Ironically, when I first started writing this I really struggled to concentrate! Oh the irony...
I saw a video once, by some social media celebrity who is famous for having opinions, which was all about how ADHD wasn't real.
Just to clarify, just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it's not real. I could say I don't believe in roads, but they are still there mate.
Anyway, my experience with ADHD has been a pretty interesting one, and I'm pretty buzzing about producing a couple of videos on the topic in the next couple of days...if I don't get distracted. What I kind of want to get across from these bits and pieces is an understanding of ADHD which goes beyond the obvious, and perhaps allows people to see people with the condition as more than just their label. I want people with ADHD to read this and feel empowered, and people who don't have it to feel understanding. Simple.
Let's see if that happens, and please do give me feedback in the comments both here and on social media. Positive or negative, I thrive off the interaction!
Ok, so let's start with a definition: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental mental disorder (eugh, disorder). Characteristic symptoms include difficulty paying attention or controlling behaviour, impulsivity, and excessive activity (or restlessness in adults), and can also include daydreaming, losing things, lack of organisation, excessive talking, impatience, fidgeting, trouble listening, easily distracted...wait, was that a squirrel?
Also, ADD isn't used any more. It's an old, obsolete term, and ADHD means exactly the same thing. The hyperactivity doesn't have to manifest itself physically in everyone, but it is still ADHD.
I understand that some of these things are common in kids, and it can be hard to tell if they have ADHD or just a poor diet, I really do get that. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The medical diagnosis relies on things like whether the symptoms develop before age 12, whether they have lasted longer than 6 months, and whether they cause issues in at least 2 scenarios (such as home, school, sports clubs etc). I see these as kind of arbitrary and could be caused by various different things, but the medical profession need to have guidelines for diagnosis and until we understand the neural mechanisms better we have to base it on symptoms. I believe this would have caused more problems when medication was standard procedure, but now that's only dished out to severe cases or kids who aren't responding to other treatments such as counselling or lifestyle changes. This all made no difference to me, as I didn't know I had it until I was in my 20s!
This stuff is all the boring, grey, doctor and teacher type-stuff...but what about the reality of it? What is it like inside someone's head? It's going to be different for everyone, so don't take this as a generalisation, this is just an insight into my brain and how it works. Grab your safety goggles folks, it gets a bit messy in there...
The best way to describe what's going on in my head at any given time is like a bank of TV screens, maybe 200 of them, all showing different shows at full volume. Concentrating on one task is like trying to focus on one screen. Sometimes the show I'm trying to concentrate on jumps to another screen and I have to find it again before I can even get back to focusing. Another way of thinking about it would be a busy train station at rush hour, and trying to hold a conversation with someone 25 metres away speaking at a normal volume. Sounds confusing right? Yeah, it really can be.
I forget what I'm doing, every day. I mislay things all the time. I think I'm listening to someone but really I'm just staring at them and thinking about aeroplanes. I am so restless that sometimes I feel physically sick. I start things and don't finish them. I have a great idea, like a true spark of genius, and then instantly lose the thread and it's gone forever. I sometimes just feel like shouting stuff for no reason (I can usually control this one, for now). I am impulsive and love taking risks, my life feels empty without some kind of danger.
I talk. A lot. All the time.
If I seem like I'm not all there when you're speaking to me, I'm honestly doing my best but there is a lot going on up there. If I can't find something important, the process to remember isn't as simple as it is for you, please be patient. If I talk too much, or interrupt, it's because the filter between my brain and my mouth isn't as effective as yours, or might not be there at all! If I don't do well in school, or in a traditional workplace, then try to understand that those schools and workplaces weren't built to accommodate a brain which works the way mine does.
There's nothing wrong with me, my brain just works differently.
I may get distracted, but I'm also creative. I may talk a lot, but I will share everything I know and feel. I may struggle to focus on a task I don't enjoy, but give me something I love and I'll work on it obsessively. I may be impulsive and take more risks, but some of the greatest achievers in history succeeded because they took risks.
Some famous folks who had (or would have had) ADHD:
- Justin Timberlake
- Will Smith
- Michael Phelps
- Jim Carrey
- Richard Branson
- James Carville
- Woody Harrelson
- Ryan Gosling
- Channing Tatum
I have learned a lot, and developed strategies for coping and getting everyday stuff done more effectively, and I will continue to learn and grow. I have also learned how these symptoms have benefited me throughout my life, and I will always be looking for ways to capitalise on these strengths which I was born with.
It may be listed as a disorder, and something to be treated, but I love it.
It's not a disorder, I just think differently.