Not too long ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Not going to lie, I was skeptical. When I thought of ADHD, I pictured a toddler acting like they were on a permanent sugar high. But then I started reading more about it, talking to my doctor, talking to others. And guess what? I was so wrong. But so are a lot of people. Honestly, it has kind of a bad reputation. So, here are seven things I really wish people knew about it. And, I promise you, I’m not the only one.
1. My executive functions are literally not functioning
As we all know, the brain is very complex, and so are neurological disorders like ADHD. In people with ADHD, clusters of executive function are often impaired or just work differently. We don’t have a deficit in attention — we just can’t regulate it. The only deficit we do have is dopamine (the happy hormone neurotransmitter). So, although I can try to find ways to cope with it, it’s not just a mindset, it’s a neurological thing. When I say that I cannot get started on a task, I mean that literally. When I hyperfocus on something while I should be doing something else, I literally cannot help it. My brain won’t let me just shift my attention, I wish it did, but my neurons aren’t on board. Honestly, DDEFD, dopamine deficit executive function disorder, would be a much more appropriate name.
2. It’s not all bouncing around
Yes, there is a hyperactive component (it’s in the name, after all), but for some — like me — hyperactivity usually presents itself inwards. It’s like a thousand bees buzzing in my head at all times. I can seem quiet and pensive, but in my head it’s a party, and trying to navigate my way through the bees is exhausting. A lot of people with ADHD tend to fidget, but even that may not be obvious. Am I playing with my rings and picking at my nails because I am having a surge of dopamine? Because I am anxious? Because I am bored? Because the buzzing in my head is too loud? Your guess is as good as mine.
3. It’s a disorder of contradictions
Some days it’s as if narcolepsy and insomnia had a child together; as if boredom and overwhelmedness decided to become best friends; as if easily distracted and hyperfocused are the same thing by a different name. If this sounds impossible and confusing and exhausting to you, well, imagine what it’s like for us. For most people, caffeine in the evening will keep them awake well past midnight. For me? It’s as soothing as herbal tea is to others. A fidget spinner is meant to calm you? Let me tell you, there are few things that wind me up quite as much. ADHD is full of things that seem like, and usually are, contradictions. So, it may be easy for people to dismiss the symptoms, to dismiss me. It’s exhausting, the unpredictability and contradictions; trust me, I would know. But it’s even more exhausting when, on top of navigating it all, you feel like you have to explain yourself or convince someone that it’s real.
4. Sometimes I literally cannot keep a thought to myself
I am listening, I promise, but I will absolutely lose it if I don’t say what’s on my mind. To you, it may seem like I am just spitting out the first random thought that pops into my head, but I promise you, I’ve been fighting the urge to say it for the last however many sentences. You don’t even really have to respond to it — I just need to say it. I need that release.
5. “Just focus” is the equivalent of “ calm down”
It’s that easy? Why has no one ever told me that?! Just kidding. It. Never. Works.
6. It’s hard
It really is sometimes. A lot of the time, actually. I have achieved a lot of things I am proud of, and a lot of people probably have no idea that I am on the outs with my neurons on a daily basis. But I am. I need to find little skills and techniques to get me through tasks that to neuron-functioning people might not seem like a big deal. I use a million sticky notes because, unless I can visually see it, it’s out of sight, out of mind. I cannot handle too much pressure, but without any, I can’t function either. Being alone in a silent room makes the buzzing in my head louder, but crowds can easily deplete me. It is exhausting and challenging, and I often wish and pray I had plenty of dopamine to go around to keep me going just fine. But here we are.
7. It’s not all bad
Sure, there are a lot of challenging things with it. But you know what? We all have “stuff”, whatever that may be. My ADHD also lets me be more creative. When I get hyper focused on something random, I won’t ever do it halfway. I will pick up a new hobby and fully immerse myself, and yes, I might be over it in a month or two, but you better believe that in that time I’ve invested the equivalent of a year in neuron-functioning people’s time. I can multitask well because there is so much going on in my brain at all times anyway, it’s really no big deal. I will get obsessed with knowing everything about a random topic all of a sudden, so I am a great teammate for trivia nights.
Did I want you to read these seven things to get your pity, your ‘oh honey, your life sounds so hard’? Nope, I did not. Did I want you to read it because being on the outs with my own brain is hard enough without having to rationalize and explain myself to people constantly? Absolutely. We all have “stuff”. This is mine.