Excuse Me…But What Did You Say?

Is your life defined and affected by someone with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)? Chances are you know at least one person who struggles with one of these distraction disorders.

Although comedians joke about ADD/ADHD and conversations emerge at parties about this disorder, it is an oft-misunderstood subject. When you’re dealing with someone with ADD/ADHD, it is easy to feel like they just don’t care. The “Absent-Minded Professor” lost in his or her own little world.

“Excuse Me….But What Did You Say?”

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I was one of the worst students on the planet because I couldn’t stay focused on my studies. Teachers always spoke of daydreaming and distractions. How I graduated from high school is anyone’s guess. I just couldn’t maintain focus and stay on task. I would also become so hyperfocused on one thing to where the world could have come to an end and I wouldn’t know until I received the memo from Washington or God.

MedlinePlus defines ADD/ADHD as “A behavioral disorder that typically begins in childhood and is characterized by a short attention span (inattention), an inability to be calm and stay still (hyperactivity), and poor impulse control (impulsivity). Some people with ADHD have problems with only inattention or with hyperactivity and impulsivity, but most have problems related to all three features.”

Yeah – that would be me. It also defines my family. We are all ADD/ADHD and drive one another crazy. MedlinePlus goes on to say, “In people with ADHD, the characteristic behaviors are frequent and severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living such as school, work, and relationships with others. Because of an inability to stay focused on tasks, people with inattention may be easily distracted, forgetful, avoid tasks that require sustained attention, have difficulty organizing tasks, or frequently lose items.”

MedlinePlus adds, “Hyperactivity is usually shown by frequent movement. Individuals with this feature often fidget or tap their foot when seated, leave their seat when it is inappropriate to do so (such as in the classroom), or talk a lot and interrupt others. Impulsivity can result in hasty actions without thought for the consequences. Individuals with poor impulse control may have difficulty waiting for their turn, deferring to others, or considering their actions before acting.”

I have chronic insomnia and have for 30+ years, which is a byproduct of ADD. If you think one person in a family with ADD/ADHD is overwhelming, try three of us with this affliction. It becomes very frustrating at times because one of us zigs and the others zag. Conversation is never complete because we’re always interrupting one another. One of us starts a sentence and someone interrupts. The result is endless frustration. Conflict abounds.

MedlinePlus says more than two-thirds of all individuals with ADHD have additional conditions – including insomnia, mood or anxiety disorders, learning disorders, or substance use disorders. Affected individuals may also have “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which is characterized by impaired communication and social interaction, or Tourette Syndrome, which is a disorder characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements or noises called tics.

I can tell you I am a moody person, which has always made me challenging to live with. It puts other in the positioning of wondering what they did to upset me, yet they did nothing in the first place. Depression is also a byproduct of ADD/ADHD because you are endlessly frustrated with yourself. Languishing projects that drag on for months and sometimes years yield a terrible sense of failure because you’re always getting sidetracked by your own thoughts and distractions. These events breed depression and all kinds of anxiety.

I tend to close my office door to shut out the TV and other distractions like conversation in the next room. That – of course – makes those you love feel like you don’t want to be a part of their lives when, in fact, you’re trying to police your own mind in order to stay on course. Yet, shutting the door doesn’t shut out the noise in my mind or internet headlines that get my attention.

If your life is tied to someone who appears to have ADD/ADHD, there’s help for you via a good psychiatrist and proper medication. Perhaps you are struggling with ADD/ADHD yourself. Though it is tempting to treat ADD/ADHD with medication only, I’ve found having specialized therapy with a professional who specializes in ADD/ADHD helps. There really is no cure for ADD/ADHD. However, there is help via self-discipline – which takes a lot of practice and habit.

Easier said than done.

Best to begin each day and week with a “To Do” list and stick to it as best you can. There will be days when you accomplish a lot and days when you can’t stay on task to save your life. It is best to be tolerant of yourself (and others) along the way because you’re going to stumble where some days are better than others.

Awareness of this disorder is key to getting better.

By the way, if it makes you feel any better – it has taken me weeks to write this Boomer Journey. I still have a long way to go.

2 thoughts on “Excuse Me…But What Did You Say?”

  1. I have been on some of those roads, impulsive as a kid, but I could focus. Insomnia now, but can nod off easily at a computer. Might be a better student now but did OK as a kid. Now I will have the computer going, radio on, maybe the TV all at the same time shifting attention. As if I want to take in multiple streams of information all at the same time. I should read more, but do not take the time. This cheats me of the color, the flavor of what the writer wants to convey. Is this a problem of a digital/video age? But I was given the gift of being analytical, that gives me time to digest, process what goes on. ADD ? might have made me more outgoing, a blessing. Not a moody person , I tend to internalize things and not vocalize them. Yes this runs in families. But I refuse to accept a label, for the recipe that makes me, that makes, you Jim, this world needs.


    1. ADD/ADHD are both a blessing and a curse. We are idea machines because our minds are forever wandering. A curse because we struggle to get things done.


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