When ADHD Throws You a Curve Ball

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • The old saying goes; there are two things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes.


    We know that throughout our lives, we'll experience one crisis or another. Death of a loved one, divorce, illness, financial hardships, major disappointments- there's no escaping the realities of life. When these strike, typically family and friends are there to support us through rough times and we get through these difficulties as best we can and hopefully, move on.


    But what about the minor things in life that throw us completely off track? Most people seem to recover quickly from these tiny stumbles through life. Perhaps you didn't get the raise you'd hoped for. Or maybe you're not getting along with a friend. We face these minor disappointments and transitions almost on a daily basis. However, those of us with ADHD, seem to have a much tougher time when our life patterns or routines shift. Children, especially, can have complete meltdowns over seemingly minor changes in their lives. Watch out if his favorite TV show goes off the air, or if you bring home a different brand of breakfast cereal.

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    Adults, too,  often get overly frustrated when their routines are abruptly changed. It's as if the entire earth is shaking under our feet! While others might be mildly irritated that their normal route to work has to be circumvented due to construction, an ADHD adult might come close to having a mild rage attack!


    Children and adults with ADHD thrive on routine and structure, mainly because our internal lives are often in such chaos, we depend on external structure to help us manage our days.


    By way of example, let me describe how my life has changed drastically in recent days. Three weeks ago, we brought home a puppy- an eight week furry ball of joy. I was ecstatic because I've had a dog my entire life and recently had to put Annie, our 14 year old Portuguese Water Dog down, as she was losing her battle with an aggressive cancer. The hole in my heart needed mending and what better way than to bring in a new pet? After months of mourning, I knew it was time and thus, Harper joined our family.


    What I wasn't prepared for was how having a puppy would turn my world upside down. I thought I was ready, having read a few books on how to take care of a new puppy. But nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened. It had been 14 years since I had a pup in the house and in my typical ADHD fashion, I'd forgotten how much time and energy is needed to care for a fur baby.


    Since I work out of my house, for the most part, I figured it would be a breeze watching the dog while working in my home office. But I'd forgotten a few things. Like how you have to take a puppy outside every hour if you don't want to find unpleasant surprises on the floor. I'd forgotten how demanding a puppy is- needing lots of attention, exercise, frequent meals, etc. Now for someone with ADHD who hates changes in routine and can't deal well with distractions and interruptions, little Harper has created a huge problem for me and my ADHD. I simply cannot concentrate on my work and with the change in my daily routine, I have hit the wall.


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    I know that it's imperative to crate dogs so they don't get into trouble, but Harper doesn't tolerate being caged too well and I cannot simply ignore the wailing.


    Granted, this is a very very small problem in the big picture of life, but when one has ADHD in the mix, it becomes a very big problem. So how do you deal with life, when it throws you a small curve ball from time to time?


    First, always take into account that your ADHD will affect you whenever you have any sort of life change, whether it's major or minor. Do not underestimate the effects and don't shy away in embarrassment because you think you "should" be able to handle things like everyone else. You are *not* anyone else! So work around it in ways that will help you manage the situation, even if it seems unorthodox, immature or just plain silly.


    In the case of Harper, I am enlisting the help of a dog trainer to help me figure out how to encourage Harper to learn to like her kennel so I can get more work done. I'll also more than likely, find someone in the neighborhood who can spend a few hours a week playing and walking her, while I get my work done more easily.


    And I will remind myself that my ADHD brain does not react the way others' do- I must make accommodations for myself so that I don't become so frustrated and overwhelmed. Reminding myself that this is a temporary problem- Harper will grow up quickly and learn to "go" outside, so... I should enjoy her puppyhood while I can.


    Do you have something happening in your life that is throwing you completely off track? How are you managing?

Published On: September 04, 2008