A lot of my friends ask me this question: what’s it like to have ADHD, Mineela?
Well, it’s frustrating… exhilarating…busy…overwhelming… embarrassing…and any other descriptor you can think of.
I ran across the best way to explain what my ADHD is like by complete accident.
I am a very visual creature – when words fail me, I tend to fall back on images, metaphors and “it’s kinda like…”.
I woke up one morning very frustrated with how “full” my brain was. In fact, it had been like this for a couple of days. Imagine vast space with items accumulating like so much flotsum and jetsum banging into and crowding in on each other. There was so much of everything that I couldn’t get a solid handle on what to focus on. Said flotsum and jetsum consisted of all my brilliant shiny ideas, current projects, next steps, chores, upcoming to dos, and every random thought connected to each. This is a lot of information – it feels like someone opened an Encyclopedia Britannica over me and all the letters and images had fallen out into my lap.
The thing about all these thoughts is that they are all good and necessary. In my mind, there isn’t any thought that is not valuable, a waste or unnecessary. It’s all equally important and, therefore, difficult to sort through, organize and prioritize.
The thought occurred to me that I didn’t have enough RAM, which stands for “random-access memory” (a term tech geeks – including yours truly – are familiar with).
In simple terms, RAM is a form of computer data storage that allows data to be accessed directly and very quickly in any random order. The alternative to RAM is data storage (hard disks, CDs, and DVDs) which read and write data only in a predetermined order and requires significantly more time to locate and access. My ADHD brain functions more in RAM mode than hard data storage mode. There are strengths to this – I have access to lots of information very quickly. I can see logical conclusions before many of the people around me, I can see connections others have not considered, and I can brain-tsunami (brainstorming on a much bigger scale). The optimal conditions for these things to be possible is having lots of information but, also enough space to move the ideas around.
The problems in my RAM thinking come up when there are too many thoughts and no space to shift and move ideas around. Everything is jammed in together with no room to move. This has led to a lot of problems in the past, including papers not completed on time in grad school, rambling explanations and, comments that seem out of context (because I’m already 20 ideas ahead) and, eventually, complete gridlock.
The thought occurred to me that I needed extra RAM space. So, I pulled out a sketch book and turned to a fresh page. (I absolutely love blank pages – they are the epitome of possibility and truly magical in my mind. Anything is possible when you have a blank sheet of paper in front of you.)
I set the timer for one hour, chose a Sharpie (shameless product placement; note to self: invoice Sharpie for advertising) and decided I would dump my RAM onto the blank paper. Do not be fooled by the picture, the sketchbook is LARGE! You can trace my head and upper torso across the open pages.
My starting thought was triggered by President Barack Obama’s 2012 DNC speech. Then, the floodgates opened and I couldn’t write fast enough….
An hour later, this is what resulted….
This is what it’s like in my brain. All. The. Time.
Pretty cool, right?
Question: So, what is your experience of ADHD?