First off, I'm not writing this article as a fan of Nirvana or Kurt Cobain. I never even went to one of their concerts.
I was surfing on YouTube recently and stumbled on one of those songs performed à la Janis Joplin. It was raw; struggles and pain were weaved into its very fabric.
I had no idea whose voice was behind it, but I knew one thing: There was more to it than the ear could hear. It was visceral and it struck a chord in me. I was on my way to discovering an important missing link.
And yes, knowledge is power.
The message behind the lyrics was a scream for relief. That voice was the voice of Kurt Cobain. The song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
When the Student Is Ready, the Teacher Appears
I watched Montage of Heck, a two-hour HBO documentary on the life of Kurt. I was riveted to my seat, eyes glued to the TV. And there it was, unfolding right in front of my eyes, the carbon copy of my own intense restlessness and “hyperness"—my personal experience with ADHD, a condition completely unchecked and undiagnosed that would steal my peace of mind and get worse over the years.
The documentary was a revelation. Seeing his story, I understood what had really created my own struggles and torments, the constant nausea—with vomiting episodes that began at 10 at night and lasted till morning.
Not to mention the awful stomach acidity and cramps.
In front of me was a real life-example of why this neurological disorder should be taken seriously. If left untreated, its consequences can be devastating and life-threatening. ADHD will eat you alive. I got that message loud and clear.
There are many high-profile celebrities diagnosed with this condition, and most of them do not have the same tragic end that Kurt did. The key here is that, unlike Kurt, other celebrities knew what was going on and didn’t let it hold them back from realizing their dreams.
My Epiphany in Kobain Documentary "Montage of Heck"
My moment of truth came when I heard Kurt Cobain talking about his constant stomach pain, nausea, and cramps. I’d dealt with the same thing for years. I’ve lost count of how many times I walked into an ER asking for X-rays because of painful cramps and burning sensations in my stomach.
By the time I was 20, I had a collection of emergency-clinic cards in my wallet. My body was a stomach acid-producing machine. Like most people with ADHD, I thought, said, and did everything with intensity.
And I had to put a lot of effort into keeping my focus. Later, I found that meditation immensely helped me regroup my thoughts and hold my focus. I loved retreating into meditation. It was my little haven.
I was diagnosed with ADHD seven years ago. The clinicians were surprised to hear I’d never been diagnosed before. Well, so was I, because it was pretty obvious to me.
In all truth, my energy and lack of concentration were so pronounced that I can’t believe no one had glued me to a chair to keep me in one place for more than a few minutes.
In fact, when I was overworked, my doctor would treat me for anxiety, which is one of the underlying symptoms of ADHD.
How about depression? People with ADHD don't do depression per se. We may hit a state of depression from the constant struggle with ADHD symptoms, and from dealing with so many unanswered questions.
Personally, depression was not my thing. Instead, I would dig for information, eventually learning from my explorations. I also was too busy looking for new, challenging adventures and thinking about what I could discover next that would launch me to new levels of excitement. Nuclear energy at its best!
Different People, Same Story
I was a happy little girl, loving and playful with a higher-than-average level of energy. In other words, I was a handful. You could not hold me down for anything.
By the time I hit my teens, I had become an angry little pest, miserable from feeling as if my body was wired to a 6,000-volt outlet. I was a smart aleck, opinionated, arrogant and, yes, anxious from all those episodes of nausea and cramping. I was shocked to learn how similar Kurt Cobain’s experience was to mine.
The Missing Link
Kurt Cobain's story opened my eyes to this unquenchable thirst to learn, create, and find new endeavors and things to explore that defines the very essence of people with ADHD.
We get bored easily. We’ll love it if you expose us to whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing or other exciting hobbies that release the tension we accumulate during the day. We need a space where we can solve something, create and express ourselves artistically. Oh, and all at the same time, please! (Wink!)
To What Extent Does ADHD, Left Undiagnosed, Become Life-Threatening?
Kurt Cobain was a gifted singer, songwriter, and composer. He was also a perfectionist. There was nothing wrong with the career he chose.
What killed him was a severe case of undiagnosed ADHD with symptoms aggravated by the lifestyle and demands of stardom.
Think of a wound growing bigger and bigger from being rubbed with sandpaper day in and day out. Hurts, right? This film showed me how my own ADHD had been aggravated and rubbed too.
This film woke me up to a whole new level of understanding. When ADHD is left undiagnosed and untreated, especially in someone with a career of this nature, something will eventually give.
I was taken by what I was seeing, and my mind revisited the characteristics that, with the exception of heroin use, Kurt and I had in common. I suffered along with him as I watched the film—not as a fan, but as someone who also always lived on the edge with way too much energy.
Until I watched the film, I hadn’t realized that competing as a bodybuilder had helped alleviate my ADHD symptoms. Now I realized that my intense workouts had released all that energy. Competitions challenged me, I kept my diet under control and I had a goal to reach. Learning about Kurt Cobain helped me learn this about myself.
Anger, temper tantrums, and arrogance are channels through which those of us with ADHD release building frustration when there’s no other way to do so.
I started healing from my early-life experience when I reached my 20s and had left the environment that had damaged me.
Although tantrums followed me for many years, the more I learned about my condition, the more the tantrums and anxiety faded away, making space for skills that could take me to a high level of success.
The ADHD Brain
I wrote this article to help parents who are raising a teenager with ADHD. Please know that your child’s restlessness has creative origins. It comes from a thirst to solve, build, discover, learn, or create something.
The problem is that those of us with ADHD don't know that this is the source of our restlessness. Unless you hear it or read about it somewhere else, it takes years to realize this.
If you’re raising a teenager with ADHD, chances are you have a creative being in your house who dresses very different, and sometimes this can be shocking to see. Your teen strives for self-expression, and the clothes they choose can be a little out of the norm.
It’s also important to remember that electronic devices aggravate symptoms and wear your child’s patience thin!
Our minds need to be engaged in what is exciting to us. School is a challenge for us because there are too many boring topics, the pace is too slow, and we’re too often judged by the teachers. How about extreme sports to release energy?
Whitewater kayaking is an excellent option. It combines water, excitement and nature. Zip-lining, canoe-camping, mountain biking and rock climbing are also excellent choices! Nothing namby-pamby for us, please.
Any of these great energy-releasers can be a huge help to your child with ADHD. And please do take your child to a competent professional for evaluation. I highly recommend one of Dr. Daniel Amen's clinics.
Their state-of-the-art approach to diagnosing and treating mental health conditions includes diet, supplements if needed, and the latest information on this topic. This is not a new-age, fortune-telling clinic. ADD and ADHD is one of their areas of expertise. This is where I was diagnosed seven years ago.
I went there because I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I was not going to be evaluated by someone who would do it in 20 minutes. I wanted a thorough evaluation, solid expertise, and answers to my questions.
I got all that and more! Praise God! The first thing I said after being diagnosed was, "See, I knew it!" Just knowing I’d been right all along was a relief in itself! (Wink!)
So consider getting involved in some of these activities, from extreme sports to counseling; they're all good for you anyway. Encourage your child to do their own research online on their condition, too. They’ll have to understand it through and through.
Aren’t we wonder-full? Once on top of our game with the knowledge and understanding of ADHD, hey, we are just awesome! Again, our brains and bodies thrive when they’re being challenged with creativity, sports, or nature.
Only then we can start making decisions and choices in the style of a normal human being. We don’t need to be entertained; actually, we prefer to be busy in our head thinking of our next creation. We want intellectual challenge and sports to release the steam.
Here Are a Few Examples of How Much of a “Little Pain in the Wee-Wee” I Could Be.
One afternoon when I was 7 and bored with nothing to do, I was thinking about “The Three Musketeers,” which I loved to watch. The characters would challenge their opponents to a duel with cool, curved cavalry sabers—and I wanted one of those from a toy store. Well, I found a creative substitute. Remember those extendable antennas that 1960s cars had? I broke and removed antennas from five cars and pretended they were sabers! I had great fun playing musketeer. I was, and am, tenacious. I don’t remember why I had to have five, but I do vaguely remember getting caught and having car owners knocking at our door.·
I am well known for losing things. In fact, I’ve lost so many things I could write a novel from listing them: house keys, money, purses, bankcards, only to name a few. I know everyone loses things like this. What is different about me is how many times I lost them over and over.
On another one of these boring days, I was 5 at the time. There I was peeking through the windows of parked cars on my street. One of the cars had a whole bucket of matches on the floor behind the driver’s seat. I saw this as a great discovery that presented me with a challenge and fun for the day. But two or three packets weren’t enough. I took the whole bucket. Then I hid behind a storage shed and set papers on fire. Now, I wasn’t a troublemaker. I was just a sweet, kind girl who was in search of something to discover that would keep my mind busy, especially since there weren’t any other kids around for me to play with.
One last story from when I was 7. On the street where I lived, there was a bread bakery that kept their back door open during the summer. Lined up on a shelf close to the door were fresh bread rolls. You could smell them from a mile away! This was too much temptation for me: I would bolt in there, grab two rolls, and dash out as fast as I could! One day, a large hand grabbed my t-shirt and pulled me back in a blink! I received my first warning right there, was given two rolls, and let go. Two days later, I was back to grab two more rolls and run! Talk about a little monster.
Like Most People With ADHD, Kurt Cobain’s Brain Worked Fast
Let’s use the example of when we email someone. We barely enter the first two first letters of their email address before the whole address appears! This gives you an idea of how fast an ADHD brain can work. An attorney I was working with as a paralegal used this example once to explain how my brain functions.
I was working in an environment where some of my ADHD symptoms were skills that helped me do my work. My condition required a high level of organization to keep me focused, and my coworkers appreciated it.
I never felt intimidated to ask questions if something wasn’t clear, and this is something we have to live with. Demands are high and the competition is ferocious in a law firm. There are many very successful attorneys with ADHD. Once we’re on top of our game, we are efficient, get things done, and will reach our goal.
Kurt Cobain's life story was a cry for help and release. His was a voice for those with similar symptoms, repressed anger, and denial raging in their guts. His story is a warning as to how far ADHD, if left untreated, can take us. Not everybody will commit suicide. But with the right mix of struggles, it can get you there.
People will say things like this,
“Kurt Cobain was a heroin addict, a druggie, and he liked taking heroin.”
He was self-medicating and hated having to take it. His lifestyle had aggravated his symptoms, tormenting him 24/7 to a point where the pain of the symptoms was robbing him of his joy, happiness, peace, and life force.
Nobody can tolerate such a level of pain for years. It doesn't excuse his drug abuse, but it can help to look at it from another perspective.
You may be wondering, “What makes you say that?"
Heroin is a derivative of morphine. Morphine is given to people in an advanced stage of pain or in the process of dying. Morphine blocks pain and induces a state of euphoria (joy and happiness.)
Heroin blocked Kurt Cobain's pain for a while. However, I would think his symptoms of withdrawal were as bad as the pain he experienced. Heroin is a narcotic, so of course he ended up addicted to it.
Kurt Cobain took too much heroin to block the pain caused by ADHD symptoms—symptoms that were severely aggravated by the demands of stardom.
Knowledge and a better understanding of his ADHD would have made Kurt Cobain more aware. There is power in knowledge. Self-knowledge is self-empowerment. Kurt Cobain was an intelligent guy.
Maybe, just maybe, we would still be enjoying his music today if he had gained that self-knowledge. He says in Montage of Heck that he was afraid that if he got clean, he might lose his edge. And losing that edge, he worried, could impair his creativity. He thought that if he didn’t feel the pain in his stomach, his songs would lose their intensity. Can you feel the turmoil?
Those of us with ADHD know that our edge is something we never lose. We learn how to work with it and make it work for us. This film helped me understand ADHD even more deeply than I already did.
I also realized the value of reading testimonials from people who’d been diagnosed with this condition and lived a "normal" and successful life. What have they realized over the years?
I know from my experience of living with this condition for 57 years that when the symptoms are under control, they become strong assets for a highly successful life. Take a look for yourself.
I’m not saying that it would have solved everything, but at least Kurt Cobain could have had a better chance if he’d had more information.
Approximately 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 (6.1 million) had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2016, and the number keeps increasing. It is crucial to get a good understanding of how to better interact with people like Kurt Cobain, and what people like him—and me—need.
Take the 15-Second Test: Knowledge Will Change Your Perception
Now, with all this information in mind, have a look at this song on YouTube, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and listen closely to the 15 last seconds of it. You’ll never hear this song in the same way again.
I will never forget this documentary, and I am so grateful for it.
Words to the Wise
If your child fits in this category, you’ll be very interested in this article, and I recommend you read the whole thing.
Here's a tip: Keep them busy until they collapse from exhaustion! And a few words about sleep: Most people with ADHD need a lot of sleep and it's not because they go to bed late. If you want to know why so much sleep is needed, please send me an email. It will all make sense.
In this age of search engines and internet information, it’s easier than ever to educate yourself. Seek, find, learn, and get on top. You can do it. And quite frankly, it's very interesting. Get savvy. Count your blessings, it could be worse. It is no fiction that diet plays a key role in keeping our symptoms at bay.
Sugar in all its forms is a stimulant. Exercise your best judgment. A diet high in sugar will release in your bloodstream a chemical that will aggravate your symptoms, and that is a fact. Learn all you can about how food affects the chemistry in your blood. You'll love this topic.
The more you know about the interaction between food and ADHD, the less your symptoms will hold you captive. We don't like to be held captive. We like freedom and fresh air.
Adults with ADHD
With all due respect, please refrain from joining the ADHD groups or forums that lead nowhere and offer only useless, time-wasting, second-grader games.
I have joined a few of them out of curiosity. Trust me on this: After you join, you end up with 155 emails per day in your inbox. Most conversations are about moaning, groaning, or playing games.
ADHD can make life totally cool, fun, and interesting. We are great lovers of nature. Laughter is a powerful medicine for us, and we love that too.
It’s up to us to keep it this way.
LouiseGrogan Toxic Relationship Strategist
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