It’s been a tough 2 months for our family. When Hurricane Harvey hit, it was flooding an area of Texas where our 1-year-old niece lives. When Hurricane Irma hit, it was headed straight for Tampa where my uncle, receiving hospice care, lived along with our cousins in Deerfield Beach. And when Hurricane Maria was headed straight for Puerto Rico, we had more than 20 family members sitting in harm’s way.
You feel unsettled when your loved ones aren’t safe.
You feel unsettled when your loved ones aren’t safe. You’re distracted and disjointed. A subconscious, gnawing subtitle runs through the brain: Are they ok? Will they survive? What can I do?
The short answers are yes, yes and nothing, yet. Thinking positively is THE BEST MEDICINE when facing situations beyond our control. (This is NOT easy for ADHDers.) We planned phone trees to save cell battery life and sent positive messages and prayers to our loved ones in the days leading up to the storms. We continually called a niece living in the states, to quell her fears. We went 8 days with no communication from her father (my brother-in-law) and the rest of our family in Puerto Rico. Even with all of our best efforts, there were times I let my tears take over.
Once power was back up in Tampa, we learned my uncle chose to say goodbye after an excruciating 5 days with no air-conditioning, no running water and no comfort besides my aunt and his loving adult children. As soon as hospice care located a working hospital with room to house him, he asked my aunt to sing his favorite song and departed for another world.
That day I let the tears flow freely.
Once we finally communicated with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and her baby daughter in Añasco, PR, I breathed a sigh of relief. But only for a moment. After that I sprung into action, signing up for 5k’s and collecting donations to be shipped to Puerto Rico. We donated some money, but mostly our time to efforts uniting and working with Puerto Ricans here, in the states. We’re still mobilizing others into action. It will be 10 years before my beloved Puerto Rico is half of what it was before. But, by starting a relief effort at my school, raising awareness of the true hardships on the island, and connecting with “fellow” Puerto Ricans here, I’ve found some tranquility.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t “lose it” when I saw a colleague with family on the island at a meeting last week. I couldn’t look into her eyes without the tears spilling over. It doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the future of the land that taught me Spanish and salsa and appreciation for a slower, more vibrant life.
Serious Damage Control
Through all of this, my “reactionary” ADHD brain has been worth its weight in gold. I’m glad I can let my house slip into “enter at your own risk” while I take my kids on marches, 5K’s and donation campaigns for 3 days straight. My inattentive “gift” or ability to let details slide and “let the mess lie” allowed me a few hours of sleep the night before a 6am 5K. I’d be remiss not to also mention both grandmas and a great-grandma who helped take care of the littlest children so we could go to work with the 10-year-old! I’m constantly connected with loved ones and they can help when life gets tough! Connection to others is another overlooked ADHD gift I take advantage of, whenever possible. I’m always adding to or making deposits for the members of my village. It’s the only way I survive.
The Wedding I almost missed
My final damage control story is on a much smaller scale, but the weight of it felt like a hurricane. A good friend and former mentee got married this past weekend. I’d been planning to celebrate with my gal-pals since July of 2016 when N first got engaged. I hired a former student as my babysitter for the evening since my husband was hosting his own event that night.
At a pre-school birthday party, my phone rings repeatedly. When I finally answer it’s my baby-sitter’s mom. E was in a scary car accident. Luckily, she wasn’t badly hurt, but the tone of her mother’s voice tells me that this was a major crash. Later pictures prove as much.
Once I was assured of E’s safety, I started texting every mom I knew asking for last-minute babysitter recommendations. Again, my “find a solution under pressure” mind moved swiftly into action. In the end, I found help and it was completely a team effort. Thanks to my husband, mother-in-law and eldest son I was able to celebrate my friend’s wedding. It’s the ADHD brain’s power of connection, and power under pressure that ensured my attendance at that beautiful reception.
My connection to others allowed me to find help at the last minute.
Tying up loose ends
My former student ended up with bruising, pain and a totaled car. I went to visit her on my way home from school the Tuesday following the wedding. I stopped by to check in and slip her a check with half of the earnings she would have made the night of the wedding. In return, I received the biggest hug a whiplashed girl could manage!
As for our family in PR, they receive the packages we send, and some have plans to relocate to the states. It’s a tough go there, but Puerto Ricans are survivors. My husband and I joke that it’s the island of ADHD because many people there embrace the spectrum of life’s vivid colors and are willing to enjoy them above all else. So, even in hardship, use your gifts, my ADHD friends. Teach your children they have advantages and abilities that others may not. Lead by example and be explicit in your lessons. I, by no means, have figured everything out, but I know that our kids deserve to understand the powerful brain they’ve got!