Deighton and Leon have ADHD
This week we look to fathers in Brown Girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall and Bone by Fae Myenne Ng
In the former, Deighton is an illegal immigrant from Barbados and in the later, Leon is an immigrant from China. Both have a child that seems to follow them around; Deighton has Selina and Leon has Layla, both have big ambition without the follow through, and both, I believe, have ADHD. We will also occasionally check in with an ADHD professional for understanding. Why don’t you Introduce yourself now?
Penny: My name is Penny. I’m an ADHD coach. I trained as a coach because both of my now adult children and my husband have ADHD. So, I did a course, a yearlong course, to learn as much as I could about ADHD and to learn the strategies to help them and I’m now an qualified ADHD coach.
What is ADHD? You might have heard it alongside the stereotype of being easily distracted by squirrels. There is a bit more at play than that.
The DSM-5 is the quintessential textbook for psychology. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which the person has “A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”. Inattention and hyperactivity are broken into smaller symptoms. A patient would need to show 6 of the 9 symptoms from each category for a diagnosis (or, only 5 symptoms from each if they are over 17 years of age as our characters are).
Again, even the DSM 5 seems to lack weight. Dr. Russel Barkley, a man that wrote the book on ADHD 26 times says in a lecture “To call ADHD a lack of attention is to call Autism flapping hands and speaking funny…” The *seven executive functions are:
Yes, he says five in the quote, but I list seven. The number fluctuates
Non-Verbal Working Memory
Verbal Working Memory
Planning and Problem Solving
I think our next step is obvious, we go through each of these functions and see if our characters exhibit them as a dysfunction. Also, we are going to work backwards, as they things tend to build on each other.
Deighton Shows lack of Planning in his attempts to make to make money. Such as when he decided to be an accountant and his wife Silla says “But where you going and you only half-studied that course? How you can be putting yourself up in these white people face asking for some big job and yuh’s not even a citizen?” His “plan” if that is what it can be called, is to go the best offices of New York and apply for a job. He has no experience and hasn’t even finished his self-taught course. Deighton’s answers is that he is just going to put “yes” on the application where it says citizen. Silla then continues that, “You don want no job…Instead of him going to some small office where he might have a chance—no, he got to play like he’s white.” What Silla describes here is what sounds like a realistic plan; go apply for some small office where he has a chance. We could imagine him getting hired, getting the experience, and maybe moving on to something better in the future. But he lacks the ability to think like this, rushing right into the “best”.
Just like Deighton, Leon doesn’t have big career goals or a ten-step plan, instead, we see him bounce around “Leon shipped less and less after Nina was born. For Leon, it was a period of odd jobs and a lot of dream talking. He was a fry cook at Wa-jin’s, a busboy at the Waterfront Restaurant by the Wharf, a janitor at a print shop downtown. But Mah was right. Something always went wrong for Leon.” Nothing inherently wrong with working odd jobs, but it shows a lack of ambition, no end goal to aim for, and therefore, no planning.
Let’s look to our professional real quick on this idea of ‘grandeur’, especially in Deighton’s case
Penny: Lack of goals, lack of sense of future, and yet having something that you completely absorbed in and obsessed in, and it does lead to sort of unrealistic aspirations. The thing is that often the ability is there, but there so challenging to access. because what you need to pursue a goal, realistic or not, is everything that goes with it; self-management, being able to do what is needed to get there, being able to see the steps, and that is what is missing in people with ADHD.
Remember Deighton’s attempt to get the best accounting job possible? How do you think it panned out? If I told you he was denied, do you think he kept studying, finished the course, maybe even went to a smaller office like Silla suggested? Selina tells us “The course had ended, and his ambition to be an accountant had ended the first day he had looked for a job.” Then he moved on to learning the trumpet. No consequences means that he is free to shift to different half backed pursuits on a whim.
Leon’s lack of self-motivation is seen in his rushed projects and is one of the first things we learn about him. Leon the “junk inventor and collector” tries his hand at repairing and inventing many objects but Layla tells us, “Leon’s ideas were pretty good, but the problem was that he never finished anything he started.” We also see this with the attempt to fix the Lights at Mah’s shop, “I was hoping he’d see this project through to the end, but halfway through he told Mason that his concentration was gone, that something disconnected between his mind and his heart.”
This pattern between the two of them is called hyperfixation, I’ll let a professional explain.
Both characters have huge anger issues. In Deighton’s case we routinely see him raise his voice towards his daughters such as this seen when Selina and her sister are fighting and Deighton tells Selina ““you does make me shame sometime—always fighting like some boar-cat. You’s yuh mother child, in truth!” He shoved her hard and closed the bedroom door.” He also interrupts Selina and talks “with heat” after moving on to the trumpet.
Through Layla, we learn that Leon is just as quick to anger “I know Leon, how ugly his words could become. I’ve heard him. I’ve listened. And I’ve always wished for the street noises, as if in the traffic of sound I could escape. I know the hard color of his eyes and the tightness in his jaw. I can almost hear his teeth grind. I know this. Years of it.” While trying to get the social security card he gets angered and yells at the worker ““Leon had nothing but his anger, and like a string of firecrackers popping, he started cursing.” Plus, there was that time he hid from his family, got a hotel room, and when his wife found him, he spit at her.
The memory ones are a little harder for us to talk about simply because we don’t see the world through their eyes. Outwardly, Leon shows the most memory problems as he “ forgets the simplest things—like locking the door” He is also very disorganized which would be a symptom of dysfunctions in these areas.
Deighton’s memory of home seem a bit vague, he tells Selina “How you mean? I’s a person live in town and always had plenty to do. I not like yuh mother and the ’mounts of these Bajan that come from down some gully or up some hill behind God back and ain use to nothing. ’Pon a Sat’day I would walk ’bout town like I was a full-full man. All up Broad Street and Swan Street like I did own the damn place.” This section has a lot of Selina pressing for more details as Deighton replies to the effect of “how you mean” as if he doesn’t realize how ambiguous his past seems, as if he can’t quite remember it.
And the last two, inhibition and self-awareness. I decided to work backwards so that you could see their behaviors as patterns, as cycles, as something they’ve always done and will always do. They show no regret, no remorse, and no changes. They can not stop themselves from following through with their behaviors because they aren’t aware of it to start. The lack of self-awareness is one of the hardest symptoms to deal with in terms of ADHD, why? Because you can’t improve on any of the symptoms without being able to recognize them. It’s why ADHD Coaching is so helpful
WHY – Dangers of undiagnosed ADHD
What are some of the dangers of undiagnosed ADHD? Increased risk of suicide, does that sound familiar? Deighton’s death has mystery, did he fall, or did he jump? Taking undiagnosed ADHD into account makes suicide seemed just a bit more likely. Or Leon disappearing to cope when things get rough? If these two have ADHD, which hopefully I proved is quite likely, they never really had a chance to get ahead in this world and make something of themselves or at least fit in somewhat, not at all that is, without understanding their brains in order to have some semblance of self-awareness.