Queen of the Distracted

Imagine life in a house with 6 kids - now imagine if 5 of those kids and their father have ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - that is our house! Welcome to an inside view of my life and our home dominated by ADHD... THERE IS NEVER A DULL MOMENT!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls!

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"

Those were our oldest daughter Rachel's first words, from the time she was a toddler she would belt them out proudly standing on the arm of the couch. At the time we had no idea what ADHD was or that it would play such a central roll in our lives.

Since then we have learned a lot, not the least of which is how many individuals and families suffer in silence. We have experienced first hand how misunderstood and misrepresented a disorder can be.

As a family we decided to take action - to risk embarrassment and labeling to get this important message out to the world. Come join our family, share in our lives, and see ADD/ADHD as we see it...
A gift with a heavy price tag.

WELCOME to life in the ADD/ADHD House!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Studebakers and Bullet Trains

It has been an interesting year and a half.  You know that they say you never realize what you have until it’s gone.  This last year and a half we have been deep in pre-production, then production and now post-production of a feature film and Mark has been mostly GONE. Boy have we learned some stuff in his absence.During production everyone got to help. 

It was a family affair as our 3 oldest girls finished school a month early so that they could work as production assistants for their father on the film.  They got to rub elbows with the actors, distress clothes, gather props and wardrobe, dress sets and break down when everything was finished.

Post production is very solitary work; there is just a bunch of editing, re-editing and special effects to attend to.  Consequently, Mark goes from his day job straight to the studio he shares with his brother where he works as long as he can keep his eyes open and then sleeps at the studio.  He is only home on the weekends, with the occasional exception of a birthday or emergency.

As it turns out Mark provides a great deal of balance to the house.  I think it is because, as he puts it, he speaks the native language, the language of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). There are many times where he can understand, comfort and motivate in a way I can’t seem to achieve because he understands, really understands, the way a majority of the members of this house think and operate in their surroundings.

In his absence I am overwhelmed and overloaded.   The kids are struggling to find balance and communicate with me, who has very limited ADHD language skills.  I have really tried over the years to understand the way that Mark and our ADHD kids think, because there really is a difference in the way that we think and process information.  Despite my efforts I do not fluently speak the native language.

Every dark cloud has its silver lining.  We, the kids and I, are forced to better speak each others languages so that we can function, each other’s language. This is the key here and was the topic of much discussion this weekend.  Which resulted in what I thought was an excellent analogy.

Studebaker's and bullet trains, as you probably guessed I am in the Studebaker.  That is where Hannah and I mosey along the road taking in all the detail, enjoying a quiet peaceful ride, enjoying the view in its entirety.  The bullet train is, of course, traveling along with Mark and the 5 ADHD'ers in it at break neck speed.

Mariah argued that there is plenty of detail to be found on the bullet train, there are bug guts all over the windshield that can be seen in great detail.

Mark made the point that a lot of detail is lost because of the sheer speed at which the bullet train travels; comparing Rachel and Hannah and their reading skills.  It was quickly agreed upon that though Hannah and Rachel both read very quickly Rachel would finish a book faster if they started at the same time.  It was also agreed, as pointed out by Rachel, that Hannah would remember and comprehend more because Rachel skims the page and Hannah reads every word.

The problem in our house is that the bullet train keeps cutting off the Studebaker, they run right over us.  Enjoying the fast paced ride they rarely realize the offense, rarely stop to check out the damage, and rarely fix what has been broken.

It was interesting to listen as my husband explained the difference in these terms.  One thought, Hannah and I think that one thought in its entirety, from beginning to end (at least we try to).  One thought for his brain, for Rachel, Mariah, Mary, Hunter and Jaren’s brains is never one thought.  It opens an array, as he put it, in which every possible thought connected with that thought and a few that are not attached are explored in milliseconds.  It is its own conversation.

 Meanwhile, Hannah and I are still on the one thought, we are waiting to have the rest of the conversation and they are already done with it.  Anything we say or add is annoying because they have, mentally, already been there done that.

Their annoyance becomes obvious.

It was enlightening to our ADHD teenagers, especially Mariah who really has thought for years that the world was out to annoy her by telling her things that she already understood.  In fact, she put it just that way...

“You mean they aren’t trying to annoy me... they aren’t insulting my intelligence by continuing to talk about something I already get.”

It was a harsh reality as they started to recognize the side effects of life on the bullet train. 

Ironically, even as they were trying to rectify the situation and slow things down to listen to Hannah they kept interrupting her and then reminding themselves and her that they were going to let her express herself.  She must have restarted her thought about 20 or 30 times.  Fortunately she doesn’t have ADHD; she was able to keep track of what she was saying despite the interruptions.

Over the years I have made considerable effort to understand the way my ADHDers communicate and try…TRY to communicate in a way that they understand.  My husband, likewise, has made great efforts to communicate the way I do.  The result has been very positive for us.

He explained it to our kids like this; there are customs and cultures that come with any of the different languages of the world.  In a sense ADHD and non ADHD are like different languages, we NEED to learn to speak each others languages - each seeking to understand the differences and needs of the other. Learn to respect them, honor them.  That is hard to do while riding on the bullet train but it can be done.

More directly Mark said, “Just because you may already know where the Studebaker is going, it does not mean you have to spoil the ride for those that can't ride on the train without getting nauseous.  There is something of value on both paths and there is always something that can be learned from both means of transportation... it is the fool that is unwilling to consider both as viable and beneficial.  You may prefer one over the other, but if you want a true adventure, try the road less traveled now and then, you may actually learn something.”

Truth be told it takes great effort for those used to the bullet train to slow it down to the pace of the Studebaker.  Certainly it takes equal effort for those of us who like the Studebaker to brave the speeds of the bullet train and try to hang on for the ride.

...In the end we will all be better for it.

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