Got Memory? – Part I


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OpenAllNiteMemory, Aging and ADD

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

My sleep disorder has me out of phase with the rest of America again.  Bummer!

Since, of late, I seem to be asleep when the rest of America is up and at’em, awake when it seems that all the world’s aslumber, there’s not much to distract me from reading and research – so I’ve been reading a lot lately!

One of the few good things about Living with JetLag™ is that there are periods of time when I can do little else but dive into books I have been too busy to read while I scrambled to catch up with everything missed “off-phase” during those precious times when I am “on-phase” with the rest of you earthlings.

A number of books have come out in the past few years exploring what happens to our brains as we age. Several are exploring “normal” changes, others are looking at brain disorders that seem to strike at middle-age, most notably Alzheimers.

Other than mentioning the link between aging and sleep struggles, which I will explore in another series of posts, the primary focus of most of the books I’m currently ingesting concerns the processes of memory: what happens when they work as expected, and what happens when they don’t.

Two I just finished are:

  • Barbara Strauch’s The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain
  • Cathryn Jakobson Ramin’s Carved in Sand
    - when attention fails and memory fades in midlife
The timing seems suddenly right for a series of articles on memory and ADD, but before I get into the details, I need to get something off my chest.

A Double Edged Sword

While these two books are fascinating reading on the one hand, and consistent with what I’ve been putting together for over twenty years now, the effect on my emotions due to my reading on this topic has been like a double-edged sword: it cuts both ways.

One edge is thrilling – as millions of Baby Boomers  are reaching the age where they are experiencing attention and short-term memory deficits en masse — similar to what we ADDers have been describing for DECADES, by the way — there is real cause for celebration.  There will finally be enough economic incentive to fund a greater number of studies that might actually discover what’s going on — which will help ALL of us!

It seems to be happening already. New research studies exploring brain-based memory dysfunctions are suddenly popping up every day, it seems.

FINALLY, there seems to be an all-out attempt to understand what’s going on and to develop work-arounds to make life easier, possibly to repair or reverse whatever it is that causes the problem (mostly pharmaceutical, natch – but personally, I’m grateful for relief due to ANYTHING that makes a positive difference - and you will be too when you reach the age where you have to live with “ADD” symptoms yourself!!!)

It seems, at least from these two books, that we’re on the cusp of an attitudinal sea-change: the general populace will be looking a bit more kindly at medications that work in the brain and the people who take them, now that so many MORE people are struggling.

It’s heartening to think that new medications in the pipeline will be embraced by the entire aging Boomer populace as miracle drugs.  That stands out in sharp contrast to the scorn and suspicion thrown the way of ADD meds and everyone involved with them for decades.

Hallelujah!  About damn time!

A little less Dangerfield!

I’m finally about to get some respect from my “vanilla”  friends, unflavored by ADD, who’ve always considered me “lovable but dingy.” For the first time in my life, the shoe will be on the other foot. Thanks to several decades of sherlocking and practice, I will be functioning better than THEY are!

Larry, a sixty-something friend of mine exclaimed recently:

“Is THIS what it’s like to have ADD?
I’m forgetting names of people I’ve known for YEARS.
I can’t remember where anything IS — it seems I spend half my day on a hunt.
My sense of direction has all but disappeared.  My vocabulary’s fading.
I can’t get anything done – I forget what I’m doing WHILE I’m doing it.

HOW does anybody live like this!”

And if I ever needed proof that ADDers are so much kinder than vanillas, I didn’t even have to bite my tongue to keep from giving Larry the canned advice he had been throwing my way for years, rah-ther dismissively I might add!

Lest I rest on my moral superiority too solidly, I must also admit that I DID have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, Suddenly not such a big joke now that YOU have to deal with it, IS IT, kiddo?!!

Which brings me to the other edge of that sword.

The other edge is MADDENING: it made me extremely angry. Furious, actually!  After twenty years of ADD Advocacy with precious little understanding to point to as the result of all my energy and effort, I think I may be reaching a tipping point in my willingness to smile benignly and explain again nicely.  Be warned!

On the OTHER hand . . .

Those of us with Attentional Spectrum Disorders and Executive Functioning Deficits have been struggling with these problems our entire lives, to undeserved and unkind public ridicule and general disbelief.

NOW they’re suddenly a problem worth exploring seriously and writing books about?

What is it about humans beings that causes most of them to
endeavor to understand ONLY when they experience it personally?

Narcissism? Mirror Cell deficits? Magical Thinking? Arrogance?

Wait! Let me say that more strongly:

What is it about humans beings that causes them to BELIEVE
what others say is going on ONLY when they experience it personally?

THAT one’s gotta’ be arrogance, pure and simple!

And try as I might, turning page after page of these books, reading their prose explaining how frustrating all these “late life” symptoms are for them, following them on their research trails from scientist to doctor, I wanted to smack them for their arrogance as urgently as I wanted to throw a snide I told you so at my friend Larry.

These are not new problems.  These are not new directions for research.

And these problems CERTAINLY don’t deserve sudden credibility because
Executive Functioning deficits suddenly cropped up in lives that never
had to deal with these problems before!

Credit Where Credit is Due

There are, by my count, 18 million or more people in the United States alone who have been trying to fashion lives worth living for YEARS, coping with Executive Functioning deficits that are relatively new to the authors of Carved in Sand, and The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain.

Reading the author’s descriptions of these late-life problems that were so disconcerting was like reading the descriptions of the struggles and frustrations experienced by those with diagnostic Attentional issues in almost every single one of the ADD books in my Executive Functioning library.

You know — that “ADD” people like to say
doesn’t really exist, is over-diagnosed,
over-medicated, and not that big a problem.

And I have to tell you that it’s a real challenge to drum up sympathy for these Johnny-come-lately functional fears and struggles, or admiration for their optimistic resolve, knowing that both authors were able to write from a backlog of decades of functional ease that most ADDers would trade ten years of their lives to have experienced.

It is ESPECIALLY hard for me to join the applause of the columnists and talk-show hosts when I realize that these authors haven’t a clue about what might have happened to the trajectory of their lives if they’d never been able to count on functioning one whit better than they do on their worst days now that they are older and less cognitively nimble.

  • Would they have the wherewithal to go trotting from interview to interview, financial and otherwise?
  • Would they have been able to jump through their educational hoops?
  • How about the negative impact on their relationships, their credit scores, their abilities to keep their home-fires burning, and the hit to their self confidence?

Forgetting about the past, let’s take a look at the climate surrounding their struggles in the present tense.

  • Nobody’s ridiculing their experiences or their desires for control of their relatively new symptoms;
  • Nobody’s suggesting they wouldn’t have a problem if they just tried harder, or really WANTED to do what they say they suddenly find difficult.
  • Nobody’s accusing them of hyperbolizing or of drug seeking behavior.

*ALL* of which those of us with ADD have had to contend with for our ENTIRE lives.

Good for the Goose, BAD for the Gander?

Yet, even as authors, and studies, and personal reports explain the severity of the impact of their symptoms on their lives and extol their recently received explanations of the virtues of early intervention on overall brain-functioning (especially where memory is concerned), there are articles and books and blogs and smart-alec broadcasters scaring parents away from medications designed to mitigate the effects of Executive Functioning Disorders in children.

HOW DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE?

Don’t those high-handed bozos understand that with memory impairments,
LEARNING is impaired?

Not just “book-learning” — ANY learning.
And life itself is game that must be learned.

Learning relies on memory consolidation – moving short term memories of recent experience deeper into the brain pudding, categorized for ease of retrieval when needed for recombination.

Sometimes medication is necessary to complete the recipe for the “neurochemical soup” that came as part of the package for those with vanilla brains, allowing the consolidation process to proceed unimpeded.

Not every ADD brain needs medication, not all ADD brains respond to medication, and ALL substances have side effects (including “herbals”).  So if systems, structure, exercise, better nutrition, and the avoidance of foods that trigger sensitivities will work for your ADDer (or for you), CLEARLY that’s your choice!!

However, just because some ADDers can manage without medication is no reason to assume that ALL can or all could.

SOME diabetics gain control with diet and exercise alone, and some require insulin.

  • We don’t see article after interview after blog railing against Eli Lilly for their profit motive
  • Nobody makes fun of individuals who use the product that Lilly Pharmaceuticals developed
  • Nobody accuses the parents of diabetics of doping their kids with pharmaceutals because it is “more convenient.”

So how come the same principles aren’t applied to ADDers
and the medications that help manage cognition?

YOU HEARD IT HERE:

ADD medications are NOT designed to keep kids’ little bodies STILL, mouths quiet, butts in chairs, eyes forward (in other words, as the ADD-ignorant like to claim, “sedated – for the ‘convenience’ of grownups ‘too lazy’ to parent them adequately“).

ADD is best managed with stimulant medication.
Stimulants don’t “sedate,” they energize.

Psychostimulants are first-line ADD medications because that class of medication changes neurochemistry in a manner that will focus the parts of their BRAINS that are under-stimulated, so that these kids are ABLE to attend, register, remember, recombine and LEARN!

What is often referred to as the “paradoxical effect” of stimulants on the behavior of ADDers occurs because the meds “wake up” a part of the brain that’s sluggish (the pre-frontal cortex), so that the other parts of the brain can calm down once they are relieved of their attempt to compensate for less than adequate executive functioning as a result of that sluggish pre-frontal cortex.

Yep!  What many misidentify as “sedation” is actually access to an ability to control behavior that was formerly out of control.

So, now that I’ve gotten all THAT off my chest, I’m ready to move forward with a lot of information about memory that will make it easier for anybody to understand what they need to be able to drive the brains they were born with, ADDers, neurotypicals, and aging boomers alike.

In the rest of the articles in this series, we will explore the secret life of the ADD brain as well as the grown up brain, the childhood brain and the aging brain, so that you can begin to understand what you need to do and why you need to do it to allow attention and memory to be carved in something a little more solid than sand.

Meanwhile, America, PLEASE, take a sober look at your attitudes toward ADD, get off your high horses, get off our backs, and throw a little support, empathy and understanding OUR way.

Not only do our feelings get hurt by your make-wrong and snide comments, your censure makes it all the harder for us to manage — especially when the same behavior you seem to believe WE could and should overcome is forgiven and compensated for in individuals with Executive Functioning deficits acquired later in life.

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As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Memory Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)
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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above)

ADD, ADD Meds & Memory Related articles

Other Related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

Related Articles ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

Photo Credit:

The photo of the double edged sword is of an African Sword, from Ivory Coast.  It was taken Adam Rose and is used under a Creative Commons License. See more by Adam on Flickr

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

12 Responses to Got Memory? – Part I

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    • I hate it when that happens to me! Thanks for leaving a comment anyway (and I generally don’t rewrite either, so I understand completely). I appreciate the kudos, and good luck with your site.
      xx,
      mgh

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    • Thanks Nicole – re: forums, Google is your best bet. BTW – next time you have to put your NAME in the name field to keep from getting spammed.

      Merry Christmas!
      xx
      mgh

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    • Thanks for taking the time to post a positive response, Teena — keep coming back!
      xx,
      mgh

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    • Thank you very much. Most people like the “quiet” style, but there have been a few who have not. I appreciate hearing from those who do – I always seem to hear most from the exceptions, which make me wonder and worry ::grin:: – the old ADD rumination bites us all in the patootie, huh?

      Also nice to know re: Opera. I test on a couple, but not that one – there’s only so much time I can dedicate without an income stream to fund these efforts.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      xx,
      mgh

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    • Glad to hear it. Thanks for stopping by.
      xx,
      mgh

  6. friend I was browsing on-line and I got here across your post… I loved reading it . I realized a lot about this topic that you just wrote here. Thank you so much for posting an article like this one.

    • You’re welcome – and thanks for your comment. Since I noted that your website sells nutriceuticals for diabetics, I’m sure you are already aware of the memory deficits, mood swings and attentional struggles that accompany fluctuating blood sugar – so I’m sure you DID recognize a lot of what I was ranting about.

      I also understand the additional challenges of diabetes only too well. I lost two siblings to it, my sister Jaye relativly recently (in her mid-fities), and my brother Michael shortly before his 30th birthday, over twenty years ago. Both had Type I (which used to be called “Juvenile Diabetes” – for those who are unfamiliar with that other term.)

        Michael had lost his sight by the time he died, the result of diabetic retinopathy (the leading cause of blindness, for those of you who are not familiar with THAT term), struggling with heart disease, and missing a couple of toes that had to be amputated to save his feet from advancing gangrene.

        My brother could (seemingly) eat anything he wanted without consequence, so his diabetes was seldom under adequate control. Any diabetic reading who is playing games with diet and alcohol, please read the above again — you can’t DO that and expect to live very long. When it catches up with you – and it WILL – it will do so with a vengeance. And rapidly.

        My sister Jaye lost a protracted fight with breast cancer that finally metastasized to bone as the result of repeated periods when her anti-cancer regimen had to be suspended to re-regulate her blood sugar, and during times when it was essential to insert the NINE heart stents she had accumulated by the time she died – heart disease a consequence of diabetes.

        Always ready to make another’s step a bit lighter, she got to know the rest of the patients on the heart ward with her as she recovered each time. 100% of them also had diabetes.

        Jaye was more than diligent with self-care throughout her adult life, leaving behind two wonderful boys, gestated and delivered in rock-solid diabetic control. Both young men are healthy and diabetes-free (knock wood – Type II, adult onset is something we ALL must be careful to avoid.)

      Diabetes is a PERNICIOUS disease, nowhere NEAR regulation with as much as you can throw at it!

      THAT is the reason I approved your post, even though I do not normally approve off-site links to non-ADD related websites. If anyone is reading this comment, struggling with ADD as well as diabetes and looking for a coach, know that this particular co-occurance is an area of my expertise . I send my prayers your way.

      Uncharacteristically, I encourage anyone reading to check out the non-ADD related website of the commenters above. And please, GUARD YOUR HEALTH JEALOUSLY! If you’ve got that, you’re blessed, but it requires ATTENTION to maintaining it. It’s difficult to impossible to recover it if you let it slip away.

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