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The Day My Daughter Went “Missing,” Thanks to My ADHD

My damn hyperfocus got me all worked up, and screwed up, again.

I want to share a story with you about ADHD hyperfocus and its often sheepish, absent-minded splendor. I’m betting some of you poor souls out there can relate all too well.

Most people get absentminded when they’re sick, fatigued, or overworked. They can become so focused on a deadline or an important task that they don’t notice the world around them. That’s something that is a common day-to-day experience for adults with ADHD. We don’t need an imperative task to command our focus. It could be the person outside in a loud orange jumpsuit when we’re supposed to be listening to a quarterly report or a conversation a few cubicles over instead of the one in our cubicle right that very moment.

Distractions can grab our attention away from important matters. Similarly, we can become hyperfocused while fixing a computer problem, tinkering with the car, or any number of non-emergency situations where most people could divide their attention. This is why we get ourselves in trouble all the time.

The other day I was busy working on my Mac, and my daughter announced she was going to go get the mail. I nodded and got back to work. She returned with the mail and said she wanted to go say “Hi” to her friends. Again, I nodded and got back to work. After a while, however, a thought imposed itself upon my extremely focused attention. “Where is my daughter?”

I looked at the clock. How long has she been gone? It’s getting dark. Great, she’s forgotten to come in again. So I stepped outside in my socks and called for her. No answer. In fact, there were no kids anywhere. Don’t panic. She’s probably hanging out at a friend’s home and forgot to tell me. I’m more than a little miffed. She’s not supposed to do that. She knows better.

I went back inside, put on my shoes and jacket, got ready to head out the door, and noticed her bedroom door was closed. She couldn’t have come in and walked by me without my noticing, but I thought I should check anyway. I knocked. No answer. Yep, she’s definitely at a friend’s house.

A hot coal began to smolder deep within — without telling me. My breathing began to quicken. But which friend? And what if she’s missing? Panic! Should I call the police? Then, just to be sure, I opened her bedroom door and looked inside. In the back, her bathroom light was on. Knock, knock. “What!?” came the cherubic and patient reply.

The activity she was up to so quietly in the bathroom with her iPad is a story, perhaps, for another day, but this story is about a disaster averted. I didn’t make an embarrassing phone call to 911. I didn’t abandon my daughter to be home alone while I searched for her in the dark. I can almost laugh at the entire fiasco. But at least I got all that work done. That’s got to count for something, right?