For the Holidays…Bring Home “The Gift of A.D.D.”

F irst…a 15-second commercial break:

The Scene: Living room… Fireplace… Christmas tree… Family opening gifts. Camera begins from wide-angle and then slowly zooms in on children. They are fighting over who gets to rip up the wrapping paper. Slowly zoom out. Catch glimpse of father who is muttering curses because he has forgotten his digital camera. As he walks out of the scene, his wife looks at him like he is crazy and starts to yell at him. The family noise decreases in volume and we then hear the voice-over.]

Voice-over: “Do something different for the holidays. Bring home the Gift of A.D.D. Your spouse will thank you for it. Your children will absolutely adore it and they will love having it for the rest of their lives. During this holiday season always remember… A.D.D. is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Camera switches to kitchen scene where the husband is flinging open drawers in search of camera batteries while the wife is yelling at him. Her face turns red…and then we fade to Black.

END of Commercial Break.

Now…back to our regularly scheduled program.

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

In the past I’ve been very critical about the concept of A.D.D. as being a gift. (You can read entries here. See also this entry.) I am now beginning to really understand how it can, indeed, be a gift.

The Gift of Hyperfocus: There are some who have portrayed this as a positive attribute. There are certainly positive things to be said about it. I am currently involved in a very large and complex project. My client, no doubt, appreciates my singular focus on his project. However, the remainder of my life has been completely ignored (like this blog and paying my bills…see the next entry in this post).

The Gift of Collection Notices: This gift comes on a regular basis and, I should add, comes in two forms. Sometimes it comes in the mail (“Oooh…look…an envelope with ominous warnings about immediate reply requested”) and sometimes it comes as a phone call. What a great gift for the holidays!

The Gift of Missed Dentist Appointments: This one can be embarrassing, especially if I missed the appointment by several years. (This applies also to the eye doctor, my daughter’s orthodontist, prescription drug renewal, etc.)

The Gift of Incomplete Projects: Each time I walk into the basement of my home and see the boxes of light fixtures and bulbs that are collecting dust, I make a mental note that I need to install those lights. After all, they were purchased ten years ago so…it’s probably time to finally do it.

The Gift of Ever-Changing Careers: I drove a delivery truck; I was a union worker; I was an adjunct lecturer; I was an assistant director of research; I was a software developer; I was a web developer; I was a salesman. In addition I’ve dreamed about being a caterer; a swashbuckling world-traveling entrepreneur; a lawyer (specialty would be international law) and, finally, being a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department (I did well on their test exams). Since I’m not dead yet there may be a few more careers waiting for me.


This is only a partial list of gifts. Some of the other gifts of A.D.D. are:

  • The Gift of Egocentricity (you just can’t get out of your own head)
  • The Gift of Optimistic Tomorrows (tomorrow it will be better; tomorrow I will stick with my new plan, etc.)
  • The Gift of Addiction (cigarettes; alcohol; drugs, etc.)

There are so many other gifts that it is impossible to list them all. Please feel free to let me know what I may have overlooked. [note 1]

**** Happy holidays to all! ****

  1. I thought about adding “The Gift of Sexiness” but I think I’ll wait for the book release before I determine whether this gift really exists.
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  • Ellen

    I can’t go through life comparing myself to other people according to some scientific chart of success.

  • Katy B.

    STFU Jeff, you are making me pee my pants…bwahahahaha…dammit.

    Alright, well I think we should have an “oh yeah, well I’ve had WAY more weirdly assorted jobs than YOU” contest. Here’s my list: nursing home activities assistant, nursing home cook, medical records director, janitor, grill cook, nude art class model, actor, receptionist/office assistant, retail slave, business owner, freelance housekeeper, cashier, play producer, playwright, tutor, advertising acct exec, inventory manager, event planner/promoter, handbag designer/seamstress, paralegal…and I’m only 34.

    Merry f***ing Christmas to that! I can’t imagine why my life feels like a 10,000 piece puzzle where none of the pieces look like they fit in the same puzzle!

    I am very tempted right now, to give each of my family members that I suspect of having undiagnosed ADHD a box with a note inside that says “Merry Christmas, I’m giving you the gift of ADHD!”. Can you imagine? But first, I have a bill sitting on my counter that says “pay immediately, due upon receipt” that is demanding my attention.

    I’ll tell you what I want for Christmas…a roommate. Because if I get one, I might be able to afford a personal assistant to take care of these pissy little details I’m so gifted with, lol…if I get my hands on one, I’ll send them to your house next Jeff!

  • Gina Pera

    Does this mean you don’t swashbuckle? How disappointing.

    Inspired post, Jeff.

  • Jeff


    You are absolutely correct about NOT comparing yourself against some objective “chart of success.” Nonetheless…there are times when you can’t help making a comparison.


    You DEFINITELY win the “multiple career” contest. But, for the sake of thoroughness, I will add some of the jobs I left out (and can remember): catering hall busboy; catering hall dishwasher’s assistant; door-to-door salesman; traveling shoe salesman (sold shoes to nursing home residents); shoe department worker (stock room ) in Macy’s; Burger King hamburger maker (or whatever my title was); part-time tutor (Ancient Latin). Oh, not sure if I every mentioned this brilliant A.D.D. move. I was in graduate school and completed almost the entire program (which, by the way, was paid for on a scholarship!) and, when all I had left was a few classes and writing the dissertation, I walked away from the whole thing. Don’t ya just LOVE this gift!! Thank goodness this gift may also come with “sexiness” but I’m first waiting for the illustrated guide to ADHD and Sexiness before I pass any judgment.


    I don’t even swish! ;)


    Happy Holiday to Everyone!!

  • Katy B.

    Thanks for the grad school kick in the pants. Because of meds changes this semester I took incompletes in two classes. I have a few assignments left in those…and I’ll be done. As an undergrad my mother lit an effective fire under my ass to keep me from dropping out. I believe the quote was “do you really want to come back and finish later?”. I also liked “well your GPA is still better than mine was at your age and I made it though grad school”. Anyway…I’m going to make sure I don’t plauge myself with that particular torture and your candor on the subject is greatly appreciated. I’ll print it out and stick it to my “to do” corkboard for those days when I would rather give myself the gift of a one way ticket to Spain than a graduate degree…

  • Mark

    I was recently diagnosed as ADD (I’m 49), and I’m still not sure what to do with it. Is it real? Something I can manage? I’ve been looking for ADD blogs that feel grounded while I work to find my footing. I loved your Christmas vision of wry celebration. I felt right at home.

  • Jeff


    Bad news…A.D.D. is real. However…GOOD NEWS…you can, indeed, learn how to manage it. It takes work, determination, drugs, therapy and, quite honestly, a good sense of humor. You will never get rid of it but you will be able to tame the beast…much of the time.

    Feel free to post your questions concerning A.D.D.

    BTW…your cartoons are HILARIOUS!!!

  • mark

    Thanks for replying, and the compliment. The work and determination will be a challenge. The only thing I know for certain is that I’ll be drawing more ADD cartoons than usual (that’s the plan, anyway, provided I can bludgeon or trick myself into following through with it.)

  • Katy B.

    Mark…of course it’s real, otherwise, none of us here would exist, lol! And it’s survivable. Even though I would not call ADHD a “gift” there are things I have come to appreciate about my ADHD-fueled like and perspective (and Jeff’s…and a few others!).

    I was just diagnosed earlier this year and blogging and connecting with other ADHD bloggers has basically saved my life. I come from a whole family chock full of OBVIOUSLY undiagnosed ADHDers so it’s a little lonely in the ADHD department in my real life, lol, because I’m the only one in treatment…it makes me feel so out of step sometimes. The online ADHD family is a great resource, even if ADHD is not exactly a gift ;)

  • mark

    Jeff, inspired by your example, if not your punctuation, I’ve started a new blog on my period-deprived ADD. You might find it interesting.

    And if I draw some cartoons, I’d love to see them appear on your blog and elsewhere.

  • Scott Hutson


    Jeff’s advice on managing ADD. The one that helps me most, on a daily basis, is “A Good Sense Of Humor”. I won’t try to make you or anybody believe that ADD is funny, but I can laugh at myself every day.

    I don’t think I would be able to do that, without the help of meds,deterimation,and the knowledge that ADD is real, and reading other ADD’ers comments about the things they think and do. Like Katy and Jeff’s list’s of jobs they had…LOL..Now thats funny to me, because I can relate! It brings back memories of the silly things I did/do everyday!

  • Mark

    Scott, funny you should mention that. Check out the title of my new ADD blog.

    I’ve been laughing at myself (or is that with myself) all my life, so I’m hoping my humor will survive ADD.

  • Scott Hutson

    Ah Ha, You nailed it Mark! Your blog is great, and real. Just as Jeff’s is, we can see the bright side of the real darkness. Gotta live with it, so find a place on the other side of the house for it to stay.

    In my buisness, we call it the “Mother In Law” floor plan, when we know she(ADD) will always be there. We will wake up and know she will be do what she does, but it’s easier to live with her, when we have some distance between us for any short moments, when we all go to bed. But we know that she’s there.

  • Ellen

    I have a scientific question – maybe someone has answered it already somewhere: if ADHD is maladaptive, why does it keep showing up in the population?

    Do we have any historical data on the ADHD brain and genetics, or at least informed estimates about how many people had it in 1700 vs. how many today?

  • Jeff


    I think the “wise-guy” answer is, ADHD people just keep reproducing. ;) But on a slightly more serious note, while it is difficult to go back in time and determine the population that had ADHD, there is, nonetheless, evidence that people had realized there was a constellation of symptoms that we would now call ADHD.

    We must also keep in mind that with the growth of science in general – and psychology in particular – we have learned to classify more and more behaviors that, at an earlier time, we would have ignored. Further, to classify something as maladaptive is, to some degree, to make a judgment call. Perhaps ADHD only seems maladaptive in some societies and not in others, that is, in societies where life’s activities are more circumscribed and narrow in scope.

  • Katy B.

    I don’t have medical/scientific reasons for what I’m about to say, but your question is a good one and I have opinions on it certainly. I indeed feel that our modern way of living and its impact on ADHDers is much of the reason that we are classified as maladaptive.

    However…there are a LOT of ways that ADHDers operate that in any time could be problematic.

    For example…a big problem for DaVinci was not finishing projects/commissions, and Michaelangelo actually tried to use that against him competitively…to make him look bad, and to take commissions from him. Michaelangelo was an early bird getting the worm, and DaVinci was an ADHDer praying that his brilliance would carry him through. I dare you to tell me that DaVinci wasn’t an ADHDer…eh? Perhaps life then was as structured as now…or perhaps even in other times and places, we have been maladaptive.

    DaVinci is also a perfect example for the fact that we should not just beat ourselves up with our maladaptions…we’re kind of brilliant sometimes when we’re not shooting ourselves in the behind.

    It is also true that many of the ways that we self-medicate, were accepted as more within the norm in earlier years. There is more discussion now of people who drink and use drugs too much…people used to just accept addicts as addicts and just didn’t talk about it because it wasn’t polite.

    There’s a lot of things missing from the historical record that would help give us light to answer these questions…actually some of that info IS there, wasn’t Mozart a huge drunk? But here’s the thing…Mozart was simply an exceptional human being, so he was discussed in history. The rest of us, the ones that plod along every day just being human…our quirks don’t make history, they just drive people around us crazy.

  • Scott Hutson

    Ah, His story. When I read things written long ago, about people, and the things they did…It blows my mind! Whether the stories are true or not, makes no difference to me. It’s the fact that somebody was thinking these things!

    Like the stories in the Old Testament. Even though world was much different, the people did and thought about the craziest things….good and bad…alot like me.

  • Mark

    Katy, I’m suddenly eager to read a DaVinci biography. Is there one you’d recommend?

    I’m not sure how long ADHD has been around, or if it’s worse/more prevalent than it used to be, but I’m not surprised that it hasn’t gone away. It seems that humans and life in general are loaded with defective parts (or seemingly defective or outmoded — the appendix was thought to be useless for a good while. Perhaps the maladaption is serving a purpose we can’t perceive, or maybe it’s lingering in the way of other diseases. Or, even more likely, creating a brain from scratch a billion times over has to allow for the occasional imperfection. Nothing can be replicated endlessly without flaw.

  • Scott Hutson

    How bout the “gift” of stress? I thought about this yesterday(Christmas day). But maybe I am not adding to the list. It could be the product of a the many gifts you already mentioned in your post Jeff?

    We had a record amount of snow here on Christmas eve(Okla.). We live out in the country, so travel was discouraged(to put it mildly). Nobody showed up for our Christmas day dinner. This may sound very selfish..but I was happy to not have to stress about the getting ready for the gathering.

    Did I avoid the “Stress”?…Nope. It(ADD)showed up. It did’nt need a chimney,or a road, to get here…it lives here, snowed in with us. The bright side…A WHITE CRISTMAS! Hope everyone had a merry one!!

  • Jeff

    The gift of stress. ABSOLUTELY!!

    I realized yesterday why I hate Christmas. During Christmas time, all the decorations come out and appear everywhere in the house…on top of tables and on shelves and on the piano and so on. There are decorations everywhere. And why do I hate this? Because it makes me feel like my A.D.D. mess of piles of things is no longer confined to my (home) office but is now throughout the house. Now THAT adds stress to my life.

  • Mark

    The good thing about stress: if you’re not feeling it, then your ADD is under control. The last several days have been horrible, dispiriting things. I felt so blue my name is probably a new shade of paint at Home Depot. I thought it was Ritalin, but it turned out to be plummeting blood sugar (new low-carb diet started last week.) Now that my body’s more or less adjusted to the new level, and I’m taking my Ritalin, I was able to do this:

    I forgot my checkbook at Stop ‘n’ Shop. I discovered this while unloading groceries in the kitchen. And I didn’t panic. I didn’t yell, slam the counter, or even grumble. I put on my coat, retraced my steps, looked over the driveway, checked the car, drove back to the store, scanned the parking lot, the shopping carts, and finally went inside and found it at the customer service desk — all without the usual whirling drumsticks in my head, making it impossible to think straight. I’m feeling pretty good about that.

  • Scott Hutson


    That is great! It reminds me of the times(how many?lol)that I have “lost” something, and then have an honest person return it,or call me,and tell me where to come get it.

    One time, back about 1980, I left my wallet at Taco Bell. Next day, got a call from the manager,who told me he had it. 180 bucks was ALOT OF MONEY,for a 19-20 yr. old guy back then. When I picked it up..All the money was still in it! A cute young girl, that worked there had found it and she was the one who gave it back to me.

    Needless to say, I asked her if I could take her to dinner sometime and show her my apprecition for her honesty. She declined because she knew who I was via of my history in a small town. But I will always remember that day, and how thankfull I was to know someone cared about me….John Prine said it, in his song:”Thats the way the world goes round” which was the song I was listening to that night, because I had the money to buy the album.

  • Scott Hutson
  • mark

    Scott, I’m making a point of hunting up some John Prine today. I’m more of a jazz guy, but I’m always happy to listen to wise writers.

    Loved your story. For a guy with aphasia and this and that, you tell a good tale; especially that last line, where the thread of compassion and money come together (she had your money and the compassion to return it, and you had the money to buy the JP album)

    I wonder what sort of person your good Samaritan would have dined with when you were 19, if she had said yes.

  • Scott Hutson

    Thank you Mark, I have only my written words to express my thoughts clearly, even though they may seem a bit confusing at times, it’s shows my….strengths(or lack of,and lost spelling

    I also wonder what person she would have seen if she had accepted. Or maybe what person I would have become.I think alot about the past,and the what if’s.

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