Carved in Sand: ADHD in Midlife

A memoir explores memory in midlife.

ADHD Book Review: Carved in Sand

Author Q&A: Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

Q: Why do memory lapses upset us so much?
A: Because to recognize them means to acknowledge that you’re getting older.

Q: What’s going on?
A: From my research, I learned that, in midlife, we experience changes in the way the frontal lobe functions. Everything’s slower because information is taking back roads in the brain.

Q: Isn't some memory loss inevitable?
A: The odds are stacked against us, but you can build cognitive reserves. People who are mentally and physically active are usually the ones who stay sharp into old age. Don’t park your middle-aged ass in a chair. Pick up a musical instrument. Learn a foreign language. Rediscover the things that turned you on when you were young.

by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin
HarperCollins; $24.95
Purchase Carved in Sand

When Cathryn Jakobson Ramin hit her forties, she found that she couldn’t remember movie titles or hold a thought long enough to jot it down. Her quest to find out what was happening — and, more important, how the brain works — is chronicled in her provocative book, Carved in Sand.

We tag along as she consults medical and psychological experts — ADD guru Ned Hallowell suggests she may have attention deficit trait, not ADHD — and tries a range of interventions, including biofeedback, meditation, sleep remedies, vitamins, and brain exercises.

The advice she’s given is often contradictory. At times, this made her story a little confusing, but also realistic — that’s the way it happens in the real world.

Ramin’s exploration makes it clear that there is no such thing as adult onset ADD. Women often say to me, “I have all these problems, I have ADD.” Sometimes that’s the case and the ADD went undiagnosed. But we often end up looking for other causes.

It’s also important to note that the answers Ramin eventually finds fit her unique situation; they’re not general solutions.

This book isn’t a self-help manual, but, if you have ADD and find yourself getting foggier as you enter midlife, it presents an instructive look at factors that may be compounding your symptoms.

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