I envision him walking out to center field as a cool, brisk summer breeze tugs at his uniform. The grounds crew rushes past, while the crowd’s roar fades and returns. The lights of the score board glimmer; the game boards flash and a voice over the loud speaker echoes overhead, silencing 45,000 patrons. The game hasn’t even begun, but the pressure has mounted; he chews his gum synchronously with the sound of his name as it is chanted in the distance by adoring fans. The left fielder utters something, but he can’t quite discern what he said, trying to focus instead on the hand signaling of the third base coach who was trying to relay something to the batter approaching home plate. Through all the commotion, pomp and circumstance, he has to focus and he has to focus on being focused. Even though he has been a talented ball player since he was a kid, the challenge of concentrating remains a burden.
A distinct city odor emanates from somewhere, as it masks the popcorn smell coming from the stands. Now, it’s time to focus, he says to himself. But just as the very thought drifts by, a gap in time, seemingly undetectable, is displaced by the instinctive need to sprint toward the infield as a ball breaches the baseline between first and second base, rolling toward right field. The right fielder collects the ball and the runner stops at first base.
The nervousness and excitement associated with a surge of adrenaline gradually dissipates. He takes a deep breath, regains his composure for the next batter, and tries to fight off the thoughts that continue to invade his mind.
Andres “Yungo” Torres is living the dream of every young boy—the dream of playing Major League Baseball. He also suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder along with 3 to 5% of children and adults in the United States. Typically, people suffering from this neurorobehavioral disorder excel at the kinds of things that interest them, and the things that interest them really interest them. But they have difficulty with mundane tasks. They are often very inattentive and impulsive. Some might say they are not inattentive, they are just aware of everything, making it difficult to focus. They live for excitement; they need stimulation. As Thomas Hartman, an author of several books on ADHD, might say, they are the hunters among us, not the farmers.
But to say that difficulty with mundane tasks is all there is to ADHD is not only short-sighted, it barely breaks the surface. It is a way of life that is many ways incompatible with today’s society. The disorder often leaves people maladjusted and heavily compromised in all facets of their lives, from learning to relationships. But it is also considered a gift, as much as it is considered a curse.
Imagine if you were designed to live in a different era or a different culture. Let’s take Crocodile Dundee, for example. Do you think he was ever completely able to adapt to life in New York City. The fictional character could wrestle a great salt water crocodile or throw a boomerang as far as Andres could probably throw a baseball. Dundee, however, was clumsy on a subway and entirely out of place walking around the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Nick Dundee’s story provides an impression of what it is like to live with ADHD everyday—feeling out of place. But then you may find yourself “in the zone,” much like Andres Torres probably does behind home plate or Dundee found in the Australian bush. It is hard to be out-competed when you are in the zone. It may be easy to find the zone, but capitalizing on it may be another story.
Imagine, that you aren’t lucky enough to have the talent to play Major League Baseball. You are like the rest of us and your hobby may not become your vocation. Instead, you are tasked with showing up to school.
How many of you found French literature and algebra as much fun as baseball or dance class, or anything extracurricular, for that matter. How many of you still find “recess” more fun than just about anything else. It’s not because you are not disciplined, motivated or talented; it is because you are literally wired differently.
Here in Alaska, the “Last Frontier” as we call it, is a place that may, indeed, be a mecca for those with ADHD. It is a place for the pioneering soul and it has, perhaps, become the ADHD capital of the United States. It draws the rugged, adventurous types far more than the desk jockey.
The Alaskan landscape and horizon alone, cater to those who thrive on excessive stimulation. Again, this is a place that welcomes the hunter much more than the farmer. It is a place where energy and impulsivity thrive and for good reason. If you have alarmed a bear or moose, you’d better know your surroundings and act quickly.
It is place that humbles visitors, but to those with ADHD it may provide just enough stimulation.
It is CITI Field, where New York Mets outfielder Andres Torres feels at home and the Outback where Crocodile Dundee makes his livelihood.
ADHD creates a multitude of challenges. It is debilitating and often presents with comorbid illnesses like depression and anxiety. But if you have it, you are in good company. Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Michael Jordan, Elvis, and Albert Einstein are just a few notable individuals thought to have or have had ADHD or ADD.
“The New York University School of Medicine will host a special screening of GIGANTE, a documentary about Andrés “Yungo” Torres, a Puerto Rican professional baseball player currently with the New York Mets and his struggles with acute ADHD. It revisits the pivotal years of his childhood in flashbacks interpreted by children culled from the humble Western Puerto Rican neighborhood where Yungo was raised and flashes forward between his last year as a San Francisco Giant and his new beginning with the Mets. Starring his teammates, coaches, family, and the luminaries of ADHD research, GIGANTE aims to put a light on the man who has achieved so much in spite of one of the most acute manifestations of the disorder. Part cautionary tale, part biopic, it aims to inform, enlighten and inspire.
The film was written, produced and directed by Chusy (Anthony Haney-Jardine), a Sundance Award-winning filmmaker.
What: Special Screening of GIGANTE
Who: NYU School of Medicine
Where: Farkas Auditorium, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
When: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 7pm-9pm“