It’s hard to explain it
There’s only so much a man can do
You try your best and then you lose.
“What people do not realize is that ADHD plays a direct role in the emotional stability of a child. It causes the child to be naturally disposed towards feelings of worthlessness and the feeling of invisibility. Oddly enough, while the child with ADHD will struggle with keeping their attention, they will also struggle with trying to suck all the attention to themselves in an effort to get affirmation.”
That was part of the intro paragraph to my lengthy research paper: The Emotional Effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that I wrote as a senior in college. Heck, most of the papers I wrote in my psychology classes were somehow tied into ADHD, since I was selfish and found a way to turn every collegiate assignment into a chance to write about stuff I was interested in.
I was most interested in ADHD because I was trying to understand myself better. I had spent 20 years of my life getting frustrated with myself over the silly little misfirings in my brain, so why not take every opportunity I can to better understand it?
In order for me to tell you more about my life, I figure I’ll have to detour and tell you more about this whole mess first. Hey, if Introverted people can write 1,000,000 articles trying to turn their personalities into some sort of fatal disease, you can play along with me and ADHD for one post. After all, everyone is quick to diagnose themselves or somebody they know with ADHD and they don’t understand what it is. At least I can help.
I written before about ADHD in my family. I guess that was back when I actually wrote funny stuff. Anyway, that story I told had to do with my little brother running home to get help when I fell and skinned my knee while riding my bike (this was
last week many years ago). When I got home, I found that he had never said anything to anybody about me hurting myself. The television was on, and he was instantly glued to it.
That’s the image we all have for ADHD. You know, the kid who can’t stop staring at the flashing lights or shiny objects. And it’s PRETTY close, but it’s not quite what ADHD really is. It’s not an inability to pay attention to anything. It’s an overwhelming urge to pay attention to everything that is around you. It’s overstimulation.
Let me put it this way: imagine that both of us are standing outside talking. You are focusing on that my words, right? So that’s what sticks with you. For me, it’s totally different. I hear you talking, but I also hear the birds in the tree nearby making so much noise. I hear the cars on the street behind you and can’t help but watch them drive by when they enter my field of vision. I hear the kids playing in the field next to us and can’t help but occasionally glance over when something exciting happens. I’m never making eye contact with you ever, because there are a lot of other things going on around you that I have to look at also.
You see, it’s not that I’m not paying attention. Most of the time, I’m trying to. Problem is, I’m trying to pay attention to literally everything that is going on.
So that’s how it really is. Caffeine is a stimulant, so if you drink too much to it, you’re wired, and all over the place, right? Imagine that being how your brain works all the time. Actually, here’s a fun fact: caffeine, being a stimulant, functions pretty much the same as Ritalin. In other words, when I drink a cup of coffee (unless it’s loaded down with sugar) it will actually overstimulate to the point of focusing. Then it’ll make me really tired and I’ll want to take a nap.
But ADHD isn’t just about attention. Because the brain is constantly a jumbled mess, it’s constantly on the verge of being overwhelmed, which leads to a number of other problems that mimic other personality disorders or mental illnesses or whatever terms I’m supposed to use. For example, there’s the impulse control issues, like my total inability to stop chewing my fingernails even though I would love nothing more than to break the habit. Much like Tourettes, these impulses can lead to tics and twitches that can sometimes be straight up painful. Oh, and along with that, there’s the failure to pick up on social cues and the lack of eye contact thing I already mentioned, similar to Autism. You combine the two, and now you’ve got somebody with strong obsessions and impulse control. Which is why I own fifty hats. Fifty. I counted them all.
Sitting on top of all of that, though, are the emotional issues, which is really the point here. There’s the sudden anger. The feeling of detachment or worthlessness. The feeling of being along in a crowded room. The craving attention and affirmation. The almost bi-poler swinging of emotions. Just like overstimulation in the way the brain operates, there’s overstimulation in how the emotions work. It….well, it can be a lot. A whole lot.
ADHD isn’t just an attention thing, and so unless you have symptoms covering all of these different areas, chances are it’s not really ADHD and you’ve watched too much TV or something.
So why do I write about any of this? Well, if I’m intent on telling you more about me, it’s something that has to be addressed. It’s hard for me to even organize myself enough to write a full blog post. I’ve already forgotten how this whole post started off. It’s hard for me to think long enough about one topic or aspect of my life in order to write about it. So sharing with you is a struggle, but one I actually want to do. It’s a fight I have to take part in.
There’s also the fact that so much of my life story is about struggling against those feelings of worthlessness or detachment or abandonment. Oh man, the abandonment. That’s a rough one. If you don’t want to sit through all that crap, I understand, and you don’t have to read. That’s totally up to you.
But more than any of that, I share this with you because it’s hitting on something that’s important to all of our lives. We should strive to understand ourselves better so that we know how to manage ourselves. I had to learn how to manage my time better so that I could accomplish the work I needed to do before I jumped into playing around. I had to overcome a lack of motivation to do things I wasn’t interested in so that I could actually finish school. And maybe I haven’t gotten my impulse control down enough so that I stop chewing my nails, but at least I don’t run my mouth off shouting “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME” insensitively like I used to do. Improvement is improvement.
And isn’t that the point? What is our life all about if we’re not maturing in the process? I mean, what’s the point, if we’re not trying to fight our insecurities and our shortcomings? What in the world are we doing if we’re not trying to become better versions of ourselves?
So that’s why I share: because I’m right there with you and you’re right here with me. Because we go through all of these struggles together, regardless of our circumstances or our ailments. Because at the end of the day, there are so many factors working against us that we can’t control, and there’s only so much a man can do. The sensation of defeat or being overwhelmed comes quickly and heavily, but….well, what choice do we have but to pick up, keep fighting, and do all we can do for that day?
The point is, we try. We fight, we try, and we persevere. And regardless of where you are in your life, that’s always going to be true.
And with understanding, dedication, and hard work, you can remember that you’re never alone in that.
Boy, this thing was super serious. Let’s end it with a photo of me addressing a crowd from inside a podium with absolutely no explanation of what’s going on. Cool? Cool.
The title of this post, along with the opening lines, come again from Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles. You can find their music here.