I thought I would blog about this because I’ve never had a chance to, and if you get something out of it, Cool. First of all, it took me forever, or almost forever, to find out that the reason life always seemed harder for me than others, was the fact that I had ADHD. I always knew there was something different about the way I went through life, but I had no idea it would be this.
School was really hard. Since the 4th grade I always had to sit at a desk alone because I was always distracted, I could never stop fidgeting or talking. I was the kid who’s report cards alway said, ” cant pay attention” “Won’t apply herself” “Struggles with staying still” “Disruptive”
I am still that way everyday as you don’t outgrow ADHD, you have it forever. In middle school and high school I was always told I was stupid, bad, lazy or just “not applying myself” That is probably the toughest part, because inside, you feel like you are smart. You know that you are smart. But you can’t explain why everything is so hard. The other frustrating part is people around you think you are “faking something” for attention. When really all you want to do is blend in and do good in school! Why would anyone want this kind of attention? It feels horrible. Like getting beat up by your teachers and peers everyday.
I searched for so long to figure out why I was different. From the time I was about 16 until I was diagnosed at 42, I never stopped looking for the reason. Once I found out without a doubt, that it was ADHD, I went through the five stages of grief. I was elated to finally know, but also dealt with denial, anger, sadness, regret, etc. The stage that has been the most difficult to let go of has been anger. “Why did I not know sooner? I could have done so much better in school, work, relationships, everything. If only I had known.”
But what I really want to do is to try to explain what it feels like to have it. Many do not believe its a real thing. Honestly, if it weren’t a real thing, then what had I been searching for? I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t hallucinating, I didn’t have a personality disorder, it was just…. something.
So I’ll see if I can describe it.
Ever since I can remember I’ve always been this way. Its kind of like tumbling around in a washing machine. Or like standing in a store where they sell televisions and all the televisions are surrounding you, all playing different channels at different volumes. And you are trying SO hard to focus on only one of those televisions. Thats how my environment looks to me. My senses are also one of my biggest distractions. Every thing for me is slightly heightened, I taste, feel, hear and see much more detailed than I think other people do. Certain fabrics or textures of foods or sounds or lights can be really overwhelming. Sometimes to the point of where I have to get out of that situation quickly or Im just gonna lose it. I also have a lot of trouble keeping track of “things” this is probably why Im not a pack rat. I don’t like “stuff” because I tend to lose stuff. Ive gone through 15 debit cards in 8 years. I misplace, everything! Trying to keep track of things is a big source of anxiety for me. Its not being irresponsible. Its actually my brain not allowing me to pay attention to what I am doing. So I will frequently do or say things without hearing myself or knowing what I am doing or saying. It feels sometimes like I am not inside my own brain. Or like chaos or static is in my brain, its something I deal with constantly. One of the other things I do that sucks is I have a terrible memory. I have to use photo albums to remember family trips, or things we did or people we knew. I just cant sit around and recall stories. Because of constant distraction, I miss things in life. Its as if I were never there. The Hyper part of ADHD is a little different feeling. What the inside of my head feels like is kind of like one of those little rev up cars. You pull it back to wind it up. Although, nobody ever lets the little car go. It just stays wound up all the time. So I’m also very fidgety. I wiggle my leg up and down, bite my finger nails, sing to myself, tap my pencil, or make humming and groaning sounds. Anything to keep my brain occupied. Its not the same as being bored. Imagine if being bored were really painful. Thats what its like. My brain has always felt as though it were sort of starving for something. Because ADD and ADHD has to do with a lack of chemical stimulant in the brain, the brain has a hard time focusing on anything. So it just darts around looking for something to engage itself.
Listening to other people talk is really challenging, one reason I did not do well in school. I feel like people talk really slow and fill in what they are saying with a bunch of nonsense chit chat. I have no patience for that so I tend to talk over people and constantly interrupt them. This makes it hard to make and keep friends.
I bump into walls, I trip over things, I cut people off in the grocery store, I stand in front of people without noticing they are there. Its not that I don’t care. Its that I just am not always physically “here” Im off in ten thousand other thoughts all at the same time, that I honestly can not control. It’s not for lack of trying to be in the moment. Or for not trying to pay attention. My thoughts are coming and going all at once 24/7. It is not something I can actually curb. Its happening all the time. You can imagine how exhausting it is. Like a lot of ADHD people, by the end of the day, I am completely wiped out. I fall asleep in less than 5 minutes. Even when I’m asleep and dreaming, like a lot of ADHD people, I have very active, vivid dreams. I talk in my sleep, laugh, cry, scream…. in my sleep.
One more thing that really takes over your life when you have ADHD is the concept of time, or maybe the lack of the concept. Time does not really exist the same way for someone with an attention deficit. Sometimes time speeds up and sometimes it slows way down. I know what you are thinking, yes we all feel times flies when we are having fun and is creeping along when we are doing something boring. But its not really like. Its more that people with ADHD don’t understand how long things really take. What I think I can do in 5 minutes, actually takes an hour. On the other hand, if I have to wait in line for 5 minutes, its so painful, that I usually give up and leave the line. People with ADHD really have a hard time waiting their turn. It sounds spoiled and selfish but trying to have patience is like having a very bad itch you can’t scratch or a tic that you have to let out. ADHD, especially the hyper part, makes it really tough to hold still. and unlike a spoiled child that just wants to “go first” ADDer’s would rather just forget the whole thing and leave.
The other big factor with time is the hyper focus state. Anything the ADHD people find really enjoyable they can suddenly become lost in. It sounds selfish and made up but its true. Hyper focus takes over your whole body. When I get into a hyper focus state I actually forget eating or using the bathroom without even realizing it. Ive gone hours upon hours without eating or drinking or taking a break because I was hyper focused on something I really wanted to do. When ADDers hyper focus, they will swear that only a few minutes have passed by, but its usually hours. I used to think something was wrong with my clock or that someone was tricking me.
ADD or ADHD is only a part of me. But it has made me who I am. Its with me all the time, because its just the way my brain works. There are really wonderful things about it, but it can be frustrating too. Ill follow up with another blog to try and explain what it feels like to use medication.