Updated: Nov 3, 2021
LifeHakx - ADD Scattered Minds
By Mark Pearson
If you’d asked me about ADHD five years ago you’d have gotten a very different answer to the one I would give you today. Five years ago I would have had some vague idea that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was primarily something that affected children.
My attempt at describing the condition would no doubt have been replete with images of children bouncing off walls, uncontrollable bundles of hyper-energy, that in the worst instances might be medicated to correct some chemical imbalance. Today my understanding is far more nuanced and far more personal.
I became properly aware after my partner at the time received a formal diagnosis of ADD. You’ll notice the elimination of the H in this acronym; Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). No hyperactivity, but poor levels of concentration and disorganisation around practical everyday matters; a deficit of attention that has real implications. So began my journey into a greater understanding of this affliction.
Through my research, initially focussed on what this meant for my partner, I came to see how a mind so wired resembled very much the monkey mind as described in yogic teachings. Flitting from one thing to another, impulsivity, never quite completing tasks undertaken, nor acting on the influx of ideas and creativity that burst forth brilliantly, randomly, in a scattergun fashion.
Peaks of hyper-attention and hyper-disinterest ride through the ADD brain circuitry like a malevolent roller coaster running in the dark. A roller coaster prone to break downs and crashes. And then it dawned on me. This is my brain too.
Impulsive behaviours, inattention to detail, a cascade of ideas, incomplete tasks, creativity, hiccups in education, work and relationships...all had the mark of ADD once my understanding had been fleshed out by reading psychiatrists, psychologists and testimony from other people whose brains are so conditioned.
I use the word conditioned now as opposed to wired. Wired suggests a biological, hereditary element. This was long the accepted wisdom. ADHD and ADD were categorised as being genetically based illnesses.However,Dr Gabor Mate’s book Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder threw new light on the subject matter.In this highly recommended book he posits early childhood trauma as being the origin of what he calls a reversible impairment and developmental delay.
He was diagnosed with ADD in his fifties after a very successful career as a physician in Canada. A career he concedes he approached with an unhealthy obsession, a workaholic attitude, juggling plates, balls and burning fire sticks all the way. So he was able to view the condition from the inside and ponder the origins of his own diagnosis.
Born under Nazi occupation in Hungary during the Second World War, he was under the care of a traumatised mother and also endured intermittent separations from her before the family escaped to Canada when he was two years old. This he says is where the ADD characteristics of his brain were formed.
Many elements within the book resonated with me. Delving into my childhood to try and get a handle on things I was particularly struck by this line early on in the book “Children with ADD frequently act the part of the class clown”. After the age of ten and off the back of the trauma at the sudden death of my step-father, there I was. And here it was, an explanation that made sense of the thirty five years that followed.
We can all, at times,display some of the traits resonant with Attention Deficit Disorder; a formal diagnosis however is recognition that a set of behaviours and attitudes are present that hinder development and ones ability to successfully carry out seemingly everyday tasks.
Thankfully it seems educators are far more informed today than they were when I was at school in the 1980s. However, it is still the case that some children are labelled ‘disruptive’ or ‘lazy’ without anyone delving into the finer details of what may be the underlying causes of their behaviours.
Dr Mate’s book shines a light for these children and belatedly for the adults they often become. If any of the symptoms of ADD resonate for you or a loved one, I strongly suggest you bring your attention to the book (also available as an audiobook) and to the numerous YouTube videos which feature Dr Mate's work. One such video in the link below. Also find a link to an online resource for all things ADD/ADHD; and an outlet from which to purchase the book. Other book stores are available.
Mark Pearson is a Yoga Alliance (200hrs) accredited yoga teacher. He has written for Om magazine on the subject of Mindful Parenting. He tries to practice what he preaches, but is by no means a fully realised being. Some days he is barely human; more days he is fully cat. A cat that drinks coffee, reads, writes and overall sees his food bowl as being of the half full variety; rather than the half empty.
"Sitting still, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself" - Zen proverb.