The Care and Feeding of the ADHD Person in your Life


Congratulations! Your child/spouse/student/sibling/parent/dog  has just been diagnosed with ADHD. You are about to embark on an incredible adventure. Actually, you’ve probably been on the adventure for a while, now it just makes more sense. But what do you do now? What will be expected of you, the non ADHD person, in dealing with your loved one? I have thoughts on this. I myself have ADHD and so do my two kids, so I’ve seen this from multiple angles. Here are a few helpful things to remember.

  1. It’s not going to go away. Some people seem to think that kids will just “grow out of it.” And while its true hyperactivity will decrease over time, the ADHD person will be dealing with some form of it the rest of their lives. This will manifest in different ways. For some people it’s disorganization, for others it’s chronic lateness, For most people its an inability to focus on something for any length of time. It changes form, but it’s always with us. This is not necessarily a big deal.
  2. It’s not your fault.  No one can cause anyone else to develop ADHD. It’s genetic. You’re born with it, just like being left-handed of having blue eyes. It’s true that it can be exacerbated by certain circumstances,, but that’s something that can be dealt with.
  3. We need your help to keep track of things. Keys? Maybe they’re still in my pocket? Homework? It was in my backpack ten minutes ago. Cell pone? I called it but i must have forgotten to take it off silent when I got out of the movie. Remote control? I think I set it down … somewhere. The most terrifying thing I say on a daily basis is “I just had that a few minutes ago.” So you will need to watch what we’re doing and help us develop strategies so we don’t lose everything. I have to follow my son around and put his things away constantly so they don’t get lost. My wife does the same thing with my daughter. And it seems like no matter how hard I try and put them in the same place every time, I have to budget ten minutes before I leave the house to look for my keys. It’s just going to happen.
  4. Sometimes, we’re TOO focused.  Every ADHD person will have things they find particularly engaging, and will hyper-focus on those things. Because paying close attention is so rare, whenever we find we do have the capacity, we find it hard to stop and get severely grumpy when we’re interrupted and have a hard time turning our attention to anything else. This can be really frustrating when your kid is involved in an art project, but it’s time to go to soccer practice. For me, I hyper-focus on reading an writing. But even though we can be hyper-focused …
  5. No matter how engaging the activity, we will occasionally lose track of what we are doing. At least one point in the middle of every tv show we watch, I will have to turn to my wife and say something along the lines of “what is going on again?” Or “who is this guy and why is he shooting the other guy?” My son will look up from his video game, look around for his phone, and suddenly be cut down by those covenant bastards, at which point he’ll curse and throw his controller. And yes, this means that, if it’s your spouse we’re talking about, there will even be times they lose track of what they are doing during sex (not even kidding).
  6. We crave structure and organization, but at least at first, are unable to create and maintain it for ourselves. This can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. We have a system, why can’t we follow it? The truth is that every ADHD person needs a different approach, and will need someone to come along and help them develop it and keep it going. Eventually, the training wheels will come off, but we still need frequent check-ins to make sure we’re not getting overwhelmed.
  7. Medication does a lot, but it’s not a cure-all. I am so thankful for my medication that I can’t even express it. Getting on adderal opened up my brain power in ways I’d never known before, enabling me to actually accomplish things. That said, I still struggle with motivation and organization and occasionally when doing something boring like cleaning the house, will end up standing in the middle of the living room, lost in constantly shifting thoughts. I find listening to audio-books and podcasts helps.
  8. We’re not closers. We have a tendency to start projects, get in the middle of them, then depart for greener, more interesting pastures. My son abandons lego projects, My daughter gets bored with games. I don’t know how many novels I’ve started and  not finished. My wife looks at all of us and just thinks WILL ONE OF YOU JUST FINISH SOMETHING? So we need help sticking with things.
  9. We have a tendency to over-commit. Sure, I’ll help you with the food drive, and help you organize the 5K, and get that review to you by Wednesday, and read the book you wrote, and get the house cleaned up so we can have people over … and … and… usually this is because we don’t remember what it is we’ve already committed to, and everything sounds interesting. So help us keep track of who we’ve promised what, and remind us to use strategies to manage it all.
  10. We’re usually pretty creative at problem solving, sometimes TOO creative. Because we’re thinking many different thoughts at once, we’re somethings good at making connections neuro-typicals miss. This also manifest as using improper tools to get things done, just because that’s what we had available, like the time my daughter and I were trimming Christmas tress branches with a steak knife. It can be frustrating to watch, but it’s actually a good thing.

So those are a few thoughts about dealing with your loved one with ADHD. The best advice … keep a sense of humor about everything. And realize you probably wouldn’t want them to be normal anyway … at least most of the time.

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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Uncategorized



OK, I Get It Already

The universe is always trying to teach me things. I am not always ready to learn them so it sometimes takes multiple tries. Here are a couple of my recent lessons:

1. Inspiration comes from work.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of years worrying that I could only be creative when I was manic. It has only been in the last couple of months since I got stable that I decided to do the work even when I didn’t feel particularly inspired. And guess what? Once I put my ass in the seat the muse showed up and I started having all these ideas.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because the ideas are flowing. Bad because they are not all ideas for my current project. So this is where I have to focus on what I can use right now and put everything else in a little notebook. There are currently four or five novels (series?) Floating around in notebooks. Now I have to put my butt in gear and finish what I’m working on so I can get to everything else before I die. I don’t need for anyone to give me ideas. In fact I prefer you not to.

2. Exercise equals brain power.

I recently started running again. Last May my kids participated in a 5k color run. I had the opportunity to do it too but declined, feeling out of shape and embarrassed. They had a great time and I regretted my decision, so this summer I finally got sick of my excuses and started training.

One unexpected benefit: the exercise makes me better able to keep it together. I really thinks it’s one of the main reasons I’ve been so stable recently. My goal has been to lose 30 lbs and I’ve only lost 3 but I have dropped three pants sizes, so I’ll take it.

I usually dread the running right before I do it, and all the way through it I want to quit, but I don’t. The rest of the day I feel incredible. It quiets my brain so I can focus while at the same time gives me energy to do the work. I’m not saying exercise can replace medication, but it can help.

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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Summer Reading

I try to read a lot. My goal is to read fifty pages a day, which works out to about five books a month. This is nothing if you compare me to someone like Stephen King, who reportedly read hundreds of books a year, but I feel like it’s a pretty good pace. Here are my thoughts on a couple of books I read recently.


The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I loved Cloud Atlas, and its Russian nesting doll of a structure  chronicling the lives of various linked characters throughout different time periods. This book has a similar set up. Events are told through various viewpoint characters, one in each time period. This time the story is more straightforward. It’s the tale of a war between two groups of immortals, told as they intersect with a woman and affect her throughout her life. It’s beautifully written, with great characters, but was confusing in places and some of its more out-there concepts don’t hold up to scrutiny. I liked it, even if it’s not as good as Cloud Atlas.


Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey.

This is the fifth installment in The Expanse series, and, I think, one of the best. Ordinarlily the way these books are structured you get the central viewpoint of James Holden, Captain of the Rocinante, along with several other characters who are usually only around for one book. This time the other viewpoints are from the other members of the Rocinante’s crew, as they take off in separate corners of the solar system to deal with personal matters. Eventually, though, events collide cataclysmically, and they find themselves pulled back together again, fighting to become one crew once more. There are severa, major events that will change the series going forward. It might be my favorite book of the series so far.


Armada by Ernest Cline

I ,loved Ready Player One, and its deep dive through pop culture, and this does a similar thing here. A teenage video game expert finds himself recruited into a cosmic war, discovering world-shaking secrets along the way. If it sounds a little like The Last Starfighter, that’s addressed in a clever way. It’s good, even if it seems a little shallow at times. It doesn’t let characterization get in the way of a good space battle, and I found the climax a little predictable.


The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

This is the secret to the Hugo-award-winning Chinese novel The Three Body Problem, which I absolutely loved. This book? Has some problems. It details the preparations for a coming interstellar way over the course of two centuries. There are a couple of conceits that don’t make a whole lot of sense, and I had big problems understanding the way the conflict was ultimately resolved. It also has a problem with its female characters. They’re either ciphers offered as prizes to the main characters, or subordinates with little agency. Maybe that’s a cultural thing. I enjoyed this book and will read the concluding volume of the trilogy. It might make more sense if I read it again. It could just be me.

I read several other books, but these are the Four I wanted to talk about. Currently reading the new Jim Butcher Steampunk thing, which is good so far. Interested in what you guys have read recently. Leave your picks in the comments ….

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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Chad and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Brain

Bipolar Disorder is a moving target. Its effects vary from episode to episode, and a treatment that might be effective for months or even years can suddenly stop working. Treating it is a challenge. Staying stable is a challenge. Accomplishing anything, no matter how small, is a victory.

And it’s a victory I haven’t enjoyed very much in the past couple of years.

Before about seven years ago, I would have bouts of hypomania. Hypomania is awesome. I would be full of energy, whole novels would dump themselves into my head in a single afternoon, I felt like I could do anything. I could go without sleep and not feel the effects. I would think fast, and talk fast. If I was a little incomprehensible to people around me, who cares? I was on a higher plane than they were. I could do anything.

Eventually, though, that would turn toxic and I would crash into a depression. No energy, little coherent thought, getting through the day was a challenge. I would obsess about various ways I could kill myself, but lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. If anything, this just made me feel worse, like I was a failure even at this.

I rode this cycle until about seven years ago, when the cycle of hypomania and depression stopped, and I began instead to go between stages or normal and mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are awful. You have all the energy of mania, with all the negative thoughts and anxiety of depression. In hypomania, you want to climb a mountain. In a mixed episode you want to climb a mountain so you can throw yourself off it.

Back in 2008, when I was in the middle of one of these mixed episodes, I went to my GP. He consulted some kind of web app, looked up Bipolar Disorder, and put me on Abilify.

If anything, this was worse. I was a zombie. Walking across the room was a struggle. My wife saw I was struggling and planned a family trip, hoping to cheer me up. It was a really great trip, but I don’t remember much of it. It was hard to even stay awake. I stopped taking the Abilify, but was still having the crushing anxiety and elevated anger of the mixed episode.

So we found a specialist. He diagnosed me officially with bipolar disorder, and put me on a mood stabilizer. I wasn’t fixed, but it was better.

All through this time I was trying to write. in 2007 I finished a novel, and in early 2008, before the mixed episode, I started another one. Then, with all of the cycles, writing became difficult. Hypomania gone, I found my ideas just weren’t coming anymore. The prose was bland. I hated everything I wrote. I managed to get past it and write anyway, and even sold a couple of stories, but I wasn’t happy with it. I came to the place where I thought I might now write anything good again.

This continued for several years. I got out of the habit of writing every day. I worked on editing my first novel, but had to admit it just wasn’t working and abandoned it. This only made me feel worse. I used to love this, why couldn’t I do it anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had always defined myself as a writer. What was I going to do if I didn’t have that any more. More years passed. I wrote a couple of short stories, but they didn’t sell.

Last year, I decided to pull out the novel I started in 2008. As I read it, I got excited. It wasn’t perfect, but It was pretty good. The voice was entertaining and the plot, which I had written by the seat of my pants, actually hung together pretty well. I loved the characters. If I had once been capable of this, might I be capable again. I just needed to make myself do it.

So in July of last year I signed up for camp Nano. This is like NaNoWriMo except you set your own goal. I set mine for 30,000 words. Doable, I thought. I was fine for the first three weeks, then the fourth week an episode hit and I got nothing done. I ended up writing only 20,000 words, which wasn’t bad for a month’s output, but I didn’t meet my goal.

I read what I’d written and I hated it. I put my writing away for several months. Eventually, I wrote another short story, which didn’t sell. For a year I was pretty stable, but was accomplishing nothing. I wasn’t falling into mixed episodes, but wasn’t able to get much done.

I also gained about forty pounds, which only made things worse.

This summer I finally talked to my specialist about. He decided to try an anti-depressant long with my mood stabilizers. After a few weeks, I started to feel better. I wasn’t writing, but I was able to get stuff done during my day and had more energy. I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and decided to start running again, hoping this would help me continue to balance out. I set myself for running in the 5k color run coming up in October.

In August I looked at all I had written so far on the novel, and I had to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was definitely salvageable. I decided I had worked on it long enough that it was time to finish it. It had been since 2007 since I’d finished something long form, and that was just unacceptable. I set myself another goal. I would have this book done by my birthday in January. In September I started writing again setting myself a goal of writing 1000 words a day, five days a week.

If I was going to do this, I needed a plan. Even on all my meds, organizing my day is hard for me, and I often come to the end finding I hadn’t accomplished mush. This had to stop. So, I got myself a notebook, wrote out a schedule and a to-do list for each day, and tried my best to stick with it.

It worked! I was meeting my writing goals, continuing to run, and (mostly) keeping up with all the housework and laundry.

So with the combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and exercise I feel like I’m functioning again. I’ve been in a better mood. The book is 2/3 of the way done, and none of the pets have died.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Like I said, it’s a moving target.  But for now, I’ll take it.

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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


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In the Interest of Not Being a Sarcastic Jackass All the Time part 2

I’ve done this before. It’s inspired by the great folks on Pop Culture Happy hour. It’s nice to take stock and look at the good things that are happening once in a while, so here are 5 things that are making me happy right now.

1. Stupid Summer TV is here! Summer is traditionally seen as a a dumping ground for all the shows the networks didn’t feel strongly enough about to show during the actual TV season, and for the large part, that is true. But the good news is that I like stupid stuff. I like goofball ideas and experimentation. So bring on Primeval New World, Under the Dome, Siberia, Sinbad, and all the rest.

And oh, Sinbad. This is the platonic ideal of a silly summer show. Just in the first episode Sinbad: won a street fight, stole an artifact from a mysterious father-daughter duo, got chased by guards, got captured by Sayid from Lost, got his brother killed, broke out of prison,was cursed by his grandma, got chased by guards again, stole away on a ship, discovered a perky thief, was thrown in the brig, sailed into the middle of a storm, battled water demons, saved perky thief from drowning, guided the ship through a tidal wave, found himself and his companions lost on the high seas.

Again, this was just the first episode. It wasn’t even double size or anything, just an hour in length. It’s new on the Syfy channel, but it probably first aired in Canada or something.

2I finally replaced my laptop. My old laptop was five years old, and though it was mostly working it had this annoying habit of turning itself off for no reason while I was in the middle of doing something. At first I thought it was overheating, so I bought it a cooling pad, but this didn’t seem to help. Recently, I became able to afford it so I replaced it.

My new laptop has 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive. Do I need 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive? Not really, but it’s nice to know it’s there. It runs on Windows 8, which is a mixed bag because windows 8 has a habit of forgetting it has things like, oh, say, wifi, but this is a minor annoyance and doesn’t happen very often. Beside, there are time it would be very good for me to have a computer that doesn’t have wifi. And it doesn’t turn itself off for no reason.

3. I have a couple of days this week to get caught up. The kids are home from school now, which means my writing time has been curtailed to say the least. I have a short story that needs editing, and a novel that needs an updated outline and a new start. So when my wife had to go to a conference in Santa Cruz, I decided to go with her, which would leave me a couple of days in a hotel room with nothing to do but write (and yes, watch TV and surf the internet, but I’m really trying to avoid those things). This blog post is the first result of that time, so so far I am doing ok.

4. My wife and I are taking an actual vacation. And no, I am not counting the Santa Cruz trip. It’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary in August, but she’ll be working, training teachers at a conference in San Diego, But the kids are going away to camp in July and we decided to take that time for an early anniversary trip. We are going back to Seattle, which is where we spent our honeymoon. Hopefully this will be a better trip since on our honeymoon we both got the stomach flu and spent two days retching in our hotel room. It was not very romantic.

My wife, the travel planning expert, has a lot of stuff planned. It should be a lot of fun.

5. Perry. I finally broke down and gave into the begging and let my daughter get a new puppy. She wanted something small that could live in the house with us with a minimum of fuss (we have a bigger dog who stays mostly outside because every time he comes in he pees on something). She selected a Yorkshire terrier and we found a breeder who didn’t want to charge $1000 for one. We brought it home last Thursday and the thing breaks the cuteness scale. The best part is I get to play with the dog, enjoy hanging out with it, bask in its adorability, and hand it over to my daughter to train and clean up its messes. I imagine it’s something like having a grandchild. We named it Perry, mostly so that we could look at each other and say “Hey, where’s Perry?” (yes we are big fans of Phineas and Ferb)

anyway, here’s a pic: Image

And that’s five things that are making me happy right now. I’d love to hear about yours.


Posted by on June 25, 2013 in culture, life, writing


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Grimdark Fatigue, or Why I Broke Up with The Walking Dead

Spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and TV series, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire.

When I was younger I really like horror movies. Every Halloween I would have a group of friends over and we would watch movies all night long. My favorites were The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I liked them all. Start out with a group of characters, whittle them down until only one or two are left, then beat the bad guy.

Pop culture commentator Tara Ariano says that what you get out of these movies is catharsis, and she’s right. You deal with fear, anger, work through it and feel better at the end. That was certainly true for me.

As I got older my tastes in these things grew more selective. I liked the Alien movies, then came Pitch Black which I thought was absolutely astounding.

From here I moved on to other things, my favorite of which was The Walking Dead comic. I loved the revolving cast of characters, the situation, the sense that anyone could die (and did!)  at any moment.

However, as time went along, instead of developing a high tolerance for horror, I started to lose my ability to deal with it a little bit, lost the ability to shut out the grimness and enjoy the story. Instead of becoming desensitized, my triggers got a little more sensitive.

And one of those triggers was violence against children. I made it though a mother and a baby being shot to death, an eight-year-old twin murdering his other twin and then being shot in the head by another eight-year-old. What finally did me in was when a little boy who was running from zombies pissed himself, then was eaten while his mother tried to save herself.

That was it for me, I couldn’t deal with the grimness anymore and dropped the series.

Before this, however, came the tv series. At the start I loved it for all the same reasons I’d loved the comic series. All the death didn’t get to me. And then came the plotline where a little girl ran away, was turned into a zombie, and had to be shot in the head. I couldn’t deal with the tv series anymore and dropped it too.

In an ongoing story like this, there is no catharsis, no sense that we’ve pulled through and everything will be ok soon. It’s just one more grim situation after another.

From this, death in stories itself started to bug me more and more.

I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, but all the death there is starting to get to me too. Martin has killed off all the interesting, noble characters and replaced them with those that are much less compelling. I wanted this series to be about the triumph of the Stark family, and now the Starks are (mostly) dead. I understand that good stories don’t necessarily give readers what they think they want, but it would be nice if the good guys could get a win sometime. Then Martin goes and kills who I thought was the main character, the only one left who was fighting the good fight that needed to be fought. Just kills him dead with no warning. And I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. Too grim.

From here comes the Game of Thrones TV Series, based on the books. Now I haven’t seen any season 3 episodes because I don’t have HBO and am watching on Blue-Ray a year later. This series has been even more grim than the books, and talk about violence against children. They’ve slaughtered a baby, among others. In many ways the TV series has gone beyond the books in the violence they are willing to portray, but maybe it’s just the difference between reading it and seeing it.

Come this last week’s episode and the red wedding. Like I said, I haven’t seen the episode, but I knew it was coming, and I wondered how they would deal with it. If anything it seems like it goes beyond what happened in the books. They gut a pregnant lady. That did not happen in A Storm of Swords.

So now I don’t know if I can go on with this series either. Too grim. I don’t need more grim in my life. I have enough issues with mental stability as it is.

I know death is necessary in fiction. I killed off a little kid in my first published story. But there needs to be some hope in there, some catharsis, or it just overwhelms. And I don’t need to be overwhelmed by that any more.

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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in culture, writing


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I Give Up!

There are certain versions of myself that live only in my head and have no connection to reality. I have discovered as I get older, that more and more of these things are just not going to become things for me. And I need to let them go. It’s just too much pressure! So here are a few of them, in no particular order:

1. I am never going to be a runner.

I’ve run before, a lot. I have bought new running shoes, a treadmill, scheduled time in the early morning (ha!), gotten myself really psyched up. And every time I quit after a few days. I just have to admit to myself that I hate it. I don’t get a runner’s high, I don’t feel good after doing it (it actually once made me vomit into the neighbor’s rosebushes). A run starts out badly and gets worse. My asthma kicks in. I roll an ankle. But it’s always been something I wanted to do. The truth is, I mainly want to be able to tell people I run, and post nike updates to twitter (and seriously, if you’re doing this, I’m impressed but it really bums me out). These are not good reasons to nearly kill yourself.

I love walking. I love hiking. So from now on I’m going to do that. I can set the treadmill on an incline and watch Buffy while I walk. It’s better for everyone this way.

2. I am never going to learn how to play guitar.

I have a guitar. I have taken lessons. I have payed around and even learned a song, but what all of this has told me is that I have a spectacular lack of talent. I lack physical coordination, finger strength, and rhythm. I also lack the discipline to practice. So for this … it’s not happening. I’ll give my guitar to my daughter and hope she has more talent than I do (from what I’ve seen of her dancing, rhythm might prove a hurdle for her as well).

I realize this seriously affects my chances at winning American Idol, but I’m just going to have to live with that.

3. I am never going to become a Neil Gaiman Fanboy.

I like Neil Gaiman. He seems incredible witty and big-hearted and like an overall exemplary human being, but something about his work just leaves me cold. For a long time, I’ve felt bad about this, that this is some indication of a defect within my own character. And I do like certain things that he’s done. I loved Stardust (the movie is one of my favorites) and American Gods stayed with me for a long time. I understand the quality of the craft in his work. It’s just not my thing I guess. Our story sensibilities are just a little far apart.

I hope he can forgive me. I suspect he’ll lose little sleep.

4. I am never going to be the cool parent.

Let’s face it: my kids think I’m a dork. Let’s face it: I am a dork. I’m clumsy and mumble-mouthed. I say the wrong things. I do the wrong things. I come out when they’re playing with their friends to make them take their medications. I am hopeless about sports, only barely registering some feeling when the SF Giants have made it to the playoffs (that’s a baseball team, right?) I don’t understand the positions on the soccer team. When the parents played the kids I had a handball twice (twice!) (for my fellow non-athletes, a handball is a term in soccer when the let the ball touch you on the arms. I forgot about this and unwisely used an elbow to keep the ball from hitting me in the face. Apparently you’re supposed to let it hit you in the face) I get waaaaaay too excited about books and tv shows, but when I play video games I am the one who gets stuck in a corner and can’t figure out how to turn around..

So I may be a dork, I just hope that I’m a lovable dork and that they forgive me.

So these are the things I am letting go of today. I already feel better and now I can shift that mental energy into accomplishing goals that really are important to me, like becoming a champion line dancer.

OK, not really (my daughter just squeed in horror, if that’s a thing you can do).

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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in culture, life


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