Flunking out of college, losing a job, and feeling like a failure as a husband, this author wanted to end it all — until he remembered his wife’s wise words.
This month’s guest blogger is Jeff Emmerson, an ADHD advocate who is dedicated to raising awareness of attention deficit by sharing his own ADHD journey on adultadhdblog.com. Through his blog posts, Jeff illuminates the daily struggles faced by millions of ADHDers all over the world.
In 2011, at the age of 35, I gave up on everything. I flunked out of college, couldn’t hold down a job, and was tired of feeling like a failure as a husband. My wife was working in the home office upstairs, and I went to the basement and put the home gym cable around my neck, I leaned into it. The pain became fierce, as my tears dripped on the carpet. My brother had committed suicide three years ago, and I was going to join him in a less painful place. But something stopped me.
Though the shame, guilt, and despair had drained me, I knew that I had gifts; I didn’t know how I was going to access them when I felt like a failure. My life was dangling by a thread, but I remembered my wife telling me that when things get bad and hard to take, it’s OK to throw our hands up and say “I need help! Someone else needs to take care of me for the moment, because I have nothing left!”
Her words saved my life that day. I removed the cable from my neck before walking upstairs, sobbing, telling my wife that I needed to go to the emergency room — now. She drove me there, and the rest is history.
After being evaluated and diagnosed with adult ADHD (and depression), my eyes were opened for the first time in my life. At 37, I work as a hospital security guard helping others with mental challenges. It hasn’t been a smooth ride. A year ago, I fell into depression again, and committed myself to the psych ward. I needed more counseling to drive home the fact that I have to work harder to accept my diagnosis and a new way of life.
I was able to do that. I’ve gone from the patient being escorted to the mental health ward to the guard escorting others. (I have a memoir coming out about my experience with ADHD). The key to my survival and success is receiving support from loved ones and caregivers in the community. My wife, my dad, my best friend, and others have supported me without judgment, knowing how much potential I have. I tried medication, but it did nothing for me. Working out regularly, listening to music, and learning to calm down when I'm going into "fast forward” works better.
I'm a proponent of getting regular counselling tune-ups. Working as a hospital security guard requires concentration and focus. I'm only as good on the job as I am mentally sharp and stable. This means investing in myself by talking with a professional to stay on top of my game. In my day-to-day life, I am better at noticing when my mind races too fast for my own good. I slow things down through breathing techniques, taking brief walks to change my focus, or working out to release pent-up energy.
Whether it’s meditation, fitness, music, or some other way of calming your mind, doing something is key — before you wind up making a bad decision. In the past, I would hang up on girlfriends when I got frustrated. Today, I take a deep breath and accept that I have challenges, instead of throwing relationships away. Before, I’d fly off the handle with family members or friends when I was challenged in a discussion. Now I remove myself from the situation to see the bigger picture before I make a mistake I’ll regret. I talk to myself at home when I notice I’m talking too fast, telling myself to relax and enjoy the journey.
Through support, patience, and being honest, adults with ADHD can be successful in life. We all have different symptoms and degrees of ADHD, but there is always hope and support. Please remember that. I found that out after researching ways to end my life. Thank God, I waved the white flag and remembered what my wife told me on that fateful day in 2011.