Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Many people are unaware they suffer from a debilitating disease


Butch Meriwether
Butch's Brew

My wife was watching a TV show the other evening, and one of the characters was discussing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with her mom. Her dad could be seen in the background, and he appeared to be suffering from this debilitating disease by the way he was acting.

What's interesting is my wife immediately turned to me and said, "Honey, I think you suffer from ADHD." I advised her, in my own way, that she didn't know what she was talking about. That was a big mistake and I ended up eating crow.

I honestly didn't know much about ADHD, so I decided to rev up my trusty laptop and head for the Google Search Engine and start checking out what ADHD was all about. Before I knew it, I thought I was reading about myself, from my formative years to my present-day life.

I began thinking the scientists and doctors had tailored the ADHD definition after examining me through a large microscope. I must agree many of the inattentive, hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms "described me to the T."

I quickly learned ADHD is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, and/or is a combination of the above factors. My research also revealed ADHD usually begins in childhood, can continue into adult years and is a disorder most commonly diagnosed more often in boys than in girls. See, I knew girls are made of sugar, spice and everything nice!

If my parents were still alive today, I could serve myself up a big piece of humble pie and tell them I am extremely sorry for the trouble and grief I caused them when I was growing up. I'm surprised they didn't take me out behind the barn, beat me and/or even shoot me. As many problems I caused them when I was growing up, I probably deserved it.

During my research, I determined it is not exactly clear what causes ADHD; it could be a combination of genes and environmental factors that likely play a role in the development of the condition. I found studies have also suggested that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of children without ADHD. Now I know why I tell people the large vacuum space between my big ears hurts and I now know the reason it does.

My wife says I'm a 12-year-old in a 67-year-old body. She continually tells everyone I get "sick tracked" often and that many of the ADHD symptoms are a mirror image of me.

According to the web-based PubMed Health that provides information for consumers and clinicians on prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions, this is a thumbnail sketch of what ADHD is all about. I'll include two asterisks inside parentheses to indicate the symptoms I think I display and will also comment as to how I believe they relate to me:

Inattentive Symptoms

Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork (**) - That occurred more often than not when I was a young whippersnapper in school.

Has difficulty keeping attention during tasks or play (**) - I'm not sure my wife asked me to do that.

Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (**) - My wife tells me this all of the time. I wonder if she is right.

Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork and tasks (**) - I always tell my wife she didn't tell me to do that and yes, that statement can be said mostly about my chores she assigns to me.

Has problems organizing tasks and activities (**) - Yep, I get sidetracked all of the time.

Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort such as schoolwork (**) - Hey, I've never said I was the sharpest tack in the box.

Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities (**) - I often have to call my cell phone from the home's landline just to see where I left it. Of course I tell my wife she hid it so I wouldn't find it. Let's not talk about my missing reading glasses - I must own a dozen pairs and have a hard time finding one when I need them.

Is easily distracted (**) - Did you see that giant bird just fly by?

Is often forgetful in daily activities (**) - What, the mail lady doesn't want to see me in my bathrobe?

Hyperactivity Symptoms

Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (**) - There's no moss growing under my feet.

Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected (**) - This one really upsets my wife when we're watching TV; I get up and head into the computer room just to see what people are saying on Facebook. Now there is an addiction throngs suffer from - Facebook.

Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations (**) - What do you mean I need a ladder? I can climb and balance on this banister to change the battery in the smoke detector.

Has problems playing or working quietly (**) - I've always been a noise maker and yes, I know it is annoying, but that's just me.

Is often "on the go," acts as if "driven by a motor" (**) - My wife calls it my social whore tour - I love to visit with people even if they are busy at work.

Talks excessively (**) - Really?

Impulsivity Symptoms

Blurts out answers before questions have been completed (**) - See it is a debilitating disease and I'm not just being rude. My mouth always has the answers before it comes out of my brain.

Has difficulty waiting turn (**) - I can't help it if people take so long to say what they want and I'm just attempting to help them along with the conversation.

Interrupts or intrudes on others and butts into conversations or games (**) - What are we talking about? Weren't we playing the Hookie Pookie?

I think some of the ADHD symptoms I display that most annoy my wife are: "zoning out" without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation or while driving my vehicle; extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track; difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others; poor listening skills in general; hard time remembering conversations and following my wife's directions. Should I've said "all of the above?"

An example of me getting sidetracked and not listening to what my wife says occurred this morning. When she got up and told me her body was a little sore, I suggested I draw her bath to relax in. She told me she was going to read the newspaper first and for me not to run the bath.

Well, that's when "everything went south." I didn't hear her say not to do so and I sauntered into the bathroom and started drawing her bath. After starting her bath, I then went to my computer room and decided to check something on the computer. Yep, you can guess what happened next. About 45 minutes later while having breakfast, I jumped up and ran into the bathroom to discover water rushing over the side of the tub and the entire floor flooded. I would venture to say that in about 45 minutes, more than 360 gallons of water had been wasted and I had a very big mess to clean up. Some say it is ADHD and others say it is me just being a guy.

Looking back at many of those who I've dealt with over the years, I think many of my friends and acquaintances who our paths have crossed, also suffer from ADHD.

What can be done for those of us who suffer with ADHD? Well, I learned treating ADHD is a partnership between health care providers and the patients. And of course, if the patient is a child, the parents and often their teachers must get involved to help the individual suffering from ADHD. In my case, my wife has been thrust into the task of helping me work through my symptoms and to assist me with functioning as a normal healthy person. Boy, that is a daunting task for her.

For treatment to work, it is important to: set specific and appropriate goals; start medicine and/or get involved in therapy; and follow-up regularly with the doctor or your therapist to check on assigned goals, results, and any side effects that may have occurred while taking the prescribed medications. During these visits, information should be gathered from the patient and if relevant, also from the parents and teachers.

If treatment does not seem to work, the health care provider will likely check for medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms and make sure the treatment plan is being followed.

When it was determined that I suffer from ADHD (my wife told me I have ADHD and I have to believe her - I don't want to sleep on the couch), she said something to the effect, "Oh crap, another pill for you to take," so she devised a simple plan to counteract my ADHD. She is going to purchase a dog-shock collar for me to wear and when one of the ADHD symptoms manifests itself, she is going to push the button on the device to give me a "big jolt." All I can say is that sounds like Ivan Pavlov's (1849-1936) theory - that's when paired with the sound of a bell, the sound of the bell (called the conditioned or learned stimulus) eventually results in the same response - the dog begins salivating. However as it relates to me; if the wife pushes the button enough times, it will cause me to pay attention to her. That's a win-win situation for all, I stop getting shocked and my wife gets what she wants.

Just think, I could be a trend setter with fashion jewelry and accessories. I can just see it now, a bunch of people wearing dog-shock collars just to say "see I'm cool" and of course, I can also imagine movie stars walking down the red carpet during the Oscars and wearing a dog-shock collar. Hey, that's something to bark about.

All kidding aside, the biggest thing that must occur is people shouldn't hide in the closet the fact a friend, acquaintance or family member suffers from ADHD and they shouldn't sweep the disorder under the carpet. The sooner ADHD is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.

No I'm not going to mention the different types of treatment, therapy and medications available for the proper management of the symptoms of ADHD. That is a personal and professional decision the sufferer, family, medical professionals and of course, my wife has to consider and decide.

What I find most interesting is when I tell my friends my wife said I suffer from ADHD, their responses come in the way of a comment and then a question. They say, "I knew you have ADHD and you didn't know it?" Why is it I'm always the last to know about things most of the time?

I admit I sometimes have a short fuse or find myself getting into frequent verbal arguments with my wife and yes, I display a little rage when things just doesn't seem to go exactly the way I feel it should.

Hey, I think anger is a normal, healthy emotion, but when I display a chronic, explosive anger, my life seems to spiral out of control. I understand it can have serious consequences for my marriage, my health, and my state of mind. What I can't understand is why my wife puts up with my attitude and me. Now I realize why she just heads off into the bedroom or goes outside for a cigarette when I upset her. It can be said my wife has a lot of patience, especially when she deals with me.

I guess I can say my life is an alphabet soup of acronyms. I'm associated or have: COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease); PTSD (Post Traumatic Disorder - from what I did, experienced and saw during my two tours of combat duty in Vietnam); ADHD (we already know about this); ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder - the plain old one); AMP (Anger Management Problems); USMC RET. (I am retired from the United States Marine Corps); GYSGT. (Gunnery Sergeant - the rank I achieved prior to retiring from the Corps); VFW (I belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars); USMCCCA (I'm a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association); AARP (that's old folks stuff); and last but not least, AAA (I pay for American Automobile Association - roadside assistance), but am happy to say I do not need or attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous meetings - although in my younger years, I probably drank a little too much and was epitomized in the song by Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa - Young, Wild and Free - that is minus the "weed" and "drugs").

I want everyone to know I am honestly not poking fun at anyone who has ADHD other than me for not knowing I suffered from that debilitating disease. I too live with this disorder on a daily basis. I used to believe I was just a big goofy dude and if by poking fun at me for suffering with ADHD causes a smile on someone's face or makes them chuckle, then I've done a good deed. I believe humor can be the best medicine.

I want to say kudos to those who contend with friends, family members and associates who are suffering from ADHD.

And lastly but not least, I especially want to say to my loving wife "thank you" for tolerating my disorder, my anger-management problems and for putting up with me in general when it is probably very hard for her to do so. No wonder she often says, "I always love you, but don't always like you."

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