Special Needs in Strange Worlds | Bryan Thomas Schmidt

I don’t really know where to start with this introduction. The fact of the matter is that I have a lot to say about Bryan and very little space in which to say it. Perhaps that’s the best way to introduce him. He packs a huge punch for one man, like somehow a lot of presence got squeezed into one body and that body is Bryan. There’s just a lot to him, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s absolutely the opposite. Bryan is tantalizing. Once you think you have him figured out, he takes a left turn and you are left scratching your head and pondering what else there is that you have yet to discover. Knowing Bryan is like going on a constant whirlwind, exciting adventure.

Bryan probably works harder than any blogger or author I’ve seen. He is constantly flexing his business and social networking muscles. He knows just about everyone that is anyone in speculative fiction and he’s probably one of the most professional individuals I have ever met. He’s not only professional, but he’s an incredible example of how to treat business contacts, friends and acquaintances. Bryan, whether you agree with his viewpoints or not (and he’s refreshingly open about them on just about any topic), treats everyone he interacts with with the highest amount of respect.

That’s incredibly refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to him. Because of his friendly, professional and respectful attitude and his ability to constantly surprise people with new facets of himself, Bryan honestly keeps me absolutely captivated. He’s accomplished more with publishing, writing, editing, social networking, website launching, interviewing, event organizing  (and the list goes on, trust me), than I imagine an army of twelve people could. Everything he does ends up a success and what amazes me is that, despite how incredibly busy the man must be, he remains incredibly friendly and absolutely personable.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m thinking the man might be a superhero.

About the author

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, the children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing and editor of the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  An affiliate SFWA member, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter and is a frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and Hugo nominee SFSignal. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via www.bryanthomasschmidt.net.

About ADHD

It’s been used in hundreds of movies, TV shows and “Saturday Night Live” sketches and even pop songs that way. And usually those saying it have no idea how hard the condition really is. For many ADHD is a punchline or a label you slap on someone with poor focus or excess energy, but for those of us living with the real condition daily, it’s often not such a laughing matter. ADHD is a neurological condition that works in the brain and affects up to 20 percent of Americans.

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity, which, honestly are traits that most children display at some point or another. Diagnosis of official ADHD or ADD (without hyperactivity added on) comes when the symptoms are inappropriate for the person’s age. Impairment must be present in more than one settings too: such as home and school, home and work, or a combination of many. Common in adults, children and teens, there can be a variation in symptoms. Some adults seem to outgrow it, while others may experience restlessness instead of hyperactivity. In addition, adults with ADHD consistently have problems with interpersonal relationships and employment. Research has shown that the divorce rate is higher in couples who have a partner with ADD/ADHD. It can also be a cause for quiting a job, or impulsively ruining a career. The symptoms will interfere with the person’s ability to function not only at home and school but socially and at work.

I was diagnosed in 3rd grade and put on Ritalin. And, although I was off ADHD meds for a decade or so, I recently went back on and it has made a world of difference. Try being a writer or editor, needing an attention to detail, and suffering from these conditions? It’s extremely challenging. Work for me comes in spurts of incredible activity. I can get an amazing about done in 45 minutes to an hour, but then I’ll need 5-10 minutes to just chill and refocus. If you take breaks like that in an office, people think you’re slacking, even though you can often accomplish more in your several day spurts than others without the condition accomplish during the same work hours in a day. I’ve had to not only open up to employers and coworkers to share the fact that I have ADHD but develop special working approaches and techniques to help me stay focused when I need to be and be sure I counter the perceptions my condition can cause. And honestly, I’m positive I’ve still gotten fired or laid off from the result of it.

It played a part in my divorce, too, although my ex-wife’s bipolar disorder was a bigger factor. ADHD people do have trouble with intimacy because of their focus issues and often having to be in the right mood to sit still and cuddle or settle down enough to sleep spooning or in other close proximity to another. This can cause mixed signals and confusion, as you can well imagine, on the mate’s part and be misinterpreted as rejection or lack of passion, etc.

It’s also hard being told you have a “disorder.” Imagine wearing that sign around your neck your whole life? It’s like being told “you’re not normal and you’ll never be normal. You’re not like everyone else.” But I ask you, these days, is there really a “normal?” Everybody’s got something they’re dealing with. Is it fair then to stigmatize people for not fitting into some arbitrary box no one can really define with any accuracy or consistency?

I don’t perceive things the way others do, so I come across in ways I never intended and misread signals from others not only in response to my behavior but the world around them. Thus, I can be seen as insensitive, when, in fact, ADHD people are overly sensitive. We are often very emotional and have a struggle with our emotions and sensitivity. We are prone to bursts of anger which flare up into huge explosions and then disappear in seconds, forgotten. But that rage, although not usually violent, is strong enough to scare or startle others who don’t know us and certainly to call attention to ourselves. And often, we’re completely unaware how bad it comes across. We’re just trying to vent the emotions so we can move on.

Of course, naturally, it’s the ADHD person’s responsibility to communicate and make the effort to adjust to their world and not the other way around. Spouses, parents, children will make some adjustments, but few others would make any effort. Why should they? ADHD is a label you slap on someone when they act overly excited or seem unfocused. Some might not even consider it real. A psychiatrist once wrote a famous book “The Myth of ADD.” He was someone I respected for his educational and childhood development advice until that book. Don’t tell me a condition I’ve lived with for 34 years and had many issues related to is a myth, thank you very much. I’d take away your M.D. if I could, Mister, even though I know ADD has been over diagnosed by doctors, teachers, counselors and others. That’s part of how it became the joke it often is. It’s more like graffiti or some nickname than a very real condition for all too many.

But please believe me, when I say, ADD is a very real thing. And every day I have to deal with issues from struggling to focus and write or edit to relationship dramas or job issues because of it. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, don’t get me wrong. But please don’t act like it’s such a big joke calling someone ADD. It’s become as offensive to me as the “N” or “F” word and many other epithets. Try living with the consequences, you won’t get the joke either half the time.

I probably sound like a combination of college lecturer, preacher and major downer here, but that was not my intention in writing this. Sarah just wanted some perspectives on disabilities, so I wanted to give you a bit of an inside feel to the frustration, anger and struggles ADHD people like me face on a daily basis. We don’t need special parking places or to be coddled or treated like we’re handicapped with some physical disability. Save that for those who really need it. What we do need is a bit of compassionate understanding and awareness that we exist and we’re doing the best we can. Acceptance that we don’t do things your way or see the world your way but that doesn’t make us less human or deserving of rejection and demands to conform. It’s something we have no choice about.

I’ll bet everyone out there knows someone who’s affected. Probably more than one. If not an actual ADHD diagnosed person, a family member, parent, or teacher who sees it daily. So next time you hear about it, forget the SNL punchlines and offer a pat on the back or listening ear. Ask questions if you have them. Be supportive if the opportunity is there. Instead of laughing, try and imagine yourself in another person’s shoes and don’t write them off because you don’t understand. It will mean more to them than words can adequately say and it will be a small part of helping make this world a happier, better place.

For what it’s worth…


You can find Bryan just about everywhere, but just in case you didn’t catch the links in his bio, here is the rundown:

SFFWTRCHT (which really is an absolutely fantastic series)

Click here to learn more about the first book in The Saga of Davi Rhii, The Worker Prince.
Bryan sent me the cover art for the soon-to-be-released second book in The Saga of Davi Rhii, The Returning, tonight. You can see it above at my introduction.
He also edited the recently released Space Battles collection, which you can read more about here.

11 Responses

  • ” He packs a huge punch for one man,”

    Is it wrong of me to enjoy these introductions as much as the guest posts themselves? 🙂

    Thank you for sharing, Bryan. I do think that ADD and ADHD have been over-diagnosed up the wazoo, but that does not mean by any stretch that the disorder is not real.

  • Paul, I’m having a flash of anger at you right now for calling it overdiagnosed. 😉 GRRRR You wouldn’t like me when I’ m angry…

  • Thanks, Bryan – this is a great post. I found myself nodding frequently as you described your situation and struggles.*

    I, too, wrestle with ADD, although I didn’t discover it in myself until I was 42. I’d already lost at least two good jobs because of it and blamed my employers, although the problems were largely with me. Learning what Adult ADD in the workplace was and that I had it was a major revelation and simply knowing more about it turned my life around. My wife was relieved, my co-workers were helpful, and my personal interrelationships have improved. I now know what to expect and how to minimize the negatives and maximize the strengths. I cheerfully own my ADD behaviors (squirrel!). I’m just relieved to know I’m not alone, I’m not damaged. I’m deeply weird compared to normal people, but I’m not broken, merely, y’know, /bent./

    I can live with that.

    (*Bryan is a friend and cohort. We’ve laughed and fought and worked together. Getting the two of us in a Google+ hangout is a hoot, each of us stepping on each other in our excitement about a thought. )

  • You’re lucky, Johne. I wish I had such understanding employers & coworkers. Maybe I’d not have been unemployed 24 months now or the 11 months of 2003.

  • Nod. I’m blessed to (finally) have a career position as a technical writer where my start and end time is flexible, where creativity is a plus, and where my co-workers know about my weaknesses (difficulty starting / ending a project and sometimes step on people’s thoughts when excited) are overlooked and my strengths are appreciated and even rewarded. I didn’t find this career until I was 37. Once I stumbled into it, I’ve never taken it nor the kindness of my patient co-workers for granted.

  • Is a “disorder” anything like a “syndrome” (not to be confused with Syndrome, who should have known better than to wear a cape)? I can identify so much with being “different,” since I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Folks don’t “get” me, don’t understand my social awkwardness, my inability to focus on one hand and my totally focused obsession on the other, the strange way my mind rabbit trails. Just saying – I grok.

    Imagine the fun at Ray Gun Revival with Johne’s ADD and my Asperger’s…

  • Thank you, Bryan for sharing your experiences. I used to be a High School level teacher, and ADD / ADHD were terms often used as an excuse for effectively giving up on certain pupils. Instead of trying to help them manage their learning, they had the diagnosis slapped onto their case files and then they were thrown back in with everyone else. It was like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole: a pointless waste of effort which benefited no one apart from the budgeting department who didn’t have to pay for the extra resources that were really needed. However, that is a complaint I could make about many other situations which are variations from ‘normal’.

    L.S. King: I’m not sure what the real different is between the two, but I did find this article, which might help.


  • Bryan,

    This is an awesome post. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I have an 8 year old son who was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago (and recently had the possibility of very mild Aspergers added). He is a wonderful, creative, imaginative boy who has his share of struggles but keeps right on going.

    I’m still getting used to having a label (although the behaviours have been there all along) and I do worry about his future. To see someone who has come out the other side of that gives me great hope and confidence for him.

    I especially appreciate your comment about working better in short, hyperactive bursts and then taking a break, then picking up again. I will watch more for this in my son as I may well nag him too much to “keep going” when a break and restart might be better.

    It’s also lovely for me to see a published author with ADHD as my son has the most wonderful imagination and tells long and complicated stories, but I’ve often wondered if he could manage to focus over a long enough period of time to compete them. Clearly, you prove it can be done.

    So again, thank you for an amazing post; I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

  • Kerry: At one time they suspected I have mild Aspergers but I’ve never been diagnosed. It can be a hard road but yes it is possible to succeed. You need understanding and people willing to be creative in working around your circumstances.

  • Bryan, have you tried any other ADD medication? I’ve been reading up on Flavay.

  • Ritalin and Adderol and one other the name of which now escapes me, Johne. Adderol seems to work the best. It’s ironic. When Sarah posted this, I was embarrassed at her overflowing praise. But now I’ve been told that several people I have helped with my marketing have badmouthed me this week related to something which clearly seems to me a case of my coming across in ways unintended, a prime symptom of ADHD. So that pretty much counters any embarrassment. I hope they read this and are humbled. I’ve dedicated my life to helping and serving others and it still hurts like hell to have people treat me like that.

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