"You’re Not ADD (Part 2): You’re Befuddled"

My daily routines were knocked off kilter by a head injury that lingered — revealing how much I relied on structure to cope with attention deficit.
Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven
When the Mini Cooper left an imprint of its license plate in the bumper of my Prius, the insurance company said it was still a low-speed accident, and I couldn’t really be that hurt. Even my doctor dismissed the possibility of a concussion, despite that bang my headrest gave me on the back of my head, messing up my upper neck pretty good.
Suddenly, my life was capital-D Disordered, and I could see how inherently un-regulated I was without my usual structures.
Three weeks later, Enzo was diagnosed with ADD, and my immersion into this new world began. I began recognizing the tell-tale patterns of ADHD in my own psyche that had been there all along. At the time, however, they were confuddled with the symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) that I was experiencing.
PCS is a lingering condition that arises when a concussion doesn’t heal. At the time of the accident, I had been in the final throes of polishing the manuscript of The Bullying Antidote and going a mile-a-minute preparing for the next project, trying to figure out the bad report cards, and grieving from the sudden death of a dear auntie. Rest, schmest. The stress of life didn’t stop — bills to pay, food to make — but I could no longer stay in control of my time. I would have a few good days a week and then the wheels would fall off. I struggled to keep teaching my Zumba classes; exercise keeps me focused and productive like nothing else.
Symptoms of PCS include attention deficit, impulsivity, irritability, a low frustration threshold, mood swings, memory problems, impaired planning, communication difficulties, socially inappropriate behaviors, self-centeredness, and a lack of insight, concrete thinking, and poor self-awareness. (Sound familiar?) Another thing that happens with a concussion is your blood pressure can go haywire, since an injured brain can’t regulate things as well. When I realized exercise was bringing on symptoms, I had to give up my daily sweat.
With the dull ache in my head, all of my other stabilizing structures became more difficult, too:Meditation would just put me to sleep; I couldn’t remember to take my herbs and vitamins; and I didn’t have the energy for my organizing routines. With caffeine off-limits, I couldn’t reach for a cup of focus.
Episodes of inattention began to mess up my life in big ways — like the time I didn’t go through all the steps properly when moving into my new computer, and lost my data when the robbers (yes, there was a break-in, too) dropped it on the way out.
Suddenly, my life was capital-D Disordered, and I could see how inherently un-regulated I was without my usual structures. I realized I had been living (somewhat successfully) with undiagnosed ADD all my life...but I couldn’t get the help I needed until my head had fully healed. Every medical professional I approached diagnosed me with capital-A Anxiety, which I most certainly was suffering, due to the not-raining-but-pouring challenges in my life.
Now that it’s all behind me (PCS sufferers, have hope!) I see what a valuable experience I had. I have so much more understanding and compassion for head injury now. The hardest part about a brain injury is that you can’t put your head in a cast, so people can’t see that you’re injured. Like mental illness, it’s “all in your head.” You can’t function like a normal human being, and you feel invisible and misunderstood.
I ended up doing eight months of counseling about feeling invisible and misunderstood. It was good to have somewhere to go and cry once a week, but my therapist could not really see or understand the ADHD connection beyond the trauma in my addled brain.


Cartwheels in Your Mind

What young love is like for my teen and his girlfriend — ADHDers both.

Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven
Enzo has a girlfriend! It's the most wonderful thing. With teenagers pressuring each otherthese days into going farther faster — and furthermore, first base now being what third base used to be — I was ecstatic when he told me he found a girl to hold hands with!
TopPicks Love ADHD Heart
They both love hamburgers and unpretentious people. They even take the same medication!
— Kristen Caven
The lovely young lady is smart, cute, poetic, and funny. The two of them click as only two outside-the-box thinkers can, traveling on bursts of imagination and creating sweetness together. They both love hamburgers and unpretentious people. They even take the same medication!
As is our family’s way, we gave her a nickname. “Busy” has always got something to say and something to do. A short ride in the car with her takes you on a long journey with her interesting ancestors who were involved in historical events. It’s sometimes hard to get a word in edgewise, but she’s so charming you don’t really mind.
Together, the two of them have decided the difference between having hyperactive or combined-type ADHD (what she has) and inattentive-type ADHD (what he has) is that with the first kind, you can’t stop doing cartwheels. With the inattentive type, you can’t stop doing cartwheels in your mind.
Sadly, since school has gotten out, the unstructured nature of summertime has challenged young love. First, there is the busy-ness; for weeks at a time, one or the other is off and away on the adventures that breaks bring: Camps, sleepovers, and family trips. And when they’re both in town, one or the other of them sleeps until noon, or their phone has run out of batteries, or someone just spaces out. For days, Busy had so many sleepovers she lost track of time and forgot they had plans. Enzo’s heart broke, thinking she wasn’t interested anymore.
It was one of those challenging parenting moments. “Dave” and I had to fight the urge (sometimes winning, sometimes losing) to get involved and try to solve things. Busy’s folks were worried, too, aware that her cartwheels were making her beau’s head spin. The four of us bit our nails for days, hating to see Enzo in pain, doing inner cartwheels around this unintended rejection. We only sent midnight texts to each other once.
Eventually the moment came when Enzo asked for the car keys to go camp out on her doorstep. He came back with a smile on his face after hearing how insomnia had been playing havoc with her attention. He had tucked her into bed early, kissed her goodnight, and told her he understood.