Mon Semblable, Mon Freud

Inkblot05

"Inkblot #5" By Jason Krieger, print available here.

By Cornelia Read

So I'm sitting here today filling out financial aid forms for one of my kids, which are due on Groundhog Day, and I keep catching myself wondering if that means I get another six weeks to file it all with the school if I spot the IRS's shadow or whatever

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(of course not, I then suddenly remember. Again…), in addition to realizing for the bazillionth time how crappy I am at all this grownup follow-through/detail stuff. Oy, carumba.

And all THAT made me think back to a comment made by a new shrink whom I saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago. (Full confession: I have an extreme propensity for depression, inherited from both sides of my family, and not a little trouble with ADD cluster-fuckedness–just to complicate things. {Although, hey, I'm glad I didn't inherit whatever it was that made my Winthrop ancestress have to chain her husband to a tree whenever his "fits" came on.})

I liked this woman–which is not something I say about a lot of shrinks, or, indeed, about the foundational notions of talk therapy as practiced during the majority of the Twentieth Century (at least the way I've seen it dispensed, up close and personal.)

Psychiatrist

(see my second novel, The Crazy School, if you want to know from whence my disdain cometh–the "therapeutic" bits are really, really, really non-fiction).

The reason I liked this new chick is that she totally got that I was there for the meds, not to forge the uncreated conscience of my race in the smithy of my soul tri-weekly over the course of the next seven years @ $150.00 an hour, and she was totally copacetic with my preferred psych paradigm. Plus, she just generally struck me as a fine salty dame with a good head on her shoulders.

The only psychological observation she uttered, during this first meeting, was "Novelist? Jesus, that seems like a helluva profession to pick for someone of your organizational impairment. How's that working out?"

To which I replied, "not bad, as long as I go to my pal Sharon's house where my wireless connection doesn't work, in order to forcibly wean myself from my online Mah Jong Solitaire jones on a daily basis."

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Which is not as much of a joke as it sounds. Well, actually, it's not a joke at all.

My ADD was diagnosed when I was thirty-five years old (depression I will address in a further post).

If this condition has never impacted your life directly, it's all too easy to buy into the pat, dismissive judgments with which I've heard it mischaracterised–usually boiling down to "A flavor-of-the-month pseudo diagnosis for ill-behaved children whose parents want to tranquilize them into drooling submission so they can enjoy their soap operas in peace" and/or "A new-fangled excuse for plumb laziness."

Here's what it feels like from the inside: Time is operated by a malicious deity with access to a wah-wah pedal, while objects (pens, socks, jewelry, essential tax documents, hiking boots, luggage, painstakingly typed thirty-five page term papers, sunglasses, ATM cards, family heirlooms, passports, Swiss Army knives, my children's mittens, pet hamsters, small appliances) fly away from me in flocks as if I'm magnetized to a polarity opposite that of every other molecule in the galaxy.

Also, teetering stacks of papers breed and spawn on all available horizontal surfaces while I sleep, my laundry pile consumes floor space like a flesh-eating bacteria, and a roving band of Kafkas hides my laptop every time I go back to the kitchen for more coffee–just to fuck with me.

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My dorm room in boarding school, circa 1980 (photo: Bonney Armstrong)

Then there's this weird thing I've never found a name for, other than "tool blindness," which is when you put your pliers down on the workbench and then can't see them five seconds later amidst the suddenly random, depthless mosaic they've melted into. This turns everything into one of those old hidden-picture puzzles in doctor's-office copies of Highlights magazine, wherein all trees are filled with gumboots and wishing wells, and each suburban lawn hides a billy-goat, a 1973 Ford Pinto, and my checkbook.

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Basically, it would come as no surprise if I were to learn that I have amnesia AND an evil twin. In fact, I think such a revelation would occasion, on my part, a rather profound sense of relief.

What you don't often hear about ADD, however, is that it also primes you for random instances of hyper-focus. This is a state of concentration so intense it renders you impermeable to external stimuli–think Superman in a Kryptonite sensory-deprivation tank–often for several hours at a stretch (e.g., the time last year when I was so engrossed in the stylistic restructuring of a particularly recalcitrant chapter-opening paragraph that I did not notice my monitor was on fire. No shit… like, bigass flames shooting out the airholes on top and stuff.)

Granted, this can be useful when writing a novel. Unfortunately, it can just as easily occur when you're doing something completely pointless (Mah Jong, op. cit.)

The ways this disorder has manifested in my life, from early childhood on, have
earned me a monsoon of derision. Teachers and clinicians have labeled me–in turn–arrogant, passive-aggressive, contemptuous
of authority, stupid, lazy, in denial, afraid of success,
self-sabotaging, oblivious, irresponsible, and "pathologically averse to fulfilling
[my] potential."

My ex mostly called me "the lightning rod for entropy in
the universe."

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I have tried to overcome my deficits with day-planners, oversized wall calendars, serially deployed alarm clocks, Post-It
notes, talk therapy, a Palm Pilot, and even a Timex that beeped at me when I was
about to forget an appointment. These objects (aside from the therapy) are no doubt still circling
the lower 48 states on the seats of various buses, subways, and taxicabs–ill-fated Charlies doomed to ride forever on my cognitive MTA.

The only thing that really works is scrawling important stuff in big
letters on my left hand. It's hard, after all, to forget your hand.

I have learned to buy only cheap earrings, second-hand winter coats, and waterproof watches–things easily replaced, things to which I won't form any sentimental attachments. My vacuum cleaner and wallet are, meanwhile, a noxious bright yellow.

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(While it is difficult to misplace a bright yellow vacuum within the confines of one's own house [or, ahem,… living room], it is, alas, not impossible.)

In 1998, shrink-the-umpteenth asked me if I'd ever been tested for ADD.

And may rose-scented blessings rain softly upon her for all eternity.


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One week later, I had a prescription for Ritalin (which is, by the way, SO not a tranquilizer.

The shrink said, "it's an amphetamine, basically." 

I said, "Excellent. I love speed."

To which she replied, "Yeah, I bet you do." In a nice way. Supportive even.)

When people ask me if it works, I explain that the first morning I took it, I picked up the large box of Christmas-presents-intended-for-my-sister off my desk and mailed it to her, out in Berkeley.

It was April 17th. The box had been sitting there on my desk since the previous October (she was born on October 18th. And, um, okay… they started out as birthday presents.)

Pony express letter

This does not mean Ritalin makes me by any means perfect–not even to the extent that your average sane person would ever ask me to serve as secretary/treasurer of ANYTHING.

It does, however, provide a floor. I can build on it.

Today I did not lose my iPhone, car, car keys, or shoes. I remembered my haircut appointment, got my nephew to school on time, and even recalled that this Saturday it was my turn to blog.

I have also had the same pair of sunglasses since March 8th of last year, my 45th birthday (a really nice pair of Ray-Bans. I bought them for myself as a sort of test–like how people fresh out of rehab are supposed to keep a houseplant alive for a couple of months, before they try dating).

I did, however, leave my favorite (second-hand) coat at my friend Sophie Littlefield's house about an hour ago.

And to go back to what the new shrink said, about being a novelist with an attention deficit? Hey, the act of writing is the ONLY arena in which I am organized.

It is a world where I have absolute control: the white screen, the 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper. Chaos cannot touch me in writing land, for lo, I have parentheses and m-dashes, semi-colons and ellipses, and ye, though I walk through the valley of my own space-cadetness, these shall not fail me.

When I write, I am in absolute and total control: the Stalin of my own pristine snowy Kremlin, against whose ramparts entropy can hurl itself a million times over, before nonetheless expiring in defeat.

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I think there is a strong correlation between neurochemical imbalance and creativity. ADD isn't something that shows up across the board, but depression is rampant among artists–especially writers.

Especially women writers.

I am not saying that you need to suffer to make art, but there are not a lot of happy-go-lucky novelists and poets. Vonnegut said that most of us wander around "like gut-shot bears," when out in public.

I am sure there are chipper, well-adjusted authors, but I'm for damn sure in no hurry to sit next to one of them at a dinner party (except for Pari).

Google "writer suicide" and you'll get 10,400,000 hits. There's even a Writers Who Committed Suicide Wikipedia article, which lists 277 authors. (A veritable global Who's Who of Depression: including Tadeusz Borowski, Richard Brautigan, Iris Chang, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Spalding Gray, William Inge, Yukio Mishima, Seneca the Younger, Anne Sexton, Urmuz, David Foster Wallace…)

I am very, very lucky. While I've struggled with depression since I was nine years old, I have never once become suicidal. Friends of mine have: of the three people in my college class who got published, only two of us are still alive.

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Lucy is lost to us.


Major depression and suicide are so prevalent among female writers (especially poets) that one researcher has described the incredibly disproportionate incidence of both in that group, compared to the general population, as "The Sylvia Plath Effect."

There's a lot more I'd like to discuss about that–especially as to whether depression spawns writers or writing spawns depression–but I've babbled on enough here, so this is to be continued in two weeks.

To that end, as parting thoughts, I leave you with words from horror writer Nancy Etchemendy:

Over half the general population will experience two or more episodes
of serious depression during a lifetime. Statistics gathered in a
recent article in
Scientific American indicate that the incidence of
clinical depression among writers and artists may be as much as ten
times greater than that among the general population. The incidence of
suicide is as much as eighteen times greater. Why should this be the
case? What exactly is depression? And what can we, as individuals who
are apparently more vulnerable than most, do to protect ourselves from
the specter of this often fatal illness?


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From the abstract of a University of Kentucky Medical Center study of depression and creativity in women:

Female writers were more likely than members of the comparison group to
suffer not only from mood disorders but from drug abuse, panic attacks,
general anxiety, and eating disorders as well. The rates of multiple
mental disorders were also higher among writers…. Creativity also appeared to run in
families. The cumulative psychopathology scores of subjects… represented significant predictors of their overall
creativity.


Plath 2

 

And from blogger grumpyoldbookman:

There is at least one piece of research which demonstrates that some
(British) writers have a higher than average chance of being mentally
ill. The research was carried out by Kay Jamison, Professor of
Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her study
showed that 38% of a group of eminent British writers and artists had
been treated for a mood disorder of one kind or another; of these, 75%
had had antidepressants or lithium prescribed, or had been
hospitalised. Of playwrights, 63% had been treated for depression.
These proportions, as you will have guessed, are many times higher
than in the population at large.


Virginiawoolf0904

So, how high is your mental illness number, these days?


 

28 thoughts on “Mon Semblable, Mon Freud

  1. Louise Ure

    I think ADD-riddled authors are the best kind of party guests. You never know what will happen.

    Hope today is one of those productive, find the car keys kind of days.

    Reply
  2. Debby Johnson

    If only all manic depression came with its own Jimi soundtrack. And to think, all this time I thought my ADD tendencies were nothing more than a cry for more organized clutter. Hmm.

    Sure with your were coming the SC Book Festival this year. It’s been too long between visits.

    Reply
  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    You said: “I am not saying that you need to suffer to make art, but there are not a lot of happy-go-lucky novelists and poets.”********Me: THAT’S why I’m not a writer! I’ve been accused of being “perky” on the phone and if I hear “puppy-like” one more time….

    You said: “So, how high is your mental illness number, these days?”************Actually, being unemployed since October, I have my good days and bad days. I just tell myself that the bad ones will pass eventually. Watching Veronica Mars helped the time pass. :)A couple years ago I skirted depression — luckily didn’t fall all the way in — but I can completely understand it. Those who scoff at it as mind over matter are kidding themselves.Cornelia, you’re the BEST and you take it with you wherever you go.Much love,PK the Bookeemonster

    Reply
  4. Terri Thayer

    Jeez, I love Veronica Mars. Gave the first season DVD to my nieces as an antidote to the Twilight series.

    Cornelia, you could blame the coat leaving thing on the Bay Area weather. Freezing in the morning, hot in the afternoon. Right now in my car is my winter coat, two sweaters (one heavy, one not), a windbreaker, a wool scarf and a pair of sandals. I needed them all this week.

    Honest, gut wrenching post. As always. Write your brains out.

    Reply
  5. Rae

    Great post, Cornelia, thanks.

    And, no stress-pression for me at the moment, which is great after the last couple of years šŸ˜‰

    Reply
  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    “arrogant, passive-aggressive, contemptuous of authority, stupid, lazy, in denial, afraid of success, self-sabotaging, oblivious, irresponsible, and ‘pathologically averse to fulfilling [my] potential.'”

    But C, those are all the qualities I most love about you.

    Wonderful, illuminating post. I don’t have ADD, but now for the first time in my life I get what it is. Thank you for that – it will help me with all kinds of people I love.

    I tend more toward the OCD, extreme focus kind of mental illness, which actually works well for me as a writer because writing is one of only three things that seem to balance my brain chemistry. Depression and bipolar disorder run in my family and I’m sure I would be dead of one or the other by now, if not for my addiction to dance and exercise. If I don’t work out every day, I deteriorate so fast it’s not funny. But it works, especially dance, and also meditation.

    Reply
  7. J.D. Rhoades

    Well, y’all know my position on the correlation between neurochemical imbalance and creativity. It’s when I’m most depressed that I seem to do the most writing.

    “Teachers and clinicians have labeled me–in turn–arrogant, passive-aggressive, contemptuous of authority, stupid, lazy, in denial, afraid of success, self-sabotaging, oblivious, irresponsible, and ‘pathologically averse to fulfilling [my] potential.”

    I think I’m in love…

    Glad you’re getting the ADD under control. That sounds like a real bitch.

    Reply
  8. toni mcgee causey

    Brilliant, as always, Cornelia.

    I’ve got family members who suffer from ADD, and I’ve been there every heartbreaking step of the way as they’ve struggled to get organized, tried their damnedest to not lose things and to not shoot themselves in the foot by being late somewhere. I stood outside a classroom and eavesdropped while a teacher called my son “stupid” (he has a genius IQ) and demoralized him beyond speech. (I had suspected something was going on because he came home destroyed every day. She knew he was “smart” and knew he was ADD, but she “didn’t believe” in it. I asked her if she believed in diabetes, or heart defects, or hypertension, or cancer. That was the closest I ever came to actually hitting another person in the face. The principal of that school heard her comments, too, and, thankfully, fired her. We were not so lucky when he got to high school where it was hit or miss as to who was educated on ADD and who wasn’t. It was also amazing to me, shocking really, that I could bring scads of scientific data to a teacher and she would dismiss it as me “making an excuse” for a “lazy” kid.)

    He’s done well, in spite of the ADD. Ritalin helped–I’m glad you’ve got someone smart in your corner. Plus, there’s all of us, because like Dusty said, I think I’m in love.

    Reply
  9. J.T. Ellison

    What a fascinating description of ADD. I’ve never fully understood it either, being an OCD type myself, and this explains a lot. I honestly thing they’re twin sides of the same coin, because my structures are in place because I fear this kind of chaos.

    Glad you’ve found someone you feel comfortable with – that’s half the battle there.

    Reply
  10. Allison Brennan

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones . . . I’m pretty even-tempered. Though I have a lot of your symptoms . . . specifically being a slob. When my husband complains, I state quite calmly, “You knew I was a slob before we got married and you still proposed, so it’s not my problem.”

    However, I do have that focus problem . . . meaning the focus too intently on something problem. I’ll be so wrapped up in thoughts I’ll miss my freeway exit. I’ll be so focused on writing that I don’t hear anything–I play my music so loud because with it loud, I don’t *hear* it, but if it’s soft, I’m straining to listen. I forget to turn in forms at the school, forget to remind the kids to do the basics–brush teeth, do homework–I have forgotten to feed them on occasion, and they’ll never let me forget it. I wait to the last minute on everything. I can’t keep a day planner. I’ve tried. It last about a week. The one that lasted the longest is the iCal in my Mac, but I haven’t looked at it in weeks . . .

    My #2 daughter (almost 13), however, may have ADD. She is the most absentminded person I’ve met. My husband is, too. #2 daughter tests off the charts in English/reading–post high school level–and barely grade level in math. She forgets to get tests signed, give me important papers, or that she even HAS a test. She gets free dress days mixed up in school, tells me it’s a minimum day when it isn’t, or forgets that it’s a minimum day (and forgets to give me the calendar, and I forget to ask her for it . . . ) and she also ALWAYS forgets to unplug her straightener. However, threats of throwing it in the trash has seemed to help . . . She’s also very creative, incredibly talented artist–I mean, she draws PEOPLE . . . and they actually LOOK like people, with detail and proportions all correct, etc.

    So I understand (a bit) about what you’re going through. Toni and I have talked about it before, and I have an adverse reaction to putting #2 on any drugs, though we’re watching closely for signs of depression. None in my family, but Dan has one really wack-o sister.

    Reply
  11. Dana

    I sympathize completely about the financial forms. I did one this week where I not only had to estimate my 2008 taxes, but had to psychically project my 2009 income. In the Comments section of the form, I noted, “2009 projections assume I am still employed throughout the year.”

    The second best is the school that wants my estimated taxes now, and the completed forms by February 15. Fortunately, my taxes are simple, I do them myself with a software package. If I needed an accountant, I’m not sure what I’d do.

    Reply
  12. Cornelia Read

    Nancy, thank you!

    Louise, if you make your brilliant posole again, you’re gonna have lines of ADD writers around the block, beating on your doors to let them in…

    Debby, I miss you too! (and think of you every time I see an author photo of Mr. Perfect.) Maybe SC will invite me back next year? I had *so* much fun there.

    PK, all appendages crossed for you on the work front. These are scary times.

    Terri, I’m so with you on keeping a comprehensive weather-wardrobe in the car. Only way to live around here. And I probably left without my coat because Sophie’s husband is very courtly and hung it up in a closet for me. At my house, it would’ve just been thrown across the sofa, so I would’ve seen it on the way out.

    Rae, we must fight the doom of stress-pression together, starting with coffee this afternoon…

    Alex, my mother and brother are exercise fiends, and it helps them hugely. I’m more of an “I know I SHOULD…” person, and then it just all seems to overwhelming and I read instead, or play Mah Jong, which is hugely self-sabotaging. And as JT said, I think OCD and ADD are sisters, under the skin.

    Dusty, I’m in love back atcha.

    Toni, oh sweetie–thank you so so much for fighting the good fight on behalf of your kid. That’s such a huge thing, and I love you for it.

    JT, I think you’re absolutely right about these two things being related. I’ve often said I’m “anal-intentive,” I MEAN to be fiercely organized, but I’m such a control freak that my lack of perfection devastates me into perpetual chaos, or something.

    Allison, you guys SO sound like my household. My daughter is supposed to be getting tested for ADD, if she remembers to get to the appointment this weekend in New Hampshire (she’s missed it four times now.) And getting school forms turned in over the years made me a monster of guilt and self-recrimination. I’m also nervous about them prescribing meds for her. God knows I couldn’t have been trusted with speed at fourteen–but I’m hoping that a boarding school she might imprint on adults who are less chaotic than I am. But you’re very good to be watching for signs of depression–I think the two things are chemically linked, but ADD also just wreaks such havoc on your self-esteem.

    Reply
  13. Cornelia Read

    Dana, yes indeed–I’m doing all the estimation and income prediction tomorrow. Maybe I should just send in this blog post, instead. No WAY that would work, but still, I’m a writer–I have no idea what my income will be this year. Or EVER. Oy.

    Reply
  14. Tom

    Cornelia, you’re singing my song. All those labels . . . I’ve been hit with them all in the workplace, but I happened to be really good at the hyperfocus thang in school. So I was good at reading and writing and doing tests.

    Gotta say you’ve got me beaten with the Monitor Flambe, though (now considering chunks of lizard on a skewer, drenched in cognac and set afire. JT, what’s the right wine for this meal?).

    Toni, I would have slugged that pseudoteacher into the next century. High on my list of the despicable are those teachers who take a ‘civil servant’ view of the most important profession there is.

    Over the last ten years I’ve worked with the idea that my brain chemistry betrays me periodically, and that I can’t take some of its messages seriously. Believe it or not, something this simple has helped a whole lot. But getting there was a bear, yes, of the gutshot variety.

    Thank ghod you have courage, lady.

    Reply
  15. Jake Nantz

    Ms. Read,Great post. I can see both sides of the ADD/ADHD argument, being a teacher who has seen it explode in the high schools. I once heard a kid describe it as, “Someone else has the remote control to your head, and keeps changing the channel at will.” I feel greatly for those kids, especially the ones who are overmedicated/on-the-wrong-meds-or-dosage. See, I was diagnosed as Dystopic-Manic-Depressive when I was 17. I haven’t taken any medication for it since I weaned myself off of Thorazine, then Escalith, then Prozac, at 22. I decided that I would rather will myself to control it than be a slave to medication. I still have the irritability, the temper, the occasional depression, but I live a pretty ordinary life (all of which means my chemical imbalance isn’t even close to as bad as those who truly need the meds, because I generally don’t).

    All that to add this: My heart goes out to those kids who genuinely need the ADD diagnosis. But many of the kids who get it will FLAT OUT TELL YOU that their parents have a Dr. who is a family friend, and they want their child to have every possible advantage (you know, ’cause they can’t do it on their own…), so they get their buddy to write the diagnosis and the scrip. It’s really frustrating for me, because I know that:A) the kids that don’t need it are only getting a crutch that will actually HINDER their ability to cope when the real world hits after high school, andB) anyone that does that (you’d be shocked how many kids will admit to it) for their children is insulting the hell out of the parents of children who are legit ADD/ADHD.

    Reply
  16. Cornelia Read

    Tom, I’m with you. The hyper-focus thang saved my ass in school. I never remembered to bring pencils or paper, so I got really really good at paying attention to what my teachers were saying and memorizing it on the fly. The downside is, I can’t listen and take notes at the same time anymore, which was a bummer when I was a journalist.

    Jake, I agree with you about meds being flung out willy-nilly. There are definitely people who have been over-medicated for various things, and I trust you on parents giving their non-ADD kids Ritalin etc. as a “leg up,” but more often I’ve seen people who are in crying need of meds who either eschew them because they think it’s an indication of weakness, or who have shrinks who don’t believe in them, or who think all meds are “tranquilizers” and don’t get why people might benefit from them. Sometimes I get people who say they just don’t believe in drugs, because they’re not natural. I ask them if they’d want a cast if they broke their leg, or insulin if their pancreas stopped working. Kind of stops them short.

    Good for you for recognizing that you DIDN’T need those three medications, and weaning yourself off them. It’s a very personal decision, and only you can know what’s right for you. I feel lucky that we have some newer-generation things that don’t have the heavy-duty side effects just about everything did in the fifties and sixties. The side effects of Thorazine are particularly hard to deal with–not least tardive dyskinesia.

    As for me, I wish someone had diagnosed me in my teens, rather than my thirties, instead of telling me I just needed to “pull myself up by my bootstraps,” etc., all the time. Forget bootstraps, I could never find the BOOTS.

    Reply
  17. Allison Brennan

    Jake, you brought up an excellent point. One thing I’ve been frustrated by is the willingness of parents to jump on board or ASK for meds for kids who are just being kids–and boys can be rambunctious and that is NORMAL but because they can’t sit still at the age of 6 automatically some teachers and parents think they have a problem. Um, no. They’re normal. They need an outlet for their energy. But some parents are too lazy or too busy to get them into sports or take them to the park to run around for an hour every evening. I’ve noticed that when I make a bigger effort to get them out and doing stuff–even if just a walk–they are much calmer and happier and less bouncing off the walls. And like you said, those who REALLY need help are being shortchanged.

    Reply
  18. Cornelia Read

    Allison, I think that’s a great point about boys being more rambunctious. The hard thing with most of this stuff is that it “shades off into normal,” whether you’re talking ADD or autism or depression, and many other disorders. Kids jump around a lot, especially boys. Some of that’s normal, and sometimes it gets to the point where it has a debilitating impact on the kid’s quality of life. It’s really, really hard to make that call, I think, and we should probably all err on the side of non-medication, especially for children.

    But another thing that comes up a lot because boys are, on average, more rambunctious, is that girls tend to be underdiagnosed. The school librarian who founded my daughter’s elementary school said she wanted to offer a single-sex education for that age of girl, because she’d seen so many of them fall through the cracks, especially with learning disabilities. She said that girls tend to be diagnosed with significant learning issues an average three years later than boys do. And I would imagine it’s also harder to diagnose true ADD without the hyperactivity component, which I think is also more common in boys than girls.

    Anyway, there’s no blood or litmus test for any of this stuff, and it’s all so subjective.

    That’s one of the things that was really frustrating for me about a lot of the therapy I’ve seen… it just strikes me as a really easily swayed discipline, as a whole, since most of it’s not based on empiricism, but opinion–though that opinion can strike a chord with the zeitgeist and seem like unassailable truth for decades, at times, before being shown to be flawed and merely faddish (the clinical ideas about the basis of autism being bad mothers being a particular case in point, which of course really gets my back up.)

    Reply
  19. MBH

    Sister,We are SO related, even if it’s in that Karmic Souffle way, as Auntie NZ would say. Depression. Suicidal ideation. An education that has made me fit for everything except earning my own living. Entropy!Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny? What ever!You are adored. Write on!

    Reply
  20. Kay

    Cornelia:

    I knew you were a fantastic writer, but now I know I’ll buy everything you write.

    My youngest son has ADHD–thank goodness for the inventors of Focalin (he can’t take Ritalin or Adderal)

    He has the “hyper focus” sooooooo much. Sometimes, this can be channeled and he will practice music (piano or violin or drums or harmonic) for HOURS. That can be a problem when I’m trying to get him to school on time.

    He, too, has had his share of evil teachers, and a couple of gems. Thank goodness for the gems.

    One doctor described ADD as walking into a store with a thousand tvs on, all on different channels. I don’t know how he, or anyone, deals with it every day.

    Reply
  21. Cornelia Read

    Stephen, I’ve read snippets of Flaherty’s book, and am dying to gobble down the whole thing. It sounds fascinating.

    Kay, thank you so much, and good for you for being such a great mom! The hyper-focus thing definitely messes with my punctuality, as well. I think it has something to do with difficulty making transitions, too, though it’s hard to nail that down in an explainable way.

    Reply
  22. Donna Barlow

    My first husband was an artist, he worked in metal and wood. He was a mathemetician, could design anything. He was always very quiet and reserved, a lot of people didn’t understand him and thought he more than aloof. He committed suicide in 1999.

    What you wrote about people who are artistic really hits home. I’ve have known a number of people who have so much going for them. They do and think things I have never thought or can do. The human mind is so complex, I would like to know more about the brain and how it works.

    Being able to write is so amazing to me.

    Reply
  23. Cornelia Read

    Donna, I am so very sorry. I’ve lost far too many friends to suicide (Even ONE is too many, of course.) I can’t begin to imagine how much pain they must have been in, to take that course.

    Reply
  24. Bonney Armstrong

    I’ve always thought you were wonderful, honey. Not disorganized or the kind of person that couldn’t get it together… but a creative, kind, and caring person who always went out of her way to show me the love.

    I can’t *believe* you used that pic I took of your dorm room! šŸ˜€

    I’m very proud of you and everything you’ve managed to accomplish. I think sometimes you forget how far you’ve been able to travel… and how amazing you can really be.

    Hugs, Bonney

    Reply
  25. Nina Gosnell

    Don 't worry about your ADD. Friends love you regardless, and your talent as a writer is exceptional. Do you not know how good you are? First hand, I know all about ADD. Your talent is separate from that. You need to write. And guess what ? We are all waiting for your next because it isn't a stupid novel, it's real and it's well written, it's smart and you will blow the top of anyone I've read. N.

    Reply

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