One of my earliest childhood memories is spending time at the Children's Hospital taking these funky tests. I didn't really know why I was there or why people kept asking me what seemed like odd questions, but I answered them the best I could. After that, I never went back and nothing really changed for me, so it was just a blip on the childhood radar - nothing of particular note.
What I didn't know then, and later found out, was that the whole purpose of the trip was to figure out if I had ADD. And this was in the early 80's, before it was popular! Turns out the doctors thought I did and my parents didn't want to put me on meds, so that was that and I don't really remember it coming up again. I guess I did well enough in school where no urgent action seemed to be needed.
I also remember very vividly a time in high school when I was writing a term paper and one of my friends gave me a ritalin from his prescription assuring me that it would help me get the work done. Did it ever. Suddenly I had the ability to block everything else out and work on just one thing. It was odd. It was a bit scary. But man, did I write. It also back-fired when I eventually did get distracted and proceeded to play Sega's NHL 95 until about 5am. Win some, lose some.
I don't know a whole lot about ADD or ADHD and how it should be dealt with the best, but I do know that uninterrupted focus is rare in my life. My PhD advisor (especially) and my postdoc advisor both have the ability to zone in on something and Get Shit Done in remarkably efficient ways. I don't. Apparently I hide it fairly well (not intentionally) because to my knowledge, no one else really seems to notice; nor would they unless they watched me work and that would just be creepy. It's not like this has derailed me or anything, my gerbil-like attention span is something I am used to. I just work very differently and had a hard time using "Dr. Focus, PI" as a model. In a lot of ways it can be a good thing in this job, where my day is often sliced in a zillion pieces of time doing different things. It is also probably a reason why we have so many projects going on in the lab right now or why I needed to be juggling several projects all the time as a student and postdoc. However, if I work on one thing for 2 hours straight it either means I am under huge deadline pressure or plague and pestilence are coming shortly, followed by a bunch of guys on horses.
Since my one experience, I haven't tried any other drugs to treat ADD. Who knows, maybe it would help, but I've found other ways to deal with my scatteredness. And since I only found out somewhat recently that I was "dealing" with anything, I guess I've just done what works for me. Typically I take a lot of breaks when I am working on something and spend 5-10 minutes doing something else. It's not particularly efficient, but it means I get the most out of the time I am spending working. Pre-blogging, a lot of my breaks were spent reading about sports, catching up on news or doing some of the random little things that everyone has to do in a day. Then, for some reason, I started a blog.
Blogging, for me, has become a productive way to reign in my inability to focus for long periods of time and turn my breaks into something more valuable than reading another opinion on the pre-season moves in the AFC-East. Whether you believe it or not, many of the posts I regularly write don't take longer than a few minutes to compose. If you are one who pays close attention to spelling and grammar, my time spent per post likely doesn't surprise you, but people often assume that this stuff takes longer than it actually does.
So, instead of broadening the scope of my NFL knowledge*, I have allocated my "non-work" time to writing about inane snippets of academic life and interacting with others doing the same. What I never anticipated, however, was how useful this would become for my development as a researcher, teacher and person. But more on that over the next couple of days.
*The Jets still suck, though.