Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Life With Attention Deficit Disorder

There are many ways I could describe life with ADD. In the past, I've described it as like living with a constant sort of "white noise" in the back of my mind, but I feel now like that's too superficial a description. It doesn't really get into the nuts and bolts of how my mind actually works. However, lately I've been using a new description that is admittedly much more verbose, but also much more accurate.

Imagine for a moment that your mind is a gargantuan ball of yarn, made up of hundreds of individual thought-threads. Each one of these thought-threads contains a single thought, and allows that thought to travel throughout your brain. It has a specific start point and a specific end point, and it is confined to its own specific thought-thread.

You got that? Awesome. :)

Now imagine that rather than staying confined to their own thought-threads, your individual thoughts can leave their original threads and jump into others. Imagine that this can and does happen with the smallest influence, the slightest little nudge. And imagine that that influence can be literally anything. Even the sheer fact that your thought just jumped from one thread to another.

Still with me? Cool. :)

Now, I want you to imagine that this is not a one-off thing. Imagine that your thoughts are constantly jumping from one thread to another and back again, hundreds of times a day, and usually several times a minute.

Finally, imagine that you have absolutely zero control over this process.

In a nutshell, that is what it's like living with ADD. That's also why I chose to write today's post out as opposed to talking it out in video form. When I'm talking and one of these thought jumps occurs, my natural tendency is to continue down the new thought-thread rather than finish the previous one. This is why I pause so much when I talk, and why I sometimes go off on seemingly unrelated tangents.

My ADD kicked in.

At least for me personally, there is also one extra little wrinkle. If, out of all that chaos, something actually does grab my attention, I will focus on it to the exclusion of almost everything else. Even physical urges like hunger and the need to use the bathroom simply do not register with me in that state. On the flip side, if I find that something is boring to me, it is all but impossible for me to focus on it at all.

What about the middle ground, you ask? What about the things that are not terribly exciting, but also not truly boring either? That's where the yarn-ball metaphor comes in. If something does happen to fall into that middle ground, then it joins the hundreds of other thoughts that are constantly bouncing around in my mind and becomes just another part of the chaos.

If that thing is something that needs to get done, like homework for example, then it does bounce to the forefront of my attention a little more often; usually as a result of a conscious effort to get it done. Even so, my other more entertaining and interesting thoughts will often intrude and distract me, and this results in the assignment only being worked on in short bursts. Which is why an assignment that someone says will only take ten to twenty minutes would usually take me an hour or more to complete.

If I complete it at all.

By this point, I imagine that many of you are wondering why I don't take medication. Thankfully, my answer to this question is simple. I don't take medication now because when I was taking it, I couldn't write. Sure, my thoughts didn't constantly jump from place to place and it was somewhat easier for me to get my homework done, but I'd lost my ability to write my books. I could still plan them out in my head, but for whatever reason, the bridge between my brain and my keyboard had been completely blocked off by the medication.

In the end, the trade-off was just not worth it to me. Especially considering this all happened after I decided I wanted to be an author. Kinda hard to be an author when you can't write. :P

And this brings me to the other question I can imagine you asking by now. Why am I sharing this? For two reasons. One, my ADD affects a lot of my behavior, and so I hope that by explaining this all now, certain things about me will make more sense. The other reason, and the bigger reason if truth be told, is because I wanted to give people an idea of what it's like living with ADD. I wanted to take you inside my mind for a moment and show you the basics of how it works. I wanted to do this in the hope that if you're reading this and you know someone who has ADD, be they a co-worker, friend, or family member, you now have a better idea of what life is like for them.

I've met people who think that those of us with ADD are just stupid, or that we're lazy. The truth is that we're neither of those things. The truth is that our brains simply work differently than theirs do.

And me personally, I like the way my brain works. :P

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