Adult ADD As A Form of Madness

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More and more I’m beginning to see A.D.D. as a mild form of madness: a sort of insanity that never lets up; an internal force that takes over its “victim” and continually haunts. Manifesting itself as a never-ending urge (and yes, sometimes a voice), its “victims” lead a maddening Sisyphean life as they relive the same day again and again as if they were performing their personalized version of “Ground Hog Day.”It is easy to think and even engage in self-delusion (perhaps A.D.D. is really Adult Delusional Disorder, a disorder that allows someone to see “gifts” when everyone else sees lumps of coal, to see sunshine when everyone else sees darkness, to see and live an alternate reality since the true reality is, at times, dismal. [note 1] ) by assuming that the new set of habits created today will somehow last, that they will “stick” and become part of the internal automation that many A.D.D.ers use as a coping and survival mechanism to get through the mundane aspects of life. [note 2] Some of the new habits do, indeed, stick and it is possible for an A.D.D.er to change. Thankfully our Adult Delusional Disorder allows us to ignore the stench of the rotting remains of those other “new” habits that we so enthusiastically proclaimed will finally “solve” our latest problem du jour, that will make us like “normal” people but which never did take hold. [note 3]

A.D.D. is a form of madness because it is unrelenting, because it does not let go of its victim. However it periodically hides somewhere in the mental cobwebs, fooling us into believing that we have finally gotten it under control. In reality, it lies in wait, watching for the right time to jump out and create havoc. A.D.D. assures that it’s victim’s life will ALWAYS be a series of do-overs, a series of attempts to “get it right,” to try to “do the right thing.” Yes, there are some successes but each success requires a fight, a struggle and, if one keeps a tally, the number of failures probably outweighs the number of successes by 10 to 1.

It seems all one can do is accommodate oneself to this madness, acknowledge that there will be good days (even good weeks!) and bad days (and even bad weeks!). But it gets so tiring to fight this beast from minute to minute…day after day after month after year after decade and more decades. It is tiring to have to always fight to put it back in its cage again and again so that one could lead a “normal” life. [note 4]

I have an advantage my undiagnosed A.D.D. father did not have: I know the source of my problem. But there are days when this knowledge is useless, when all it does is explain why my day has fallen apart. This knowledge does nothing to permanently alter my state of being. It merely provides a handy label for this mild form of madness we call A.D.D.

{ ===== //\ ===== }

It should not take long for the barrage of emails to hit, attacking me for this less than sanguine blog post. Must we always engage in self-delusion? Is there not a way to live with the A.D.D. beast and somehow live a happier life while knowing that the beast still lives? Must we always engage in catatonic happy-happy talk?

  1. Only a few minutes after making this blog post live, coincidentally I received an email with the following link: http://adderworld.ning.com/profiles/blogs/adder-world-book-contest-dr. It is for a book called “The Gift of ADHD.” Reading the posted blurb makes it seem that this book is a more nuanced approach and “reframing” of our attitude towards ADHD. But what is disturbing is the title of the book. Why does it have to have the word “gift”? Are we so intellectually stunted that we cannot have a book titled, “A Better Way to View ADHD: How A Positive Approach Can Make For A Better Life.” This does not say it IS a gift but implies that if we look at it from a somewhat different perspective, we can make it more tolerable. Is that a terrible thing to say? Do we have to proclaim ADHD as the latest manna from heaven?
  2. All of my grooming procedures, from showering to shaving to how I get dressed, have been reduced to processes that run automatically. No thinking is required. However, if I am interrupted during this process…I may forget where I left off. To answer the obvious question, yes I have been interrupted and yes I’ve forgotten to do things like shave, close the belt on my pants and other hilarities that, as an A.D.D.er, you must simply laugh at to avoid crying.
  3. How many times will we have the clarity to see exactly what we need to do to succeed and yet, this internal (infernal!) madness stops us from doing what we know we must do. We should not forget the definition of insanity that supposedly was uttered by Einstein: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
  4. I would give most anything to experience a “normal” life. Yet, precisely because of my A.D.D., I had a most earth-shattering experience that I would not trade for anything (even normalcy!!), an experience that may finally make it bearable to live with the madness.
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  • Deb

    In “The Edison Gene”, Thom Hartman reports an encounter when traveling in India with several businessmen and a physician.

    “Curious about how they viewed our children diagnosed as having ADHD, I asked, “Are you familiar with those types of people…” “Ah, we know these types well”, one of the men said, the other three nodding in agreement. “What do you call this personality type?”, I asked. “Very holy”, he said. “These are old souls, near the end of their karmic cycle…” “This is a man very close to being enlightened.” “We have great respect for such individuals, although their lives may be difficult…” “In America they consider this behavior indicative of a psychiatric disorder,”I said. All three looked startled, then laughed… “So it is with different cultures. We live in different worlds.”

    Like the subtitle to “The Power of Intention” states, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.”

  • Jeff

    Deb,

    I’ve heard of Thom Hartman. A very bright guy. Highly educated. The rare A.D.D. true success story. The statistical outlier. But in true American fashion, he is blind to everything that lies outside himself (I’m sure he claims otherwise) and assumes that if he can do it (or Edison can do it), well, by golly, so can you. Nonsense and poppycock. Whether we are talking about A.D.D. or about people who are struggling to get out of poverty, it is the rare individual who succeeds in doing it and, what we often fail to remember, is that that person’s success rests upon the help of many others. No individual succeeds on their own.

    As for karmic cycles and enlightenment, well, that’s a nice view of the world. But Hartman should know better than to share it as if it carries some scientific weight.

  • betsy davenport, phd

    Don’t get me started.

  • Jeff

    Betsy,

    Go for it! ;)

  • Scott Hutson

    I’ll bring the pop-corn, and sit over here.:)

  • Scott Hutson

    If I get up…Please remember to bring a raincoat, I might bring my giant wooden mallet and a watermelon.

  • Deb

    Jeff,

    I truly did not mean to be trite with this comment. I think it unfair to say TH is blind to everything outside of himself. On the contrary, I think he reaches as far (and, admittedly, sometimes I think stretches a bit too far) in his search for understanding. I think he is intimately aware of the nitty gritty because he he has lived ADD and watched his son struggle with ADD.Even an ivory tower genius comes down to help his own.

    I agree that whether we are talking about any kind of difficulty in life, ADD or not, no one does it alone, ever. We should also remember that no one gets out of life unscathed. We are all a work in progress.

    I don’t have enough time to debate reincarnation here, but I think it useful if we at least briefly look at what success really is in terms of learning and enlightenment for us ordinary folk. To say that we are mad, or screwed because we are not statistical outliers is a bit of a stretch, too. People are diverse, even those of us that share many of those common negative, or positive traits of ADD. As The President :) is a role model for people of color that are stuck in poverty (we are not going to pretend things are going to significantly change for each of them anytime soon), we can hold up a symbol of hope that just may inspire someone to be positive and try to think of something better than just to give in to the apparent hopeless reality of their situation. Maybe it will help them to stay off drugs, or not drop out. If you are inspired by a great doctor, you may never become one, but you may find your place in life working in a doctor’s office. Is this not success for that person? Even if its many different offices over time, you may eventually find a job in the field that fits.

    I choose not to look at myself as broken, but different. I do not need to be fixed. I am as crazy as they come, but do not tell me that you are more sane than I. My dad’s favorite retort, “So what, a lot better people than you have called me a lot worse!”

    As far as the science goes, the pure and applied sciences are in some ways still in infant stages when it comes to the brain. This is a very exciting time for those of us who watch closely.

    We are still in the early light of disseminating useful information to adults about ADD. What the science tells us and how we interpret that information I feel is important to people’s happiness. I think it folly to tell people who already don’t fit well in the world that they are screwed. Especially younger people who are just beginning to rack up the wounds. If you can reframe their thinking and educate them as early as you can in a more positive “light”, they will be happier. The power of positive thinking is not a Pollyanna outlook that is looking for a gift under the tree, but rather a suggestion of the possibility of an amount of success in life, even for me.

    People need to learn to deal. I admire those that are in the trenches helping people to identify those old hurts and find a better way.The scars that are left on people after a lifetime of not fitting in should not define us. There is no fool like an old fool. O.K. that was trite.

  • Deb

    Scott,

    Don’t sit too far away, I’m expecting you to share the popcorn. And maybe some pulled pork-if it smells good today!

  • Deb

    The conversation shouldn’t get THAT heated. Maybe a mallet is safer than a knife, though.

  • Jeff

    Deb,

    Your points are well taken and, quite honestly, the difference is one of emphasis. (I’ll have a post on this in a day or so.) TH is not really an idiot and, yes, success can be measured in many different ways. And while I don’t quite look at myself as being broken per se, I recently described myself to someone as being, well, someone who has all the physiological qualities needed to run 100 miles per hour except, unfortunately, I have clubbed feet. My daily struggle is how to get up to speed despite the clubbed feet.

  • http://18channels.blogspot.com Katy B.

    You DO run 100 MPH Jeff, just not in a straight line ;)

  • http://rakshaspersonalblog.blogspot.com/ Raksha

    Deb,

    Re >>“Curious about how they viewed our children diagnosed as having ADHD, I asked, “Are you familiar with those types of people…” “Ah, we know these types well”, one of the men said, the other three nodding in agreement. “What do you call this personality type?”, I asked. “Very holy”, he said. “These are old souls, near the end of their karmic cycle…” “This is a man very close to being enlightened.” “We have great respect for such individuals, although their lives may be difficult…” “In America they consider this behavior indicative of a psychiatric disorder,”I said. All three looked startled, then laughed… “So it is with different cultures. We live in different worlds.”<<

    Ahhhhh…beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL!!! You have *NO* idea how pathetically grateful I am to you for quoting this, and for being familiar with Thom Hartmann’s work in general. I haven’t read “The Edison Gene” but I’ve read two of his previous books: “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception” and “Healing ADD,” which contains specific exercises for dealing with specific perception and attention problems, and which I desperately need to re-read…like RIGHT NOW!!!

    But the first book, “A Different Perception,” is the one where he first sets forth his “Hunter in a Farmer’s World” theory. I believe this is the correct model and the one that will eventually prevail. It started out as a metaphor, after his son was diagnosed with ADD. Thom Hartmann was dissatisfied with the prevailing “disease” models and didn’t want to burden his son with the negative self-image and limited expectations inherent in having a “deficit” and a “disorder.” That’s very hard on a child.

    For an adult–me for example–it’s a whole other thing. I was 57 years old when that book on adult ADD fell into my hands seemingly “by chance” when I was browsing in a library on Santa Monica Blvd. I still don’t remember which book it was, but I leafed through it for 15-20 minutes and with total awestruck astonishment, RECOGNIZED myself for the first time in my life. Like most adults in the same situation I didn’t give a damn WHAT they called it! I was just so grateful there was ANY name for it at all.

    An aside: For that reason I won’t give the time of day to ANYONE who cautions me about the alleged “dangers” of self-diagnosis, and I don’t give a damn whether it’s Dr. Hallowell or any other expert. While I admire Dr. Hallowell tremendously for his breakthrough work, the ONLY thing I give his dated and irrelevant cautions about self-diagnosis is my upraised middle finger. If I were not self-diagnosed, I would still be UNDIAGNOSED because I don’t have effing health insurance, and I didn’t have it then either.

    WOW…this digression seems to have evolved (or devolved?) into a full-blown rant! Maybe I’d better stop and cool off for a while.

    –Linda

  • http://rakshaspersonalblog.blogspot.com/ Raksha

    Jeff,

    Re >>I’ve heard of Thom Hartman. A very bright guy. Highly educated. The rare A.D.D. true success story. The statistical outlier. But in true American fashion, he is blind to everything that lies outside himself (I’m sure he claims otherwise) and assumes that if he can do it (or Edison can do it), well, by golly, so can you.<<

    No, that isn’t Thom Hartmann’s message AT ALL! If all he were saying is, “By golly, if I can do it so can you” nobody would buy his books, because all of us have heard that message already a thousand times in our lives and it hasn’t done us the slightest bit of good. Very often people whose message is “By golly, if I can do it so can you” only seem to be taunting us, but that isn’t what Thom Hartmann is doing.

    His theory and his message are ALL about self-knowledge, as in “the truth will set you free.” Do yourself a big favor and read one of them. I promise you that you won’t be sorry.

    Love and Light,
    Linda

  • Deb

    I have walked a mile in those moccasins.

    Thanks for letting me go on.

  • http://rakshaspersonalblog.blogspot.com/ Raksha

    Deb,

    Re >>As far as the science goes, the pure and applied sciences are in some ways still in infant stages when it comes to the brain. This is a very exciting time for those of us who watch closely.

    We are still in the early light of disseminating useful information to adults about ADD. What the science tells us and how we interpret that information I feel is important to people’s happiness. I think it folly to tell people who already don’t fit well in the world that they are screwed. Especially younger people who are just beginning to rack up the wounds. If you can reframe their thinking and educate them as early as you can in a more positive “light”, they will be happier.<<

    Not only will they be happier, they are also more likely to be successful without the crushing burden of a negative self-image. There have been times, and not all that long ago either, when I have told people: “I have hated myself my entire life. I have no idea what it would be like to NOT hate myself. I can’t even imagine what that would feel like.”

    I posted something like that on a discussion board where I’m a regular several years ago. It was one of those sudden impulses and I’m not really sure why I did it. But another regular read my post and sent me an e-mail, something he had never done before. Although I keep up a regular and intense (and WAY too time-consuming) e-mail correspondence with a number of close friends, this person wasn’t one of them.

    He said: “Your description of yourself has all the classic earmarks of attention deficit disorder.” And then he told me about Dr. Hallowell’s book “Driven to Distraction,” which I ordered from Amazon within the week. By then I already knew I was ADD but didn’t have a clue where to go from there or what to do about it. I answered my secret ally’s e-mail and told him he had guessed correctly, although it was hardly a “guess” on his part. I’ve been saying ever since that it takes one to know one. He recognized me by my intense and unwarranted self-hatred, the all-too-common legacy of a lifetime of unrecognized ADD.

    Once again I couldn’t agree with you more: “I think it folly to tell people who already don’t fit well in the world that they are screwed.”

    I ALREADY knew I was screwed!!! If I didn’t know it from the day I was born, I certainly knew it from the time I was 5-6 years old. What I desperately needed to know was WHY I was screwed, and also how to get un-screwed, assuming that’s remotely possible. But in order to be truly healing and empowering, the approach taken has to be both POSITIVE and TRUE. I believe Thom Hartmann’s Hunter/Farmer model fills the bill on both counts.

    Again, I am so glad you’re here, Deb. I appreciate having a not-so-secret ally on this higher plane. Are you Jewish?

    Love,
    Raksha the She-Wolf,
    who never fought harder for her people than when she fought the hardest against them

  • http://18channels.blogspot.com Katy B.

    Wow…damn, I’ve never read Thom Hartmann but way to create some buzz people…I am new to this whole thing of course…so I guess I should get “caught up” on the existing lit :)

  • Jeff

    I must admit that my knowledge of Thom Hartmann is superficial. It is based on what I’ve heard him discuss on the radio. Seems like I need to take a closer look at what he has written so…thanks for that kick in the pants. ;)

  • Scott Hutson

    Why am I so skeptical? It may be because I have a step-brother, who has spent most of his adult life trying to become wealthy, by selling people the “way to become wealthy.” He works for me now, as a helper.

    I am not going to try to convince anyone, that the way I went about doing things, is why I have survived and still able to buy food and eat. I went(and still do,I think) “In through the back door” on most things in my life. The most recent being diagnosed A.D.D..

    I have been lured and hooked many times. I have even been put on the stringer. But the Fisher-Men don’t see all the holes in my mouth, from the hooks & stringers I spit out. That shows I was a foolish fish many times, but got away.

    I live and learn. If I go “In through the back door” at least I know where it is. I know the fisher-men usealy forget to lock it, after I walk in.

  • Scott Hutson

    Just after I made my last comment, I walk out onto My porch, and started thinking about these books, and authors..etc.

    I may buy these books, and be a “Brubaker”, in a way. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4068

    Just a thought, about how I may be able to help others who may be in the “Prison” of these books.

  • Deb

    “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Sounds like you are not only a smart man, but a wise one, Scott.

    For me, my skepticism is born more out of paranoia. Though it plagued me in my younger days, I’m now grateful for it. The trick has been to be happy in spite of my difficulties. It has taken, as you say, quite a lot of trips out the back door so I don’t have to live in a terribly confrontational way. I’m not afraid, by any means, but going out the front door does take a lot of energy that could be better used getting the food, and sharing it with someone. Even sometimes sharing with the grasshopper that didn’t prepare or with Chicken Little that was too busy fretting. It’s usually a relation.

    Several of those trips out the back door have been through flames-and I have thought I was really screwed. On the other side of one of those doors marked “tragedy”, not “success”, that I found a place of crazy exhilarated happiness that defies all explanation. And I didn’t even have to join a church or read about it in a book! It was magically here. I just plain learned to appreciate, period.

    I protect that place with all my heart, but would rather share it with anyone willing.

    I’ve never met you, Scott, but I think I’ve seen you there.

    Thank you!

  • Scott Hutson

    Deb,

    I need to thank you, for unstanding, my way of thinking. It may be a cooincidence, or maybe not, that you mentioned “fire”. I am working on something that I titled “In through the back door”. But in the writing of it, I also said that I first thought about making the title “walking through fire to get the water”. In a subject on medication’s for A.D.D..

    I will eventualy finish it, but it takes me alot of time to do it.

    Thank You!, Scott.

  • http://rakshaspersonalblog.blogspot.com/ Raksha

    Deb,

    Re >>Several of those trips out the back door have been through flames-and I have thought I was really screwed. On the other side of one of those doors marked “tragedy”, not “success”, that I found a place of crazy exhilarated happiness that defies all explanation. And I didn’t even have to join a church or read about it in a book! It was magically here. I just plain learned to appreciate, period.

    I protect that place with all my heart, but would rather share it with anyone willing.<<

    As someone who has been in and out the back door a few times herself, and as someone who has also been through the flames and come out the other side, I totally understand where you’re coming from. The way you put it is just beautiful. Thank you for saying it better than I could.

    –Linda

  • Scott Hutson

    I was wrong when I commented about being “Brubaker”. I am doing it again> Judging people too quickly, and assuming that everyone will agree with me. I think I am so smart sometimes, and end up being the one who needs to learn, instead of the teacher.

    This may be why I am so frustrated with myself, about the comments I make, that sound so “out of touch” with the subject. I want to take the subject to the next level, and control the meaning of the message. But I don’t learn the meaning of first level, which is the original message.

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  • E.

    Well, it’s nice to read an honest account of this thing, and a counter to the ADHD-is-a-gift brigade. Thanks. I have felt this way at many times. That said, I hope you don’t feel this way *all* the time.

    Look I know this is trite, but unless you can find some positive way to approach things, then why not just end it right now?

    It sucks, but it’s the way you/we are, and so learn to deal with it. Everyone, ‘normals’ included, need a bit of self-delusion to keep going sometimes. It’s a fine balance.

    Shit it’s late. I came to your blog via the great huffpost article, and I’m happy to have found some non-bullshit discussion of this. I recently found this great article, from 1987 no less, that contains some of the best subjective descriptions I have read:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/11/magazine/out-of-a-darkness.html

    Thanks again, and keep at it.

  • Jeff

    E,

    I agree that it can’t be (shouldn’t be) all doom-and-gloom. If it was…well…I wouldn’t be plugging away at this blog and many people wouldn’t be leaving comments. Let’s say that many of the posts here are the unvarnished, non-fairy tale version of life with A.D.D.

    Hope you come buy again and read some of the slightly more sanguine posts.

  • Abigail

    I have a question: Has anyone ever analysed the relationship between ADD/ADHD and malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

    Sociopathy and psychopathy are extreme forms of narcissism. It is documented that sociopaths (those who lack empathy for anyone besides themselves), have 25% more white matter in the prefrontal cortex than non-sociopaths, and other issues in the

    I know all sorts of ADD/ADHD people who have huge hearts for others…and are very other-centered, (as opposed to a sociopath’s utter self-centeredness…and clever sociopaths are so clever that they have surface behaviors that will fool others into thinking that they care about others…but when tested, they always choose themselves first), and so,

    I want to be very clear that I know that ADD/ADHD people are NOT narcissists or sociopaths, but I wonder, is the reverse true? Do most malignant narcissists and/or sociopaths also have ADD/ADHD?

  • Scott Hutson

    Abigail,

    I have probably analyzed ever thing analyzable. But from what I’ve learned so far about us ADDers is,,,, all ADDers are different, and some of those mental illness,behaviour,attitude..etc things can show themselves more often or more severe, in some ADDers.

    Scott.

  • Artemus Gordon

    Yes, ADD/ADHD is not easily defined in individuals. The variance of symptom strength and ancillary issues makes it almost impossible to pigeon hole the phenomenon.

    Thom Hartmann provides a perspective that does not jive with conventional ADD/ADHD theory. What works for him should not be discarded, and what works for you should not be as well.

    Sharing info, such as is done on this blog, allows people to formulate their own game plans, whether they are people who have ADD/ADHD or people who deal with those who have ADD/ADHD. Sharing info is much different than promulgating absolutism. I do not believe Hartmann does that, but I could be wrong (have been many times before).

  • http://addmsorboth.blogspot.com/ Scott Hutson

    How many times has someone said to me; “You gotta be out of your F***ing mind to think you can do this or that…..” ? Well I thought about this today, while I was doing one of those things. If I could get “Out of my mind”, it would be blessing! But if responded to them with that statement, it may confirm (to them) that I am.

    Does this make sense? Or am I “Mad”? Or both?

  • Jeff

    Sometimes I just want to shout out, “Yes…I am out of mind! Now please…leave me alone!” ;)

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