The fight may never end, but ADHD or not, it’s the love we have for each other that gives all of us the reason and power to stay in the ring and prevail.
by Frank South
In late rounds this week, ADHD hit Dad with a surprise roundhouse right to the head, knocking him flat with panic, despair, and a hopelessly dark world-view. Petrified that his therapist will want to put him on anti-depressants again, Dad takes a self-imposed sick-week and hides in bedroom.
Family says Dad took a dive.
“Now he gets to lie around all day, eat cookies, and read books,” family says. “Who’s going to do the laundry, clean the kitchen and change the light bulbs?”
“Not I,” Dad says from under covers, “My head hurts. Leave me alone. I need quiet.”
A couple of days go by. The house is peaceful, not a sound. Dad gets out of bed to get a sandwich and maybe a few more Safeway oatmeal-raisin cookies. The kitchen is empty. The whole house is deserted. Dashing around the place in a growing panic, it hits him that there’s no dishes, no clothes, no furniture, no people. His family, seeing he’s no longer useful, has packed up and moved away.
Okay, my family did not desert me.
But late this week, I did get laid out by that ADHD punch to the head and heart. And a good-sized part of me is convinced that the only reason my family didn’t pack up and leave is because I stayed on my feet and kept up with the household chores, part-time jobs, and all the other people-pleasing behaviors that cover the dark, frustrated fury and self-loathing burning at my rotten core.
My crusty old corner-man in the boxing ring sits me on the stool -- squirts water in my face. “How many times I gotta tell you to keep your head down. No wonder ADHD caught you with that right. Now, he’s got you throwing around wild-ass mixed metaphors. Stay focused, kid. Fight your fight.”
Okay, okay. But see, it’s not that I think that my family is mean and shallow or really treats me like a slave. It’s that I know how difficult it can be to be around me when I get overwhelmed, frantic, and short-tempered. I can barely tolerate myself when ADHD hits me with a wave of burning synapses that gets so huge that I’m sure I’ll tumble over and over, and stay lost in confusion and uncertainty forever. And then, trying to keep from drowning, I lash out -- desperate to grab anything that makes sense -- and say or do something scary or hurtful.
So why on earth would my family stay around for this lunacy?
Before, it was probably because I was a mammoth provider. Today -- not so much. So I become a mammoth homemaker. And in a snap, I turn into my mother -- the 50’s housewife putting aside her desires, her writing -- to take care of her spouse and kids. And you have to be real tough to pull that off.
My corner-man towels me off, shaking his head. “You’re not hard enough for that, kid. I seen some of the toughest ladies in the universe fight that fight and get flattened by a bitter madness that’s meaner than anything you can handle,” he says. “If you can’t stay focused, stay honest -- fight with what you got.”
I tell him I don’t know what I’ve got to fight with. ADHD is dancing around in the ring looking bigger and stronger all the time. He can’t wait to pound me into screaming mush.
My corner-man slaps me. “It’s love, kid. That’s what you got -- a whole family full of it. You fight with that, you can’t lose. Now get out there and show that bum who you are.”
So I do. And the old corner-man is right. The fight may never end, but ADHD or not, it’s the love we have for each other that gives all of us the reason and power to stay in the ring and prevail.
And keep an eye out for that roundhouse right.