A Chicken in the Wind and How He Grew: Stories from an ADHD Dad

South reports his family life with honesty and aplomb... Touching, funny and inspiring, this memoir captures the joys and tensions of living with mental illness.
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Book Description:

A powerful, unflinching and wryly funny mental health memoir that digs into the frightening importance of family and the undeniable power of love. In stories written over eight years of financial stress, two deaths, and one five thousand mile move, Frank fights to understand and control his “mental hell tornado of overthinking, confusion, and boundless fear, to at least be of some use to my wife, my two ADHD kids or anyone I loved before everything I cared about was blown away.” Of course that means getting out of his own head long enough to care about others and learn how to help. For an ADHD, hypomanic, alcoholic, that’s a challenge. But he’s not about to give up..
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After finishing Mr. South’s stories I now consider this one of my all time favorite reads. His words connected with me in a way that helped me feel I’m not alone and that I am human... and it’s ok to not be ok. I will be forever grateful to have these words to look upon during the darkness. I can’t say Thank You enough for sharing your stories with the world. They truly are an inspiration! Below are my thoughts I posted while I was still reading A Chicken in the Wind and How he Grew. I’ve been reading this book for a while now. I’ve been pacing myself. It tugs at my heart strings and levels the craziness in my head. I haven’t finished it yet but I will strongly stand behind saying this is a must read. It’s helped me through some hard times. That’s why I’ve been pacing myself. Saving for those days that are unbearable and seem like the world is crashing in on me. It’s been a rough week and so I’ll probably finish it sooner than I originally planned...but I know this is a book I will cherish forever and be able to pick up and read again and again when those moments come slamming in. Thank you Frank South for your words. They mean a lot to me.

-- Rhonda McGuire

Now and then a book comes along that blows the lid off some part of life's complexity. You come to the last page reluctantly, wanting to remain in that space a bit longer. A Chicken in the Wind is such a book. I'm always on the lookout for them, but they are (sorry, I can't help but say it) scarcer than hen's teeth. Life does not come with guarantees of ease. Under any circumstances, it dishes out challenges that throw us for a loop. People with serious mental health challenges are thrown for more than a loop. It doesn't help to live in a culture that views those challenges as personal failings that just might be contagious. Frank's issues shook him like rocks in a tumbler. Instead of smoothing his rough spots, they left him scarred. By the time his wife and two children sat him down and insisted he stop drinking, he was in a precarious state that was undermining him professionally and personally. Knowing what's behind all the upheavals can help us cope with them. For Frank it was ADHD, along with some nasty partners, like hypomania and depression. With no easy cures in sight, Frank still had some powerful tools to work with. They included his wife Margaret and his two children (both diagnosed with ADHD). They also included his considerable talents as a writer. A Chicken in the Wind takes us on a harrowing journey. From the beginning we know we are in sure hands. Though nothing about the story is easy, it is laced with humor and candor. Frank is clear-eyed about the impact of his challenges on everyone around him. What he has to learn is compassion for himself. As he writes, "I think we need to forgive others their slights and slips as much as possible. But more importantly, we have to learn to forgive ourselves and, maybe with some help from others, work on adjusting how we handle things." Self-compassion is hard won. Writing helps. "Maybe if I write more, I’ll lash out at others less. That would be a bonus. Thing is, there are no guarantees when you start pounding out honest words. Honesty, like public nudity, is not for everybody." It is as tempting to define someone by their mental health challenges as it is to wrap stereotypes around each other. But that misses a key point Frank describes repeatedly through the candid stories he tells: "[W]hat we’re talking about is meaningful connection between people. The challenge facing family, friends, and caregivers of those with any type of disability or chronic ailment is to keep the whole person center stage -- the rest is secondary. The problems, strategies, and medications are important, sure, but the human being comes first." Laughs abound in the book. So do tears. One page I'm laughing as Frank's hypomania kicks in when he's stopped by the police. And then I'm crying when I read of the castle his father built him. Emotions are right out front in this book. So is insight. Read it for the first-rate storytelling, for what you'll learn about ADHD and other mental health challenges, and for the love that runs through it.

-- Cathryn Wellner

About the Author ▸ Frank South

Previously an Off-Broadway playwright and longtime television writer and producer, Frank has spent the last nine years primarily writing about life as an ADHD adult. He performed his one-man show “Pay Attention – ADHD in Hollywood, on the Rocks with a Twist” for extended runs in Honolulu and Los Angeles. His stories and articles have been published in ADDitude magazine, posted on ADDitudemag.com and reprinted in other magazines and websites. His 2018 memoir, “A Chicken in the Wind and How He Grew – Stories from an ADHD Dad” won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal, an IR Discovery Award, a Next Generation Indie Book Award, a Gold Living Now Book Award and three Human Relations Indie Book Awards. He’s been featured in programs about Adult ADHD on Second Opinion for PBS and Rock Center for NBC News. He and his wife, Margaret, live in Georgia.