10 Reasons You Can Be Happy You Have ADD

AD:HD Highway to white black

  1. You notice things – lots of things, many of which others miss. And your friends are tickled when you point out the eccentric guy walking down the street with the perfect symbol for peace and harmony: a dog balancing a cat on its back who is balancing a rat on its back (that really happens – or used to anyway – in Bisbee, Arizona).
  2. Alternately, you have the ability to hyperfocus – spending many undistracted hours working on a problem or project often without taking a break to eat or sleep. Maybe Attention Deficit Disorder is a misnomer. I think we should rename it Attention Difference Disorder, or as my mosaic-artist friend Lisa Lord calls it, Attention-to-Detail Disorder.
  3. Speaking of details … some people with ADHD are nothing if not detail-oriented — known for relentless curiosity and vision, meticulous work and seemingly boundless energy. Just don’t get caught up in the endless, mind-numbing pursuit of perfection. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t exist.
  4. You can be ultra-sensitive to sound, aroma, touch, pain, flavors and emotions. But noting fine detail is fodder for great descriptive writing and inspiration for a variety of creative pursuits.
  5. Similarly, many of you feel deeply – OK, so maybe being a drama queen isn’t your thing. BUT, how about being able to read people’s emotions and feel compassion? As a writer and reporter, this trait enables me to get people to speak honestly about difficult personal things. Or to get typically close-mouthed sources (can you say sheriff’s deputies in northern Maine?) to give up information they may not otherwise share. People trust people who exhibit compassion.
  6. Your passion and enthusiasm can be contagious. This can go both ways, of course, but I prefer to think of this as part of our charm. People react to and appreciate the enthusiasm you exhibit for things you are passionate about. This makes you a persuasive influencer and an inspiring motivator.
  7. Creativity is your muse. You may see solutions to problems others miss. You astound bosses, coworkers and others with your ability to think beyond the obvious.
  8. You aren’t necessarily organized, but with the right tools, you can be. Learning how to use time wisely, setting up reminders and organizing your life doesn’t necessarily feel like a chore – that perfectionist in you loves structure and structure keeps you on task. You just have to get there (this is a subject for another day – but I’ll get to it, promise).
  9. For some, drinking caffeinated drinks makes them sleepy, happy or more focused. So, go ahead, have that late-night cappuccino (just don’t go overboard).
  10. You are more apt to take risks, are stimulated by adventure and are typically more resilient when things don’t work out. According to Psychology Today, people with ADHD are 300% more likely to start their own business. So, hey, you are in amazingly successful company including Sir Richard Branson, Michael Phelps, Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake, Jamie Oliver, Howie Mandel, Charles Schwab, Terry Bradshaw, Pete Rose, Simone Biles, Ed Hallowell (one of my favorite people with the so-called disorder), Greg LeMond, David Neeleman and Paul Orfalea. (Check out the links for inspiration).

And if perfectionism weren’t one of my issues, I’d have finished this post a week ago … just saying.

 

Run For Your Life: Coming Out From Under the Covers

“You initially become funny as a kid because you’re looking for attention and love. Psychologists think that’s all to do with mother abandonment. I think John Cleese has his depressions, and Terry Gilliam’s the same. All of us together make one completely insane person.”

                                                                         –Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame)

Last weekend, I ran the second 5k race in a matter of two months benefitting mental health treatment and suicide prevention.

The first one was in Gardiner, Montana, within view of the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Last week’s race was right here in Bozeman and raised more than $15,000 for our local crisis help center.

Roosevelt Arch -- entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Roosevelt Arch — entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Yes, of course that’s a great thing.

But I can’t help thinking how sad it is that we haven’t found suitable treatment for depression to prevent suicides. The Rocky Mountain West, and Montana in particular, historically has had the highest suicide rate in the nation for many — too many — years.

In 2013, once again, Montana topped the list with nearly 24 deaths per 100,000 people. Not exactly a proud moment for us.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • An estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide.
  • Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds.
  • Depression affects women more often than men.

Last week’s race was held on Halloween and aptly called “Run For Your Life.” Complete with “real” trailside zombies it was good fun. Costumes were strongly encouraged. So I rehabilitated an old wizard costume from 2008. It was just easy.

Photo: Paul Bussi-www.idealphotography.com

What I didn’t recall until I was off and running in my moon-star-sequined-adorned graduation gown, was that this was the same costume I wore the day a friend decided to end her life. I have a picture of that day on my desk — a good friend and I in costume mugging for the camera, arms around each others’ shoulders. A fun day as our friend’s struggle and final decision wasn’t revealed until the following day.

It is impossible to describe what it feels like to learn someone you know and care about took their own life. Unfortunately, too many of us DO know that feeling.

Equally saddening is the fact that way too many of us know what it feels like to have no hope.

At the Big Bear Stampede race in Gardiner, my friend, physical therapist and world-renowned ultra-marathoner Nikki Kimball brought tears to my eyes as she spoke of her own struggle with depression. She says suicide doesn’t kill people, depression kills people.

She’s right, you know.

And in addition to successfully treating my achilles tendonitis (YAY!), she’s taught me that we all need to be brave, come out from under our down comforters and talk openly about depression!

So I’m here to tell you right now that, yes, I have struggled with depression on and off since puberty, I think.

It’s a complicated thing and just because I sometimes have this gnawing feeling that I’m not good enough … deep down inside, I know that not only am I good enough, but I’m actually better than good.

That’s one thing that keeps me going.

But it is fairly common for people with ADDled brains to have co-occurring depression. We are so often misunderstood and it is frustrating to live in a world that doesn’t support our creative talents or accept and accommodate our oft-distracted ways.

Lucky me, I have the trifecta of ADD, depression and perimenopause (that time in a woman’s life when her hormones are dissipating, if you will — another condition also often associated with depression. I wrote more about perimenopause and what it does to some women’s brains (me included) in an earlier post.

All that being said, there’s hope. Yes, there really is.

I’m happy to say that there are throngs of people who are coming out from under the covers and sharing their experiences with mental illness on blogs, in books and support groups. Here are some good examples on the web:

  • Kat Kinsman — an editor at CNN wrote and was interviewed about her experience with depression. I highly recommend checking out her piece as she also has a list of other resources at the bottom of her article.
  • Author William Styron, author of “Sophie’s Choice” and a brilliant man well ahead of his time, wrote “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.”
  • Pick the Brain is a website “dedicated to self-improvement with a focus on personal productivity, motivation, and self-education” and includes articles on psychological topics.
  • Daisies and Bruises: The Art of Living with Depression.
  • Bring Change 2 Mind is a nonprofit started by actress Glenn Close with her sister, Jessie Close, and nephew, Calen Pick, (mother and son, both of whom have mental illness). Its aim is to remove the misconceptions and stigma surrounding mental illness. I had the privilege of interviewing and writing about Jessie and her son before their speaking engagement here in Bozeman a few years ago.  BC2M’s website has an excellent blog featuring a variety of writers with equally varied diagnoses.
  • Jessie Close also wrote a book about her experience with bipolar disorder called, “Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness.”
  • Smart Girls with ADHD
  • ADDitude Magazine
  • Dr. Ned Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey (co-authors of many books on ADHD).
  • I found some of these blogs on Healthline that posted a slide show of the best depression health blogs of 2015.

This is a short list, for sure. There’s many others. If you have a great one that you’d like to recommend, I’d love to see it in the comments.

Here’s to throwing off the blankets, feeling the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair …

Berry, berry focused

Today as the Tour de France was winding down, our neighbor called and said her raspberries were ripe and she wouldn’t have time to harvest them. So if I wanted them, they were mine for the picking.

But before I write about that, I need to say a fair adieu to the Tour de France which ended today. It was truly an education and inspiration to watch those guys. And it was all so exciting, that I just have to get it out of my system.

If you have no interest in world-class bicycle racing, first off, what’s wrong with you? No, seriously, if that’s the case, simply skip down a few paragraphs. You probably won’t appreciate the limerick anyway.

Congratulations to Vincenzo Nibali (overall Tour winner for the maillot jaune a.k.a. the yellow jersey) and Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Peraud (second) and Thibaut Pinot (third).

It was a tough tour for former Bozemanite Tejay Van Garderen who won the TDF’s best young rider’s white jersey in 2012 and was the overall winner of the Tour de California last year. Thanks to a great time trial yesterday, Van Garderen moved up from sixth to fifth place overall.

As I watched the race today and listened to the magical commentary of Carlton Kirby, Sean Kelly and Jonathan Harris-Bass on Eurosport — I decided to throw myself into the fray. As is tradition, the commentators made a call for people to write limericks about the Tour and send them to Harris-Bass’ twitter account.

Here’s what I came up with in honor or our hometown guy:

There once was a man from Montana
Who raced ‘gainst a team called Astana.
Though it wasn’t his day,
The man named Tejay
Has his sights set on a maillot banana.

Astana, by the way, is Nibali’s team.

OK, I admit, it’s a bit weak. But I wrote it while watching AND listening to the race — a challenging feat for my distractible gray matter.

And that gets right to the real point of this post …

According to Dr. Ned Hallowell, a psychiatrist with ADD himself, people with ADD, though easily distracted, are also known to become hyperfocused on specific tasks.

In his book, “Driven to Distraction,” Hallowell writes:

“… the term ‘attention deficit’ is a misnomer. It is a matter of attention inconsistency. While it is true that the ADD mind wanders when not engaged, it is also the case that the ADD mind fastens on to its subject fiercely when it is engaged.”

This often overlooked capacity, Hallowell contends, favors creativity among people with ADD.

Oh wow, how cool is that?

So today had little to do with creativity on my part. However, I did spend nearly two hours in the hot sun picking raspberries. (I know, I FINALLY got back to the start of my post).

Thanks to our friendly neighbor, I now have about a pound of raspberries!

Thanks to our friendly neighbor, I now have about a pound of raspberries!

Sweat dripped off the end of my nose. My t-shirt soaked through. Typically when I get that hot (save for when working out), I cease to enjoy the activity in which I am engaged. Today, however, I just kept on picking (berries, that is).

I ended up with about a pound of juicy, red berries.

What is it about picking berries that is so engages me? Perhaps it’s the contrasting red berries against the green leaves that draws me in. I don’t know.

I just know there might be a raspberry cheesecake on our menu this week.