How To View ADD As A Gift

Do me a favor, please. I know you’re frustrated if your spouse or child or mother-in-law has one of those “labels” like ADHD or Dyslexia, or maybe a physical disability. It’s difficult, trying, exasperating. I know. I’ve been there. In fact, I am there. Look At The Big Picture But I’m asking you to do me a favor. Take a step back and just take a walk with me for a few minutes to a higher vantage point where we can get a better view of the Big Picture. I’d like you to do that and tell me what you can see from this more panoramic perspective. What have you learned about yourself because of your relationship with this “labeled” person? What new skills have you gained because you are tied together? And what has he or she gained because of being in relationship with you? What has he or she learned about handling life and coping with difficulties due to the challenges of the label and the challenges of being related to you? Why Is MY Life So Hard? Now you may want to ask me, “Okay, Deb, I see where you’re going, but why should I be learning all that anyway? Some people have life a lot easier. Why can’t I be one of those people living that life instead of the difficult, challenging life that I do lead?” It’s a fair question, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to respond by asking another question back: Why should a small child, an innocent five-year old be molested? No, let’s not go so far. Why should that...

Why Pain Is A Gift When You’re Overcoming Addictions

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News Look,” I said to Lawrence a week after he decided to quit drugs for good, “this is going to be really, really hard because eventually, you’re going to be in pain and you won’t wanna stay there. That’s when you have to stick to your commitment to stay clean.” “I’m not worried about that,” he smiled, “I gave up pain a long time ago. I don’t like it much.” “That’s because you ran to use before you felt anything,” I reminded him. “You haven’t experienced it because you put yourself into a haze before you could take that risk to feel. I’m telling you, you won’t like it, and I’m asking you to be strong and get through it anyway. When it hits you, it’ll be like a two- by-four smacked you, but you’ve got to keep going.”   Pain Is Part Of Life If You Don’t Use Drugs To Run Away From It   Sure enough, not two weeks passed before it hit him. The reason he had decided to give up the drugs was because he wanted his family back. He wanted to laugh and joke with his two little girls. He wanted to run his fingers through his wife’s hair. Right now, contact with his wife was limited and strained. But she was trying to give him the space to learn how to be a husband and father. Nice woman. And things had been going rather well. There were some reasonable phone conversations. Then he’d had dinner over at what once had been his home, until he was...

Getting Ahead In Social Relationships

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the FLorida Jewish News Eight pairs of eyes were starring at me, their expressions serious. “So, Miss Hirschhorn,” they continued their interrogation, “what would you say are your strong points?” I was being interviewed for graduate school and I knew I had to sell myself. “I’m organized,” I began, “I’m a hard worker; I learn fast; I’m responsible; I get along well with people; I enjoy helping; I like to write; I’m not stupid…” “Hold on, there,” the professor with the dark eyes interrupted. “Why did you do that?” I was startled. “Do what?” I asked. “It was positive, positive, positive all the way through your list until you got to the end. Then it was, ‘I’m not stupid,’ he pointed out. Why did you do that?” Oh, boy, now they got me. Caught red-handed with humility. What an awful time for that. How am I supposed to sell myself? Taking a deep breath, I said in a tiny voice, “I didn’t want to brag.” “Well,” piped up a petite lady with honey-blonde hair, “if you did want to brag, what would you say?” The air fizzled out of me like a tired balloon. “I’d say I was smart,” I admitted. I got in. Humility lost; boastfulness won. Well, I suppose there were other reasons I got accepted for doctoral work that fateful morning 15 years ago, but, clearly, these people wanted to hear what I thought was the unadulterated truth out of my lips, no beating about the bush. And so, the question is: Did I do the right thing the first time? Shouldn’t...

Psychiatric Evaluation

Mental illness and criminality are evaluated by different sorts of professionals doing very different things. Here are some of the points of distinction: Mental Health Evaluation In the State of Florida, all the five major classes of psychotherapist—Marriage and Family Therapist, Social Worker, Mental Health Counselor, Psychologist, and Psychiatrist—are required to know how to give “ordinary” mental health evaluations. Such an evaluation is used to create a diagnosis of the person coming in for treatment. The diagnosis, in turn, is used to bill insurance companies, or to determine if a person needs admission to a hospital. The diagnosis is selected from a book called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders written by a large committee of the American Psychiatric Association. There have been several overhauls over the past half-century. Of interest, is the fact that in Europe, there are not so many categories as here, and of even greater interest is that there can be large disagreements among professionals in deciding the diagnosis. That lack of reliability notwithstanding, any time your therapist bills a third party, this diagnosis is required. Theoretically, the diagnosis should guide treatment much the same way as a medical diagnosis determines whether a person needs an antibiotic (for a bacterial infection) or not (for a viral infection). In actual practice, statistically, the diagnosis has very little bearing on the treatment of emotional issues. One reason, as I just said, is that different clinicians observing a person, reading the history in the file, asking good questions, and checking with family will still come up with a variety of different diagnoses; diagnosing is more an...

I Learned About Friendship—At a Funeral

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish Journal The chapel at the funeral house was large enough; even so, it was packed to overflowing with standing room only. I came because I knew one or two members of the family a short time. I was impressed with the size of the crowd and wondered about the deceased. I was soon to find out. In eulogy after eulogy, I learned about the deceased’s kindness, openheartedness, exuberance for life, love of learning, and a long life of serving the community. I felt so sad for the family, but the more I heard, the more I felt sorry that I had not known this person.   As I drove home, a growing awareness dawned on me that this was the second funeral I went to with the same regret. The other one had been a friend of mine, but over the years, we got busy with our lives and went our separate ways. Only when she had died and it was too late did I realize that way too much time had escaped my awareness and I had lost the opportunity to rejoice in a friendship.   Because that’s what friendship really is: a rejoicing. A friend is a jewel, a precious thing that cannot be replaced by any amount of hard work on business, cleaning, cooking, or errands for the home, all of which are important. It doesn’t matter how important they are, they can’t be more significant than to take a few minutes to cherish the mind and heart of a friend.   Life, after all, becomes meaningless if we...

Emotional Dissociation And What To Do About It

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News There was a spate of books some time ago about women who had been severely emotionally abused and sexually molested as children and grew up with “split personalities.” The Three Faces of Eve was even made into a movie. A well done and true story was presented in The Flock. Milder cases of dissociation are described in Marlene Steinberg’s Stranger In The Mirror.   While a complete barrier to conscious awareness to the extent described in these books is very rare, there are degrees of everything, including the tendency to split off, or dissociate, feelings or information. In fact, disconnecting oneself from painful feelings is rather common. What’s scary about it is the fact that the person doing it is usually not aware that he or she is doing it. That’s a problem. How Prevalent This Problem Is: 1. When going through a divorce, the nicest people frequently can shut down any feelings of compassion for someone who they now consider an adversary, even if they had presumably been in love at one time. When you talk to them about this phenomenon, they deny that’s what they’re doing and tell you they never had any positive feelings for that no-good so-and-so.   2. Mothers who went through all sorts of tribulations to nurse their babies manage to turn off that feeling of connection to those same children six years later when the children get wild. Not only does the mother feel intensely angry, but they often cannot recall or recreate those warm, fuzzy feelings they once had toward their own children....

What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About ADD Medication

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from The Florida Jewish News, p. 13 [edited with title change] If we take a position that some aspects of ADD/ADHD are desirable, then the question of whether or not to use medication becomes a question of whether, or when, to blot out those beneficial aspects. Ritalin Can Kill: Furthermore, there is a health and safety question to consider. In April, 2000, a Michigan medical examiner ruled Ritalin to be the cause of death for a 14 year old boy, Matthew Smith, who had been taking it for ADHD for 10 years. The child died of a heart attack although he had no prior known heart condition. His parents subsequently sued the creator of Ritalin, Novartis. Ritalin is a stimulant and it works by constricting blood flow. As a result, the medical examiner in the above case ruled that there was shrinkage of blood vessels going to Matthew’s heart. Other studies (Archives of General Psychiatry, July 1996) found that children with ADHD taking stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall had a smaller brain volume than normal, either due to the same arterial shrinkage implicated in the Smith case or due to the ADHD itself. Although the findings were not clear, one fact is: Ritalin and Adderall are amphetamines, their chemistry similar to cocaine. As such, they are controlled, Schedule II drugs as classified by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). According to the Smith website, http://www.ritalindeath.com, between 1990 and 2000, 186 children died from taking Ritalin as prescribed. More People Than Ever Are Diagnosed According to the Duke University website, the alarming part of the medication picture is...

7 Tips for Coping With ADD/ADHD For Adults & Kids

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 16 [edited with title change] The first line of treatment for ADD/ADHD is usually behavioral for children and adults. Although there are no shyness pills, one can go to Toasmasters. Although there are no anger pills, one can learn anger management. Just as the parents of an ADHD child need to learn how to handle him or her, the child himself needs to learn strategies for getting the most out of this challenging experience. Here are some ideas: (a) Decide what is good about your ADD/ADHD. Write a list of benefits and prioritize that list. Ask yourself: How can I incorporate my strengths into my daily life, including my work? (b) Allow yourself room in your profession for creativity and, if you are the hyperactive type, for activity, variety, and challenge. (c) Write down or tape record reminders to yourself. I’m a big fan of yellow post-it notes and recommend clients make several copies of the same reminder and post them in places they would expect to look at such as their car dashboard or the coffee jar in the refrigerator. (d) Allow three times the amount of time you think you’ll need for whatever task you are doing. This way, you’ll always be safe. In the same way, tell yourself that a project due Wednesday is really due Monday, a deadline of 4 PM is really 10 AM, and so on. (e) Either create or have someone else create organizational systems for you that govern your schedule, your space, and your paperwork. Use the yellow sticky notes, color coding,...

The ADHD Brain – What Makes It Bad Is What Makes It Good

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 18. [edited with title change] As a therapist, I find the diagnostic definition of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) really discouraging. It’s all about whatever the ADD person does that’s wrong. In fact, it’s considered a disorder. That’s wonderful if you want special assistance in school (such as sitting at the front of the classroom and getting more time for tests—both of which are required by law when a child has proof of this “disease”), but it’s not so wonderful for the people who now must view themselves through the filter of this negative label. For this reason, I’d like to define ADD more accurately, by presenting the powerful and positive aspects of ADD/ADHD. What’s Bad The definition that you are perhaps familiar with, the negative and depressing one, looks at ADD as a difference in “wiring” of the brain from those of non-ADD people. It is distinguished by a lack of ability to concentrate or focus on tasks, a lack of ability to set a pattern which can be followed in the future (such as deciding where to always place keys so you don’t lose them and then repeating that sequence of steps), and a lack of conscious awareness of this process (which results in not noticing yourself place those keys down, so that later you cannot retrace your steps to find them). ADHD—the additional element of “hyperactivity” that puts the “H” in the ADD definition—may have the added features of impulsiveness (such as blurting out whatever comes to mind without thinking about possible consequences like hurting someone else’s...
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