It’s 6:15 am in California and I’m sitting at the pumpkin-colored Formica breakfast bar that separates the living room from the kitchen in my tiny retreat cottage. The cottage is actually a one-bedroom trailer anchored into the rocky north San Diego County hills.
I booked it to accommodate my return appointment at the Hallowell West Clinic. I am determined, at last, to stand toe-to-toe with my Attention Deficit Disorder.
I’d found out about Hallowell West at a conference for adults with ADD held in Tucson a month ago. Dr. Ned Hallowell, the founder of the clinic, is a psychiatrist who blasted open the doors for adult ADD treatment with his 1995 book “Driven to Distraction.” He had been a keynote speaker at the conference and mentioned that he was establishing satellite clinics around the country. The first one had just opened in southern California. I made an appointment immediately.
My son lives in San Diego; I had planned to visit him anyway. I had no shame about seeing a psychiatrist. I had consulted with several over the years, but without exception, they had missed my ADD. Trained to look for clinical psychosis or neurosis, they usually diagnosed depression. Just like my mother. It’s genetic, right?
They tried hard to help me fix myself, but in retrospect, they seemed to be clenching that broad hammer that transforms everything into a nail. Sleeping too much? Take antidepressants. Not sleeping at night? Try antidepressants. Overwhelmed with work? Antidepressants.
Even when an astute psychologist noticed that I might have some ADD traits, psychiatrists dismissed it as peripheral rather than central to my struggle with procrastination, tardiness, juggling 20 projects at a time but finishing only half of them.
No wonder I had “low self esteem.” I listened to therapists for a long time. After I while, I realized that I’d never be finished; there was always a new crisis, a “lot going on” in my life. I dropped out for several years. But reading “Driven to Distraction” (first with relief, then with denial, followed by sadness-could it be depression? and finally determination) was a turning point for me.
I realized that ADD, specifically ADHD, was the primary issue in my psychological/brain life. I could thank ADD for my limitless creativity, but it also impacted my friendships, marriage, parenting and work. And not always in a good way. I was ready to deal with it and move on.
When I first met with Ken Selzer, the psychiatrist heading up Hallowell West, he agreed that I seemed to have ADD characteristics, but he recommended that I undergo standard neurological testing. I had been diagnosed from a function standpoint, not a neurological one. So I came back from the East Coast to take the tests.
As it turned out, testing was not my finest hour. More accurately, it was not my finest two hours. I was nearly 30 minutes late for the appointment. How predictably ADD is that? I hate being predictable.
The reason I was late? I had forgotten the directions to the retreat center and then had to find my way to the clinic. I had forgotten both the exit name and the address. ADD. Predictable again. Rats. By the time I battled Friday afternoon traffic and hurried through the clinic door, I was tired (three hours of sleep) anxious (late again), distracted (I had broken my toe the day before the trip) and out of sorts (my face was puffy from laser surgery). And then to be faced with a battery of tests? Near torture.
It became very clear to me that I had some challenges that couldn’t be explained away by my sub-par state of mind. I did a miserable job on some parts of the test. For instance, I just hate putting together puzzles that are “brain teasers.” Why tease my brain? I tend to avoid puzzles. But on the test, I was forced to endure them, play the game.
And I discovered with a shock that the reason I skip over those tasks is that I am really not very good at them It was a humbling experience for someone who is accustomed to acing tests. Heck, I got so frustrated on a couple of occasions that I didn’t even attempt an answer to the question. That’s just not like me.
It sure was “me” on Friday, though. I go back on Wednesday morning to hear the results of the testing. Stay tuned. Let’s see if we can get this ADD monster under control.
My poor brain sure needs the encouragement right now. Ironic, considering that I am building my coaching business as an “encouragement coach” for women with ADD. Hmmm. Teach what you need to learn?