Collected magazine columns convey the everyday familial and professional struggles of a man with ADHD.
All but one of these pieces first appeared in ADDitude Magazine over the course of eight years. South (Aloha Island, 2012) has worked as a television writer and producer in Hollywood and as an off-Broadway playwright. He perceives that ADHD turns his life into a roller coaster of successes and failures. Here’s how he describes his between-jobs anxiety: “Self-loathing sharks swam in and tore everything left all to pieces.” When he had a breakdown at age 49, a psychologist told him that, given his various behavioral and cognitive issues, “it’s surprising that you’re able to function at all.” On a daily basis, he gets distracted and loses concentration or becomes frustrated at his forgetfulness. For years, he self-medicated with alcohol, and two previous marriages ended in divorce. All the same, he feels that the invisibility of his disability causes people to take it less seriously: South tells how a woman in his writing group accused him of being too “normal” and exaggerating his issues. In fact, he’s just developed coping strategies, such as organizing his thoughts and rehearsing what he’s going to say. The author’s two children also have ADHD, and some of the most poignant essays express his feelings for them. In “Sixteen,” he marvels at how his daughter, Coco, has grown up, while in “Piece of My Heart,” he puts his son’s poor decisions into perspective by remembering a low point in 1968 when, as a college dropout into drugs, he was lucky to have his parents shelve everything to come check up on him. Pieces on his elderly father’s brain injury and time in a rehab center reinforce the intergenerational nature of the book. South’s father was also a problem drinker, and the author worries that his son is headed the same way. These essays are well-structured and congenial, re-creating dialogue and everyday family life in a relatable manner.
Those with a family history of ADHD should especially enjoy these wry autobiographical writings.