Did ADHD Kill J.R.?
We seldom used our full names in recent years. I was TM and he was JR. We first met when we were eleven. He died suddenly a year ago at 72.
JR needed heart valve surgery. He’d get around to scheduling it when it was time. Scheduling and planning were not his strengths. He also planned to lose weight, start exercising, be more active. Doctors said he died from a heart attack. But there’s a bigger picture, an undiagnosed attention disorder.
He never planned to be evaluated for ADHD, though we knew. He planned to read about it and intended to buy a book. I gave him a book that he intended to read, one he’d been asking about. He had good intentions.
Long-term studies have shown that individuals with ADHD are far more likely to die prematurely than those who don’t have the disorder. Accidental injuries and unhealthy lifestyles contribute to a shortened expectancy. Untreated ADHD is a serious health risk.
JR seldom ate at home. There was too much clutter there, and he didn’t cook. He preferred meeting friends at Brown’s Diner or Chile Burrito and taking home undated leftovers. He liked cheeseburgers, fries, tacos, nachos, and shakes. He didn’t think of himself as obese until he nearly drowned in 2021 when his house flooded. He had become sedentary. He could sit for hours watching televised baseball games.
He seemed amused by the notion of having ADHD. Sometimes I chuckled politely, as if equally amused. Sometimes I confronted some of his self-defeating habits. Perhaps not enough. He was okay with the notion of having ADHD, but friends were affected. He had no pause button, no comma or period when he spoke. It’s hard to exit unpunctuated speech. Consequently, calls to friends sometimes went unanswered. He experienced waves of loneliness and mild depression.
Although he could be a difficult friend at times, JR was a lovable mess. He was playful, witty, friendly, and spirited.
If you have ADHD, learn all you can about it. Knowledge can be liberating; denying it can be lethal. Be mindful of your body, the vehicle that carries you through life. Don’t think of your health as something separate from you. There are no independent parts; they are all interdependent.
We are all interdependent. We need each other. You can find others like you in support groups in every region of the country. There’s nothing quite like having support from people who understand and accept you. All you have to do is show up for meetings and experience acceptance and mutual support. ADDNashville meetings are online and available to any adult with an ADHD diagnosis.
I understood my old friend, and I regret not insisting on an ADHD evaluation. I regret not dragging him to a support group meeting where he would have been warmly welcomed and encouraged, perhaps even directed–with compassionate assertiveness–to schedule his surgery.
I welcome your comments.