ADHD: Whatever it is, that's what it is.
I've never really cared to debate whether ADHD is really something to be given any legitimacy. It is what it is. Whether it actually is a "Disorder," as the letters say, whether it's a result of social changes outpacing neurological changes, or whether it's some environmental issue, I don't really care. Whatever it is that's what it is, and I fit the profile.
It is what it is. Symptoms tell you what it is. Treatments vary. I don't have a problem with people using pharmaceuticals to give them a chance at doing something they hardly ever do.
Are We Your Night Watch?
I wake most mornings without prompting at somewhere around 4:25. I don't want to wake. I want to sleep. It's usually within 4 or 5 minutes of that time either way.
I've had people agree with the following description of the ADHD brain's activity:
It's like a racquetball court. As soon as the mind is moving, it starts to ping, ping, ping. And despite all attempts to stop it, it continues.Counting backwards is ineffective. I just stop counting at the first distraction. For some reason, I start at 61. I've never made it to zero, and it rarely works.
I lay there wondering if other people feel this. Do other people have to "try" to go to sleep? I remember all the way back, more than 25 years ago when I wished I could sleep like the other people on the trip.
One doctor described it to me this way: It's a function of a brain that is adapted for a different setting and human experience than the one we live in. Radio host Thom Hartmann has suggested that perhaps the ADHD brain is one that is more suited to a sort of "hunter gatherer" existence. In this scenario, an easily distracted mind could potentially be a beneficial adaptation. We might exhibit the forward facing eyes which lead to the binocular vision that is a hallmark of the predator, but we can still be prey. Things still go bump in the night. (If you speak German, that would be funny to translate.)
If we take into consideration the fact that evolution by natural selection is something that impacts populations, and not individuals, you can see how it would benefit a population to have some individuals who are easily distracted. They can then raise the awareness of the rest of the population.
What does this have to do with sleep?
A common complaint among ADHD adults is difficulty in establishing a reasonable pattern of sleep. I have never, ever, ever in my whole life been able to sleep in. I've always woken early, even as a teenager. This does mean that I got to take classes when nobody else wanted when I was in college. There is that. I guess there ais some benefit. It's probably easier to get good grades in early classes. Just a guess.
We are the ones who can't sleep, and who are easily distracted. That seems like a beneficial adaptation when you consider that the alternative would have been many sound sleepers unable to be distracted by possible threats.
Imagine the benefit of having a percentage of your population which doesn't have the tendency to align its internal sleep clocks with the rest of you.
The Menace of Hobbies
This morning, I shared my walk with Venus at just above the angle of my normal vision, and Jupiter sitting in the middle of the winter circle like a nipple, between the celestial "bull's" eyes of Taurus. I spent ten years teaching these things, but I never would have known them without the requirement to teach them.
I've always wished that I could have hobbies like other people. I've always wished that I could be so consumed by the depth of information and experience in one single activity that I could resist the distractions of the outside world. Alas.
Apparently, the distractions are the hobby.
Here is the problem. As someone with ADHD goes through their lives, they start and stop activities. It's a pattern, and while I realize it's normal that people do this, it happens with such regularity for some folks with ADHD that it almost makes no sense to start a new hobby. It doesn't even matter how interested you are in the activity, you have learned over the years that you never finish something like that, so it's frequently a wasted effort.
Couple this with the challenges that someone might face in school, and you have a bad recipe.
I explained to my wife how much I would love to have hobbies. It just doesn't work out most of the time.
Basically, it's a waste of money. There are numerous start up costs associated with many of the things I'm interested in. So I think, "What's the point of spending the money, when it will just be another thing I quit as soon as distractions start, or as soon as the interest requires more in depth knowledge and understanding.?
Temporal Dysfunction is a Symptom of ADHD- "It's Either Now, or it's not Now."
"Finally, you get to be student of the week!" That's what it said in my "Student of the Week" book from third grade. I wasn't willfully disobedient, but I was always at the next thing before the last thing ended. This leads to difficulty in school, which leads to a constant reminder that you are not doing as well as you should, and everyone just assumes it's because of bad behavior.
The article linked above is one that is about sleep patterns, so it will relate to the earlier piece, but the reason I link the article is that it gives probably the best description of the ADHD brain and its difficulty with considering consequence before action.
Their internal clocks are not "set." Consequently, they experience only two times: "now" and "not now."For me, this is as true as it can be. Imagine your life as a timeline. You put yourself in the "now" part of the timeline. You might be able to see far down that timeline, but for someone with symptoms of ADHD, they might feel like they exist in a bubble of time that extends no further than a day or two in either direction. A sort of "fuzzy nowishness" that has some tendrils that move out in either direction along the timeline, but they don't do much. It's not as if there is no awareness, it's that there is no sense of urgency for the future, no concern, because it's "not now." When those things get closer to "now," I have learned, that's when it works for me to care about them
I long ago stopped making any sort of attempt to plan any detailed situation that is further away than a week or so. I ended up quitting a teaching position, because the principal was going to have me doing the organizing and scheduling for a group of support staff. Please, I can barely manage my own.
Goal Setting for someone in this situation is an exercise in disappointment and frustration. It's really a learned frustration, and it's based on experience.
This brings me to my final point. The doctor who I mentioned in the opening told me about some books. I sat there dutifully listening. I'm thinking about how I will be able to do more of the things I want to do (which is just about everything), and she's just looking at me and talking, but I know she's thinking that nobody she tells to read those books ever actual reads those books.
Consider that irony.
"Here is a book about ADHD. It will help you figure out your problems." The thing is that the book could end with 500 blank pages, and probably 10% of those with ADHD would know about that if they were to get the book.