Friday, September 20, 2013

It's not a deficit

Why do they call it Attention Deficit Disorder? When you experience it from the inside, there's definitely no deficit.

There may be a deficit of attention paid to the thing you want me to pay attention to, or even the thing I want to pay attention to. But it's not a deficit.

It's more like a raging river of attention. Or a fire hose of attention. 

Calling it a deficit makes it sound like I don't have enough attention. But that's not the problem at all! The problem is how very much attention I have. ALL. THE. TIME. 

And it's not really a disorder, either. I humbly submit that it's a kind of genius. That's why so many people who have ADHD are so damned successful. 

Because I have ADHD, I notice things you would never pay attention to. I can notice tiny, tiny details, like the little bugs that were floating in my mojito one night at dinner. My ADHD saved like fourteen people at my table from drinking bugs! That skill is why people with ADHD make great biologists. And I can smell things that Hopper has no idea are going on, which is why people with ADHD make great chefs. And I'm a slow processor, but I think about things really deeply, which is why TV so often pisses me off with it's inconsistencies, but it's also why so many successful entrepreneurs and artists are people with ADHD. 

I'm not saying it's easy. I realized this because of all the things I forgot yesterday. It started with forgetting my iPod, and then I realized how I use podcasts during my commute to help me with everything else. 

If you think of my attention like a raging stream, then the podcast is like a channel I dug off to the side. It channels enough of my attention into one thing that the rest of my attention can be focused on what I need, like getting to the bus station and buying tickets. With the podcast, my eyes can just concentrate on where I'm going, and then see the ticket machine and remind my brain it's time to stop and buy tickets. Without the podcast, everything becomes input. Every sight, every sound, every smell, every person going down the street triggers a story in my head. I'm narrating all of it to myself, connecting those things to other things, constructing theories, inventing plot lines, and noticing useless minutiae. It's no wonder that I forgot my sweater and walked right past the ticket machine without making a purchase. But it's not because of a deficit of attention. 

People with a deficit of attention are stupid. They just don't care about anything, or they don't notice anything, or they can't be bothered to think about it. That's not what having ADHD is like. Having ADHD means noticing EVERYTHING and thinking about everything and worrying about what's going to happen next. 

So yeah, maybe you missed the part where the teacher was giving directions. 'Cause you weren't paying attention to THAT. You were paying attention to the way the poster is hung on the wall and the way Janie did her hair and the question the teacher asked ten minutes ago that really has you puzzled and how it connects to that thing you read in that book and how are you going to get to your next class and what kind of bag would be the most efficient for carrying your books and if you have homework from this class, will you still be able to watch TV tonight or is it better to just forget it? 

Above Average Attention. That's what they should call it. 

1 comment:

  1. This is my third attempt at commenting.... one day I'll learn to work my new Blackberry!

    I love this post! Thank you so much for showing the positive side. I'm going to get Liam to read this today too.