Squint Harder!

I think “squint harder” is going to be my new go-to phrase when the advice I might attempt to dole out is probably going to be useless to the advisee.  Like “cheer up” to someone who suffers from depression.  Or “try harder” to someone that has ADHD.

The phrase comes from a book on ADD called Driven to Distraction.  If you have ADD, know someone with ADD, or are remotely interested in ADD, this is the book for you.  It’s written in plain terms (okay, I did struggle to focus on the biology of ADD chapter, but that’s at the very end, and, to be fair, I struggle to focus on just about everything… unless I’m in a state of hyperfocus, in which case… look out), and full of plenty of stories/case studies.  But not boring case studies.  Interesting case studies.  Okay, interesting to me.

Squint Harder! Photo from here

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, squinting harder.  The phrase comes from the aforementioned book because the analogy the author draws about ADHD is to that of nearsightedness.  Nobody thinks twice about the biology behind nearsightedness.  And nobody would advise someone to squint harder when what they really need is treatment (glasses… or contacts… or lasik).  And yet… a lot of people treat ADD that way.  I treated myself that way for years… thinking if I just tried harder I could overcome whatever demon it was that seemed to be working against me.

(I am lazy prone to distraction and sometimes I don’t feel like typing the H… in ADHD, and because my blog is not in any way sponsored by the DSM-IV, I also don’t have to follow their conventions which define the disorder in the technical terms of ADHD with sub-types… for those that are interested, or prone to digressions, I am a sub-type C – combined, although I lean more heavily toward the sub-type I – inattentive than I do the classic definition of sub-type H – hyperactive).

I’m actually pretty amazed by how many people still consider ADHD an “excuse” for poor study habits/behavior/etc.  Some have blamed poor parenting.  In my family, three of us have ADHD (2:1 boy:girl ratio, by the way), and four of us do not.  We all shared the same parents.  It’s not the first three or the last three; it’s not even three in a row (so unless my parents practiced random parenting styles on each of us, which they didn’t [I was there] I think it’s safe to exclude poor parenting from the list of “causes”).  And while we now live in a pretty fast-pased, ADD-friendly world… environment has been ruled out as a cause, too (although environment can definitely exacerbate it, but believe me, I didn’t need a smart phone to get off task before I had one, or on days when I forget it at home…).  Many studies in the past twenty years have proved its biological basis.  And it isn’t an excuse. It is an explanation.  And finally having that explanation for someone who has suffered from living with [undiagnosed] ADHD is pretty incredible.

It means I’m not stupid.  It means I’m not crazy.  (ADHD is not a mental illness, by the way… nor is it “cognitive weakness” as I read in an ADD blog comment today… it is a disorder, with neurobiological roots).  It means I’m not lazy.  It means I’m not morally impaired.  It means I’m not selfish (no more than the next person anyway) or narcissistic (I seriously considered at one point that I might have the clinical narcissistic disorder).  It explains why I’m driven to stimulating activities (like war and roller coasters and skydiving and motorcycles).  It explains why I’m a TERRIBLE judge of character (I miss out on social cues left and right).  It explains why I talk out loud to myself (yeah, I do… sometimes publicly.  And what’s worse, I probably don’t notice that other people are around to hear… unless I happen to notice them noticing me).  It explains why I can’t turn off, and sometimes why I can’t turn on.  It explains some of my more obsessive compulsive charms.  It explains why I sometimes appear to tune out in the middle of a conversation (even if I’m the one speaking, which I usually am).*  In short, everything that I’ve spent my entire life berating myself for, or considered massive a character defect, is explained with one teeny, tiny, insignificant (ha!) biological disorder.  Things I’ve never been able to explain, even to myself, now make a certain kind of sense.  I am still responsible and accountable for all my choices and actions, but at least now I know what drives or motivates some of those thoughts and actions.  And knowing is half the battle, right?

My brain has no firewall.  It doesn’t filter anything out for me… so I have to filter it myself manually.  And that’s really difficult to do… because how do I know what the most important stimuli are without looking at and considering each and every one?  Do you have any idea what that’s like?  My brain moves quickly… too quickly sometimes, and I skip over details while trying to sort through massive amounts of data.  Sometimes my brain moves much faster than my body, with the result that I’ve been known to fall, not just down the stairs, but up the stairs as well.

But sometimes you just need to laugh… like now.  In the middle of writing this post, I scooted on over to check Facebook, laughed out loud at a post my friend wrote, stood up and decided that was a good note on which to end the day, took off my pants, pulled my shirt halfway over my head, realized the big light was on and only the sheer window coverings were closed, decided to turn off the light, saw my empty water bottle and decided it needed filling and placement in the fridge immediately, saw my phone on the table, checked to see how many messages I’d missed, noticed that I was still walking around without pants and shirt half off, laughed at myself, remembered I was writing a blog post, came over to add this little anecdote, and as yet, my pajamas are still across the room, and the light is still on.  Oh… but at least my alarm is set, my messages are cleared, and the dogs are in bed.  I should really do something about the light.  And the pajamas.  And maybe the window.  My teeth need brushing.

ADDventures can be lots of fun!

I just reread the post to add a few thoughts and pretend to check grammar or change some word order, as I do before I get ready to publish, and when I got to the paragraph about my pajamas it reminded me about the light.  I got up specifically to turn off the light… it is already off.  I wonder when I stopped to do that.  Oh well.  Off to bed.

*It explains why I am still sitting here with no pants or pajamas on.

PS- If you click on the link to buy the book, I get some kind of kickback (like 6.5 cents).  I’m not asking you to, just informing you so you don’t feel duped if you find out later.

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4 Responses to Squint Harder!

  1. Anna says:

    Thanks! You nailed what it’s like…I’m going to have to pick up the book, I think!

    • stubbs says:

      I always laugh when I recommend books to people with ADD… because I know from experience how hard it is to stay focused. But this one is a great, easy read. And Dr. Hallowell is probably one of the foremost experts on ADD, and even adult ADD. He has an entire series of books out now. Not only does he specialize in treating it, but he also has it… so he “gets it” from both sides.


  2. Great job and can totally relate. Like I mentioned before, might have been Facebook, after Gabriel was diagnosed, it hit me hard that I have the same thing. This was after doing some asking of family about my behavior. I used to wonder if I was just going crazy or I had some idiosyncrasies (wow, that was hard to spell) that put folks off. It is a challenge to think hard or “squint harder” to stay focused. It is nice to know there is a name for my non-focusing and randomness. I was thinking while I was reading, thank God this wasn’t named SUBTRACTION, because ADD is sooo much shorter. Ha. I know, randomness again, sorry… Oh, then my old reserve job I would have been called a “Squint” also, another related, non-related thing.

    Thanks for writing this!! Seriously and fantastic job!


    • stubbs says:

      Hey Darren,

      Thanks for your comments! ADD is actually the most likely of all the neurological disorders to be passed down… so it isn’t surprising that Gabriel’s diagnosis led to your own self-awareness. I fully expect at least one of my children to have it; I just have to wait to see in what way it manifests itself before we move forward with any treatment options. Still figuring out all the treatment options for myself… but I can tell you it is an immense relief to know I’m not alone, and to explain some of my tangental thought processes. There are lots of “benefits” to having ADD as well… I will probably write a blog in the future about famous people and the gifts people with ADD possess… because it’s actually pretty cool. While limiting in some aspects… it is amazing in others.

      I just joined an Adult ADHD Meetup group in the area also… we meet on Skype… because after several [failed] attempts at meeting locally, the group realized we all have ADD, and that probably wasn’t the best we could do. Great group… learning lots.


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