If medieval cartographers had created a map of the adult A.D.D. mind, it would likely be illustrated with treacherous beasts and ominous warnings about memory lapses, financial ruin, anger issues and other dire warnings. These maps might be conceptually accurate (it has the “beasts” in the correct locations and in the correct relationship to other objects) but they would be unusable for navigation. [note 1] In our current age of the U.S. Geological Survey and G.P.S. devices, we expect a high degree of accuracy from our maps. What Gina Pera has accomplished with her book Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? is the equivalent of a USGS map for the A.D.D. mind. Pera’s map shows the geological “features” of this wonderful landscape: problems with memory; intimacy; finances; career, and more. Further, Pera’s map allows us to zoom in and out so we can go from the very personal “ground level” view to the 10,000 foot view where we see the complexity and multidimensionality of the A.D.D. landscape.
Pera’s “map” is drawn from the perspective of a passionately empathetic non-A.D.D.er. She allows us to see the detailed geological textures of the A.D.D. world while also allowing us to zoom out and see the contextual landscape. For example, Pera provides the close up, personal story of Beverly whose husband had a seemingly successful career. However, over time his colleagues became aware of different issues. When anyone tried to discuss these issues, he shifted the blame to his accusers. Further, in retrospect it became obvious that before these issues could reach critical mass – which seemed to take about two years – he would get himself transferred to a different job within the company. However, age began to catch up with him and after 17 years he was fired from his job, bringing on the collapse of a carefully crafted edifice. As Beverly notes, her husband’s past had caught up with him. When we zoom out Pera shows us the contextual landscape that shaped their lives, a landscape dotted with different topographical features: “Poor self-observation,” “Difficulty linking cause and effect over time,” “Poor working memory” and my favorite feature, “A tendency to develop stories that make sense (lies?).”
If you thought a comprehensive map of the A.D.D. landscape wasn’t enough of a significant accomplishment, Pera sprinkles statistical data throughout the book. This data, culled from a survey of partners of A.D.D.ers, [note 2] offers an outsider’s perspective on the effects of A.D.D. on non-A.D.D.ers. Some of the findings are, for an A.D.D.er, eye opening. For example, on the subject of sexual intimacy, about 50% of the respondents said that they “would feel sexier if [their] partner helped more at home.” (I hope my wife is not reading this.) On the subject of money, about 60% of the respondents said that they had a perfect credit rating BEFORE they got married. On the subject of medication, 70% of the respondents said that it had a beneficial effect on their relationship.
The pièce de résistance of Pera’s book are the sections that examine the biology of A.D.D., the various therapies (good and bad) and the various medications that can be used to help live with this gift known as A.D.D. By the time one is finished reading this book, there are very few features of the A.D.D. landscape that have not been examined. The bottom line: If you or someone you love has A.D.D., then you must buy this book.
A Digression of Sorts: Why Is This Book Like A Map?
I must confess. I rewrote this review many times, each time using a different metaphor. Every time I wrote the review I found that whatever metaphor I used, it did not do this book justice. At one time I thought the book was like a mini-encyclopedia that had information about everything. (The book truly IS like a mini-encyclopedia.) During a discussion I had with a former business partner (who, by the way, also has A.D.D.), he said that my description of the book made it sound like a user’s manual. It describes the features you already know about and, most importantly, it describes the features you have yet to discover. Yes, this book IS like a user’s manual. But the more I used the map metaphor the more I felt that it captured much of the spirit of the book. Like a good map, it will help you to see what the road looks like. Like a good map, it will highlight important features and places of interest. And finally, like a good map, it allows you to plot your course. To not have this map at your side is like being adrift on a turbulent sea with nothing to guide you. You may get to your destination but it will be purely by chance and it will be a ride you will never forget.
** A Word of Caution **
There is a danger that comes with reading a book that so accurately describes the multidimensionality and complexity of the A.D.D. landscape. That danger is its ability to create a deepened psychological depression. Therefore, do NOT read this book when you are depressed. Read it only when you are in your A.D.D. upswing and, even then, read it in small doses. Pera’s book should be on the nightstand of every A.D.D.er and anyone who lives with them or works with them. To some degree, Pera’s book is to adult A.D.D. what Merck’s Manual is to the medical world. It is a resource you will want to revisit again and again.
Source of map image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Joseph_Minard
- Here‘s an interesting discussion of Modern Medieval Map Myths. On the relationship between maps and reality see Map-Territory Relation. And read this if you don’t remember what lurks at the end of the sidewalk. One more thing. Nice photos of a model of New York City.↩
- This survey was conducted by Pera.↩