In the evening hours of Monday, May 8 the conservative blogosphere was rocked with the news that prominent pro-Second Amendment blogger Bob Owens took his own life earlier that day. His final words were recorded by his last status update on Facebook; a public cry for help that was too late.
This post is difficult for me, but it’s one I had to write. Mr. Owens and I are similar in age, and particularly as males of our generation, mental illness is largely something to say, “just get over it,” to.
A handful know what I’m about to say, and while discussing via Twitter what could possibly could have driven Bob Owens to suicide I mentioned publicly, and now I’ll say here for the record: I’ve struggled with the faulty wiring in my own brain for decades.
I’ve never come to self-harm, or thought of ending my own life. I’m not seeking your sympathy or pity, or to make any excuses, or to draw any direct parallel between my situation and whatever demons tormented Owens’ mind. All I want to do is tell everyone – men in particular – that if you think you need help with what isn’t going right in your mind, please seek it.
I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
I’m sure many folks are ready to hit the “back” button and write me off as some sort of whiner who can’t cope, but please bear with me.
I’m a Christian, and I typically begin my mornings right after waking with some prayer. Here’s how that often goes:
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallo…”
<BZZZZZZZZZZT. iPhone has received an email>
<Looks at the email, checks three other things>
<Allan, you’re supposed to be praying>
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdo…”
“Wait, what time is my first meeting today? I better check that.”
<ten minutes later, after more tangential stuff>
<Another distraction. Minutes pass. Oh! Crap! I’m going to be late for work if I don’t get moving right now. Sorry, God.>
ADHD is mainly thought to be a childhood or adolescent affliction. Even then, it’s discounted by many. But like so many other mental disorders that people are inclined to say, “get over it” in response, it’s real. And like other conditions, it’s not easy to understand if you’re not living with it.
In my case, it’s not that I can’t pay attention, it’s that I can’t stop paying attention to everything. In one aspect, ADHD can potentially be the multitasker’s dream, but often when you’re paying attention to everything, you’re paying attention to nothing.
A picture I found on the Internet summed it up best.
“Attention deficit disorder” should be called “attention to lots & lots & lots of things & some other stuff except the one thing I should be really paying attention to disorder.”
Sometimes it reverses itself. I get so intensely focused on one thing that I shut out everything else going on, lose complete track of time, and do things like forgetting to eat, realize that it’s time to go home from work, or become isolated from my family.
It first occurred to me to seek treatment four or five years ago, when my son was diagnosed with ADHD. In reading the “what do you need to know as a parent of a child with ADHD” materials, I read through the symptoms and behavioral manifestations, and started checking off the boxes:
This is me.
This is me.
And this is me…
It wasn’t a new thing; I could and can come up with examples going back to my teenage years of the associated behaviors.
I asked my doctor to refer me to a local adult ADHD treatment program, received the ingest paperwork and…
…never filled it out or returned it. Attention deficit in a nutshell.
Fast forward to last summer, when I finally accepted I couldn’t “get over it”, I re-contacted the program, and this time, got the paperwork in and started treatment.
Part of that process was an eight-week group therapy program with other ADHD diagnosed adults. I could see a lot of myself in the other group members, and plenty of examples that I was so very thankful didn’t afflict me in the way it did others. I’m sure that my compatriots thought the same about some of the ways ADHD hits me daily. That group wasn’t an ongoing one past the eight weeks, but as addicts attend groups long into recovery, if I get the opportunity to belong to an ongoing “living with” group, I’m going to.
And yes, I’m also on medication. Medication can do wonders, but it’s just a tool. In the case of ADHD, the medication is counter-intuitive. The drugs are usually stimulants; they activate one to focus rather than numb one’s senses. It works to an extent. I still get moments (or longer) when I can’t focus on a task at hand regardless of how simple it is even with the medication, and I need to use other coping skills to work through it. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I’m successful at beating it, sometimes I’m not.
I’ve learned to be open about when I’ve had difficulty. Rather than writing it off, I make sure when I get home to tell my wife I had a really bad attention day. It’s no lie that admitting you have a problem – and continual admittance – is solidly the path to dealing with it.
I learned another thing from the group: had I continued to hope my ADHD went away, had I not said “help”, it would have continued to get worse. There were others whose ADHD had driven them to addiction, depression, and yes, even that dark place where life isn’t worth it anymore.
Accepting that I couldn’t deal with my own mental demons alone changed my life. That’s the message I want you to take away from this post.
If you’re struggling with your own mind, regardless of how it affects you, you are not alone. There is no “minor” mental illness. It will not “just go away.”
If you can’t bring yourself directly to seeking medical advice or other intervention, find someone who will just listen. You can contact me; I won’t judge or dismiss. We are stronger together.
I don’t spend a whole lot of time dwelling on what could’ve been had I sought assistance earlier, but I wish I had.
It is never too late.
The first step of saying “help” is the hardest. Please, for yourself, take it.
Allan Bourdius is the founder of the blog Their Finest Hour and the managing director of Vigilant Liberty Radio. Later this summer he will be launching a new streaming content site called, “The Binge” (site coming soon!). Until then and after, you can find him on the ADHD-friendly medium of Twitter as @UnrealAllan.