Sticking Together

While on this last business trip, I had the opportunity to meet up with an old family friend. His fourteen year-old son was also recently diagnosed with ADHD, and he and his wife have really been struggling with how to support him. Their son - let's call him Jeff - has had a rough time the last couple of years in school. The diagnosis, instead of being a relief and a moment of rebirth as it was for me, hit him pretty hard. I offered to hang out with Jeff to see if maybe I could help. At the very least, he'd finally have a chance to talk to someone else with the same kind of brain wiring.

I can't imagine how hard it must be to be fourteen, just starting high school and just wanting to fit in, and be told that you have a "disorder". Freshman year of high school was tough enough as it is. Jeff has focused a lot of his energy on football - not surprising, considering exercise and sports are a common form of self-treatment that undiagnosed ADDers gravitate towards. He has insomnia, which causes a lot of stress, because he's tired a lot of the time, is late to school a lot, and because - in his quest to get bigger and stronger for football - Jeff has done the research and knows that he needs a lot of sleep at this stage in is life as he goes through puberty. He's worried that his inability to sleep (also a common trait) is going to doom him to being too scrawny to be a good football player.

Over huge Texas-sized steaks, I told Jeff about my own experience in high school (it may surprise you to know that I played football my Freshman year. I wasn't any good - not aggressive enough, apparently.) I talked about a bunch of the tricks I had developed over the years to deal with life, both pre- and post-diagnosis. When I told him I often feel at the end of the day thay I didn't accomplish anything, or how I have a lot of trouble remembering how I spent my time or how long it took me to do something, he told me he feels that way all the time, too. I talked to him about my lifelong struggle with procrastination, and I knew immediately that he understood what it was like. And while I only occasionally have trouble falling asleep, I've gone through pretty intense insomnia before, and I know how debilitating it can be.

I'd like to think that steak dinner was a turning point for Jeff as he grapples with this new reality. Only time will tell, I guess. If someone had sat me down at fourteen and started to rattle off a list of things that almost perfectly described things that were causing me a lot of inner turmoil, and then told me that it wasn't my fault, and that there were things I could do to make dealing with school and life a little more manageable, I'd probably be a very different person today. I think I'd at least be a little less insecure and experience less anxiety.

During our conversation, I suggested to Jeff that he try a white noise generator or some other kind of sleep sound device or app. In addition to masking the annoying random sounds that can really tug at an overactive brain, I've found that those kooky new-age nature soundtracks can often help relax my mind (I'm partial to waves crashing on the beach). The next day, Jeff texted me to say that he had tried a white noise app and that it had really helped him to fall asleep. It was pretty gratifying. As I told Jeff, we ADDers are a speciai tribe (about fifteen per cent of the population) and we gotta stick together of we're going to make it in this crazy world.