It was many years ago when (uncharacteristically) I was watching Barbara Walters. She did a segment called “When you Can’t Pay Attention,” about ADD. This was before it was widely diagnosed; I’d never heard of it. That segment went off like a bomb for me. I could not believe that there were other people out there who had all the same weird thought patterns I had — I thought it was just me. I actually ordered a paper transcript of the segment (I told you, it was a long time ago).

Talking to me can be like sipping from a firehose, or a shower massager with a constantly rotating selector, really. Ideas come so fast and from so many directions I try to grab onto the good ones before I forget them. I often trail off midsentence to start a new one entirely. I gloss over details I consider obvious for fear of losing the thread. I so often abandon topics in favor of others, well, lets just say I once had a Mac laptop called Winchester Mystery Brain. (Maybe makes sense only to Bay Area folks.) I am that annoying professor you had in college.

My friend Anita does a great impression of me, talking, trying to do four things at once, losing the thread on everything and not completing anything. I had come to understand this as a foible, a character flaw, maybe not even that, a characteristic of my personality. It was just this thing I did that I had to adapt to.

To “adapt” I generally used technology. Palm pilots to-do-list managers and so on. I was afraid that if I got it treated, I’d lose this important characteristic of my personality. I wasn’t sure what would be left. Would I get as much done? Would I just be normal and boring? What would be left for Anita to impersonate?

Eventually I tried a treatment As these things often go, it was part chemical and part environmental. I was instructed to “minimize the distractive content” in my environment. Anyone who knows me knows that is almost antithetical to my way of life. I tend to clutter all wall space with art or otherpleasing objects, adhering to an essentially Victorian horror of empty space. And of course there’s the pile-based organizational system. (I have not found a satisfactory replacement — more on that in another post.)

The chemical treatment (Wellbutrin) did not have any effect that was obvious to me, though my wife claims I was a lot easier to deal with. It had one side effect though — I tended to try to keep track of everyone in any given room, which could get overwhelming fast. Chuck E. Cheese, for example, was a living nightmare and forced me to flee. This is known in my house as “having a Wellbutrin moment,” and this occasionally still pops up. (Ironically, I was once a gameroom technician in a Chuck E. Cheese.)
I also tried Strattera, but this did not appear to have any effects of any kind. Might have been a placebo for all I know. Maybe I wasn’t religious enough.

Now I’m planning teaching Photoshop classes. I have to practice not only my cirriculum and patter, but also a disciplined approach to discourse, forcing myself to finish my thoughts, to explain that which I used to gloss over, and so on. Teaching the class, developing the curriculum — no problem. That last bit: We’ll see. The feedback should be interesting.