Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ADD/ADHD Denialism - Childhood with (or without) ADHD is Hard Enough

Update - At the end, I am asking for people to guest post, preferably about human rights issues. I should have added, that I am also very interested in hearing from folks with neurological disorders. The next post up, will be about my experience with ADHD. I am hoping to put up similar posts about the experiences of others, with their own neurological disorders.

I promise, this is not going to be all ADHD, all the time - except insofar as my posting often reflects my expression of symptoms. But I'm rather irritated at the moment, arguing with ADD/ADHD denialists at Retrospectacle. The last post was to post some evidence, that ADHD is more than a figment of the imagination.

Denialism is something that really tends to annoy me. HIV/AIDS denialists really make me blow my top. The woo they peddle, is among the most dangerous denialism out there. When HIV/AIDS denialism manages to affect public policy (as it has in some African countries) the results can be deadly. By far, that brand of woo makes me the angriest, which is why I don't get involved in that discussion. People far more educated in the pathology of HIV/AIDS, are out there to fight it, far more coherently than my anger would allow. I have a lot of friends, many of them made while helping them out at home. On the off chance that anyone of that breed comes by, HIV/AIDS denialist comments, will be deleted out of hand.

So the denialism that runs a close second, in really pissing me off, is ADD/ADHD denialism. Especially, when (as it commonly is) coupled with neurological disorder denialism. I take it quite personally, because I have confirmed diagnosis of ADHD and a mild form of bipolar disorder. I actually question the legitimacy of the bipolar diagnosis, because I also have congenital insomnia, that is rather severe. On an average of less than four hours of sleep a night, since I was twelve years old, I imagine that the symptoms could be the result of lifelong sleep deprivation. Of course, the insomnia, is result of my neurochemistry. At least, there have been attempts to figure it out and the best assumptions of the doctors that have treated me, is that it's neurochemical in nature.

In short, though I will try to update this after our trip to the park, this sort of denialism is directly responsible for a lot of stigma. Stigma that makes growing up with neurological disorders very difficult. These are not issues that are easy to work with, not a weakness or desire for special attention. It is especially poignant for me, because I grew up with a dad who bought into a lot of the denialist propaganda. I also went to school, with a lot of teachers who did as well, because ADHD was not very well understood at the time. While things have improved a great deal in the last fifteen years, the stigmas still persist. Growing up is hard. Growing up with a neurological disorder is harder still. Growing up with the stigmas attached to neurological disorders is much, much worse, and unnecessary to boot.

So I am going to write more about this. I am going to try to get the stories of those who are dealing with other neurological disorders. I am going to fight this with everything that I can. I am angry right now, really need to calm down some, before I go on. When I continue, I will be inviting you into my world. What I dealt with growing up, in school and into adulthood. I hope that you will bear with me on this. I will try to get more human rights posts up, but this is something that I really need to do.

I am also working on a post about torture, morality and the neurology of violence - I haven't dropped the ball, but there is a lot of reading I need to get through for that one. I would really love to get some guest posts, to help fill the spaces here, preferably on the topic of human rights. If you are interested in contributing, please email me an outline of what you want to write, or even a post - or link to a post that I could cross post. I prefer that they be between 600 and 3,000 words, but leeway can be made. Thank you very much for visiting, please come back again. Also, please feel very free to comment, I am very interested in hearing what you think or just getting feedback.


Alison said...

When I was a child, I was a real handful, and there wasn't much information on the chemical workings of the brain. So I was treated by a psychologist, given self-paced work in class (I was a quick study, much of the disruption I caused came after I'd already finished before everyone else and wanted to move on to something new) and taught how to direct myself. While it didn't help with the mental disorder itself, it made it so I could stay organized and acheive goals in the school environment. It was specific enough, and I practiced it long enough, that school was pretty easy for me. However, that practiced specificity didn't work as well in a college environment (especially when you threw in three jobs to pay for it) and had very little going for it in a work environment. By the time I was staying home with my kids and was completely responsible for making my own goals, schedules, and priorities, I was completely lost. Without the outside structure, everything was a nebulous goal, there was no time to finish anything, nothing was done well enough, and every little thing that popped into my head was important and had to get done right away regardless of what else I might have been doing. The ADD was controlling me, not the other way around. I went through different therapists and therapies, finally got medication for depression (which helped my mood only - my life and thoughts were still utter chaos). Finally I insisted that I be prescribed something for the ADD, and even though it's been only a few months, the change has been amazing. Only someone who has experienced the constant, fast-paced onslaught of thoughts, memories, ideas, of the ADD brain that keep you from being able to concentrate and even sleep, can appreciate the difference the medication makes. And it's those people who think it's imaginary, that until you can make a test that measures it in numbers, it's a made-up problem whose sufferers are just a bunch of whiny babies. I'd like to stick them in some sort of sensory-overstimulation tank for a few hours, but that wouldn't really make them understand - it's just my revenge fantasy.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Alison -

I would like to invite you to tell us about your life with ADD, in a guest post. I haven't had a chance to peruse your blog much, but if you have a post on it already, I would love to cross post it here. I am soliciting stories, having one person who's agreed to talk about life with bipolar disorder. The more the better.

Jonathan said...

I'm positive that if Drs. were allowed to spend more time with me when I was young I would have been (properly) diagnosed with ADHD.

I have severe concentration problems, but a mild dosage of an antidepressant I've been on for about nine years greatly helps.

Another thing that helps me is getting my "hands" into paying attention. In law school, I found if I didn't take notes on almost every word the prof. said, I'd invariably lose concentration and find my mind wandering.

But taking notes like a stenographer turned out, for me, to be key to acing classes even without preparing for them. If I didn't find those cases interesting, reading them before class would be such a pain, and often ineffective. I'd have to read passages over and over again because my concentration on them slipped.

My problem struck around puberty. Before that, I'd go to school, listen to what the teachers said, not study, and do well in class.

Then, I lost the ability to concentrate and what teachers said was in one ear and out the other. My parents were shocked that someone who tested so well when young started to get crappy grades in public schools.

Though my Dad, also a lawyer and college professor, had similar problems when. So it wasn't so shocking to him. Something in the genes.

My parents' attitude when young was more like, there's nothing wrong with my kids. Going on medication at such a young age would have been unthinkable. Since I was born in '73, putting your kid on meds wasn't quite as in vogue then. Though, a mild dosage of an antidepressant has worked real well for me from my mid-20s to the present day.

I probably should have been medicated while younger. Though, in the long run, things still worked out okay for me.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Hey Jon,

It's really interesting how it manifests itself. Anti-depressants did have a fairly positive effect on my ability to concentrate, unfortunately I am prone to some of the unpleasant side effects. I got pretty severe dry mouth and headaches. The worse though, was the sexual dysfunction - which is wierd, because I was celibate for a while when on them. Unfortunately, sexual dysfunction manifests itself more than sexually, producing discomfort in the reproductive organs.

It is also interesting when ADHD manifests itself later. I wonder whether it was circumstantial, that it didn't become a problem until puberty. If not for the behavioral issues that I had, when I was younger, it might not have been as obvious. It wasn't until I started getting homework, which I was an abysmal failure at, that the learning issues were apparent, I hesitate to call them a disability, because homework was entirely responsible for my bad grades. I got straight As and Bs on quizzes and tests.

A great example of the homework issue, was when I was assigned a three page paper on Jefferson and ended up turning in a fifteen page paper on Franklin. Rather than attempt, when I got distracted by a single Franklin quote and ditched the reading on Jefferson, to finish the short, easy paper on Jefferson, it made more sense at the time, to write a longer paper, to make up for the fact that I changed the subject. I got a bad grade for the paper being so long and because I didn't ask to change the subject.

I am going to get finished with the post about a lot of this stuff, soon. Should have it up in the morning. Thanks for stopping by.