Hyper-focus vs. Distraction

July 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

ADHDTitle:ADHD According to Zoe

Author: Zoe Kessler

Genre: Self-help / Memoir

Length: 208 pages

I’ve been called obnoxious, eccentric, and neurotic.  I’ve been called charming and passionate.  I’ve been called awkward and introverted, I’ve been called enticing, engaging, and the life of the party.

I have been accused of inattentiveness.  And of over attentiveness.  Sometimes from the same people.

I’ve been compared to those with extreme anxiety and to those with manic depressive disorders.  I’ve also been told that I’m none of those things and am quite normal – by some not-so-normal people.

I’m typically punctual, but it takes me two hours, careful planning, and a color coded calendar I’ve maintained since childhood to remember I have an engagement in the first place.

Apparently, these are things that fall in line with the potential to be diagnosed as ADHD – which I find rather interesting.  I’ve often viewed ADHD as a bogus excuse for people to be rude and frazzled, and to be chronically late to work (when I have taken such great care to not be late).

I, too, forget to eat or use the restroom because I don’t notice it needs to be done until I am near famished and shaking with hunger or my bladder feels like it is about to explode.  Then I gorge myself until people are genuinely in awe that so much food can go into such a tiny human, and try to remind myself to schedule a bathroom break.

I nervously remove myself from the house to go on walks or bike rides.  I’ve always been actively involved in independent sports and often been a bit of a work out junky.

The house must be spotless before I sit down to do things – especially things like homework when I was in college – but once sitting I dive into intense “hyper-focus” as Kessler calls it – oblivious to my dogs, any noise, and often leaving my child to choose to do a parallel activity on her own.  She builds with her blocks while I read.  She paints while I write.  We day dream together, but separately.  I have to purposefully schedule ‘homeschool’ time so that it is not neglected.

When my hyper-focus is gone, so are my eyelashes as I have absentmindedly plucked them out with my ever moving fingers.

I need to see people, but then I am overwhelmed at public gatherings.  There is so much noise that I tune it all out and hear or understand almost nothing.  At the same time, even though I may not hear a timer buzz when I am focused, the slightest noise when I am unfocused pains my ears greatly.  I often complain to my husband that music is too loud, or the fan blowing keeps me awake, but someone yelling at me across a bar may go completely unnoticed.

I don’t know if I have ADHD.  I took that Jasper/ Goldberg test and got an 84.  Supposedly, anything over 70 is a good indicator you might be.  I don’t care to find out, however.  Even though,  I’m sure my husband would love to understand why the floors and walls are thoroughly disinfected and free of visible particles, but the laundry is never properly folded and God only knows where I dropped the mail.  But I do know that I identify greatly with Kessler’s memoir and I think it is a worthwhile read for anyone – not just those seeking information about ADHD.

It is good for the general population to understand that what is done automatically for some takes a lot of work and practice for others.  For me, just getting out of bed involves a mental checklist, a peep at the day planner, and a journal consultation for any previous lists as well as an opportunity to write another list.  Not to mention that once I am out, the process of making coffee in my french press is how I time my moseying.  Ten minutes to boil water, three minutes to steep.  If my moseying is not timed, I’ll never get out of my pajamas, remember to brush my teeth, brush my hair, or leave the house.  The dogs will not get to go potty if I am not simultaneously dumping coffee grounds in the garden.  Miss one step, and the whole day is lost to me.  My calendar never leaves my bedside and I forget I had a lunch date.

If I have ADHD, I think it has been pretty counter balanced by the stimulation and hyper-focus required to get through my GT classes growing up.  My choir director required a color-coded paper day planner.  My mother required ledgers and lists.  My father, the ex-boyscout had a constant mantra: “Always be prepared and always be fifteen minutes early!”

It doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t do exactly what Kessler describes.  Especially her “commune with nature” bit.  Without my walks in the woods, I definitely “become cranky, confused, and mentally foggy.”

Instead, it means, that somehow through a lot of self-awareness, self-discovery, panic attacks, and then some… I’ve managed to create in my life goals and careers a little cocoon of an existence that eliminates a lot of the frustrations and issues that could come about for an ADHD person.

I work from home and Kessler says, “Finding work that’s meaningful to you is key.  If you’re hypersensitive, consider self-employment.”

She offers advice that I have already taken… Little things like I know I lose my keys about three times a day – I have never lost them in public though because the first thing I did when I got keys was put a climbing hook on one of the key chains so I could fasten them to my belt loop (I almost always wear jeans).  I did this at seventeen because my father always told me, “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”  So I found a way to screw my keys on, basically.

To the bane of my husband’s existence, I never remember to put them into the key bowl (maybe six out of ten times they make it where they belong… other times they may be found in the freezer, the pantry, the counter, the bathrooms, my bag, another bag…).  Many times I have posted facebook status requests for one of my friends to call my phone, because I have no idea where my hands let go of it.

I know people who were diagnosed young and as adults they seem to have this idea that they are not responsible – for their actions, their tardiness, or their bills even.  My sensitivity, I think, is limited to physical sensations, because I’ve always thought With everything I go through to get it together, you can too.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.   Impulsively I have said this, without tact, out loud.

Self awareness is important but diagnosis, I think, can be rocky waters.  Kessler seems to walk this road with finesse, owning up to feelings she has hurt while making sure she pursues endeavors that will work with her ADHD, rather than against it.

I like her writing style and look forward to picking up a copy of her first book (perhaps another sign of ADHD as I confess my hoarding tendencies): “Adoption Reunions.”

The most familiar part of the whole book:

As for my shoulder-length hair, I put it up, then down, then up, then down throughout the day.  I constantly fidget and fuss with it, something others have commented on repeatedly. […] a loose strand on my neck or the side of my cheek drives me crazy.  To get it off my neck, I’ll bunch it up in a knot.  Before long, it feels like someone is driving brass knuckles into my skull just where I’ve knotted my hair, so down it comes.

Not long after that, she writes: “Flashing lights, large crowds, and emergency vehicle sirens can be unbearable.”

Every day, Zoe, every day I am with you.



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