Quite by chance, I recently met up with a friend of mine (you can read her blog at http://thestubbythumb.com/) who did the same job as me in Afghanistan in a different area. She told me as we chatted over sweet potato fries and watched teenagers line dance on the patio of the restaurant (which is about as far removed as it could have been from the last time I met her, when we sat on an Afghan base, eating pizza from an Italian restaurant–as in, Italians from Italy, not New York) that she had just been diagnosed with ADHD.
I spent a while thinking about ADHD later that night. Leaving my over-use of parenthetical asides aside, it’s not a condition I’ve ever had a problem with. I mean, sure, I can be distracted by shiny things as easily as the next person, but I managed to write my entire PhD dissertation in less than a year, which is a sure sign of focus (and/or a stubborn desire to prove everyone wrong when they said it couldn’t be done. Whichever).
But, just as I thought that, I realized it wasn’t quite true. I used to be fine, but now I actually have trouble sitting through an hour-long TV show (even the recording with no commercials at 42 minutes is pushing it). Movies are tough. I used to be able to read avidly for hours at a time, but now I’m lucky if I make it through half a chapter before I’m fidgeting and distracted by any and everything. I check out of conversations halfway through because my brain’s moved onto other things. Sometimes that’s even true when I’m the one doing the talking. I think I’ve actually looked out my window seven times just writing this paragraph.
What happened? I deployed. I can’t think of anything else. Everyone’s experience is different, but I spent almost two years living in a world where I worked 12-15 hour days, if I watched TV it was no more than 20 minutes of a show I had on my hard drive at a time, and I had almost no time to read. All my writing was due five minutes ago and had to be distilled into five bullet points or less. Sitting down for a meal was a sure sign that the base was going to get rocketed and I’d have to make a mad dash for a bunker. High intensity, fast-paced, with almost no consistent routine.
Yeah, I suppose that makes sense.
And it probably doesn’t hurt that I was with the Army who, as one rather observant Major told me is “a safe haven for Type-A personalities with ADHD.”
I was already Type-A. Maybe I went a little too native in accepting Army culture and now I can’t shake it?
Or maybe it’s just a really weird form of PTSD?
Out of curiosity and as informal research, has anyone else had the same or a similar experience? Of finding themselves with some ADHD-like symptoms while or after being deployed? (I’d appreciate any reposts to get a broader picture.)
I’ll try to do some analysis, but I can’t promise too much depth, because, well, I have blueberries in my fridge. (Thanks for the inspiration, Stubbs!)