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Truth: Nobody Can Handle the ADHD Hurricanes in Your Head Alone

My wife Margaret is my shelter in the storm of my ADHD brain. She helps me figure out the tornadoes and hurricanes that pass through.

After so many years of being so wrong for so long about so many things, adults with ADHD don’t trust anything their brains say. This is true if you are undiagnosed and desperate, hunting for a handhold through flying shards of forgotten ideas, names, dates, and blown opportunities. And it’s still true if you’ve been diagnosed for decades, work with your therapist, take meds, meditate, and whether you consider your ADHD a gift, a tool, or a curse.

You have a hurricane brain. You have to learn to stay in the calm eye of the storm, and concentrate to avoid the winds of confusion that surround you, always ready to pull you in and blank out the present, and relive past failures. Then someone asks you something, and you realize that even if you stay stone still, dead center, you can’t trust your answer, because you’ve been so focused on not getting sucked in, you haven’t heard much besides the roar in your head. You get better with the balance as time goes on, and you get by, even do well. But the hurricane never goes away. And dealing with it over the long term can wear an adult with ADHD down. Then again, I’m probably completely wrong about this. Fifty-fifty chance, really. Like the flip of a coin.

Last week, my wife, Margaret and I were streaming the last episode of 11-22-63, the miniseries based on the Stephen King novel. We both loved the book, and both are into this time-travel love story, but I’m way into it. The early-‘60s look is right out of my childhood, the lead character’s unmoored mind in a life-or-death battle not only with his past, but THE past.

It’s the last eight minutes, both of us rapt, tense, but something onscreen triggers, what? I’m not sure, an epiphany or connection so strong I have to tell Margaret right now, and I push the pause button on the remote. But it’s the wrong button and the screen flips to a talk show. Margaret asks what the hell I was doing for god’s sake? For a split second I don’t know what she’s talking about, and don’t know why the remote is in my hand.

“What’s wrong? What did I do?” I bleat, completely disoriented. Margaret, non-ADHD, and married to me for 30 years, says don’t worry about it, takes control of the remote. After I go to the bathroom and get a drink of water, we finish the show.

When we go to bed, I try to explain to Margaret why I hit the remote and what I’d wanted to say, but I can’t remember — and that’s even more upsetting. She says, “Don’t worry. It’ll come to you.” I have my doubts. We kiss, hold hands, listen to the rain on the window, and fall asleep. At 6 A.M., the phone rings with an automated voice announcing a tornado warning. The house shakes some, the wind pushing against it with a mean deep guttural roar. Outside our window is nothing but thick gray, can’t see two inches. By the time we start downstairs to wake our daughter, and gather up the dogs and flashlight, the noise lets up. The tornado touched down a couple of blocks away, then headed east. We check the weather report, and feeling lucky, we go back to bed-this time with the dogs burrowed between us. I start to tell her that the tornado reminded me of my brain, but that seems like a trivial comparison. “I mean this tornado was real, did real damage.”

“Your brain’s not trivial,” she says, “Write about it.”

I still don’t remember what I had to tell Margaret when I stopped the TV show. My guess is that it was some bright shock of the love and gratitude I feel for her every day. So maybe there is one thing I do know for sure. Nobody can do this alone. We have to reach out to those close to us. The effort we put out in order to connect with those we love, and that they return, is the one thing that can help us ride out the storm.

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