T he “Gift or Curse” debate about A.D.D. is really a debate over how to “live” science and how to live one’s life. It is a debate – a battle – between “the science” and “the self.”
The science paints a dismal picture of A.D.D.ers as people who are more likely to have financial problems, career problems, marriage and sexual problems. The science has nothing good or positive to say about A.D.D. other than A.D.D. is “positively” a handicap. The science is depressing. The science is dismal. [note 1] You can’t live the science without wanting to end your life. It is too horrible to contemplate; it is too horrible to have at the forefront of your mind.
In reaction to the science, the A.D.D.er creates a more suitable image of the self. The A.D.D. vision of the self is creative, resourceful, fun and an inspiration to all. The A.D.D.er thinks out of the box, thinks entrepreneurially, and so forth. [note 2] None of this is supported by the science but it is impossible to live the facts of the A.D.D. “dismal science.”
The question is, then, is it possible to live the “A.D.D. Self” (as described above) while, simultaneously, knowing the facts of the “A.D.D. Dismal Science”? Is it possible to mentally wall off the dismal science from the fictional A.D.D. self? Perhaps it can be done. In fact, we do it all the time but we do not realize it. We do it every time we get in a car, every time we take a walk, every time we get on a commuter train (but NOT a plane, a ship or long-distance train). The science tells us that the earth is curved yet that never becomes a part of our consciousness of short distance land-based travel. No one gives directions by saying, “At the traffic light, make a left turn and watch out for the curvature of the earth.” Somehow we can operate our lives thinking that we are on a flat earth while knowing that this is an illusion. Yet the illusion of the flat earth allows us to function on a daily basis and, I might add, function quite well. This seems to be the type of resolution needed in the case of science versus the A.D.D. self. To live one’s life in, yes, a self-deluded state but never going so far as to think that the deluded state is the true reality. For the traveler, it is to always know that, depending on the mode of travel, you may encounter the curvature of the earth. For an A.D.D.er, it is to know that if one goes too far, one will be brought back to reality by encountering the facts of the A.D.D. dismal science.
- This sounds like economics, in its Malthusian guise, which was referred to as the “dismal science.” One could also call genetics the latest dismal science. While it may be nice to know that you have the markers for A.D.D., Alzheimer’s and liver cancer (the diseases that afflict my family) it is, at the same time, quite depressing. To think that despite the “you can do anything you want” ideology that permeates American culture, to find out that your life has already been mapped out beforehand by your genetic code is a depressing thought.↩
- This conception of the A.D.D. self is, to some degree, a mirror image of the American ethos of self-reliance, creativity, entrepreneurialism, etc.↩