Jun 192013

I hear people with ADD have a problem with time and showing up to appointments on time, just like people with brain injury. The solution is to get an iPod Touch or smartphone with a decent calendar app, stick a claxon alarm on it (like my therapist did the first day she worked with me – my choice in alarms was too nice apparently), and maybe put on two or three alarms. So both visually and auditorially, you're “told” get to your appointment now. That so many people with ADD and/or brain injury don't do that works to my advantage and sometimes not.

That’s because when people use the devices and alarms half-heartedly or not at all, they show up at the start of their appointment about thirty percent of the time, I'm told, or are very late much of the time, or show up five minutes before the end of their appointment, or not at all. That means statistically, I can expect most of the time to have an extra few minutes after my appointment with my brain biofeedback trainer as I pick her brain about something I need help with or need to understand while she waits for the next client to show up. When clients are that late, I can infer they have ADD or brain injury (or both) and don’t have a parent or spouse dragging them to the appointment.

On the down side, when it happens with my doctor, it’s usually the person showing up right at the end of their appointment and at the start of mine and then taking up ten minutes of my session. Not okay. I’ve decided if they can't use the tools available to them to get to their appointments on time, they get a big fat “no!” from me the next time they say it'll just be five minutes. First off, like hell it will be. And second, that's my time you’re taking. I made the effort to get there on time (and believe me, effort is the right word), so why should someone who didn't bust their gut to make it on time get to take my time from me? And no, the doc didn't extend the end of my appointment when those things happened.

And so that’s the lesson brought home to me this week: if you want help, it isn't sufficient to find a doc or psychologist and make appointments to see them. You actually have to assume responsibility for getting out the door on time (even on those days you really really don't want to, of which I've had plenty) and for doing the homework they give you, and to not expect the medical professional to do all the work for you. Getting better is a mutual affair in which the professional does their job (and if they don't, tell them or find another), and you do yours. Yes, there will be days you fall down, but a seventy-percent fall-down rate, especially when well into therapy, makes me wonder about how serious these guys are about getting better. I admire the patience of professionals who continue to make appointments with them, even send them weekly reminder emails, knowing not much is going to change. One wonders how hard it must be for the professionals to keep up their energy to do their best when their best makes no difference.

And as for me, before I began brain biofeedback, I misread the time on my watch or diary all the time, I had no sense of how much time was passing, and I didn't care if I was late (sooo not me). And so I bought a Handspring device because I needed the auditory alarm to get around my visual perception difficulties. Every now and then, I would think, hey, I'm okay now, I don't need to alarm every single task and appointment. Ha! Yes, it was frustrating and annoying to have alarms go off every day to remind me of things from eating to seeing the acupuncturist, but the alternative was to lead a less functional life. I did give myself Sunday off because on that day I could be as non-functional as I wanted to be and it wouldn’t matter.

Only now, after all my various treatments is it true that I do not need to alarm every last thing. However, I still set alarms on my appointments, sometimes two for infrequent or one-off appointments because that's the way I roll. I rarely alarm tasks, but I check my calendar or try to frequently. Ahem. It doesn't matter so much if I miss a task though because the only one affected is me.

But on gamma brainwave biofeedback day, I was reminded of the fact that I still need to think actively about travel times. The TTC seems to have slowed down again, and I need to add five minutes on to my trip again. I hate that, but I hate being late more. Sigh.