Does God’s Foreknowledge Preclude Mankind’s Free Will, or, Can You Have A.D.D. and Be Happy?

godIf God is all knowing and powerful; if God created every living (and non-living) thing; if God already knows what the future holds, then is it possible for human beings to have free will? Free will assumes that humans are able to make choices in accord with their own desires. But how is this possible? If we were created by God, if God knows every thought and movement we will make, are we following “our” free will or are we really following some “invisible script” that really is, in essence, the will of God? Are we puppets of God’s free will and we only fool ourselves into thinking that we are the ones who are in control?

The question of the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and free will goes back to at least St. Augustine (See: ) and probably earlier. To put it in in slightly different terms, the question becomes, “Who is in control here? Me or God?” From an A.D.D. perspective the question becomes “What dictates the contours of our lives? The God-like certainty of ‘science’ with its inexorable predictive rules (backed up by data) or is it “free will,” that is, an inner-force that can act independently of (or in spite of) the predictive rules, that in a more modern parlance can be generically labeled as “positive thinking”? This is, in essence, the underlying issue raised in a recent blog post at ADDERWorld. [note 1] The is faced with the challenge of reconciling, on a daily basis, the less than sanguine scientific findings concerning A.D.D. with the need for a more positive outlook concerning one’s life chances. (I examined this issue in Science versus the A.D.D. Self) Are we mere puppets subject to the very real, but invisible, tugs and pulls of the inexorable rules of A.D.D.? Is it possible to accept the science AND remain hopeful? The answer, I believe, is yes. (Notice I said “I believe.” I have no scientific evidence for this.) What we need to do is understand what the science is telling us and where we fit “within” the science.

In the diagram below, the upper portion represents the For each there is an impermeable boundary of A.D.D. characteristics. Within the boundary there is a lot of variability. Over a period of time, as represented in the graph in the lower portion of the diagram, the boundary can move. However, the boundary never disappears. It remains.


The boundary is “the science.” We cannot transcend science and we cannot completely ignore the boundary it describes. (Let me REEMPHASIZE this point. The science does not set the boundary; the science DESCRIBES the boundary.)  The dots within the boundary are where we live our lives as seen within a short time horizon. The boundary itself can move over time and the movement is caused by positive thinking. [note 2]

It is this boundary movement (if such movement is, indeed, real and not illusory) that represents the potential for substantive changes in an A.D.D.ers life. The challenge is how to move a boundary that cannot be removed. To accomplish boundary movement, where should the focus most of her time and energy? On movement within the boundary or the movement of the boundary itself? This, in turn, raises a number of other questions. What if she cannot move the boundary at all (or cannot move within the boundary)? What is the cause of such failure? If we ignore “the science” then are we left with a moral argument, that is, a character flaw? Herein lies the danger of restricting focus to the movement of (and within) the boundary and not paying heed to the limits set by the boundary itself. If one does not fully acknowledge the circumscribing effect of the boundary, then success or failure could become a measure of character. [note 3] (“Yes, Virginia, you DO have A.D.D. but still, you didn’t try hard enough to overcome your shortcomings.”) Is there a point at which an should give up and simply say, “I’ve pushed the boundaries as far as they can go”? Should this be after five unsuccessful attempts to move the boundaries? Should this be after five decades of unsuccessful attempts to move the boundaries? Should the simply never give up, never surrender? [note 4]

I don’t have the answers to these questions. Perhaps the only “right” answers for the are the ones that she can live with on a daily basis. Perhaps the right answers – even if they DO contradict the science – are not going to be found within the science but within the heart. [note 5] Perhaps we need to simply live a (potential) logical contradiction: our foreknowledge of the circumscribing effects of A.D.D. does not completely negate the power – and very real effects – of positive thinking. And perhaps this contradiction is really the essence of the human condition, a condition where “freedom” exists within a set of predefined (and potentially movable) boundaries. [note 6]

  1. At this point in the post (or even at the beginning), you may have asked yourself, “Why the discussion about God and Free Will?” The answer is simple: when we substitute “science” for God and “positive thinking” for free will, we are faced with the same questions. Thus the discussion about being positive in the face of the god-like rules of science is a discussion that human beings have been having for quite some time.
  2. For now I will ignore the issue of “what is positive thinking?” Further, there is a hint here at a sort of mind-body dualism: a case where the non-corporeal (positive thinking) has an effect on the corporeal (the boundary). (Perhaps it is all corporeal?) And it truly is a question mark as to whether there can even be such movement of the boundary itself. Perhaps this is another case of Adult Delusional Disorder that we even think we have such capabilities. Nonetheless anecdotal data seems to indicate such a possibility. On a completely different note, it should be obvious that one could substitute the term “economic class” for the boundary and thereby see the variability within the boundary as representing where you end up within your economic class. The boundary “movement” could, in simplistic economic terms, be seen as the rising and falling tide of capitalism.
  3. This conclusion, by the way, is one that the A.D.D.-deniers would say is the REAL cause of the problem.
  4. As Commander Taggart would say.
  5. This is, at bottom, the message of Hutchinson’s blog.
  6. As Karl Jaspers had once said, “I am what the times are.”
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  • Scott Hutson


    This subject is something I think about alot, maybe even too much. It may very well be, question’s that can never be answered scientificaly. I try to remember, when I say something I think about God’s possible plan, to first begin with:”Assuming there is a God.” Because I cannot prove to myself, or anybody there is a God. If I told someone “I truly believe” then it would be lie, and therefore if there is a God, then I just reserved my place in wherever God sends people that lie about Him. In other words, Im realy of the wall about that.(insane?)

    But even though science may never prove to everybody, A.D.D. is real. I can say, and not lie, that I TRULY BELEIVE A.D.D. is real, and I beleive science has proven to me my brain is evdidence of A.D.D..

    Yes, I know this post much deeper into the dilusion and the free will we all have to cope with A.D.D. in whatever way we choose. But the freedom to born with or without A.D.D., I BELEIVE would be the greatest scientific discover I could pray for…Assuming anyone is listening.

  • David

    1. Mad kudos for the Galaxy Quest shout-out!
    2. Why would one ever stop trying to “push the boundaries”? What else is life about? I can’t imagine ever getting comfortable with my limits and settling in for the long haul until death….

  • Jeff


    By Grabthar’s Hammer, I’m so glad you picked up on the reference. As to why someone might stop pushing the boundaries, well, if they have been trying to change things for decades only to find that they haven’t change things at all, well…how much more should someone push? Do you stop at age 60? Age 70? Never? I don’t know.


    The point here concerning God has nothing really to do with the existence of God but more of the concept of “God-like” rules that control what takes place and whether such rules allow for (or if it is even logical to talk about) something like “freedom.”

  • Gina Pera

    Very weighty questions you ask, Jeff! :-)

    I would just like to point out that while ADHD is considered one of the most highly impairing outpatient conditions (meaning, those that are treated clinically and not requiring hospitalization), it is also considered one of the most treatable.

    So, I hope in all the discussion of “science,” everyone remembers that science provides solutions, too. Sometimes it’s simply understanding their neurophysiology — coutesy of science — that helps people better adapt. Sometimes it’s medication that will help a person with ADHD the most. And it’s science that brings us both understanding and medication. Careful, laborious, tedious brilliant research science.

  • Gina Pera

    P.S. I think it’s heart AND science.

  • Katy B.

    Nice! Bravo…

    I would only suggest (and note that I said suggest, just as you said believe, because I don’t really know) that there may be room for a Venne diagram here.

    I fully accept that I must live within the boundaries of ADHD. However, I would also submit that there are realities in “normy” land that might actually suck more than my particular life with ADHD…hence the need for some “venne” style overlap. In fact…I can think of a few off the top of my head right now but it would be impolite to point them out, even if it might be really funny.

    So…I accept the boundaries, in fact, I am exploring their outer edges right now, I’m just not sure if I accept them all as limitations per se, when I lay them all side by side with, as I said some of the realities available in “normy” land. Do I accept that regardless of MY view, some of them may be defined by others as limitations? Yup. And that’s why there’s some places I simply wouldn’t be a good fit as an employee, for example. Part of that might be a matter of philosophy though too…I did my time in cubicle land and made a conscious choice not to go back. I have that reality available to me within my personal ADHD boundaries though, and I also accept that not everyone does.

    This is like trying to describe the universe in 100 words or less.

    In any case though…well done :) Insightful and worthy of some good mental chewing….

  • Jeff


    In good A.D.D. fashion, I agree with you overall but quibble (some who know me well might say “argue”) over the details. This may sound strange what I’m about to say but…here goes. I “know” science but I “feel” what is in my heart (metaphorically speaking, of course). I know gravity but I don’t have a feeling towards it…it is simply there. Perhaps this is mere philosophical muddleheaded-ness. I certainly agree with you that science provides answers. However, when I wake up in the morning and I’m facing a new day, my first response is “how do I feel.” It is not “how is my dopamine level.” Yet I wake up, take my Vyvanse and Wellbutrin (with a head bow to the hard work of science…and big Pharma too) and begin my day filled with (hopefully) some positive thinking.

    I confess I have been experiencing and expressing indirectly (directly, perhaps?) through my blog, an inner tension between “the science” and “the heart.” Recent events have help to reignite my heart (“wink, wink, c.b.”) and that, in turn, has made it possible for me to continue to push the boundaries that are described by science and which, as you rightly point out, also provides solutions to the issues caused by those boundaries. But at bottom, when I was ready to (metaphorically) throw in the towel after five decades of battling A.D.D., it was my heart, and not my head, that gave me the will to pick myself up, stand tall and fight the A.D.D. demons. It may be a Sisyphean effort but each time I manage to push the rock higher and higher.

  • Jeff


    Your enthusiasm and optimism, tinged with a knowing hat tip to the reality of the situation, is wonderfully invigorating. It comes through in everything you write and, well, all I can say is, “You go, Girl! Push those boundaries as hard as you can!” I, for one, as I am sure many others too, are behind you 100% of the way. I applaud you for not seeing the boundaries as solely (only?) limitations. They are simply part of who you are and “who you are” determines where you fit best. (I too will not return to cubicle land.) It seems you have found a nice balance between your boundary/reality and the reality of the “normy” world.

  • Scott Hutson


    I see your point now, and I was thinking(typing)out loud too quickly,which is something I criticize others for doing. In a sometimes sarcastic way that helps nobody.

    And as Katy mentioned, she could think of a few things off the top of her head, that may be impolite, even though may be funny, but dose’nt say it. I am guilty of saying it, instead of keeping the thought inside. And the result is often times a humilating and embarrassing for me, and a step backwards in my attempt to improve relationships(family,freinds,etc..).

    Boundaries are hard to accept, but reality is even harder for me. Are they one in the same? I must look inside for the answer.

    “Off topic” could be my middle name, sometimes..if it was one word.

  • Deb

    Please don’t be offended by my humor (and yes, even the more boorish sarcasm), that is how I deal with “normy world”. My place I like to call “la la land” when I am happy , and “land of the lost” when I am being tortured by my disorganization. Make no mistake – I PREFER LA LA LAND. That does not mean I would not push the button to blow up the veg-o- matic, but I rather like the positive parts of being the way I am.

    YEP – I said it. I appreciate the POSITIVE parts of the way I am. Even most of the “normies” don’t have it as good as you think they do.

    If you must engage in a discussion of God and Science, I like to think of science as human unfolding of God’s handiwork, our understanding of how God worked things out. Science is neither good or bad, it just is. I wish more people would define God with as little moral judgement.

    I can’t get into that box that some sit in with St Augustine (I would have liked him much better before his conversion) to talk about the limits on my free will or limits by the way one might interpret current scientific findings. Its not that my disorganization keeps me from finding the door, but I am completely blind to anything that resembles a box. I am militant in not making an excuse for that. That box is only there for you because you say it is. The cubicle disappeared once I sat in it, until I no longer enjoyed what I was doing there, and then I moved on. I made the choice to go, if they said I was doing a bad job- I probably was not enjoying myself there, anyway.

    ADD, or the science of ADD, does not dictate the contours or define the limits of my life. I believe that ADD is how we are and how we work, it does not define who we are and what we choose to do. That is our choice aka free will -as it is our choice to think positively about our circumstances, no matter what your challenges are – no one is exempt, everyone has them.

    I might rather use the term parameter, than boundary. A boundary suggests limits and immovability, I don’t like absolutes. My ADD is a variable in almost everything I do. I feel no need to push the boundary, I feel no need to curse windmills. I enjoy redefining the parameters of my ability every day-it keeps things fresh. I need novelty.

    If you are going to be like Don Quixote and go insane with your books (about science and boundaries) you will surely suffer his fate. He returned to sanity, embarrassed by his life and very depressed. Instead of fighting windmills (boundaries), you might rather redefine them. Just as you might enjoy the gentle wind from the windmill, your limitations (boundaries) will give you cause to go to new adventures if you have the courage to undertake the journey. The delusion of Don is not exactly that of positive thinking, but conversely, the positive thinking lights the way for finding and accepting better ways-instead of fighting the demons of the windmills or the boundaries of the ADD demons.

    After all, if I am bumping around bound in such a tight space, I at least want to enjoy the ride! Poor Don was much happier fighting windmills, but lets not forget, he was insane.

  • Jeff


    A point of clarification. I was not invoking God in any religious sense but in the sense of there being the concept of absolutes and that such a concept seems to be diametrically opposed to that of free will. A very interesting philosophical question, if we do indeed believe in the concept of an all powerful God, is whether God is subject to the “absolutes” that he has created.

    I like the idea of parameters but, to my mind, it implies more openness and permeability than there might be. Further, I would say that ADD does, indeed, define the contours of our lives though such contours can be altered. I can’t see how it is possible to separate who we are from our ADD characteristics. Is there something I’m overlooking?

  • Deb

    I think the idea of God all powerful I can accept, because this allows for the possibility of a lot, and I like choices. If you are talking about predestination, I think that has its own limits regarding how much we can change. I’m not sure what the absolutes are that God has created. Characteristics and judgements that have been ascribed to God have been communicated to us regular folks by much more “worthy” humans. But these descriptions are only man made. The concept of free will is that we are separated from God’s protection and must choose our own way, therein lies our unhappiness. The farther we get from God, the unhappier we are, in the religious sense, of course.Religious people have told me, let go and let God, and you will be happier. I think they have let go of their senses and need mood stabilizers more than I do. Sorry if I have offended.

    I imagine the idea of a parameter that, for this sake, might add an element that might distort, or bend, a perception around a certain group of behaviors, but we are fully free to believe whatever perception we choose.

    A lot of us think we are bad or broken or not as good as the next guy:(
    I think it important that people choose wisely.

    Guess it matters what you think defines who we are. I function in a certain way, sometimes predictably, but that does not tell you how talented I am, or if you will like me, or if I am happy, or what job I might choose – that is for me to decide. My decisions, my intentions constitute who I am. That is what defines me. ADD might be how I do things,or how I experience certain things, but it doesn’t tell you who I am. For that, you have to come to know me and the things I think are important and the things I choose to do.

    Granted, the distortion of ADD might make me perceive that things don’t work out as well for me as for other people. I have to try harder for what I want, I need memory crutches, I need to keep moving, I am bored with my mate, I need a more exciting life, I am careless or messy, but how you perceive these things is a part of your own personal growth. You can certainly try to understand where your feelings are coming from and learn how to improve yourself. Few people are able to do this alone. You can seek a counselor or educate yourself in other ways, but everyone should do this ADD or not, it is part of growing up. In many ways, we are lucky because we are becoming aware that what we perceived as our shortcomings are not a matter of effort, but of biology, and we can make adjustments with medication and behavioral tricks. But the choice of WHO you are and what your intentions are is your decision.

    The caveat to all of this is where medication is needed to help your efforts match your desire. In clinical depression, you cannot will yourself out if its biologically based. You cannot modulate if you are bipolar and if you are schizophrenic you cannot wish the hallucinations away. Here is the mind/body connection. When I take methylphenidate, I experience time in a very different way and I behave more deliberately and concretely. Who I am doesn’t change, just how I am able to do things changes.

  • Deb

    Had to leave that one too quickly to edit, sorry.

    My meaning is that other people perceive our intention by our behavior. What we look like to others and what is actually us, usually is two very different things. But we end up internalizing other people’s opinions of who we are, we often take it on without realizing that it is a mistaken perception.

    We should not define who we are by other people’s negative perception of us, or by the negative perception we may have because of our ADD behaviors.

    If others don’t like us, their loss. But mostly it seems we have a great need to forgive ourselves and learn to move in a more positive way, to improve ourselves as well as like ourselves the way we are. Just like the hair commercial says, because we’re worth it!

  • Jeff


    “What we look like to others and what is actually us, usually is two very different things. But we end up internalizing other people’s opinions of who we are, we often take it on without realizing that it is a mistaken perception. [...] We should not define who we are by other people’s negative perception of us, or by the negative perception we may have because of our ADD behaviors.”

    I’m not so sure about this. If I act like a bully, that will be perceived negatively by others. Certainly you would be quite upset if I saw this behavior as positive. In fact you would do your best to get me – the bully – to see that my internal perception of self is wrong. Different example. A fair number of A.D.D.ers have trouble paying bills on time. From the outside this behavior is viewed negatively. From the outside we may be perceived as very slow payers at best, deadbeats at worst. Is this negative characterization mistaken? Or is this a time when the external perception is correct?

  • Katy B.

    An example of how sometimes normy-land sucks, and how ADHD land rocks, but then also sucks just as hard. In other words, a fuzzy walk through the frontier-land of grey area…where I have a point but you’re going to have to wade with me for a minute until we reach it:

    Let’s say I have an awesome idea pop into my head, because that is part of my ADHD pathology. Constant explosions of random ideas that normy brains might have, but would easily dismiss as absurd/too hard/too much work. So this awesome idea pops into my head…my other significant ADHD symptom takes over: impulsivity. Oh yeah baby…I’m not just HAVING the awesome idea now, I’m living it! Then add in my individual personality…I’m not starting anything I ain’t finishin’ so I’m diving in head first now and I’m due to publish a novel right about this afternoon…or crash and burn, depends…

    Okay wait, brakes, hold on…that’s the line, right there, the frontier-land. It was cool that I had the explosive idea…then the ADHD kicked in…and said “YESYESYES, THIS IS THE BEST IDEA EVER” so I overrode the boundaries of boring, everyday normy thinking. Right on! In my mind, this is all positive. What comes next…? That’s what I spend a lot of time on in therapy, and a lot of energy trying to manually redirect in daily life. And it’s tricky. Not all of my ideas suck. This is where it becomes possible for ADHD to be a hindrance, OR a help. Because I am becoming more aware of these very moments, in therapy, I am starting to be able to try to make different kinds of choices…to determine when ADHD impulsivity is making the decision or when I might have a moment in my hand where I can choose something different with my personality, rather than letting ADHD take over.

    That’s where I am in treatment right now…I know that it’s GOOD to overstep the lines of normy thinking, because magical things happen in the frontierlands. But I also know that my own personal path to self-destruction also abuts the frontier and I have to stop now, to consult a map that I now realize exists. I don’t always read it correctly…but sometimes I do ;)

    Different people’s frontier-lands abut different things though. The boundaries are set in different places for different people. Different combinations and intensities of ADHD symptoms make things suck for individuals in different ways.

    And for me, it is not always individual ADHD symptoms that actually get me in trouble…it’s the combo of ADHD and my darn personality, and my darn life experiences.

    My ADHD sense of underachievement, combined with my ADHD impulsivity, combined with out of the box/hyperactive thinking, combined with a sheer determination that I may have been born with, combined with the fact that I’m an uber competitive person…LETHAL COMBO. You oughta see some of the implosions I’ve self-induced! Side by side with the spectacular successes it’s quite something…something to be extremely confused by if you didn’t know I was an ADHDer!

    For other people…they may suffer less from impulsivity and hyperactive thinking and may suffer from inattentiveness, which, with a chaser of ADHD-induced poor self-esteem (because they are weighed down by past failures) renders then unable to act at all.

    In either case, ADHD is still there, of course…ADHD boundaries still exist for me, and for each individual…but the similarities end there and even the boundaries themselves may be composed of very different materials. Treatment for each may look very different…progress for each may look very different. For me, progress means slowing down, and being LESS particular and driven…for another it may be becoming more productive. For me, I am working on more depth in life and less superficial volume…etcetcetc….

    IN response to the idea of separating ourselves from out ADHD characteristics…if there is one thing I have learned from meds, it is that very line. I can now see the difference between “me”/my personality and ADHD. That doesn’t mean that I am always able to thwart my ADHD characteristics when I move through my day…but through therapy I am more aware of them, more aware of when I am trying to rationalize ADHD impulses with high-grade logic and bullsh*t…and with meds I am more able to choose not to indulge every ADHD impulse that comes my way.

    So…babblebabblebabble…I guess what I’m saying is that…I still bask in the precise intelligence of your anaylsis here. When a thick black line is drawn on a two dimensional surface, however, it fails to account for other varieties of dimension. Other factors…and the subjectivity of the individuals experience.

    Damn. Do I at least get a Masters’ in Philosophy after reading and commenting on your blog? I think ma brain is starting to hurt. I’m gonna go back to my own blog now and write about lollipops or unicorns or something…

  • Jeff


    That’s a brilliant description of the ADHD mind at work. The underlying issue, it seems to me, is the “subjectivity of the individuals experience.” That’s what you’ve described (and that’s essentially the theme of this blog). Only from a subjective view can we even conceive of a self that is not ADHD. But an objective, that is, external view of self (the view as seen by others), there is no separation. (See my previous comment to Deb.) In some respects, the subjective splitting of one’s self (here is my ADHD self; there is my non-ADHD self) is a feat of mental gymnastics, a game we play with ourselves so that we can gain understanding and perspective. Most importantly, it allows us to (re)build our self-esteem because we say to ourselves, “I am NOT my ADHD” in the same way we say “I am NOT stupid” though, of course, I may act stupid at various times.

    So the question becomes, what is “the self”? Is the self what we say it is, as seen from the inside? Is the self what others say it is? I’m going to muddy the waters further. What both your conception of self and my conception of self does not take into account is the role of the body. I’m not referring to your mind (at least not solely) but your gendered body as a complete entity. You are female. I am male. Our conception of self is radically different because of this difference. (See, for example, this article on feminist perspectives of the self: ) The self that is reflected back to us by the world is different because of our gendered bodies. (Imagine, for a moment, that we could switch bodies. What would happen to our conception of our self? A funny view of switched bodies is in the movie with Ellen Barkin, aptly titled “Switch.” See: ) Is that something we should take into account when we try to make sense of our self? To make the waters even more murkier, what kind of conception of self does a transsexual have? (Here’s an interesting movie on the subject: )

    <segue to different topic>
    You are correct about some the deficiencies in the drawing. The two-dimensionality of the drawing along with the solid border/boundary, belies the potential (actual?) fluidity that is possible. But in some respects, isn’t that usually the problem with visual representations of four-dimensional phenomena? Something gets lost when it is captured.

    <segue to one more topic>
    You need to post three more lengthy comments and THEN you can be awarded a Master’s in Philosophy.

    Most importantly, thank you so much for the compliments about my post and blog. Your comments, and the comments of others, are the mental nutrients that are so vital to the growth of a healthy blog. (Almost sounds like a commercial for a breakfast cereal…no?)

  • Deb


    Being a bully is intentionally bad behavior and should be punished. Sure (s)he needs help figuring out why(s)he’s a bully, but I bet(s)he really doesn’t care. When we pay our bills late we are punished by bad credit scores and late fees. But this behavior is not one of an interpersonal relationship. We care a lot and beat ourselves up and curse the windmill, why do I always have to pay late,&%#$! I don’t think a bully goes home and beats themselves up and says “why did I have to hit that kid, again!”

    Maybe a better example of what I mean –

    BEFORE I GET MARRIED – I am not faithful to my partner. I am bored easily with relationships and enjoy the game of dating. I am perceived as someone who doesn’t care about the feelings of others. That might not be true. I may care deeply and hope people will think of me fondly, but if I have hurt them, I cannot expect a different reaction. Therefore I may view myself as a shallow person. I may picture myself as someone who just doesn’t do well in a committed relationship, so I may not put any effort into establishing a close one, but I long for it, and beat myself up for sabotaging another relationship. This colors my perception of what I can expect from myself. If I get help with understanding this behavior and am shown a different way to think about those feelings that creep in to a relationship (hello ADD), I can reframe my thinking, learn what to do when those feeling show up and move to establish a happier, committed relationship, like other people do. My intention will match my behavior.

    The title, “I’m not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid” speaks to this “mismatch” of perception that we suffer. I don’t mean to appear this way, but I do, and eventually when enough people tell you that’s the way you are you start to believe it, but you know deep inside that you are misunderstood.


    I am wandering around that frontierland, too. I am going so quickly that I don’t see the boundaries, either. That is why I think of ADD as more of a distortion of perception, a “misperception” of thought” on my part and others. People I choose to tell about my ADD think I am making it up. When I told my husband a few years ago about my self diagnosis, he thought I was jumping on a fashionable “disease du jour”. Now he understands (somewhat), and he doesn’t hate me nearly as much (I hope).

    Interesting, Jeff, that you write about gender. Before my ADD awakening, I had always thought that my life would have been easier if I had been male. I don’t think that now, after watching my 3 ADD brothers struggle. But I used to think that my hyperactivity and boldness was so much more acceptable in the male. When I finally married, late, like everything else I do, I thought this @#$% really sucks, no wonder I didn’t want to do it. When the kids came along and the increased organization and demands came, it almost did me in. That is when I was watching TV, and MY personal savior, Ed Hallowell, came on the Jane Pauley Show (2005)….

  • Carmen

    I am my ADD self. For years now I have been unable to correct that and push my mental boundaries. Every single day is a struggle for me. I am consumed with “essential” tasks being sleeping, eating, and bathing for me and my two children and find it impossible to do at least one non-essential task (like read a self-help book).

    My inability to focus on anything has defined who I am for everyone that I know. I’m looked at as a lazy, do nothing, idiot. The worst part is that it has defined who I am to myself as well. I know, deep down, that I am a woman to be reckoned with, but she has been in hiding for quite some time now and I do not have the ability to let her breath. My boundaries are so constricting that I may never be able to get outside them. I am imprisoned by my ADD. I feel as if I am an ant going on a trek across the Sahara. This, along with ALL my failures, makes it difficult to accomplish anything.

    When people question my life choices, I tell the truth. I don’t have the ability to live a highly functional, “normal” life. I can’t do it. That’s when the critics come into play. “Well if only you would do it this way…..” “Make a list and then follow it…” “How come you make the same horrendous choices time and time again….” Blahblahblah. I only have one thing to say to the critics “LISTS DON‘T WORK!!”

    The tasks I need to accomplish for the day go in one ear and out the other. I get potentially amazing ideas, then two seconds later, I have forgotten them because the wind moved a piece of grass, which is apparently much more fascinating than my life altering idea. I’ve gotten somewhat good with writing tasks down, and I do come across my notes, once in a while, only to discover that I needed to do some very important task a week ago.

    I’ve wanted to comment on the last several posts but haven’t been able to just sit down and FOCUS (since I see myself as, well, like an idiot, I just assume that others don’t want to hear from me). Although I don’t comment often, I really enjoy coming to this blog, because it seems like the “real” ADDer’s are present, and there isn’t any BS pussyfooting around the deeper issues.

  • Katy B.

    “Something gets lost when it is captured.” So sad and true in so many life situations! Haha…reminds me of a poet I heard on the radio one day…he said that the definition of beauty is that it can be lost. That it, in fact WILL be loss. That lack of permanence is the definition of beauty…we can never truly posses it, therefore it creates a certain longing and admiration called beauty.

    In response to Jeff’s comment about the possible role of the body, of gender identity…that’s why I love Sari Solden’s “classic” book about Women with ADHD. She exposes many layers of the ADHD experience that may only truly exist for women…fascinating stuff. Then again…some of what she discusses it not AT ALL true for me, because my life does not include many of the factors she includes. I don’t not have children…I have a partner but he is more likely to do the dishes or cook than I am…so…but her insight is still of value to me :)

    No perfect answers I guess. Alas…

  • Scott Hutson

    When I looked in the mirror yesterday, I saw a man, who is very bright, and getting better at controling his thoughts, and helping others with his insight. It was an illusion.

    I have learned something today about myself, and I am afraid to look in the mirror, and see what others truly see.

  • Jeff


    You wrote: “My inability to focus on anything has defined who I am for everyone that I know. I’m looked at as a lazy, do nothing, idiot. The worst part is that it has defined who I am to myself as well.”

    Knowing that you have ADD should help you to redefine yourself since you now know that the problems you have are not character defects but are a result of the ADD itself. You *want* to do the right thing…the ADD makes it difficult. So the next time you think of yourself as lazy, stop yourself and say, “No I’m not…but my ADD is stopping me from doing what needs to be done.” Then figure out how you may be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish. Sometimes you may need to make it into a game (I do that when I need to get through a pile of papers…I time myself to see how much I can do in, say five minutes) or make it fun (can you do it listening to music?) or see if you can enlist the help of your children and THEN turn it into a game (“Let’s see who can toss all their laundry into the basket at the other side of the room”).

    As for the usefulness of lists or the lack thereof, well, lists are useless unless you can prioritize what’s on the list. Of course, the next ADD problem becomes how to prioritize what is on the list. If you can review the list with someone else, that other person may be able to help you prioritize the tasks. Sometimes talking about the tasks helps you to figure out what order they should be done in.

  • Deb


    Though I don’t really know you, I have seen a glimpse of what lies, not in the mirror, but through your words-which are a more true reflection of what’s in your heart.
    The reflection you see in the mirror you see through the distorted judgement of your own eyes. As ADDers we tend to really beat ourselves up. Another thing to add to that negative list.

    If it is something that you have just now tripped your regular sweet self up on – none of us are perfect. There is always a way back, and it usually is a shorter trip than you are imagining now…

  • Katy B.


    I finally came up with a solution or two for my “LISTS” problem. Well for part of the problem anyway. One day I walked into my dining room and the table was littered with several pieces of paper. Annoyed, and with no idea what they were, I marched over to gather them and each one…was one of my notes to myself. I couldn’t imagine why or how I had left them all there and simply hadn’t noticed, but it disturbed me enough that I really didn’t remember, that I decided I had to do something. Here’s the something I did. These somethings work pretty well most of the time for me….they may not be perfect for other people, but hey, maybe try it and see.

    1) I have two notebooks in my purse. Everytime I think of an idea, or something I need to remember or something that I need to tell my therapist…I write these things in the notebook. Yes, it is annoying to have to go to where the notebook is, and write in it. But…it helps, so I do it. And because I have to take it out every time I see my therapist, that means I’m looking through it at LEAST once every two weeks, though truly, I usually look at it more often, when I remember ;)

    2) For loose notes, things on individual pieces of paper, I hung a corkboard on the wall. Every so often I go over to the corkboard and get rid of things I don’t need, and deal with the things I DO need.

    This way there are only TWO places I have to look for my notes. Notebooks or corkboard.

    This does NOT include immediate TO DO items. For me, post-its are the best tool. They are single, temporary, and disposable. AND THEY STICK TO THINGS. Like the steering wheel. The coffee table. And when I finish an item, I THROW IT AWAY. And if my boyfriend doesn’t like them stuck to stuff…tough sh*t.

    None of this means that I don’t sometimes end up with annoying random notes and lists laying around. In fact this has done nothing to reduce sheer volume…but I have to look in fewer places to reorient myself to reality :) And the general scatter area has become much, much smaller.

  • Scott Hutson


    Anythings better than my way of listing. Post notes don’t stick to my brain, aperently. And a big kitchen ceiling needing a bed coat of joint compound(for almost a year)that I see every day, just worked today.

    Serious thought is, one of the things on the list(recommendation’s) my NueroPhsyc. made, is a Therapist (counseling),after my A.D.D. diagnose a few(2-3 yr.s?)ago. I think I’m smarter than a therapist,but I guess I won’t know until I try. There’s that denial, and not useing the free will I have to improve myself…I still don’t know.

  • Ellen

    Something useful to remember is that lists can serve different purposes at different times. Right now, I have been in a tailspin for several months (and only just became conscious of that fact). Rather than buying a new planner (yadda yadda, we’ve all been there) I have just been writing down things I have to, or even want to, do as they occur to me – in no particular order. When I feel the familiar “I’m useless” feeling, I walk over to the list and pick something to do. Then when I’ve done it, I cross it out and (if applicable) write down the next logical thing to do in that area, as a future to-do. Yes, I’m still pretty much drifting, but at least it’s a mildly controlled drifting. Since life is not just about skill and motivation, but also a great deal about chance, as long as I’m drifting in some general direction, I may encounter chance.

    Let’s face it, I’m in a boat without a rudder, in the fog, but that doesn’t mean paddling won’t get me anywhere. However, in this situation, it seems to me that it is damned important to have a really good destination in mind. And that destination is not necessarily going to be in the direction of “normal.”

    As for “science”… well, science also has its charlatans. In today’s world “science” is so corrupted by money and politics that I find it hard to be overly distressed by what “science” says about my brain chemistry in the current journals. It has to be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Scott Hutson

    Ahhhh, slap needed of while to wake up!

    Science can give me facts of the location of damage, but I can try to work with whats not damaged, and not let the science set my boundries….I think I’m starting to “get it”. Science cannot take away all of my abilities to use what I have. But “I” can(take away my abilities)if I don’t push the boundries(positive thoughts)and give up.

    I’m still not exactly sure this is the message of the subject…but it dose’nt matter…I received help from this post, by trying to find the meaning..whether I’m right or wrong…it helped me.

  • Katy B.

    Scott, I love going to my therapist. Don’t worry, if you find the “right one” you won’t even be thinking about if you are smarter than them because you’ll just feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be…and you will then be able to begin that magical journey we call “holy shit!? THAT was hiding out in my brain all that time getting in my way?”.

  • Katy B.

    Ellen…I love your “random memory access” technique of simply knowing where you’ve left your lists and notes and referring back to them. It’s just a practical way of approaching it. Nice!

  • Scott Hutson


    Thank you! I know I am a probably a perfect candidate for Psych. therapy, but I am trying to figure out what reason’s I have to need it. I don’t want to cause my wife to think I am not as strong as I have been. It may seem as a step backwords, instead of what I have been saying about myself to her.

    The stress(for her)of dealing with all the things that have happened to me, the last few yr.s, is something I need to consider. I am afraid of showing, that I am not in control, and need help….I just don’t know right now.

  • Katy B.

    Don’t worry, you don’t even have to have an agenda when you go in there. You can even sit there and make funny faces at the therapist for an hour if you want ;)

    The first time, and a few times after that might feel a little weird as you still try to “think” about why you are there and what you “should” be talking about…but you’ll settle in eventually!

    I say just go for it. I think sometimes dudes (NOT male bashing, just an observation) have a harder time just giving up control and saying “okay, yeah, therapy, I’ll try it”. Nothing wrong with that, you’re in good company…now just dial the phone number of your nearest community mental health center already :P And your wife won’t be there! Perhaps view it as a “wife vacation”? LOLOL…..

  • Ellen

    Well, my “random memory access” thing falls under the “Yet Another Plan!” category – but the difference is, this time I know I have ADD. Yes, I just came to terms with my ADD last week. It has a name. I now know that there is no magic cure, only habits I need to develop and maintain. I have been good during my life at unconsciously developing some necessary habits (ie, getting to work on time each morning via a strict to-the-minute choreography) but I could stand to develop more habits.

    I didn’t buy a new planner, I didn’t even buy a new paper pad; I just am using papers from my household scrap paper pile. The to-do items are scrawled down as I think of them and I don’t obsess about them being in any particular order or priority. (Certain critical things don’t get written down, but done immediately.) When the piece of scrap paper gets filled up, usually with not everything crossed off yet, it gets copied to a new piece of paper, which reinforces the to-dos in my mind. I’m noticing certain types of tasks keep being re-copied, such as making phone calls to people I don’t enjoy talking to. This list method won’t solve my reluctance to do that; that’s going to have to be tackled in another way. But other things are getting done, such as recharging my cell phone, taking clothes out of the dryer, and other boring things I need to complete to keep my life running more smoothly.

    Because, I’ve realized, the one constant in my life is that “OMG, I’ve spent 3 hours web surfing and now I feel useless” feeling. Instead of returning to web surfing to make me feel better, I now have an alternative – pick something from the list and do it, then mini-plan what comes next and write it down. And there are also some things on the list that are fun things I want to do but always forget to do.

    Realizing that I have ADD makes me realize that this drifting phenomenon is just going to keep happening and there is nothing I can do to magically end it. I will not wake up one day and have it all gone. No drug, no relationship will accomplish that. It simply has to be coped with every day and that is sobering to accept when you’re my age (40), that your brain simply is not wired for optimum functioning in a society run by non-ADD people.

  • Scott Hutson

    A society run by non ADDers? Hmmm… That may be a topic up for debate…..

    Your whole comment was very helpful to me Ellen! It was just those words, that caught my attention(deficit)

  • Abigail

    Jumping to my own comment on God and free will:

    (This may have been addressed by other commentators….but I could not read through all the comments, surprise, surprise.)

    God himself devised free will so that our choice to love Him and believe in Him is authentic….not preprogrammed or robotic. We are not ants. We are humans.

    We also have the free will choice to follow His ways. We can not possible bat a thousand. He knows that. As long as we apologize…really apologize, from our hearts…which will manifest in our changing our actions….then He forgives, over and over again. He loves us too much to not forgive us. That said, He forgives us, but if we have messed up and especially willfully chosen the opposite of His ways (or to forsake His existance, entirely), then we will suffer consequences here on earth. Whatever consequence there is here, is not as bad as the eternal consequence of going to hell.

    The mess on this earth is really a consequence of choosing the opposite of His ways. Sometimes we pay the consequences for our father’s choices, or our grandfather’s choices. Not fair, but that’s the reality. Cycles of dysfunction are real. Genetic propensities are also real.

    But, if one believes that by choosing God…and then by trying hard to adhere (imperfectly) to His ways…one can get a handle on better reining-in what some others call character deficits, then one is actually more likely to be able to live a happier, more productive, less abusive, and especially, a more at-peace life.

    I believe, btw, that God enables medical technology to help us. And He uses all sorts, including non-believers, to invent those medical technologies. If one needs Vyvase and Wellbutrin to better regulate one’s biochemicals, then by all means, take them!

    There is absolutely a mind / body connection. And in my believe system, there is also a mind / body / spirit connection.

    So, the short answer is that God gave us free will….which He won’t mess with….so that we choose Him, out of authentic love (and gratitude), instead of out of forced obligation.

  • Jeff


    As you probably already know…there’s 2000 years worth of intellectual debate behind much of what you’ve said. Going back to at least St. Augustine (see: and even earlier, there is an enormous question mark concerning the relationship between god’s foreknowledge and free will. Their possible coexistence eventually comes down to a being a matter of faith.

    However, putting all this aside for a moment, in many cases we do, indeed, have the possibility of making choices. The awareness of the forces that compel us to do X instead of Y provides, interestingly, the ability to do otherwise (within limits). That is, awareness itself provides choices. It allows us to see the obstacles and, like driving a car, we can turn the wheel to avoid hitting them.

  • Scott Hutson

    Then there is:What if I don’t avoid that obstacle, and go ahead and hit it? I know it’s gonna screw up my car, but not bad enough to stop it from running. I will fix it someday…..I have free will!….Nope…I will be paying the price, someday. Nothing is free.

    Now, would I think that way if I was not an ADDer? Just like everthing that ever happens to us, we cannot answer what we would do or think about anything.

    Reality sucks, but I woke up and got out of bed today without help.

  • mark

    It’s Sunday morning, so I thought I’d drop by and lend some comments to your new posts, thinking it to be the work of moments, possibly minutes. Instead I run into a towering wall of reasoned thought that demands more than a quick reply. I’m a slow reader/thinker when I’m following an argument, so I’ll need some serious climbing equipment to scale your words. But I’ll be back.

    I also send you three cheers for your revamped and spiffy new look (I mean your site, but if you’re trying anything new in personal fashion, I’ll applaud that too.)

  • Jeff

    I’m also a slow reader/thinker. Many of my posts are written (and rewritten) over a period of time before they see the light of day. And I’m glad you like the new design.

  • Scott Hutson

    It takes/took me days, not hours, to finish a post. Just sitting for too long, my right leg goes numb sometimes,and my right bun lets me know that I need a better chair.
    Or maybe a laptop, so I can write while sitting in my liv. room on my recliner. Instead of thinking about a great post,
    that won’t stay in my mind,

    I could be writing it and posting it.! Just a thought

  • Jeff

    The nice thing about a laptop is that you can then sit anywhere – on your recliner; at your kitchen table; in your backyard (of course…I’m assuming you’d have wireless) – which may make writing a much more pleasant experience.

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