Step inside my mind, neurotypicals, and see what goes on in there. I really wish you understood what it is like to live with this brain. Although you see a person who copes well and runs a successful business, underneath it all there is a frightened child and I wish you could see her, speak to her, understand her…
ADHD is tough.
For so long, people have told me how much they admire how I think. Some people have even said they’re envious of my brain and wish they had the creative energies I have. Yes, I am gifted in many areas and, for that, I am grateful. However, underneath all of the sparkiness and whimsical imaginings, there is anxiety, emotional dysregulation and an overwhelm which never stops. My creativity is ubiquitous, but so is my dysfunction.
I wonder how you’d feel if you had the same constant overwhelm I experience every waking second. Try to imagine, just for a moment, what it would feel like to be bombarded with so many consecutive thoughts you have no idea which one to grasp. Inside my brain it’s like a broken tennis ball machine, throwing random spheres of thoughts at me constantly, in multiple directions, at varying speeds and at different times. Additionally, the balls are myriad colours, shapes and textures, so it is impossible to know what each one will do and how each is affected by situation and emotion. Although the balls never stop and bombard me from the moment I wake until I fall into slumber, many of them carry the creative energies which make me successful in my business and hobbies – others are just there to distract, disengage and dysregulate.
You won’t see the broken tennis ball machine in my mind and you will struggle to contemplate what it feels like because you don’t have ADHD. Your life may be no easier than mine, on the outside, but your regulated brain means you can control your emotions and thoughts far more effectively than I can. When you meet Annabel Louise, you come into contact with an outwardly extroverted individual who is bright, bubbly and enthusiastic about the world around her. All of these things are true and I am happy. However, managing a brain which never stops is tough and it’s a constant fight to keep it under control. Beneath the joyful exterior, I’m paddling at such a rapid speed it would appear as a blur of frenetic movement; this paddling never stops as it’s almost impossible keeping up with relaxed neurotypical minds.
I wish I could relax.
I wish my brain would disengage for a whole evening and stop its perpetual motion to stand still and follow the wonderfully linear thought process which defines the neurotypical mind. One day, I’d love to be able to sit down with a group of other adults and relax for an hour, listening to the conversation ebb and flow whilst interacting calmy as and when pauses in speech come. One day, I’d love to be able to start a mundane task and finish it without going through a mental battle with my brain. One day, I’d love to go out and enjoy listening to someone else without dominating the conversation. One day, I’d love to wake up with enough dopamine in my brain to keep me relaxed and focused on a boring task for an hour. One day, I’d love to experience what it is to be neurotypical.
Even this piece of writing is subject to the eclectic thought patterns in my mind and I apologise in advance for its lack of structure. Organisation doesn’t come naturally to me and, even though I have learnt to embrace some areas of structure, I still struggle with this on a daily basis. Living with ADHD is extreme. Nothing in my world is ever ‘a little bit’. The whole of my existence is intense and it’s an ‘all or nothing’ life where passion and apathy exist simultaneously, often in the same thought pattern. When I do finally manage to orchestrate some level of control over something I struggle with, ie. tidiness, my ADHD brain has a habit of become obsessed and then, as if by some form of black magic, what was once a struggle becomes an obsession. I remember when this helped me to become organised. As with many ADHDer children, I was an untidy infant and this did cause me to get into trouble with my parents – my mess was as omnipresent as my hyperactivity. However, through careful parenting, my mother did encourage me to adopt the habit of tidiness, but at a cost. Whereas most neurotypicals would learn to organise and adapt their lives appropriately, with me it became an obsession. Even now, I am so hyper-tidy it can be disabling. People tell me I’m the most organised person they have ever met, but it is not natural and never will be. Underneath the sorting and structure, there is a frenetic dysfunction which is easily exposed; if one thing goes wrong in my carefully-planned structure, the chaos explodes into my reality like an erupting volcano.
Sitting still and calming down will always be unnatural for my brain. Fortunately, when I am learning something new or studying something I enjoy, my brain can focus enough to allow me to slow to a steadier pace. However, I am always excitable and find it incredibly hard to suppress this even when everyone around me is managing.
I live my life in extremes and I am trying so hard to fit in this world which wasn’t created for people like me. Managing my ADHD naturally is tough, but I keep it up everyday, even when the world throws me even more mismatched tennis balls. Nothing will ever be slow in my brain and I can’t just ‘focus on one thing’ because everyone around me can.
I have never met an ADHDer who isn’t trying hard, but life is tough when your brain is racing constantly.
Please try to be kind to me as I am doing my best.