What a day I’ve had.
I know it’s been a while, and I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been busy—which is true, I have been busy—but I know that’s no excuse because I started this blog as a university student and wrote posts daily through uni classes, running clubs, a part time job, writing my perpetual WIP, travel, and my social life. More likely, the idea of writing on this blog has soured due to my acute awareness of people I know who may read this; Friends, family, even employers. If I make a grammatical error (which I often do because nearly all my posts on this blog are first-draft thought dumps), what’s someone going to think when they’re considering hiring me as a freelance copyeditor? If I express frustration at family drama, what are my family going to think when they read a post which only shows my perspective? What if I inadvertently offend someone while writing about my day? What if people read these tiny glimpses of a fraction of my thoughts and make assumptions about me?
Despite all that, I want to write today for the same reason I always want to write: to organize my thoughts. I’ve mentioned before how much it helps to puts my thoughts down in words, but I never really questioned why my thoughts were such a mess to begin with, and it never really occurred to me that other people didn’t have messy thoughts like I did. Until recently, that is.
Through a series of events which I won’t get into, I recently came to the conclusion that I have ADHD.
That was harder to type than I expected.
The thing is, I am the last person I would’ve expected to have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which isn’t a great name for what it is but I didn’t name it so don’t look at me). In school when some kids were falling out of chairs and bouncing around the room, I would sit quietly at my desk, doodling in my notebook. (I did sometimes spend recess running circles around the teacher but that doesn’t count.) I would look at those other kids and think, why can’t they just stay still and be quiet? It was easy, all you had to do was go into your head and daydream. It didn’t even take effort, it was usually something that just happened and I had to pull myself out of. I mean, sure, I’m a knee-bouncer, finger-tapper, gum-chewer, pencil-twirler, but those are things I thought everyone did.
Oh, I should mention here before all the “Everyone is self-diagnosing these days!” and “This is how drug abuse begins!” comments come in—I have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist. It’s not just in my head. I mean, it technically is, but like, I’m not making it up. Also, contrary to popular belief, stimulants actually cause non-ADHD people to perform worse than they normally would. If someone is taking stimulants but doesn’t need it, they won’t benefit like they think they will.
Okay, so I had to go do some stuff and it’s now hours later and I’m supposed to go to sleep soon so I’ll finish this quickly.
Long story short, I discovered there are different types of ADHD, including one called “Inattentive Type” which described me to a tee. T? Tea? I don’t think I’ve ever written that out before. Interesting. I think it’s T actually. Anyway, it described me to a T. (Where does that saying even come from?)
Things I do that I realized suggested Inattentive ADHD:
- I forget things to the point of impairment. (losing my credit card, using those Tile things to find my keys/phone at least once a week, forgetting my insurance card when going to the pharmacy, forgetting to renew my vehicle registration, forgetting my work computer at home when I go to work, forgetting it at work when I intend to work from home, forgetting to tell my boss I was working from home, forgetting entire appointments and meetings…and these are just things that apply to the last week or so.)
- I zone out/daydream/get distracted. (This happens to me every single conversation I have that lasts 30 seconds or more and where adrenaline is not present. It sometimes even happens when I’m the one talking, which can be awkward.)
- I procrastinate. A lot. For everything. (Seriously, everything from my final uni dissertation to the laundry. This also results in me being late a lot. It’s thought to be a way for the brain to create enough interest in a thing to do it, like dishes are boring, but dishes when someone is coming over in five minutes becomes interesting.)
- I fidget constantly. I think I mentioned, or will mention, some ways I fidget. I don’t know, I’m not writing this completely in order. Which is another thing—
- I do things out of order sometimes. I’m saying “sometimes” because I don’t know how much is a lot for the average person.
Here’s what I learned from my research about how I think vs how non-ADHD brains think:
- Everything comes at me without order. Imagine watching a movie and the main characters are at a table in a restaurant, but the extras are also in focus and just as loud. It takes effort to listen past the extras. You can do it, it’s just harder than other movies.
- My brain then attaches its focus to whatever’s most interesting amongst all this disorder. Maybe you’ll overhear an interesting tidbit from the extra in the hat behind the leading lady and suddenly you’re focused on them instead of the main two.
- This is because I don’t get enough dopamine when I do things (dopamine is the stuff that makes you happy) and so, like a starved person would focus solely on food, my brain focuses on the things that produce dopamine. Things that produce dopamine are typically things I like and am interested in.
- Sometimes, I can get so focused on something I am interested in that I won’t notice someone calling my name. I called this “being in the zone” but turns out it’s actually called “hyperfocus.” I kind of love hyperfocus because I get so much done, like one time I wrote 8000 words in about four hours, which is like writing a whole dissertation (which takes a year) in one day. The downside to this is sometimes I forget to eat, or won’t notice that my bladder’s full until the last minute. And, as much as I like it, this can’t really be induced. I can make conditions favourable, but I can’t really control when I hyperfocus.
- I also go through phases of things I’m interested in. I’ll get interested, learn everything I can about that thing, do the thing if I can, and then my interest will burn out, I’ll get bored, drop it, and move on to the next interest. Turns out these phases are actually called “hyperfixations”. This is why I have a $120 pair of tap shoes but cannot tap dance, and why I had a guitar for ten years but never actually learned how to play.
I can only focus on things I like—so what?
Unfortunately, this becomes a problem when I have to focus on something I’m not interested in, such as math. Focusing on math is like trying to stab my own hand—it’s going to take me a while to build up to it mentally because my brain really doesn’t want me to do it. Metaphorically. This extends to dishes, laundry, taxes, and for some unlucky people, their jobs, friends, and even romantic partners. Awkward.
This also becomes a problem if I have something I am interested in, like a book I’ve been trying to write for twelve years, but something else is present that produces more dopamine, like social media.
This is also a problem if I’m bored. Starved of anything interesting (which will happen often due to not getting enough dopamine for normal stuff), my brain will create something interesting for itself. This will come in the form of daydreams, interrupting people with thoughts that pop into my head that I have to say, or impulsive decisions like last week when I decided with an hour before a deadline, that I would apply to a writer’s retreat with an application fee of $25. We’ll see if that paid off.
It’s also a problem when I’m supposed to go to bed, because lying in bed in the dark is boring, and my brain compensates for boring by thinking of interesting and crazy things, which then keep me awake thinking. Or it’ll try to keep me from lying in bed in the dark to begin with and think, hey, it’s really important that you write a blog post before bed because tomorrow will be the first time you take a stimulant pill and who knows what it’ll do to your head!
Oh yeah, that was the whole point of this. I wasn’t going to write about ADHD, I was just going to explain the reason I’m writing a post after so long is because I’m gonna start taking a pill and I’m kind of nervous about what it’ll change. I don’t know what it’s like to not have messy thoughts, and I wanted to write about my day as a control. As you can see, I did not end up writing about my day, which was crazy, and now this post is too long to add more and I need to go to bed. It’s nearly two hours past my bedtime. Again.
P.S. I am not a psychiatrist and this is not an ADHD test or anything.