ADHD startles...heartbeats rush away like sand in an hourglass

ADHD startles...heartbeats rush away like sand in an hourglass

Here I am nestled in amongst the rolling hills of an undisclosed location somewhere in rural Ontario. I’m dog-and-house-sitting. I thought I’d get lots of work done here in the quiet isolation.

Ha! I’m an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) with ADHD in the big country. Not, as it turns out, a great combination.  I’ve managed to turn pastoral into panic.

Picture this: I’m sitting at an antique Mennonite dining table where I’ve set up my makeshift office. I’ve hunkered down to begin writing my next book (more about that soon. BIG news!)

The house is high on a hill, and gorgeous: cathedral ceiling, skylights, loft, and lots of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the last of the fall colors. I take my breaks by the natural stone fireplace, watch the flickering flames or gaze outside. Chickadees, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, finches and cardinals perch and peck at the many birdfeeders.

Back to work: it’s quiet. It’s perfect. I’m on a roll. When…

BANG! A bird slams against a window. I run outside to see how badly it’s hurt. This happens at least 2 or 3 times a day. They rarely die (right away.) I cup my hands around the limp body, both our chests pounding with fright. I calm myself, send healing energy through my hands, pray out loud.

As a nature-loving HSP, I find this disturbing. Disruptive. Nerve-jangling.

And the hits just keep on comin’…

As if that’s not enough, it’s deer season.

I’ve settled back into work, when one or the other of the dogs begins to whine.

I get up, open the door slightly, being careful not to let the dogs bolt out. I’m testing the airwaves when – BLAM! – a gun goes off. Then another. My adrenaline rushes, the house sounds like it’s smak-dab in the middle of a war zone.

I’m under house arrest, which wouldn’t be so bad if it was just me, but it’s me, my blind and deaf dog (more about her later) and two young, rambunctious resident dogs who are used to running wild in the surrounding fields. I can’t let them out because they’re not neon orange, they’re deer-colored. Or close enough.

I imagine one of them leaping through the grasses of the adjacent fields, bullets blasting from the hunters’ guns. Then I imagine explaining to the owner why there’s only one dog left. (Did I mention I have a vivid imagination?) I slide out the door with one (leashed) dog at a time. We stay close to the house and hope for the best.

A visit from Sasquatch…or not

Back indoors. At random intervals, one or the other of the cooped-up canines lets go a shrill, alarming series of barks. I jump up again, this time expecting to see a car racing up the laneway at breakneck speed – or a herd of deer stampeding through the fields.

I cautiously approach the window, fearing the worst (a southern Sasquatch? An intruder, ready to kill me and plunder the place?) Nope. There’s a chipmunk sitting on the deck just outside the window. It’s a big chipmunk, to be sure; but not a life-threatening one. I scream at the dogs to stop screaming. My life’s allotment of heartbeats are being wasted; I can see them running like sand through an hourglass.

More indoor trauma

We’re all settled down again. Then I notice my dog, Samantha, is missing. She’s not only blind, but deaf. This helps with the gunshots (she can’t hear them), but not with navigating the endless rooms and corridors.

She sometimes stands for ages until I discover her, disoriented and forlorn. I clap my hands loudly to lead her to the living room. I instruct her to lie down. My heart breaks. This happens many times throughout the day and I curse myself for not having thought of this beforehand.

Bloody hell.

Random worries…

My ADHD startle response is being triggered all day long; my sensitive HSP heartstrings are being stretched taut; and my ADHD worry-wort tendencies are at the max. I’m in an off-the-grid house powered by wind and the wind’s just died. I’ve been using my computer all day. Will the lights work tonight? I can’t tell; the battery monitor on the wall  has gone from negative to positive and back again. I was too embarrassed to tell the owner that it would be more likely for me to understand string theory than her explanation of the battery monitor. (Actually, string theory was comparatively easy.)

Home Sweet Home

Funny, I didn’t factor in dead birds, gunshot and labyrinthian floorplans in my fantasy of a rural writer’s retreat. Upon reflection, I’ve gained a new found appreciation for my tiny city apartment. There, Sam can find her way around. The cat keeps the birds away. My hydro only goes out once in a while. It’s good to know where I belong.

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    Last reviewed: 9 Nov 2011

APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2011). My Shattered Nerves – ADHD Goes Country. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 31, 2015, from


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