Since my ADHD diagnosis (which came in early March 2021, shortly after my 41st birthday), I’ve been amazed to learn that so many of my behaviors are related to ADHD. Over the last many months, I’ve been thinking of things I wish others knew about ADHD, things that I find fascinating and/or that explain some of my head-scratching behavior over the years.
Because I’m still learning about the disorder and because I am witnessing in real time how it shows up for me depending on the time of day (and the time of year, and the time of the month, and the time of my last full night’s sleep), there’s a LOT I want to share.
Those of you living with ADHD will likely understand why I came up with a list of things; there was no one theme I could even consider, let alone focus on.
- I wish people knew my tendency to interrupt is borne of being intensely interested in our conversation and not because I don’t care about what they’re saying.
- I wish people knew that even high-achieving ADHDers are affected by their symptoms every single day.
- I wish people knew that how I end up spending my time doesn’t necessarily reflect my priorities. For instance, I may end up being late meeting my friends for a long-awaited reunion this afternoon because I did about 8,000 low-priority things before my ever-increasing deadline stress forced me to open this Word document.
- In other words, procrastination is not something I choose, nor is it ever good for my mental health. It always, always makes me feel anxious, even if I meet deadlines and goals.
- I wish people knew that I have developed so many masking behaviors over the decades that even I dismissed the very idea of having ADHD when someone familiar with the disorder commented (with kindness) that I sounded like a textbook case.
- I wish people knew that the seemingly contradictory tendency we ADHDers have to hyper-focus can often make us feel chained to whatever has grabbed our attention. It feels different than the life-affirming experience of flow; instead, obsessive hyper-focusing makes me feel like I cannot do anything else until I snap out of it. More often than not (like yesterday, when I went to drop something off in the basement at work and ended up reorganizing the entire space … for nearly 8 hours), I will not eat, drink, or even take a bathroom break. I tell myself that I’m just going to do “one more thing” or work for “one more minute” before breaking, but I add tasks and time ad infinitum. Before I know it, hours have passed when I had fully intended on spending my day on something else entirely.
- I wish people knew that shaking my foot or tapping my pencil isn’t an indication of my impatience or boredom.
- I wish people knew that many of us with ADHD have complex self-esteem issues, forever confused by the fact that we don’t produce or create more despite having minds that work creatively and very quickly.
- The above are just a handful of things that are affecting me today. I encourage you to take a few minutes to write about what you wish others knew about ADHD. Even if you never share the list publicly, it can help get you thinking in a new way about the way your brain functions. You may even want to revisit the list later and see how your concerns change depending on your life circumstances, time of year, and mood.
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