Manage Your Life

Licking My Wounds: How I Stay Safe with ADHD

I blame ADHD-related inattention and impulsivity for my near-constant bumps, bruises and accidents. Here’s how I stay safe.

Slip & Fall Signs for the accident-prone
Slip & Fall Signs for the accident-prone

Ouch! This word is often heard coming from my direction. I know, everyone has accidents — and they can mean serious trouble for someone with nonstop inattention and impulsivity. But whether I’m riding a bicycle or handling a kitchen knife, minor self-injuries are second nature to me. I’m an accident-prone ADDer through and through.

If you attended Halliburton Boy Scout Camp in Ontario during the summer of 1989, you may remember me: I was the kid with the blue rubber glove rubber-banded to his right hand. I was chopping carrots for supper when I got distracted, and, well, carrots and fingers started to look the same. I remember sitting in the infirmary, listening to the nurse and doctor argue over how many stitches I needed (two was the verdict). They told me to keep my finger dry — not easy at a camp that emphasized water sports.

Bike accidents? I have two to report. Once, when I was 11, I was going full-tilt in an effort to catch up to my brother, who was trying to get to the video store before it closed. Impulsively, I veered from the road onto the sidewalk, and hit a concrete lip at the base of a driveway. My bike stopped abruptly. I kept going, until my head rendezvoused with the bumper of a parked car.

My next bike accident came when I was in college. I was riding along, my guitar case strapped to my back, when my front wheel suddenly popped out of place. Seems I had been distracted the last time I attached the wheel to the fork. I learned very quickly that bikes without front wheels are inoperable.

Recently, my friend Eric suggested that I get a new bike. I enjoy feeling the wind in my hair, but I’m wary. I am thinking about getting a new car, which makes me even more nervous – since I’ve had two car accidents in the past year. It’s not that I’m a bad driver. I’m just not good at driving while using a cell phone.

But I don’t need a kitchen utensil or a vehicle to injure myself; I get bumps and bruises just walking around my house. In my hyperactivity-fueled hurry, I run into door frames. I bash my hands on furniture while walking past. I fall on the stairs. (Luckily, I am more careful walking downstairs than upstairs.)

Things get dangerous on the football field. I suffered two concussions while playing football in high school, but on weekends I still love to get together with friends for a game. Since it’s touch, and not tackle, I’m less concerned about the other players than with my own miscues. When I go up for a pass, I forget that I’m not wearing pads, and that the ground is hard.

A knee injury I sustained a few Sundays ago is still painful — in part, because I keep bumping it on door frames.

Jokes aside, being accident-prone is dangerous. For some people, ADHD medication helps mellow the fast-paced, gear-shifting attitude that makes accidents so common. But for me, that attitude is what makes life with ADHD exciting — as long as I can live a relatively normal life without causing serious harm to myself or others.

Whether you take meds or not, my advice is this: Slow down. Pay attention. Wear a helmet anytime you venture out on a bicycle or onto a football field. If you really want to stay safe, you might wear it around the house, too.

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