ADHD or Shpilkes

December 1, 2008

I have always enjoyed working with clients with energy and creativity. Growing up in a family with a variety of personalities spiced with the strengths and weaknesses of ADHD was a wonderful introduction into this work. I was reminded of this recently when my sister called to tell me about the “perfect” site she’d found for the wedding of my niece.

“It sits right near the beach with a wonderful view of the water. It’s the perfect size for the number of guests we’re inviting and if anyone gets bored they can go for a walk on the beach,” she seriously explained over the phone. I cracked up!

Who but a person with the wiggles and attention span of ADHD would choose a site for a wedding based on a way to relieve boredom? I love my sister dearly, but she has shpilkes. I was reminded of how appropriate this delightful Yiddish word is when I was reading Jerome Groopman’s book, How Doctors Think. He describes himself thus:

“Truth be told, I was not a model child, too eager to engage in mischief, paying little attention in class, looking at the clock and counting the minutes until recess. A psychologist today might fix the label of ADHD to me, but at the time my family concluded that mine was a classic case of shpilkes, a Yiddish word meaning, roughly, ‘ants in your pants.'”

My parents, who both spoke Yiddish, used a similar, but perhaps more interesting expression, “full tuchas mit vertschaft”, meaning, I was told, “a behind full of furniture.”  Ah, that the light hearted amusement of these words could help reduce the negative self-judgments of ADHD.

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