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Dr. Lost and Mr. Hide

Our man with ADHD and a rising tide of anxiety loses his therapist, but finds a temporary companion in the form of Nutella and frosted granola bars.

If you had looked through my kitchen window last night around 2 AM, you would have seen a man standing in the dark at the counter, holding an unopened sleeve of saltine crackers and staring at the night light shining on the tiles near the pantry.

He’s completely still, not moving a muscle. His ADHD brain though, fueled by a growing panic attack that laughs at Xanax and Aleve PM, is burning rubber and tearing through the last remnants of an obstacle course — skidding past self-worth, banging over well-being insights, running over clarity, goals, and honesty, until finally crashing through to the Promised Land: Justification. He needs this to stay calm. He’s under an unusual amount of stress right now. He deserves this.

He thought he was going to put the crackers back, he knows he can’t eat in the middle of the night and get his weight to a healthy level. But now, obstacles dealt with, he knows he’s going to open the crackers. But wait, he’s just remembered that he hid a jar of Nutella on the second shelf behind a package of flax seeds and a canister of protein powder. Saltine and Nutella sandwiches look just like a sideways stack of saltines if they’re arranged correctly in that black miso soup bowl. Not that anyone else is up to see, but just in case. And besides it won’t look so bad to him.

[Self-Test: Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Adults]

He squints at the pantry shelf. His wife bought a box of frosted granola bars, because the doctor said she has to gain weight. What the hell is fair about that? Ditch the miso bowl, a couple of granola bars are joining the party. Who cares? I will – a lot – in the morning. But tonight? Nobody. Suddenly he’s moving – all the food is arranged on the kitchen table along with a Coke and his tablet and headphones, and then joined by a peanut butter sandwich as 2 A.M. turns to three, and four, four-thirty. Funny thing, though, even in the sweet land of Justification, he keeps the lights off.

Not a pretty sight. It’s a good thing you weren’t looking in the window to witness it. Plus you’d have to have somehow gotten past the locked redwood gate and crept across the patio without setting off the motion-sensor light, tripping over a lawn chair and launching our lab/pit Casey down the stairs in a barking frenzy, scrambling everyone else in the house out of bed, snapping on lights, slamming open doors and yelling, “What’s going on?!” Which is why I don’t compulsively overeat outside, or illuminated.

Now obviously this guy up all night stuffing his face in the kitchen needs to go see his therapist. He knows that. He knows he’s doing with food the exact same thing he used to do with alcohol. He’s not stupid. He’s been diagnosed with ADHD for 20 years, and been on meds and in therapy that whole time and has studied, written, and worked on that and his other comorbid brain stuff, been sober for 16 years, and, with his wife, raised their two ADHD kids. But he is acting stupid. He’s letting that buried, insecure, self-loathing vicious part of him, Mr. Hide, take charge. Always at night, when his family can’t see him.

But, hey, that’s kind of good, right? Courteous in a way. I mean, you saw: It’s gross watching a guy stuffing his maw desperately trying to fill a hole that he keeps digging inside himself. So day after tomorrow he’s got an appointment with his shrink, and they’ll work on it.

[Read This: Are You Chemically Wired to Gain Weight?]

There is one problem. A few days ago I got a letter that my psychiatrist is closing his practice and moving to Virginia. So this will be my last appointment with a guy I’ve been seeing for the last eight years, during which time all kinds of stuff came down. He did tell me in person a couple of weeks ago, but I guess I didn’t really take it seriously. Or accept it, or something. Good shrinks are hard to find – believe me I’ve been through my share – and this guy, and the psychologist I also saw in his office who’s packing it in as well, were both outstanding.

But it’ll be OK. Lost this doc, but he’ll dig around, find another. Until then, he’ll just have to keep Mr. Hide out of the pantry, one night at a time.

[Finding a Doctor or Therapist Who Works for You]

More by Frank South