An insider's post by a pretty incredible woman and mother. But I'm biased.
It's hard not to love Tricia. Tiny, mighty, and always smiling, she's open-minded in a way that softens embittered hearts and minds. In fact, she's one of the only people I know who can talk about our divided country, Trump voting (not that she is, mind you, but there are people in her life who are), or evangelical Christianity from both sides in a way that doesn't shut me down to the conversation entirely. This is a true talent. Tricia's ability to share her own vulnerabilities brings people together.
I know Tricia because she married my cousin Scott. Though she's not a blood relative, I think of her as one. Here's a photo of Tricia having tea with my daughter Alice. Though she has 4 living kids herself (she and Scott lost Duncan as an infant), Tricia's energy and enthusiasm when she sees Alice is boundless. If you were to expand this photo, you would see my sad butt sitting on the couch pathetically, most definitely not taking part in the tea party on the floor.
I tell you all of this so that you get to know Tricia a little before I share with you her writing about what it feels like to live with ADHD. She published this post yesterday on her blog, The Arthur Adventure (what a title, eh?!), and it's reposted with her permission. I want more people to understand what ADHD is and more importantly, what it feels like. Tricia's sharing that here with us all. Thank you for sharing your experience, Tricia, and for your generous heart.
If you have ADHD, read this.
This is what it feels like:
The doorbell rings and you go into full-on panic about what appointment you forgot.
By the time you get to the door you are cursing yourself AND your pits are sweating profusely.
Thank GOD it's just an annoying walking political groupie.
Then, while you are still getting your heart regulated and not listening to ALL THOSE WORDS, he freaking has the nerve to give you a pop quiz...
Except you don't know it until he paused expectantly, waiting for an answer.
You go with a safe bet: "The economy?"
You wake up every morning truly not knowing what to do with yourself... From the routine obvious (getting yourself and your kids ready to leave the house) to what to do with open, free down time (so many choices!!!).
Inside my not-functioning brain: do I shower first, or brush my teeth first? Think. Think. Think.
This didn't seem so hard before!
What do I usually do?
What am I going to do when the kids finish their morning show?
I'll need to pounce into breakfast duty...
But what if that interrupts me from deciding whether to shower or brush my teeth first? Then that question will HANG IN THE BALANCE...
And, meanwhile, Campbell might wake up any minute so there goes personal hygiene altogether. What's that? You'd like fucking eggs for breakfast? A) I forgot eggs when I had them WRITTEN ON MY LIST at the grocery yesterday, b) I don't trust myself to cook anything that uses anything that needs turning off, and c) Campbell just woke up.
You're on you're own.
You keep hearing a still small voice saying that you need rest, yes, rest, that's what you need.
That's what will make your functioning brain return to inhabiting your body. So you commit to it like ITS YOUR JOB.
You politely say no to things you'd normally say yes to, all the while not liking the way this comes off since you generally like socializing and don't want to be written off as inconsistently flighty...
But you remember that not everyone needs to know about or hear your ADHD struggles so you commit to using words like, "Just in an overwhelmed place right now and pairing back temporarily" which is true.
But really you JUST PLAIN FEEL LIKE A CRAZY, IRRESPONSIBLE, INCOMPETENT, IDIOT who gets overwhelmed by brushing her teeth or completing a sentence.
That's what you really want to say.
But you don't to the outer ring. To your husband and your inner ring, you start to share what you want to say, but you can't even get THAT out.
But they know.
Because this has happened before.
And they know what you need: to be handled very tenderly while you feel so unsettled, confused, and moronic.
So you now have said no enough to have the space to rest, so you can heal that "overwhelmed" place you're in.
But GUESS WHAT? Since almost every single solitary thing there is to do in this life - including resting - involves your brain, it's hard to find respite in rest.
You try going to the coffee shop - BUT ALL THOSE SENSES ARE OVERSTIMULATING. You try reading, but - seriously - the words don't make sense.
Forget about even glancing at your phone or scrolling through Facebook: information, information, information.
Where to file it? What to do with it?
The best things, you find, are headphones with music, meditation, and napping.
And even though you feel a bit like a mental patient fighting for her sanity (since nobody else seems to find READING stressful), you know you need it. You try to tell yourself it's temporary and the fog will lift and rest won't be a full time job.
You go to book club because you are having a somewhat clear afternoon leading up to it. You pride yourself in being authentic and real. And it feels somewhat shitty to have to weigh whether your cognitive faculties are in tact enough to go, when really you know you ought to be ok with yourself enough to go-and-be-stupid and everyone-else-can-just-deal.
But part of ADHD is not being able to pluck the right words from the sea of them.
(did you ever contemplate HOW MANY there are???)
You've got a bunch to express, and the modality to express it...
And yet both your filter is not trustworthy (imagine turrets, except with ideas) AND your words are all wrong, going off on these paths you didn't want them to go on... So that, GUESS WHAT!!?
Your attempts at being real and authentic only lead you to misrepresent yourself, which feels the opposite of real and authentic.
Your sense of humor... where'd it go? Turns out you need your brain to be funny too. And your sense of humor is something you love about yourself!! But when you try to be sarcastic or witty or cheeky during this period of time, it comes off at best as not funny and at worst at reaching and trying way too hard and likely both. Your timing is all off and your word choice is messed up and - furthermore - you can't figure out what IS funny. And besides that, funny requires creative juices and when your using up every last drop of juiciness in you just to manage yourself at the basic level, there's no moisture left over for creative.
Worst of all, you lose your ability to laugh at yourself - because nothing about how you feel inside is funny. It's scary. Scary takes the zing right out of funny. There's no room for it.
You've instilled in your children the importance of responsibility and harp on them to manage their belongings.
And you're wandering around the house every moment that you are awake, hollering, "where is my fucking phone (but really- fill in the blank)?" Except, for the kids' sake, that's only what the inside voice says. The outside one is silent while you suffer with the shame of your hypocrisy as you discombobulatedly race around mindless and crazed when you could just use the "find my phone" feature on the iPad sitting right in front of you.
And when you can't follow the basic guidelines you've set for your children over and over again, feeling like a child yourself, you wonder "how the hell am I equipped enough to parent these darlings?" And the insecurity of that gets to feeling REALLY REAL.
A complete quandary.
While you struggle with it even in clear times, when the ADHD fog is there, it is an entity that eludes you.
You take turns obsessing over it, setting timers, back planning to consider it, making pick up and drop off and practice start times and end time as rigid and unforgiving as ever and ignoring it altogether, being sloppy with it and facing the consequences ashamedly.
How to figure out just how important time is?
How much respect to assign to it?
You become the ultimate philosopher on all the things you-can't-figure-out, and setting your mind out to solve such unsolvable nonsense means it's even more absent for the things right in front of you you already feel ill-equipped to handle.
And since you can't size up which mistakes are the normal ones - the ones that everyone makes - and which ones are the ones that are annoyingly specific to you and your brain chemistry, you assume that everything you do wrong is uniquely your problem... and then you're on a little shame island.
And then you have a night here and there where you drink.
And when you are feeling the affects, everything gets better.
Not because alcohol makes you do better cognitively, but because you don't have to be so damn concerned with your state.
You are probably behaving just as frazzled as your sober ADHD self, but you simply don't give a shit.
And you think about the people who are mentally ill, some with ADHD perhaps, who are roaming the streets homeless or lost or in debt or running from the police all while abusing substances and you think I GET IT.
You get why one would want to feel this medicated way more often, and here you are with a family who loves you, friends who care about you, money to pay the bills and more, and a life that is full and whole and wonderful.
This doesn't make you feel guilty for being not-homeless.
And it doesn't make you feel guilty for going through internal battles when so much goodness and so many blessings are right at your feet.
Mostly, it makes you super-sucked into the intimate awareness of the hardness of life.
If you feel like your problems are big and get scared by the wonderfulness of the aid of alcohol during these episodes, life for these folks must be un-freakin-bearable.
And then your husband (probably because he got freaked when you confessed the drinking thing) says, "why don't you try Ritalin again?"
You tried it back when you went bat-shit-crazy after Campbell's birth and felt the benefits were inconsistent and, besides that, you were not liking having to be on TWO medications since Lexapro was prescribed for the accompanying anxiety.
So you didn't give it a fair shot, but you had a couple left over. Now, where were they? Oh yeah, still in the zippered side pocket of your purse.
PHEW, good thing you kept this purse.
And you take one.
And you feel a difference.
And then the next day you take another.
And then the next. And then the next. And now you're a Ritalin junkie.
Not because it means you're hooked on speed. You're hooked on feeling normal again.
Well, at least somewhat.
And like your brain decided to join the party that is YOU again.
And that's a lot less unsettling.
Read more from Tricia on The Arthur Adventure.