Say What?

Monday, February 21st, ©2011 Marcus Brooks

My wife Shea likes to use me as an example in her communication classes; less as a paradigm, more as a cautionary tale.

One of my ADHD symptoms is “hyperfocus,” a state in which I am so attentive to a task or a train of thought that I’m totally unaware of my surroundings.

It used to be, if Shea was talking and thought I didn’t hear, she would ask “what did I just say?” Often I was able to repeat her words exactly as she’d said them. It didn’t take her long to decide such an answer meant I had been ignoring her.

Apparently part of my brain is attentive to my surroundings even when I’m in hyperfocus, and I can play back the last few seconds from short term memory if I catch it before it fades. Now Shea won’t believe I’ve heard her unless I restate her meaning in my own words. I think she can also tell if I rewind and paraphrase on the fly, but sometimes she lets it slide.

Shea thinks playback mode is one reason I was able to fake my way through school without anyone suspecting I had ADHD. (When a shrink did finally test me, he said I measured off the scale. Ritalin saved my marriage.)

I’m reminded of my American History teacher in high school. I was in the (cruel) habit of filling in the blank whenever she paused to think of a word. One day I was reading in her class as she talked. The room fell silent for a moment and she exclaimed “Marcus!” I looked up and said “militaristic,” and she resumed talking as if that satisfied her. I never did figure out exactly what she’d been talking about.

But I can’t shake the feeling that “militant” would have been a better word.

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