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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shifting Perspective

One's greatest weakness can also be one's greatest strength. The reverse also holds true. Last night KPBS aired a program on attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. What stayed with me was the emphasis on playing to one's strengths, often creativity and thinking outside the box, risk-taking, entrepeneurship. These strengths can be supported by finding ways to deal with impulsivity and distractability. They recommended a book by Katie Kelly, "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?" I was surprised to see how many books appeared on Amazon for adults with ADD as well as for parents of children with ADD. I was also surprised at the strong assertion that Ritalin is not harmful over time - WHEN PROPERLY PRESCRIBED - with history from 1937 to the present. It was stated that ADD is a brain-based disorder related to a particular gene. By the end of the program, I thought they shouldn't call it a disorder, but simply a variation. Still, medication allows people to concentrate, and one has to have an identifiable medical condition to be prescribed medication.

People spoke of "Soaring and Crashing." They described functioning superlatively well, then being unable to hold things together. One middle-aged man said he started three successful businesses and "ran each of them into the ground." On medication as an adult, his performance is more consistent.

It was very sad to hear of people, "leaving a trail of lost jobs and broken relationships." The behavior described sounds similar to that of bipolar disorder, for which it is often misdiagnosed.

Diagnosis involves a thorough investigation of one's life-time behavior, with the help of professionals who really know the subject. Self-assessment questionnaires are part of the process.

A strong indicator: A person often starts a task, decides a different task is first required, and goes on to a chain of tasks he/she hadn't intended to do, usually ending up never getting to the initial task.

Another indicator: Experiencing a life-time of scoldings: You could have done better. You're not trying. You failed because you just didn't pay attention. You spent too much time on (electronic games)(goofing off)(you name it). You're lazy, stupid, rebellious, ungrateful, crazy...

BUT: The cure for resulting low self-esteem? SUCCESS! Which is really possible. It's even possible to live without the gnawing anxiety over whether you can ever do it again, over feeling like an imposter. That calls for daily attention to the things that help. And a sense of humor.

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