Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

This Is How ADHD Saved My Life!

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On a recent trip to France, Joan and I stopped at a wild animal / amusement park in the middle of a forest. It was a beautiful park in a picturesque valley surrounded by tall trees that seemed to reach up and touch the sky.

It was in this majestic place of splendor and tranquility that I came face to face with one of my most powerful phobias.

And it was there that I tried to overcome my fear. I failed. In the worst imaginable way.

Face your fears.

So they say.

At this park there is a roller coaster type ride that takes a steep climb up the side of a mountain and then it freely sails back to the bottom. Sounds like easy fun, right? I thought so, too.

I don’t like roller coasters. I tend to avoid them at all costs. They scare the living crap out of me to put it plainly. No loops for me, thank you very much. But this one seemed harmless and, hey, there were small kids riding it as well.

How scary could it be?

I thought that it would be a great way to face one of my fears.

I asked Joan to ride with me and we hopped into a two seated car. I felt wrong almost immediately and noticed two large sticks poking out of each side of the car. They were breaks.

Why do we need breaks? I wondered.

It was the climb.

As we started our climb I felt a lump in my throat form and my entire body braced.

Fear had suddenly found me out there in the wilderness and it was taking control. As we continued our ascent, I told Joan I couldn’t do this. But it was too late! Joan tried to calm me as much as she could, bless her heart, but it wasn’t working.

Once fear grips me I become rather irrational and can no longer listen to reason.

Then I heard the screams!

No, not just the ones inside of my head.

Kids were screaming on the ride down the mountain. It was then that I really started to panic. Nevermind that the kids were screaming from pleasure and fun.

Yeah, so fun. Right.

When we reached the top of the mountain I quickly unstrapped and jumped off the car before it started to sail back down.

Yes, you read that right. I jumped off!

It was so embarrassing!

As someone with ADHD I have learned how to deal with embarrassment, but I still have not learned to overcome one of my greatest fears.

There I was standing at the top of this mountain with no obvious path to go back down. I looked around me. All ways were blocked by rollercoaster tracks.

I was now in a truly dangerous situation.

I had to find a way or call for a rescue helicopter, but I wasn’t ready for that much embarrassment. There’s only so much a person can take, you know.

In real danger.

But something odd happens to me when I am in real danger (as you noticed, I usually put myself in said danger). Phobia is one thing, true danger is another - somewhere inside my head the difference is understood.

When in real danger my ADHD brain clicks into control and embraces the risk. In such situations it becomes a life saver.

I found a portion of the tracks that formed a sort of bridge that I could crawl under and from there I began my long, treacherous climb back down the mountain.

After a while it became less embarrassing and rather funny watching the people going up giving me weird looks. I waved and smiled. What else could I do?

Hyper-Focused.

It seemed to take forever, I climbed over and crawled under several obstacles on my way down, but I did it! Going down the mountain, with my feet on the ground I wasn’t scared in the least. I was totally immersed and hyper-focused.

Strangely, I felt alive.

It was then that I understood the exhilaration those screaming kids must feel as they ride down in the safety of the their roller coaster cars.

By all rights, I should have been scared out of my mind. What I was doing was insane. I was almost run over and I slipped a couple times and once it could have been the end if I hadn’t found my grip in the last possible second.

I Survived!

I didn’t realize it at the time but I had gained an audience watching up from the base. When I finally made it to the bottom I was greeted by park personnel and they immediately started chastising me. I deserved it, but I didn’t care.

I was at the bottom and I had survived.

I started searching for Joan. Where was she?

Seconds seemed like minutes and then there she was in my arms so happy I made it okay. She was so proud of me and she told me how amazing I am. No wonder I love her so much! I’ve done things like that before and I never had such a positive reaction.

What was done was done and she embraced me for who I am and what I needed to do. But I am not about to do it again anytime soon! Well, I hope not.

Distracted… Oh, look!

The rest of the day at the park was spectacular.

Oh look, a deer!

We had the opprotunity to feed deer as they walked up and ate out of our hands!

How cool is that?!

Thankful.

I truly believe I can thank my ADHD for allowing me to embrace the very real risk that presented itself, even if I created the risk. You may believe the jump from the car was impulsive, and it was, but anyone with phobias can attest to how powerful and controlling they can be.

I don’t care what anyone says. I know ADHD saved my life that day.

Have you been in a situation where ADHD actually helped you?

Bryan

*The photos are actual photos at the park. The top photo is my wife, Joan, getting ready to go up the mountain for another ride. As you can see, I am not on it! 

Terry Matlen August 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Bryan,
This post fascinated me. I understand that kind of fear (I refuse to go on those things) but you have shown an incredible amount of bravery on two levels: one- that you knew you had to get out of that situation and DID, instead of feeling too embarrassed to stay put and endure the horrific fear. Yes, your ADD helped you by following your impulse and hyper focusing your way down to the ground.

Two: you were brave enough to share this with the world.

Most people with phobias or other fears are not willing to share these feelings and experiences but by you doing so, it allows others to find that courage to do the same.

Bravo on all counts!

- Terry
http://www.ADDconsults.com

Bryan Hutchinson August 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks Terry! I hope you are right that it allows others to find courage to share their stories. Phobias are nothing to be ashamed of. When I looked back up the mountain after coming down I seriously wondered to myself why in the world would I be afraid of a ‘safe’ ride when I wasn’t the least bit afraid of climbing down. There’s not always an answer when it comes to phobias. But I still find it odd.

Have a great day, Terry!
Bryan

Sally August 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I am so proud of you! You are not perfect and you shared it with all of us! I am claustrophobic so I know the fear you have and my heart was beating out of my chest just reading about your experience! I have a really hard time with elevators but I’ve never crawled out of one! Your fear must have been so bad it took over your good judgement! Bryan, that is scary do you think you should ask a professional about it? Is it just with roller coasters or is it heights or what? I don’t think I understand the part about your ADHD saving you? Are you sure it didn’t almost kill you by being impulsive and getting out? What do you think would have happened to you if you stayed in the roller coaster? Wow, my heart is still beating too fast! Now that you are alright I do have to say the story is hysterical in a twisted sort of way! Cute picture of Joan she looks like she had the whole thing in control!

Bryan Hutchinson August 22, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Hi Sally,

I know what would have happened to me if I stayed on the roller coaster. I would have survived, but knowing doesn’t usually help with phobias. I don’t like flying either, but it’s not quite as bad. Mostly, the phobia caused me to jump, and yes it was also on impulse, to get away from what was causing my fear. I’ve been struck by fear so bad before that I’ve gone into shock. My ADHD became an advantage when I was in real danger and needed to focus on getting back down the mountain. Real danger is so much different than a phobia. Phobias are usually irrational, real danger on the other hand is, well, real danger.

I thought I would share this story today. It has been on my mind as I’ve been thinking about going back and trying the ride again. I probably won’t.

Glad you enjoyed it, in a twisted sort of way, Sally! lol

Bryan

Chell August 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I was twistedly amused by this as well. Mostly because I know that exact feeling you were talking about. Isn’t it strange how time slows down?

Bryan Hutchinson August 23, 2012 at 5:38 am

Ha, Chell! I’m not alone!!

:)

brenda August 23, 2012 at 2:09 am

oh my gosh bryan… i totally understand… there are things that totally freak me out and then i have done many other things that “normal” people can’t believe i did… i understand that impulsivity, it seems to have gotten much stronger as i’ve gotten older where i may instantly do something without any thought or feeling of control… LOL i was laughing hysterically as you described your story.. mainly laughing out of identification of some things i have done because of my adhd and fears… (will try and think of specific ones).. i have done some truly amazing things because of my hyperfocus so i was laughing almost to tears identifying… but didn’t know i was adhd until the last few years so am still just beginning to realize diffetent things in my past that were adhd… my family are very conventional and so i stuck out like a sore thumb… my main thought was that i was weird, different and wrong… i now see things every day that are amazing gifts of my adhd.. i love that idea of them as superpowers… we do have special powers but also have huge challenges… i so enjoy your site and appreciate feeling more connected to other adhders… i was feeling down and frustrated about some things and your story made me laugh and feel connected with others who understand and now i feel good…thank you…and i acknowledge you for your bravery in being honest…

Bryan Hutchinson August 23, 2012 at 5:40 am

Glad I could make you laught a little, Brenda! Keep moving forward.

Have a fun day!
Bryan

Sharon August 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Bryan,

I have also had an experience in which that hyper-focus drive kicks in when real danger presents itself. As a kid I was on a family camping trip. Dragging behind, I was moaning and complaining, fatigued, bored, hyper-focussing on MY woe, insisting I couldn’t take another step and GENUINELY wondering how I was going to make it. Our entire group was spread out along the trail in clumps of two or three people. Then, my mom (who was bringing up the rear with me) who was having a bit of a back problem, had a back spasm and ended up crawling on the ground. My brother who had been with us went ahead to bring back help. We waited for what I thought was an eternity (we had been misinformed about how long the hike was and thought we were almost there).

Now this was real danger and I was getting more enraged by the second, thinking that no one was responding as they should (remember, we thought the camp was just over the hill we were on). We waited for at least an hour, then I told my mom to stay there (where would she have gone?) and set out on the fastest grind of hiking I have ever experienced. I was really angry but it was exhilarating! Adrenaline and sense of rescue was like a high. I charged into camp five miles later demanding why no one had come back for my mom. The others including my brother had just barely gotten into camp themselves. My mom was retrieved and with some muscle relaxants from my aunt recovered well enough for our camping trip to continue. I learned a great thing about myself that day. At the time I didn’t have a name for it, but ADHD can be terrific in case of emergency.

Bryan Hutchinson August 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Good for you, Sharon. I agree with you. I am glad to hear your mother was okay and the camping trip went on. I can imagine how you must have felt. I wonder what your next words were to the others and your brother? Colorful?

So much energy, so much focus. This makes me wonder about the theory that ADHD used to be a group of survival traits that most people just don’t need anymore. I tend to agree with that theory.

Thank you for sharing,
Bryan

Sharon August 27, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Bryan

As a matter of fact, even though I was only about 12 and our family is NOT prone to colorful language, I did come out with a rather shocking critique on the apparent lack of concern on their part for my mom’s plight. Very sensitive of you Bryan. Ha! the looks on their faces! It still makes me giggle.

The Meaning of Me August 23, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Bryan, kudos to you for being bold enough to share your experience. I had to laugh out loud at your post – not to laugh at your fear or your experience, but because I have been there, done that so often in similar circumstances. Yup, impulsivity makes us do bizarre things and the ensuing embarrassment can be crippling. But at least for me, knowing about and understanding my ADHD behaviors and how they color my every day has helped me become confident enough to take the embarrassment in stride and move on. It that weird? Maybe, but it works for me. I guess I’m saying I often know how I ended up in the odd situation so I can accept and embrace that, rectify something if necessary, and keep going. The hyper-focus that kicks in is very very real. Some of us can do it at will, some of us get it automatically when the need arises. I am blessed with both, but in terms of your “save your life” question, I think my ADHD turned hyper-focus kicks in when someone close to me is in an emergency situation. Somehow, inexplicably, that focus kicks in and I am able to stay calm and not react emotionally until the immediate danger or needs have passed. It’s fascinating and still surprises me, but I am grateful for it. Thanks for the post.

Bryan Hutchinson August 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Yep, TMOM, you sure described it for me, as well. The hyper focus kicks in and I become calm as you describe.

It’s okay to laugh – I laughed afterwards, too. It’s a wonder how so many of us can relate, isn’t it?

Bests,
Bryan

Bryan Hutchinson August 28, 2012 at 11:29 am

Ha ha… I bet, Sharon!

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