the original kStyle blog.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Politically Incorrect Confessions

I'm sick of ADD. I am sick and tired of hearing about it. To be totally, politically incorrectly honest, I'm not sure I even believe in it. I have trouble concentrating sometimes, you have trouble concentrating sometimes, we ALL have trouble concentrating sometimes. A little self-discipline goes a long way, though, as does regular physical exercise.

It was a hot and sticky summer at camp. I was the counselor in charge of a rambunctious tribe of 8-year-olds, half of whom had not only ADD, but its heinous cousin ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). I spent most of that heinous summer trying to keep little boys from beating the crap out of each other.

A sweet boy named Timmy cursed like a sailor at all times. I asked him to stop, explained that swear words were against camp rules, told him to stop, and tried to discipline him. Nothing worked. Finally one day I sat with him on a low stone wall away from the other kids. I gently asked him why he cursed. "I can't help it," he replied, "I have ADD." Surprised, I took a moment to process this information. Not knowing much about ADD, I weighed my options and the risks, and hazarded, "Timmy, I know a little about ADD. It might make it hard to pay attention, but it doesn't make you swear." Now it was Timmy's turn to process. A pause. "It doesn't?" he asked, giving me a gaptoothed smile, seeming somewhat relieved. He never swore again at camp.

I work with two very nice people who have terrible memories. They forget entire conversations we have. They complain continually about their bad memories: Damn ADD!, they proclaim. I surprised both of them a great book, The Memory Book , which has improved my memory considerably. One said, "But it won't help--it's because of my ADD." I wanted to punch him. Instead I said, "It's a gift; accept it graciously." I once invited the other to meditate with me before I knew she had ADD. She couldn't meditate, she said, because she didn't have the attention span. I explained that meditation done in gradually increasing increments could perhaps improve her focus, the way aerobic activity done in gradually increasing increments can strengthen the heart. No no, she said, you have the temperament for meditation; I have ADD. To my knowledge, neither has cracked open the book.

My former boss also complained of ADD. She had trouble paying attention in meetings and also had a terrible memory--and then blamed myself and the other people she supervised for making mistakes that she had made, often because she forgot things and wasn't organized enough to keep good notes. She had ADD, she said, and it affected her memory and attention span, but boy! could she remember a grudge.

A former roommate of mine, who granted had some serious emotional problems, kept getting into terrible car accidents--the kind where you sail through the windshield and break both scapulae--and blaming it on ADD. How irresponsible can a person get. (She also blamed her teeth literally falling out of her head on bad tooth genes rather than the TUB of Mountain Dew she drank daily.)

Listen, ADD sufferers, it's time to empower yourselves. Stop using your illness as a crutch and an excuse. Stop griping to me about it and inconveniencing me because you refuse to do any work on yourselves. No one is born with perfect concentration, memory, and organizational skills. Many of us actively work to improve those aspects of ourselves. Knock off the victim mentality. It tires me, and more importantly, keeps you from reaching your full potential.


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