Dude, I'm Not Retarded!

Thursday, February 16, 2006 | 0 Comments

I am really smart and can learn things quickly, yet I also can seem a little retarded sometimes. So, when people don't know me well and don't know what I truly am capable of, I often get this look.

A look that says, "Are you on something?"

Or, "Did you eat paint chip sandwiches as a child?"

I've never been tested for ADD/ADHD, but it runs in my family and I have always suspected that there has been something...er... different about me since about, well, kindergarten. Once I found out what ADD/ADHD was, it all kind of made sense to me.

It really became noticeable when I went into junior high and had to move from class room to class room and they quit giving you time in class to get your work done and hand it in right away. I couldn't keep track of everything. I relied on a person in each of my classes to help me remember what was due. I was a real bumbler. Most people just laughed at me and saw me as a comedic ditz, a class clown. I found that a much better alternative to people thinking that there was something wrong with me.

I have devised many coping skills throughout the years and have learned that Post-Its are the best damn invention EVER! I try not to carry anything that I can't attach to myself, because I will set it down and walk away from it almost without fail. SSB has to folow me around in stores picking up my things that I set down and walk away from.

I am forever looking for things. More times than I can even remember, I have put things in the wrong place - the really wrong place. Like, putting the milk away in the cupboard, the car keys in the bathroom cabinet, and the remote in the fridge. And then there is the "I just had it" phenomenon, where something you just had in your possession has suddenly vanished not to be seen from again until you probably don't need it anymore or you have reached your meltdown point.

And then there is the just plain all out amnesia-like forgetting.

When I started college again after a near ten year hiatus, I had to take College Algebra. I hadn't done Algebra in 15 years. So I got a tutor. And I proceeded to drive my tutor nuts! We would go over material and by the end of the hour I could do the problems backwards and forward. He would even tell me that he didn't understand why I thought I needed a tutor.

Until, the next time that we met, just a couple days later, and I could not remember ANYTHING that we did last time. It was as if I had never seen those problems before. This happened over and over throughout the semester. I swear he was ready to pull all his hair out.

But I did get an A.

And you may be ready to say that proves that I really don't have a problem. My product is not the problem, it is the process. My mind wanders off on me and is really hard to call back sometimes leading to more work. It takes me at least two times the effort sometimes to get the same result as an "normal" person just because I have to keep redoing things, rechecking things, relearning things. And to get those above average to exceptional results takes me even MORE work! It gets really tiring and frustrating for me and those around me.

I do really well in jobs that I have to do repetitive work because after awhile, I could literally do it in my sleep. I can do the work and let my mind wander. And I get so fast at the process that I have extra time to do all the extra re-checking that I need to do.

I also do really well when it comes to thinking up new solutions to problems. I have a heightened ability to "think outside the box". This gives people the impression that I am a genius. Which would be nice except that it makes my "d'ohs" look that much worse. I know people are thinking, "How can you understand and do all these things which none of us understand, yet you can't figure out how to take all but $100 from the cash register drawer?"

Most people who get to know me just think of me as quirky. But that quirkiness of mine can get me into trouble when I am trying hard to keep a job that I have just aquired. They don't understand that I might need to do some very strange things to keep myself on track. Most employers won't give me the freedom to do what I need to do to keep things straight either.

And that is a shame for me and them. Every employer that has ever just let me do things the way that I needed to do them has been extremely satisfied with my productivity, creativity, and loyalty. Sure, they may have to deal with really silly mistakes every now and then, but what I actually get done always more than makes up for those goofs.

My current employers are great about giving me freedom and their patience. I feel very appreciated at both places even if I do still occasionally get the "do you really know what you are doing" looks...

And that brings me to the point of this post: I have recently found a blog about ADD/ADHD that makes me feel right at home. The Splintered Mind by Doug Cootey is a well written and very personal look at the "disorder" with plenty of humor, which really appeals to me. I learned a long time ago that life, especially the life abnormal, is a lot easier if you can laugh at it and yourself.


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Blogger "AG" said...

Oh this is a raw topic for me. I will keep it brief.

I am undiagnosed ADD. Had all of the symptoms as a kid. THANK GOD THEY DIDN'T PUT KIDS ON RITALIN back then. I learned to manage it and am fine. ADD and ADHD is an approach to life that can be managed. When I worked as a counselor I had clients that wanted me to refer them to a psychologist because they WANTED to have an ADD/ADHD diagnosis to "explain" things, and then they could blame it for what they do. But there is no blood test or brain scan to find it because it's a pattern of behaviors and thoughts. The point is to manage it so it doesn't manage you. (And you clearly do that!) I just can't get into seeing it as a disability. I think my "ADD" has made me a creative and industrious person. I hone it. And that's what it's all about- your level of functioning.

Sorry, I'll stop here. :)

Yay for short attention spans!

February 16, 2006 8:23 PM

Blogger "AG" said...

One other thing- I want to read this book: Delivered from Distraction : Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder

February 16, 2006 8:28 PM

Blogger OldRoses said...

I've learned to do stuff when no one is looking. I can't seem to convince anyone that as long as (task) gets done correctly, it doesn't matter HOW I did it.

February 16, 2006 11:33 PM

Blogger Flubberwinkle said...

I've never been tested for ADD. I did, however, see some similiarites in my behaviour from reading your post. Lately, I've acquired an old school habit of jotting things down on the palm of my hand with a pen. Thankfully I don't have sweaty hands and I keep reminding myself errands, passwords and other stuff throughout the day. My family thinks of this as "my little oddity", but seriously, you've got me thinking.

February 17, 2006 3:08 AM

Blogger Shamus O'Drunkahan said...

I know this is a real medical condition, but it seems that ADD is often used as a "catch-all" excuse. If a kid acts up at school, it's ADD, if you have trouble focussing on something, you may have ADD.

Wait, what was I saying?

Seriously, it's kind of like when you read a book on psychosis and find yourself thinking, "I do that!"

Nobody is normal, is what I'm saying. We're all various degrees of effed up.

February 17, 2006 7:15 AM

Blogger sands of time said...

To be able to overcome difficulties on your own and learn your own coping skills shows just what a capable woman you are.

February 17, 2006 8:32 AM

Blogger Shannon said...

BRAVO! And I want to second what AG said. I HATE Ritalin...hate hate hate. I've always thought that a behavior needs to be managed and not medicated, that's exactly what you've done. HOw would you have ever gained these excellent coping skills had you been medicated?

I kind of want to high five you now, but I think it's just my morning caffeine rush kicking in.

February 17, 2006 8:52 AM

Blogger Derek Knight said...

I totally forgot what I was going to say here.

What was the post about today?

February 17, 2006 11:20 AM

Blogger DrMax said...

Syl I'm surprised at you.....not taking drugs for ADD/ADHD?! If everybody had that kind of attitude, how the heck would our poor pharmaceutical companies make any money?

February 17, 2006 11:53 AM

Blogger Otto Man said...

Do what now?

February 17, 2006 3:44 PM

Blogger Sylvana said...

AG, there are recent studies done by NIMH that show that there are actual physical differences in the brain between people with ADD and "normal" people.
For me it is a disability since it FREQUENTLY makes things far more difficult for me. And it is hard for people to understand since I look normal and otherwise act normal. They assume that I am being lazy or that I am stupid. Hence the title for my post. Some even act like I do it just to piss them off. That's my favorite reaction!
I know people that take the medications and it has made a WORLD of difference for them. I have at times considered trying it, but I hate dealing with the required visits to the psychiatrist. Even though I am going to be a psychologist eventually (researcher, not therapist), I really have a problem with most psychiatrists and therapists that I have met.
I would like to just for a little bit know what it feels like to think "normally". I wonder if it would feel like a weight being lifted, or maybe it would feel like something was missing. But in any case, I would just like to know.
That book sounds like it would be really useful. I think I will check that out. THANKS!

OldRoses, I do that too!! Then I don't have people second guessing me all while I'm doing something. And FORGET trying to explain my process!!

Flubberwinkle, the symptoms of ADD/ADHD run parallel to other things. For instance, when I was researching my son's symptoms to try to figure out how best to deal with him, I learned that the list of symptoms for giftedness are almost identical to the list of symptoms for ADD/ADHD!!
I have also learned that the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are very similar to the mental afflictions that people with fibermyalgia suffer.

Shamus, I agree that it has become a "catch-all". Child misbehaving? ADHD!! Having trouble staying on task? ADHD!! It certainly couldn't just be bratiness or boredom.
It is that eagerness to label everyone that shows the slightest similarity to the symptoms that really screws over the people that actually have it!

Pink Lady, well said. Thank you for that!

Shannon, I think the best way to handle ADD/ADHD is through behavior modification; but some people really need the medication, too. I do think that doctors and schools are way too pushy with the meds though. I'm sure you read my previous post about our battle with the school!
BTW-- I used to medicate my condition with high doses of caffeine. It actually worked pretty well. But all that caffeine was not good for me. I had to quit. So now I'm back to my muddled old self.

Derek, heehee!

DrMax, as much as I seeth about drug companies, they do bring some useful items to the public - even if they do charge a first born and a third toe for it!

Otto Man, exactly!!

February 17, 2006 9:48 PM

Blogger "AG" said...

Sylvana- I always consdier the source of a study and who has funded it (and therefore a vested interest in a certain outcome). Here's another perspective: Letters Editor, JAMA

February 18, 2006 6:34 AM

Blogger "AG" said...

Sy- I wanted to add that I don't dispute that you and I think differently- we do!! Is it challenging? Hell yeah! Where I disagree with some is the treatment method. I'm a cognitive behavioralist to the core, so it's only my perspective I'm offering. As far as my comment about not labeling it a disability, I personally find it not helpful. I prefer more empowering terms which helps frame the situation in a more positive manner. Again, that's just my approach. I respect yours.

February 18, 2006 6:52 AM

Blogger "AG" said...

And finally (see, I always hit "submit" before I finish a thought!), when I said you and I think differently and that is challenging, I meant the ADD way of things.

February 18, 2006 6:57 AM

Blogger Sylvana said...

AG, it is nice to hear how other people are dealing with ADD/ADHD. That's what I really like about Doug's blog.

And true, true, you do have to research the motivation behind a study, or even the opinion of the study. I do have several other non-NIHM studies that also show that there is a significant difference in the brains of ADHD vs non-ADHD children -- specifically a smaller right superior prefrontal lobe, smaller corpus callosum, greater right caudate, along with various other brain region differences. At least one of these studies included in their treatment group children who had never used ADHD treament drugs along with children who had. (if you want the titles of these I can get them for you. I got them from a subscribed article service, so I can't link)

I do not believe that ADD/ADHD is a brain defect. I believe that it is an evolutionary path. ADD/ADHD people were meant to excel in certain situations, so I guess we do agree in that way that it isn't a disability in and of itself. But when an ADD/ADHD person is force to live in an environment that isn't conducive to their genetics, it does become a disability of sorts. (Sort of like 7' tall people trying live in a 5'7" world. Their height can at once be both a gift and a hinderance). So I do think that if at all possible the environment of an ADHD person should be adjusted to better suit them and what they have to offer; but, I do think that if that really isn't possible or isn't making a difference alone and medications can help the person, then meds should be allowed. Not forced, just allowed.

I have several cousins that have ADHD with ODD and without the medications they certainly would be in prison right now. I think being able to function in society is worth the risks of the meds and far better than that alternative. You may be right that with the right behavioral modification they could do the same without meds, but that option hasn't shown itself to them at this time, so meds are their best option until then.

February 18, 2006 10:31 AM

Blogger Sylvana said...

Oh, and I'm totally for looking at lemons and thinking YUMMY LEMONADE!! That is the best way to approach life! ;)

February 18, 2006 10:34 AM

Blogger Lindsay Lobe said...

Hi Sylvana

Maybe it could be biochemical or structural. It was thought Winton Churchill suffered from ADHD.

I think it’s very refreshing you’re able to speak so frankly about it, as do your commentators, who I equally commend.

What it points to I think is an inner world which is different and not impoverished but also endowed with are a gift of creativity.

A neurological condition that both robs but also endows.

Elkhonan Golberg PhD Clinical Professor of Neurology at NY School of Medicine and Director of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Performance said:

On a more ordinary plane, I have often felt that the more gifted people in my personal surroundings paid a price for their talent in other areas of their mental life, and that the balance between gift and deficit is ruled by some unforgiving zero –sum equation.

From His Book “The Executive Brain”

I thought that quote sums it up.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

Best wishes

February 18, 2006 10:05 PM