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Dr Hallowell ADHD and mental and cognitive health

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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

My turbo brain…

I have never stopped loving ADHD. I have the condition myself, and I treat
hundreds of people who have it at my centers in Boston MetroWest and New York City every year. And with my buddy, John Ratey, I have written several books about it.

You see, I have a love affair with ADHD.

Would you mind if I didn’t call ADHD ADHD in this piece?I really dislike the term. Please don’t tell the Thought Police that I have strayed from the DSM-IV.Just indulge this aging lover in his love and let him—me—call ADHD something else.How about Turbo?

I choose Turbo because having this condition is like having a turbo-charged brain.(I do not see Turbo as a disorder, but rather as a condition, or a trait; I know there are important reasons to consider it as a disorder—mainly having to do with getting accommodations, research funding, and insurance reimbursement—but for my little love letter here, let me refer to my love as a trait, okay?)

The Turbo brain is so unpredictable.One minute it gets you into trouble, the next minute it gives you the smartest idea you’ve ever had.

The Turbo brain speaks out of turn, it speaks when it should hush up, it speaks when others wish it wouldn’t, it even speaks when it wishes it wouldn’t.

The Turbo brain forgets.Oh, does it ever forget.And it remembers just a minute or two too late.The Turbo brain often gets yelled at, or gets reprimanded, lectured, scorned, remediated, medicated, or even detonated, so that it explodes!When it explodes, of course, there is a mess.And then there is a mess to clean up.Sometimes the owner of the Turbo brain lives life from mess to mess.

The Turbo brain knows enthusiasm like few other brains ever do, but it also knows disappointment too well, too.The Turbo brain tries—oh, boy, does it ever try—but then it shows up at the wrong place on the wrong day with hat in hand, ready for another reprimand.

The Turbo brain cannot conform.It loves its own way too much.It loves to go where enchantment leads it, and once caught up in a mind-riff it can’t say no—because it forgets where it is and what the world is waiting for.

The reason I love the Turbo brain is the same reason I love anyone or anything that has to overcome great odds.The deck is stacked against the Turbo brain, especially in school.But I also love it because at times it can be so marvelous.It has to persist, and not believe all the nasty things that get said about it, if it is to do well over the long haul.

Can it do well?Oh, can it ever!

What do you need to do to give yourself the best chance of doing well if you have a Turbo brain, or if someone you love or like or teach or care for has such a blessed brain?

You need, above all else, in as many positive ways as you can, to CONNECT.

You need to connect up with a mentor who sees your hidden skills and talents and can help draw them out of you.

You need to find someone, somewhere who gets such a kick out of you that they just can’t help but smile when you walk into the room, even if you have your pants on backwards and you’re an hour-and-a-half late.

You need to find a pet who loves you and you love back, in spite of poops.

You need to have a hobby that you get lost in, like building engines; or a sport you’re awesome at, like wrestling; or a horn you like to blow.

You need to find a place where you can relax, a place where you connect to the vibes of whatever is true and good and fine in the life you live and the life you hope to live.

You need to connect to hope.

You need to be in Nature, at the sea or on a mountain or in the sky, and feel how much like Nature is your Turbo brain.

You need to connect to love and disconnect from all the nasties that nibble at you like gnats.

You need to give what’s best in you but you don’t know what it is a chance to grow.You do this by finding the right gardener.

The right gardener is out there.He or she is not always easy to find, as right gardeners don’t turn up as often as one would hope.But when you find the right gardener—the one who sees you’re not a weed but a most unusual plant—then your hard work will turn you into the great tree you were meant to be.

Having a Turbo brain can be hard.Having a brain—period—can be hard.

But, I can tell you, as one who has a Turbo brain, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

After all, it has given me my world—my loves of many kinds—and even if it is not there when I need it, it takes me where, without it, I could never go.

27 Responses to “My turbo brain…”

  1. michelle E. Murphy says:

    dear ned (this is michelle murphy strada of amagansett, long island… from the couples class, the ADHD and girls class, and the ADHD in 2005year- long class, and now twice with john ratey and the brain and movement class)
    this ‘turbo’ that we deal with….
    well, reading your blog about it tonight was truly a gift from you to me, which, in turn, i will read to my turbo- charged- brain little 12 yr. old daughter tomorrow….the same one i mentioned to you who was called ‘stupid’ by her teacher…. when the Queen Bees author visited your class.
    our daughter understands ‘turbo’ because her daddy, my husband, robert, happens to collect Feraris and has three of those turbo engines and two turbo brains (his wife’s and his daughter’s)….to keep up with. describing your analogy to him several years ago, is what first got his attention, and helped in his understanding of ADHD.
    anyway, goodnight and thank you so much for the lullabye. it was a poem. a heartfelt one, and totally turbo. ie….brilliant . Best, michelle murphy strada

  2. Maureen OLeary says:

    Thanks so much for this and all your articles…I am a 55 y.o. women who was tested and now being treated in Needham…you and all the people like me out there, I so thought I was alone…what a S.P.I.N. I’ve been in…now I have the new black magic…The Hallowell Center…thanks!!!!

  3. Priscilla in Michigan says:

    I love this positive take on our turbo brains! Thanks again for writing this piece. (I wrote a comment once before, but it got lost when your blog design and/or format changed just recently.)
    Maureen, I’m 53 and just recently diagnosed. I’ve begun treatment, too. And I thought *I* was the only one who was so deeply flawed. You’re not alone! There are two of us! 😉

  4. Razz says:

    I’ve been reading as many of your books as I can get my hands on at the local libraries, and, on a whim (because that’s one of the things that Turbo does best), I went Googling for you. And, lo!, I did find that you have a blog and, verily, this little article made me smile. I’ve had nothing but trouble and frustration since my diagnosis of adult ADD (sometime in late 2005), but fun things like this keep my spirits up in the quest for help. It’s always great to see that I’m not the only person in the world who likes to think this way.

  5. Jason says:

    You said ***”I choose Turbo because having this condition is like having a turbo-charged brain.(I do not see Turbo as a disorder, but rather as a condition, or a trait”***
    What a great term for the “asset/ADHD” (TURBO).
    Much like a vehicle with turbo as an option, it is an asset!
    To bad the service department (public schools) don’t know how to make the TURBOS perform well.

  6. Ronda Stone says:

    Hi Dr. Hallowell,
    I love your new blog — thanks for sharing it with us. The turbo brain description fits! My turbo brain is missing low gear and can be a challenging to get started, but once its reved up can really move!
    I like your description of the right kind of gardener — one that provides a safe nuturing environment for growth and who lets one grow at their own rate.
    Have a great day!
    Ronda Stone

  7. Kate says:

    This actually made me cry, like things to that truly hit home. The gardener analogy was beautiful. My husband has been that, as well as many friends for life.
    ADD (I’m not particularly hyper, rather exhausted from the ADD portion 🙂 is so exhausting from trying to fit into an organized world.

  8. KimberleyP says:

    Turbo! Great! My (almost) 12-yr old son has just become interested in cars and will LOVE hearing about your analogy. I’ll ask him if he’d like to create a new name for ADD. Something with a positive spin. The fact that it was named as a deficit AND a disorder really drives me nuts, because my kid is NOT lacking. He is brilliant! He is “turbo-charged” — LOVE IT! Mind if I use it??

  9. Brenda says:

    Thank you! What an inspiration.
    I appreciate you sharing your insight.

  10. Josh says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I was recently diagnosed with inattentive subtype and am a bit overwhelmed by both the challenges ahead and the deluge of emotions. As a second year medical student, I struggled through my first year, and passed, and continued to struggle through this year, to the point of being in danger of repeating the academic year. After spending months chasing sleep apnea as the cause, I was eventually diagnosed with ADD. In my research to learn how to deal with it and school, I was bombarded with all of the negative aspects of the condition and wondered how I would ever make it through school. Your article (and you yourself) demonstrate that there is hope, I just have to find what works!

  11. mammaltx says:

    Definitely in a spin (this one is a vortex that really sucks), I read Dr. H’s SPIN blog. Reading this and turbo brain motivated me enough to leave my computer, get my credit card and finally renew my membership. When I reached the car (on this cold night in October), I discovered…yes, I did it again….left the key on the on position…ta da…dead battery…must stay out of that SPIN even as it tries to rope me in….Hello…AAA…this is me, I know it is the sixth time this year but I could use a jump…you see my turbo brain drained the battery.

  12. Ginger says:

    Oh my gosh. Forgive me if I gush.
    My best friend in the world and my son (8 years old) both have ADD and they are simply incredible people in many ways, including everything to do with their ADD.
    I have often wished it were named Multiple Attention Ability because that’s what I see it as. I suffer from a bit too much focus myself and often wish I could perceive the world the way they do.
    It’s WONDERFUL to see this positive angle. My other children have ADD envy and all see it as a gift. I’m thrilled to see that someone else does, too.

  13. Kyle Hill says:

    Man I am going to post that on my wall so I see it everyday. It sucks having to be constantly reminded but it’s one step of many. Also too, to anyone out there, I might be out of my element here, but does it seem like that people who are living with undiagnosed “turbo brains” naturally associate themselves with other people who have that same set of traits??? anyway, just curious. I would love a response.

  14. chris grasse (64 - South Portland, Maine) says:

    Your writing style is electric and immediate and I can scan-read it very rapidly. My eyes fly across the lines. That’s how good it all is! I hope you keep writing. You are documenting on so many different levels… like Patton standing in Carthage and remembering… being able to assemble your thoughts your own way to form more amazing personal insights and you are beginning to let your mind fly where it wants to without being constrained by the usual need for narrative continuity. I love that. R. D. Laing. Just moving a bit beyond general acceptance and summoning things to yourself by putting words together your own way. Your style is unique. I find it delightful to scan. Take good care and thanks for reading this.

  15. Kathie says:

    Just read through Delivered from Distraction and found the phrase… Attention Variability Syndrome…..
    My daughter and I (both AVS) thought that it sounds very clinical, and still somewhat negative. While we like Turbo brain, we also thought that for those “other people” who still don’t get it… henceforth they will know us as – Attention Variability Advantaged.

  16. Joette Khamis says:

    I cried when I read the Turbo Brain.. I hope that one day I will find my gardener, and cherish, love and accept my ADD as a positive part of the unique person that I am..
    Thank you again,

  17. Meagan Kerr says:

    I was just browsing through the library today and I noticed your book,”Positively ADD.” I was recently diagnoised with ADD and I have been having a hard time dealing. I am twenty two years old and I am completely lost. Dealing with depression, lack of hope, and not to mention the feeling of worthlessness, because I dropped out of two colleges, I have now offically hit rock bottom. I’m trying to find myself without knowing who I am or what I will ever become. I don’t have any money to pay the stundent loans that I have, so I can’t go back to school, I can’t even wake up in the morning to face myself. I don’t want to be worthless and uneducated. I want to be sucessful and intelligent. When I picked up your book; which I was supposed to be focused on something else, i felt hope at once. I began reading and then I came to the part where you said, “I have observed that the most damaging learning disorder is not ADD but shame and fear, the feelings that develop in people when their noses are rubbed in their shortcomings everyday.” that one sentence gave me so much inspiration that for the first time in several months when I looked up into the window and I saw my reflection I saw a smile on my face. Even though I still have a long road ahead of me, I know now that there is still hope and I have people that believe in me. Thank you.

  18. Amy says:

    This is very cool – you can tell we have respondents with ADD because you have a lot of comments:) but I mean that kindly cause I have it myself.

  19. Tariq Z says:

    I feel this is about the time to rethink and rename the term (ADD/ADHD) used for this condition in the official/ professional manuals. This would make sense in the light of new information we have about this condition and also remove unnecessary negativity imparted by this term. The so called ADD/ADHD mind deserves a better comment from the society at large, to which its contributions through out the history stand remarkably grand.
    Likewise, a standing ovation in the history is due for Dr. Hallowell for his ground breaking work and efforts to ‘reintroduce’ and ‘connect’ this beautiful mind to the rest of the human mind kind. Regards, Dr. Tariq Z

  20. noonie says:

    i realized today that i have a turbo brain, after many years of being dyagnosed as depressed, bi-polar, crazy, strange and many other descriptions, i have even been told that i was an alien from another planet. i had to watch the today show to realize what my problem is, but i am 52, in a bad relationship, broke and really messed-up from all the years of my craziness, what do i do now that i have this new found info

  21. Cailin Iontach says:

    I do not have ADD as I have not been officially diagnosed, but have found my family. I’m so relieved to find you all & this beautiful inspirational story. A label such as ADD does no define you…if it does not fit, you don’t have to wear it. I plan to get tested & diagnosed, so I can celebrate this gift & call it turbo brain instead. It is however a gift to finally understand myself & let this new realization set me free..what a great tool….We all, finally do not have to be apologetic for who we are & how we operate…but to focus instead on the beautiful bright future ahead. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  22. Debra Tahmasebi says:

    I just started reading your book Delivered from Distraction. I am an Adult diagnosed with ADD. I have not been very successful in my life, although I have tried, I did not learn, how to read at a very young age. I was babysat through most of childhood through school age years, and some times feel it is to late for me. Please get back to me. I have gone to college and trade school and do not do well on test. I have tried for years and plan to go back soon.

  23. Jim and Bobbie Haws says:

    Our 38 year old son (Kevin) was diagnosed with ADD (i.e., Turbo Brain) when he was 16, and has been married for 15 years, and has two children–one in grade school and one in high school. Kevin strongly rejects any of our suggestions to seek help. We have spent over $100,000 in two years (which didn’t come easily)supporting him financially and helping him stay out of jail. The decisions he makes seems to be illogical, and costantly cause herendous stress for his family and us. He is currently taking wellbuterin. But, it doesn’t seem to help his impulsiveness. He lives in Dallas, Texas, has been unemployed for over a year, and he hasn’t been able to find a job. We are desperate!!!! What can we do? Please help!!!!
    Jim (972-754-1297)

  24. Karin says:

    I do not know if I have ADD or not – I score very high on the self tests.
    I am trying to get further info, but I can not read the long paragraphs.
    I am sorry,this is not meant as criticism?
    I can not read such long paragraphs. Not these, or those on the other web sites?
    I have Bipolar II, and OCD tendencies.
    Best regards.

  25. lupin says:

    Karin —
    In case you don’t get a better answer…
    perhaps you can try audiobooks, so someone else is reading the long paragraphs.
    But then you will need to go see a doc who knows about ADD.
    A self-test is only a good clue to the mystery.
    good luck!

  26. manuela says:

    Ever since i read ‘Flying Crooked’ by robert graves i felt i have found the words to go with the feeling i have always had during good times. and after hearing about add, it became for me the anthem for that trait. to me, it shows the delicacy, the joie de vivre, the exuberance which lies beyond the resignation and dispair of the misfit. here it is:
    The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
    (His honest idiocy of flight)
    Will never now, it is too late,
    Master the art of flying straight,
    Yet has- who knows so well as I?-
    A just sense of how not to fly:
    He lurches here and here by guess
    And God and hope and hopelessness.
    Even the acrobatic swift
    Has not his flying-crooked gift.

  27. mark says:

    I am interested in EEG and its impact on ADDHD. I see it mentioned in many web sites that relate to EEG. It is mentioned briefly in the books that I have read from Dr. Hallowell, but more as a diagnostic tool.
    Can it be helpful? Has anyone had any experiece with this? I find it interesting that so much is said on the internet and not much from Dr. Hallowell. I first read one of his books many years ago and had that aaah experience when I discovered what my problem was. I have read his most recent book and find his insights and understanding of ADD most rewarding and hopeful. Yet I thought more would be said about EGG.
    Can anyone help me out?

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