Enter the Blessed Ones

NOTE: This piece is from last year, posted here for posterity and for the time when I eventually resume working on it. For now, check it out if you’re curious, but by no means feel obligated. Feedback is always welcome, of course.

Date of last revision: 1 November 2006

There is a look that I have grown to recognize; one that creeps up mid-conversation and fills me with dread. It says “Ok, I hear you. Uh, yeah. Okay. I get it already”. It says “Why is he still talking?“ It shows a polite disinterest, a rising level of conversation-fatigue. My mind floods with questions: How long have they not wanted to listen? How do I rescue the situation? Why aren’t they interested? Was it the way I was explaining things? Did I say too much? Too fragmented? Too much detail? Too tangential? It only happens at parties, or at dining hall.

Attention deficit? But I have no shortage of attention, if anything there are times when it is in excess! Yet there is some truth to this, as researchers have consistently found AD/HD to be linked with inefficiency in the allocation of attentional resources.

Attention: The span thereof. The ability to regulate and allocate the necessary attentional resources. Executive brain functions. Like the CEO of your brain, but wait, he’s a drunk! Where’d those papers go? What do we do now? When do we do it? What do I do? Which do I do? where who why when what… {//… kernel error. overload}

Imagine a television set that represents your mind; the current program is your state of focus. If you are concentrating on doing laundry, that’s the channel you’re watching. The picture is vivid, the lines sharp—and you are able to interpret (mostly) without issue the elements of the images before you. Now, you hold in your hand a remote control. Your remote is of normal shape, size, color, and composition. Its face has two buttons; one for channel up, and one for down (and maybe some numbers? Sure, why not! (That way if you’re watching one thing you don’t have to go through all the other channels sequentially)). Even better, you have one button for each channel… This is no ordinary remote control, no siree; this has the latest technology so every time some new “opportunity” for focus enters your radar, up pops a new button. Now your average human being watches one channel, then maybe changes to another channel by pressing a button, and then when that program is over they change to a different channel, or wait to see what’s on next, and so on and so forth.

AD/HD inattentive subtype The remote is broken. The channel-up-and-down buttons are sticky—sometimes they get stuck. Your TV changes channels indefinitely. Or even better, other times they don’t work at all. You’re sitting there watching a program vital to your social survival such as “What your spouse did today” or even “What cars are coming at you at 70 mph on Soldiers Field Road during rush hour”. Suddenly a new program pops up, “Watching a seagull circle overhead” or even “Zone out and think about something else” (always a classic).

So, your TV just freaks out and changes the channel once it sees something it likes. You mash the buttons on the remote desperately; maybe you manage to switch it back– but only briefly, before you notice it’s happened again.

You’re lost in the program forever. Seconds become hours become days… wait for boredom to breathe life back into your remote, allowing you to seize control once again.

Enter the blessed ones
Methylphenidate methyl a-phenyl-2-piperidineacetate C14H19NO2 Molecular weight: 233.31. Bioavailability: 11-52% when taken orally. dextro,levo-methylphenidate 50:50 racemic mixture: Ritalin® (Ritalina®). dextro-methylphenidate: Focalin. Also Concerta® (time-release), Metadate®, Methylin®, Rubifen®.
Adderall 25% Dextroamphetamine Saccharate 25% Dextroamphetamine Sulfate 25% Amphetamine Aspartate 25% Amphetamine Sulfate. Amphetamine 1-phenylpropan-2-amine C9H13N

Suddenly your remote transforms before your eyes. It is now shiny, perhaps even chrome-plated, and the buttons are well defined and respond cleanly… most of the time

disorder: lack of order, my mind is disorderedor I like to think it has its own unique order. I tend to have trouble remembering—names, faces, places, times—sometimes.

I don’t remember… How many times have those words passed from my lips? I don’t remember exactly, surely thousands. My girl reassured me, told me not to worry, that she’d remember for me. The hours she spent copying, transcribing each word—well, most words… leaving out the worst, and the best—each day of those early days, each moment, each throb of the heart as it sputtered to life, the fumes of yesterday still pungent, unburned, waiting to explode in a new direction. I lay on my thin mattress, the knotted boards below pressing up through the foam, my sweetheart’s three latest letters in hand. I’d open one, read it through, drink in every word no matter how it made me hurt, or sigh—wince or blush. Give away emotion under that veneer of everything’s bueno. Todo bien. Each letter holding an entry from her journal. Her place of venting, rushing, bubbling, open and closeness. Her memories open to me—flowing across the thousand miles between us. The thousand miles between today and those days only months, years ago when it all began. “I don’t remember,” I could no longer speak those words. She had given me hers. My own memories now sketches where they had been only white-blackness, a swirling soup of places, words, memes… blended and blurred and fused into a chaotic oblivion.

My life feels disordered–fragmented– an amalgam of tangents spliced together– pointing in all directions. It seems to be the way my brain works—at times you could say thrives… My room is often a reflection of this state (the disorder, not the thriving) and I can see it acting as both a symptom of, and the contributor to my continued disorder, both resulting from and furthering this chaos

Distractions, distractible, distracted—in some settings clearly an unproductive behavior, but in others quite the opposite. But does this (???) flow (???) happen in an unenthused state? Or does it allow for an almost self-selection —- If something isn’t interesting or engaging enough, the brain says “nope, sorry—not gonna happen” and goes somewhere else. But I suppose the process is not quite so discerning—it distracts even from the quality times—and we want it not to

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder is a neurobiological disorder. People with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder tend to have inordinate amounts of trouble maintaining attention-discipline, may be impulsive, and especially at younger ages are often hyperactive—uncharacteristically so for their age and level of development.
There is no way to diagnose AD/HD without a frame of reference.
There is no value judgment, just a comparison and then an observation.
An impaired ability to parse culture
Individual A is an aberration, though they belong to an identifiable sub-group with defining characteristics
Individuals with AD/HD are often severe underachievers.
AD/HD has been associated with certain personality traits that can be seen as other defining “symptoms”: High energy, creativity, alternating extreme empathy/unempathy, strong sense of intuition, trouble/frustration making self understood…

The more I read, the more I see the brain as a massive, unbelievably powerful, organic, living—and always a bit quirky—computer. Recent research has found that individuals with AD/HD tend to suffer impairment to their executive brain functions.
The brain’s manager, the sorter, it seems, is broken.

Confidence, self-evaluation, judgment. The inner editor. The inner critic. Impatience. High levels of impatience. No ability to wait to see how things turn out. Why bother? We’ve seen this movie before; we know how it’ll end…

A rotting twine’s torsion, that one impossible organ deep within my chest where the feelings lie. lay. lye. lae. lae man lay-man serviceman. its spiny tendrils slowly killing cells, one at a time—mechanically tightening with each breath. In come the happy pills—Boom. Everything goes

Over 70% of all individuals diagnosed with AD/HD are also diagnosed with a related disorder. Depression. Mood Disorders. Conduct Disorder. Et al.

When I realized—whether it was slowly over the years, or in a prototypical ____ Eureka! moment that there is a disconnect between intention and behavior. Between your perception of your behavior and its perception by others. Between your perception of others and others’ expectation of your ability to perceive them. On the micro it’s a matter of sorting competing tasks for focus and attention, or firing the right neurons at the right time, or having the right amount of white matter in the frontal lobes. But on the macro scale it’s about being a student, a friend, and a citizen. Functioning as a member of society. How does one do that? If life was a board game, and you had a different set of rules, what would happen when you tried to play with others? What would they think about you? About your intentions? About you as a person? Therein lays the rub.

Where does personality end and disorder begin?

5 Replies to “Enter the Blessed Ones”

  1. Love your writing! I’ve heard the TV remote analogy many times, but you have personalized and improved it with the change after medication. Your closing observation “where does personality end and disorder begin?” is the very question I ponder often.

    School, jobs and the routine demands of life-in-the-big-city are geared to linear-thinking types. So we pop-and-flash thinkers (ADD’ers) are dysfunctional. Just remember that linear-thinkers are the dysfunctional ones when it comes to creativity and discovery. ADD brains are wired to let thoughts pop and flash. History shows that many of the “Eureka!” discoveries were made by people who weren’t coloring inside the lines, weren’t thinking inside the box, and– to use the TV analogy– were watching a different channel.

    Keep writing! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hello. I am producing an educational documentary film on ADHD -and I’m looking for people open to sharing their experiences with the disorder. Your essay is illuminating.

    The current direction of the film is an exploration of ADD/ADHD and how if affects the lives of children and families. We are looking for personal stories that show the different psychological, educational and social implications of a condition that – though widely diagnosed – is so often misunderstood.

    I know it is a sensitive subject, but an important one that needs more coverage. If you or anyone you know that lives with ADHD might be interested in participating in the film, please call or email me any time.


    212.929.2085 tel.

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