Saturday, September 16, 2006

AD/HD: Frustrated with Frustration

I regret to say that this week’s column will not be published until next week. It seems I impulsively penned next week’s column yesterday instead of today’s column. This means that I will have to publish next week’s column this week so that there is something new for you to read today - this week. I suppose that makes next week’s column this week’s column once the dust settles, but I find that overly confusing, don’t you?

And now onto next week’s column.

Dusting off the Hallowell and Ratey’s Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults I relearned something new about myself:

11. Impatient; low tolerance for frustration.

Frustration of any sort reminds the adult with ADD of all the failures in the past. “Oh, no,” he thinks, “here we go again.” So he gets angry or withdraws. The impatience derives from the need for constant stimulation and can lead others to think of the individual as immature or insatiable.

Let’s see. I steam in traffic because I detest being held up behind sluggish drivers. I get irritated with slow computers and clunky webservers. I lose patience with my kids when they don’t follow directions for the umpteenth time. I get vexed with myself when I make stupid mistakes. Am I impatient? Of course I’m impatient! Stop rambling and get to the point already!! But do I really lose patience with my wife, for example, because I crave constant stimulation?

Well, there must be some truth to it. When I read the above criteria to my fourteen year old she said, “Well, there goes Douglas Cootey up in lights.” Nice, huh? No respect. I feel that their summary is off a bit, however. I believe rather than craving constant stimulation the impatience derives from irritation over speed bumps on our downhill race to the end of conversation, production, traveling, etc. The AD/HD mind wants to GO! Anything that gets in the way of that feels like torture.

So when my wife begins to tell me about her day and I’m not connecting with what she’s talking about, I start to get antsy and fidgety. On a bad day it is physically uncomfortable and I begin to entertain ideas of escape. “Oh, look!” I cry. “Your daughter needs your help!” Then I am gone like the wind. My wife, Bless her heart, is never the wiser. Well, at least until now.

Sitting in church during a dry lesson with an awkward teacher makes me want to explode. I usually end up raising my hand chronically to interject comments just to keep myself sane*. It’s not that the teachers are boring per se, but that they are not cruising along at any form of speed I recognize. The same can be said for me of school lectures, social documentaries, and, in the past, being scolded. I can see how an outside viewer might think a fidgety, impatient adult in those situations lacks moral fiber or maturity. Who am I, they think, to be bored with church? What type of child am I, they think, to doodle incessantly in class while the instructor drones on like endless death? OK, they don’t really think that. I do. At any rate, in these cases I need things interactive to keep my interest engaged.

However, the speed bump analogy is more apt when dealing with people’s flaws in regards to responsibilities. I have little patience for them and readily think, “Here we go again.” I experience in my mind all the past mistakes. They press upon me with renewed urgency. In this case the frustration is a floodgate and I must strive to control my temper. Clueless store personal, bill collectors, officious school officials, or self-righteous people can trigger frustration for anybody. But I perceive their slights with acute celerity, knowing their next move before they do. My mind is on fire and they catch a bit of it before I am through with them because I’ve been down this road before. In fact, the older I get the less I withdraw and the more I confront. The next ecclesiastical leader who thinks I’m on disability for a lark instead of recognizing Depression or Chronic Motor Tic Disorder is in for a firestorm. The next person who tells me AD/HD does not exist is in for total nuclear warfare. You can get a taste of this impatience when the occasional commenter leaves an incendiary opinion or two about how I’m not really depressed. I have little patience for them. Unfortunately for all of those poor souls, they tap into a lifetime of frustration that is unleashed like an erupting volcano. For right or wrong, this is how I am.

There was a time when I was a lot more hostile - a lot more insatiable. Now, however, I am like a sleeping lion. Only certain events will trigger my frustration. Still, it is there that I have the weakest control over my anger. Frustration triggers impatience triggers anger and I’m grabbing hold of the pit bulls again for all my life before I open my mouth and say something I’ll regret. Impulsive impatience is second only to absentmindedness in my list of irksome AD/HD traits.

Fortunately, despite what I may write here self-deprecatingly, I am much better at not blowing my top than I have been in the past. Now I just need to learn to bite my tongue. Absent of temper, nothing can be more piercing to the soul than an acidly barbed comment from an impatient loved one. Consequently, writing this column has been hard because I can’t laugh about impatience yet. I still struggle with it. I try to help my family not take my impatience personally, but that is difficult to do.

In the end, I am improving. Maybe one day I’ll find the humor I cannot find now.

*Or I pull out my Boredom Emergency Kit™.

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