school year. When the school held parent/teacher conferences in November.

As always, my mom attended these. However, when she came home she was quite mad (We were on break while these were held) and explained how she had argued with my teacher who thought I exibited all the signs of ADD. My mom denied this explain that I simply didn't like to sit around idle. After this, he had several more meetings with my mom where he pressured her into giving me a ADD exam.

Guess what?

The doctor checked it, and stated I really didn't have ADD. But despite showing the results to my teacher. My teacher insisted my mom try another type and some how he ended up getting me a precscription for Ritalin. Despite his complaints, my mom never gave me it..

The ended to this came in around March. My mom gave him a small notebook and wrote that if you think my child has ADD, show me what he does in class that can be traced to an ADD child. He refused and it pretty much ended because the school year was over.

What is the point of this story? Well it shows, at least in my opinion, how teachers who are unwilling to deal with kids they don't necessarily like, will find incorrect, and possibly harmful (to the child) ways to achieve what they think is the "perfect child." Society doesn't work like that. Yet it still continues.

I just read Screaming_Blue's node and was amazed at what I saw. Laid out there, in a few paragraphs, are things that literally took me 22 years to realize. I've never been told that I 'have ADD' as such, although I certainly grew up feeling weird. I'm sure that if I had grown up 5 years later, things would have been different. However, Ive always known that I don't think like anyone else around me.

Growing up wasn't a pleasant experience for me. Not only could i not 'pay attention' to my teachers, I was extremely twitchy, full of energy... different. But it wasnt a lack of 'attention', just a difference in placement. I could literally spend hours watching a storm roll in, watching water weave a path through the sand. In my mind I had catalogued every type of weed and grass that grew in the recess field (although i didn't know their real names until years later). I knew which way the clouds moved every day. If you showed me any spot on the playground, I could intricately trace out the way water would flow, from that point, into the storm drains which channeled it away. But I couldnt keep my brain on the teacher...

Through it all, I knew I was weird. Any involuntary nervous tics or such things I quickly learned to hide. But it was the way I felt inside that i couldn't get rid of. I didn't care about sports or making friends. I just wanted to watch the rain, or draw. I would (and still sometimes do) draw out vast mountain ranges all over my notes. I even draw topographic maps. I don't know why but I am fascinated with the way they lay out, the lines of elevation crossing the lines of watercourses... the way a road would ply against both rising over an imaginary pass. I spent many years tormenting myself. I couldn't find any evidence of anyone, anywhere, anything like me.

Then, somehow, I started reading books about Native American culture, specifically the Navajo and Apache. Unlike the Christian belief system, the beliefs of these people made perfect sense to me. I began reading books by Tom Brown, jr, and realized that somehow, I 'automatically' move through the world the way he describes. And one day, I just stopped fighting. The Navajo teach that there are many strange, different things in the world. But instead of fighing them, you should learn to find balance in them. In addition, the philosophy stresses the importance of living in the moment, seeing the beauty of everyday life. To the Navajo, missing a sunset or not noticing a storm is as much a 'sin' as missing a religious event or disrespecting an elder. One day, I applied these beliefs to my life, to my deep-seated 'disorders'. And suddenly it all made sense. I still remember that day. Suddenly, I could see every blade of grass on the ground, the dendric patterns of the trees on the sky, the afternoon clouds drifting in off the ocean. I can still see it now.

I have always said that i didn't belong in this place or time. Now, even more so, i know this to be true. I am extremely instinct-driven, to an extent I havent seen in anyone else. Sometimes I can literally 'feel' the movement of water, the presence of animals, the approach of a storm, poison in a plant's leaves or a creek. It sounds ridiculous, like hippie bullshit. I expect no one to believe me. Most people don't. But it's the truth. I fit perfectly into the forest or the desert. But I can't do math to save my life. I can't sit still inside unless theres something there I am interested in. I can't even watch television. I don't 'work' in big cities. Sometimes I go into San Francisco, to visit friends of my girlfriend. It literally beats me down to the point of not being able to function. My instincts are constantly tearing at me in these places, telling me that the people around me aren't safe, that the buildings towering over me aren't safe, that there is nothing alive or safe anywhere near me. My mind works in 'chaos theory', not conventional mathematics.

I never could talk about these things with anyone until recently. Recently, I wouldn't have even looked at this node... there are some words associated with this i can't say... even to myself when I'm alone. But recently, while drinking wine with my mother (something else ive discovered is that alcohol makes me like 'other people'... which leads me to drink a lot in uncomforable situations.) I was able to talk about this. My mother told me that night that i probably would have been a powerful shaman if had been where i 'belonged'. But when I was in class, I looked like a trapped animal. Lock a coyote in a cage and show it pictures of rabbits... see if it shows signs of 'add'. Does that mean there is something wrong with it? Although my instincts are sometimes hard to deal with, they are all that has kept me alive. And yes, they have probably saved me from pretty severe problems several times.

besides the things above, I have discovered one more thing that gets me through the day.. loud, strongly rythmic music. I listen a lot to punk, ska, 'yelly' bands. I always thought of this as a different part of me but perhaps it is related to the same thing.

although this node is far too long, I feel the need to say one more thing. If your child is born like this, don't ever let them know that some would say they are 'disordered'. If possible, keep them away from teachers who would have them act as cows. By all means, tell them they are special, that they see the world in a way others can't. Tell them that it may make it hard when you are around 'normal' people. But I honestly believe it is 100% vital for people like this to be around. Genetic diversity is vital to a population. Besides, who will keep us alive when agricultural society collapses?

My Experience with ADD

I was diagnosed as being hyperactive long before it became popular. The year was 1968, and I was in the third grade. My parents knew something wasn't quite right, I was reading books several grade levels ahead, and could solve puzzles and complex fractions in my head but my lack of focus held me back socially and also in my ability to effectively express my knowledge.

As I remember my childhood at the time, I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge of the world. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, or taking apart almost everything else, which often drove Mom and Dad crazy when I broke a perfectly good small appliance, tool, or radio to see "how it worked", or if I could "improve" it. It was said that I tried to take my crib apart before I could walk. They didn't really mind my inate intelligence, and in fact I really think it was a source of pride to them, but with 4 kids to raise and educate, they didn't have a whole lot of money to spare for unlimited mechanical misadventures for myself and my equally curious slightly younger brother. I was also more restless than my other siblings, often riding my bike much farther afield than they would even think about going, and developing a taste for loud rock and roll.

Initial Diagnosis

Broken toasters aside, my ADD had a darker side of course, and my lack of focus on the mundane and subtle details of handwriting, grammar, controlling the level of my voice, and concentrating on my assignments held me back socially and portended ominous problems with my academic future. My family valued discipline and academic acheivement, so my plight was taken as seriously as a major illness. I did my best to stay out of serious trouble, but by third grade my difficulties were seen to be serious enough to seek professional help. It started with an unusual number of visits to the guidance counselor, which consisted of play sessions with a variety of toys while the counselor watched. I felt uneasy why I suddenly was able to get out of class to play with toys, while my classmates were busy practicing penmanship and learning the difference between verb tenses. Still, trips to the guidance counselor were not too unusual for other students as well.

9 Years Old and Experimenting with Drugs

Later that year I learned what all the trips to the guidance counselor were about. I went for a visit to my family doctor, and even though I wasn't sick, I was put on a prescription for Dexedrine. I guess Dexedrine didn't work very well because I was taken off of it within a couple of months, and I was referred to a Neurologist. The neurologist gave me some tests to take such as more puzzle-solving, word questions, and so on, along with some motor skills tests. The Neurologist talked with my parents in private for a long time, and on the trip home Mom and Dad explained the best they could what the doctor thought was wrong, and so on. I was scheduled for an EEG, which measures the electrical activity of the brain, and boy, it was active! I had to stay up all night so I could sleep during the day while I wore a bunch of electrodes pasted to my head. In my active 9 year old brain this was all very strange, in a way exciting, and troubling. It goes without saying I couldn't sleep despite staying up all night, so they gave me a sleeping pill. I still don't remember drifting off. When I awoke I wanted to know all about what all the lines on the graph paper were, of course.

Over the next couple of months I was put on Dilantin, Benadryl, and another drug I forget what the name was in rapid succession. The only thing I know for sure was that my grades went from a B- average to solid C's in fourth grade. For not getting a badly done assignment signed by my parents, I also had to copy some dictionary pages during recess, which was the standard punishment for a variety of infractions at the time. I felt bad about the way I was doing, but I felt like something alien was making me space out. I wasn't really compliant, and the drugs supressed my normally active mind. It was horrible!

Going on Ritalin

After another EEG, I was put on a fairly new drug at the time known as Ritalin. Almost immediately, things got better for me, my grades got better, my handwriting, though still bad could be legible with some effort, and I was doing better in Phys Ed and even Art. Ritalin helped me harness my intelligence, and after adjusting my dosage I was almost a straight A student in Fifth Grade.

I stayed on Ritalin through high school. I got pretty good grades and stayed out of serious trouble, though I developed a reputation as a nerd. Luckily I had my share of nerd friends who thought Model Rocketry, Unsanctioned Chemistry Experiments, and EPROMs were a lot cooler than Prom Queens. In the post Columbine world, I am sure I would have been targeted for special attention. I went on to college to study Engineering, but I found that my brain wasn't quite wired to do multivariable calculus very well, despite an excellent Math score on the SAT. I changed my major to Economics and found I had a talent for statistics, but mostly I found it boring and unchallenging, once I learned the basics. One graph looked like another but I stuck with it to get my degree.

I stayed on Ritalin throughout college, but my doctor was nearing retirement age, and the current thinking at the time was that adults should be weaned off of Ritalin, if not by the end of high school, certainly by the time they graduate college. My dosage had tapered from 60 mg/day in high school to about 20 mg/day by the time I got my Bachelor's degree in 1981. A degree in Economics might be a good springboard for graduate school, but by my senior year I was tired of sitting in a classroom all day listening to yet another rehash of supply and demand curves. After graduation, I took off in my car for a couple of months and camped my way across the United States. It was the greatest thing I have done before that time or since.

Once I entered the real world, I found it very difficult to concentrate on the frustrating work of finding a decent job. I settled for a blue-collar service job, and found it a constant struggle to stay productive doing boring repetitive work, but through sheer will I managed to hold on and even get promoted. Still, the entire company I worked for was a dead end, and I was looking to escape.

Quitting Ritalin

I was convinced to quit Ritalin entirely about 2 years out of college. I was often looked at suspiciously when I got my prescriptions filled as the permissive attitudes toward drugs during the 1970's gave way to the anti-drug paranoia of the 1980's. In the next two years I wrecked my car 3 times, and paid outrageous insurance premiums for years to come. By the time I realized that Ritalin was a critical part of my persona, my doctor had retired and the anti-drug propaganda had reached a fever pitch. I coped by drinking large amounts of caffenated beverages. I also went back to college, this time to get a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology, a pursuit more in line with my interests and skills. College helped keep my mind from atrophying, but I needed the caffeine to just stay awake. I still had trouble vocationally, but eventually I landed the job I still hold today as an Electronics Technician, servicing some specialized and very complex computer driven machinery. Servicing this equipment requires a broad base of knowledge to program and repair it effectively. Something different happens every day, and I often have to think on my feet under very intense pressure.

Returning to Ritalin

While having a job fairly well suited to my personality helped my quality of life considerably, I tended to have difficulty with some of the more mundane aspects of the job. I could troubleshoot difficult problems, but my parts cabinet was usually a mess, for instance. I was also prone to bouts of depression, and just had trouble "getting going" to do mundane and boring tasks, especially at home. I brought this up with my family doctor, and I figured I would probably get a prescription for Prozac. I told him of my history with ADD as a child and teenager, and after asking a few more questions, he asked me if I thought I would benefit by going back on Ritalin. I did not hesitate very long before saying yes. He said I probably should have probably never have gone off of it. I was a little nervous when I opened the bottle when I got home from the pharmacy, but almost as soon as the familiar bitter taste of the pill filled my mouth before washing it down, I started thinking clearer than I had in years.

While Ritalin and its time-released version Concerta are helpful, I can say after several years back on it that it is not perfect. I have sort of built up a tolerance to it. I sometimes seem more troubled by its absence than helped by its presence, but I realize that upping the dose could lead to a vicious cycle of increasing dosage and tolerance, which could lead me to same end as many famous and dead rock musicians. I have seen what drugs like alcohol and cocaine have done to friends of mine firsthand, and I want to avoid that fate. Still it is the best thing available, and it is worth the side effects. I still have many of the classic symptoms of ADD.

I still like my music loud, my food spicy, and occasionally like to drive much faster than I should. As middle age has taken hold and I have taken on many of the responsibilities that come with, I have developed strategies of self-discipline, and am less tolerant of substandard work than I used to be, both in myself and in others. In fact, I often revisit old writeups with a critical eye to eliminating or reducing spelling, grammar, or formatting mistakes.

Q: How many kids with ADHD does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Let's ride bikes!

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