I am often asked how I know that I have Attention Deficit Disorder. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t know until a few months ago. I ran across an article somewhere on the web about adults with ADD. I was shocked that I had almost all of the symptoms and personality quirks that go hand in hand with ADD, from depression to hyper-focusing , to being temperamental, and easily distracted.
I have a history of problems on the job, problems with personal relationships, etc. etc. I never understood why. I’m a good, conscientious person. I am loyal and loving, and I am a hard worker. I simply don’t relate to the world the same way that people who don’t have ADD relate to the world. That is the root of my problem.
Having been officially diagnosed has helped me in many ways. I am on medication that helps my brain to function better, but most important I realize why I react to some things the way I do so that I can try to change my reactions. It also helps my family to understand that I’m not just being a demon. My mind reacts before it engages.
Now, I know why my temper flairs so badly when a person interrupts my train of thought. For one thing my thoughts are like a train. If I am hyper-focused on something and someone speaks to me and breaks my train of thought with something that my brain feels is unimportant, I tend to bite. I did a lot of self examination to figure out why I react that way. I’ll use the train analogy to explain it. I’m hyper-focused on writing this blog, for instance. My husband comes in and asks, “What do you want for lunch?” In my mind it’s a stupid question to be asking at this time. Who cares about lunch right now? I’m busy. My mind is focused on writing. It’s 11:45 AM, but I’m not aware of the time and lunch is the farthest thing from my mind.
The reason I get quick-tempered is that my mind doesn’t just register a slight interruption in my thought process. My mind completely disengages from the task at hand, switches tracks to communicate with my husband. Once I’ve bitten his head off and he goes away, my mind has to completely switch tracks again and find its way back to the writing. The track switching for that simple interruption is so complete that I have to re-read every word that I written to get my train of thought back. That track switching process gets old quickly. Woe be to the person who insists on interrupting me.
I’m sure you can see how the track switching thought process causes problems on the job. I simply can’t deal with the constant distractions of phones ringing, co-workers talking, and bosses giving orders. For one thing, if the boss comes in and tells me that he wants me to do something on Thursday, my mind thinks “Ok, that’s Thursday, this is Monday. It’s not important right this minute” and immediately trashes the instruction. I don’t intentionally ignore the boss. My brain just does it without consulting me as automatically as it makes me breath without my being conscious of taking a breath. Sometimes I’ll remember the instruction on Thursday, but more likely I will not.
At any rate, I found a wonderful article on the web that you may want to read if you suspect that you or someone you love may have ADD. It is written primarily for artists, but applies equally to non-artists. It’s a very good read. Artists and Attention Deficit Disorder by Bonnie Mincu.
As usual, I welcome your comments and questions about Art and ADD. Feel free to leave a link to your website or blog as well.
Until next time,
“I can’t draw.” I really hate it when I hear someone say that. I believe that anyone can do anything if they want to work a little and study a little bit. There was a time when I couldn’t draw. My left brain saw drawing as a series of lines, circles, and curves put together in a way that forms whatever object I wanted to create. I had been using pencils all my life to form letters and shapes and my brain just couldn’t get past that. My hands simply couldn’t draw with the information they received from my dominant left brain.
I never really wanted to draw anyway. I just wanted to paint. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to paint without drawing skills. Backward often seems to work best for me though, so I started painting first. Somehow thinking about the smooth strokes and blending, made it easier for me to recreate what I was seeing. I think it’s because my left brain had no idea what to do with paint, so it allowed my right brain to take over for a change.
The fact that I couldn’t draw continued to nag at me, however. I’d never feel like a real artist until I could conquer the pencil. Fortunately, a friend introduced me to the book The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence by Betty Edwards. I highly recommend this book to anyone who “can’t” draw, but would like to be able to.
The book helps you to realize that drawing is more about seeing than it is about putting lines on paper. You realize that it’s possible to draw by looking at the negative space around an object and drawing those shapes and spaces instead of trying to draw the actual object.
As I worked through the book my left brain allowed my right brain to take a look at the pencil and my drawing began to improve. The act of drawing that confounded my left brain made perfect sense to my right brain. Now when I draw, I see negative spaces, shadows, and highlights around and within an object instead of complicated lines. I can use the smooth strokes and blending with my pencil instead of trying to force hard lines to create an image.
Obviously, I can’t explain this concept as well as Betty Edwards does. Before you say “I can’t draw” again, do yourself a favor and purchase the book. It is well worth the money if you wish you could draw.
Please comment or just leave a link to your site. I love hearing from everyone.
I had promised in my last post that I would talk about the depression that goes hand in hand with ADD, but I changed my mind. The subject was….well….too depressing. So, I’ll just move this discussion along to the hyper-focusing aspect of attention deficit disorder and how that relates to art. Most people are aware of the easy distractibility of those who suffer from ADD, but many aren’t aware that hyper-focusing is also a common trait of ADDers.
Most people with ADD have a unique ability to hyper-focus on activities that interest them. When an ADD person isn’t hyper-focused they are aware at some level of everything that goes on around them and everything distracts them. In contrast, when hyper-focused, nothing else in the world exists. The brain refuses to let anything enter the mind other than what’s in front of the nose.
Hyper-focusing, though annoying to others who can’t get through to you can be a distinct advantage when creating art. For instance, if I’m painting a portrait, and I perceive that one eye isn’t quite right, I will go into hyper-focus mode. At that point nothing exists but the eye that I am working on. I become fascinated with the minute details. Every single eyelash will frustrate me and refuse to let me go until I’ve reached the highest level of perfection of which I am capable.
Such a situation can be very frustrating to me as an artist, but for the end recipient of the portrait, it’s a great advantage. My clients always get my absolute best even though it would often be advantageous to me to just let something go and move on. It’s not that I’m so noble that I set high standards for myself. It’s completely involuntary. My mind simply won’t let it go until I’m done, unless I force myself to move on to something else.
Many times, I have to shake my head to pull myself out of hyper-focus mode and then cover my easel so that I can walk away from a painting and force myself to do other necessary activities, like eating or sleeping. It’s not unusual for me to go without food most of the day because I’m simply too hyper-focused to realize that I’m hungry. My sleeping pattern is no pattern at all. I sleep when my paintings are done, or when I am exhausted enough to pull myself away from them.
I often wonder how many famous artists have been ADD sufferers. Just as Van Gogh suffered from schizophrenia, many other famous artists were known to have had volatile tempers, depression, and other symptoms of ADD. Hmmmm…., I think I might just embrace my ADD. Why fight it? It may make me famous someday.
I’d love to hear the thoughts of other artists on this subject. How many of you feel that you might have undiagnosed ADD? Are you temperamental? Do you hyper-focus and lose track of time often? Do you often get annoyed with others when they interrupt your train of thought? Are you disorganized and considered lazy? Please comment on this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
As I sit here typing, my husband is cooking lunch. The smell of garlic makes it difficult to concentrate. I am extremely hungry and fortunate for having a husband who puts up with me AND cooks. Poor guy. He certainly didn’t know what he was getting into when he married me.
I wasn’t a full time artist when he married me, and I didn’t realize that I had ADD. I was a struggling single parent with a decent job, and I was working my way through school. He admired me for my struggles and for having a good head on my shoulders right up until reality hit.
The first sign that he had screwed up was when he experienced my first temper tantrum. I don’t remember what the argument was about, but I was throwing things and going out of my way to see how nasty I could be to him. Fortunately, he handled it like a champ. Rather than being drawn into my tantrum, he simply walked out without a word. He was gone for 3 full hours.
The first hour I was furious. How dare he walk out on me when I was so angry? I ranted and fumed and slammed cabinets and cried in fury.
The second hour I began to calm down and wonder where he was. I was still angry and crying, but relatively calm. I had ceased to kick and scream and yell like a child caught in the throws of the terrible twos.
By the third hour I had begun to worry. What had I done? Was he coming back? Oh my God! What if he’s left me for good? What in the world ever possessed me to yell and scream at him. He’s such a sweet, loving, and caring person. How could I?
Needless to say, by the time he got home I was a blubbering, apologetic mess. I was so very sorry. Please forgive me. I’ll never do that again.
As it turns out, I lied. I still do it occassionally. He still looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but he doesn’t buy into the anger. He clams up until I wind down and that works perfectly for us. I’m such a spoiled brat.
Ok, that’s it for now. I’ve got to eat. I hope I don’t forget to thank him for cooking. Surely I won’t. It only takes a second to get to the kitchen. I’m going to concentrate really hard so that I’ll remember to tell him. It really shouldn’t be this hard.
Hang with me folks. I’ll tell you all about his first encounter with my depression in my next post. It’ll be a doozy. Don’t miss it.
Thank you for visiting my blog. This is the place to get to know me better. I have ADD (attention deficit disorder) so my blog posts will probably be short but hopefully coherent. Sometimes this little mind of mine walks off into the wild blue yonder. It eventually comes back to the tasks at hand, but it often jumps from topic to topic and goes on a long and winding road into who knows where before it returns long enough for me to get something done.
The only time I can keep this brain in check is when I’m painting or drawing. My art draws me into a distraction free zone where I can lose myself for hours. I love my studio. Only there can I close the door and lose myself in a canvas or some other creative endeavor.
Please stay tuned to my blog. You will learn more about ADD than you are likely to want to know. But that’s me. ADD and art is all I know. Hopefully, I’ll keep you entertained. If not, I hope that you will let me know because all that I do, I do for you.
Please feel free to leave comments and/or a link to your website. I love hearing from and sharing links with those who read my blog.