I flake on people and hangout sessions. I go home a lot on the weekend. I seclude myself. I wander off to escape the stimuli. I’m not a solid friend. I’ll ask you to repeat what you just said two more times, seemingly like I’m not paying attention. People have called me out on it time and time again.
It’s not apathy — it’s the way a lot of our brains are built. But that’s OK.
A “flaw” in my chemistry is not a flaw in character.
Two summers ago, I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. I never thought I’d be sitting here writing this. I thought everyone was like this — I thought everyone functioned the same way I did. Until, my life suddenly spiraled out of control, and I realized this is bigger than a few symptoms.
Let me break it down. ADHD is classified by three types — hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and a combination of the two. Hyperactive is likely what you picture when thinking of ADHD: having trouble staying still. Inattentive, however, is different. Pretend all the thoughts you think are written on a chalkboard in your brain. For example, people without ADHD might have a certain function that filters out, say, 90 percent percent of all the stimuli the brain could potentially think about. The other 10 percent gets written on the chalkboard, and that represents the actual thoughts the brain thinks. People with ADHD don’t have the same function that filters out the 90 percent of stimuli that comes at them; therefore, all 100 percent of the stimuli might go on the chalkboard and is thought about all at the same time. Is that possible? No, and that’s why I speak really fast and in fragments, because there are nine times as many thoughts in my head as the average person.
It feels like there’s a constant, loud radio static I can never turn off.
It’s the clumsiness, and the continual busyness of thoughts. My brain is always talking. Words are repeated over and over in my head, and it doesn’t ever stop. There’s a constant song or beat that doesn’t make sense stuck in my head. I talk way too fast. I can’t form sentences well. I sound like a broken record when I talk. I can’t stop moving my hands. I take three times as long to finish anything, from assignments to getting ready in the morning. I wake up four times every night from my thoughts. I have to build in time to get distracted. I’ll forget appointments, classes, and simple tasks if I don’t write them down. I hear you speaking, but I can’t make sense of it fast enough. I need you to repeat what you just said. I can’t remember where I parked my car.
What you don’t see is the overcompensation for a disorder I never knew I had my whole life. What you don’t see is the 16-year-old high school student who was in school from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., took three AP classes, worked a part-time job from 5:30 to 11 every evening, and spent every night up until 3 a.m. working on assignments for classes I couldn’t pass, because I didn’t have enough time to think when taking tests. It’s sad that I didn’t realize there was a problem when my father was waking up to start the next day when I was going to bed and getting maybe three hours of sleep a night.
Fortunately, there is a bright side. High-school me realized not every class valedictorian had to become a doctor, historian, or brain surgeon, so I’ll never have to attempt to focus on a class equivalent to AP Chemistry ever again. College me realized I can make a living doing whatever it may be that sets my heart on fire and makes me want to get out of bed every day.
The plus side? It’s where my creativity comes from. By nature, I’m 100 percent the most logical person you’ll ever meet. Myers-Briggs type? I’m the one you’ll come to for solving a problem in the quickest way possible. However, when my ADHD first began to peak, there was an increase of me diving into the creative abyss. Research suggests that people with ADHD generally fall more towards the creative side as well. It’s why anything creative is my outlet, since it exercises and frees my brain from all of the distraction the world has to offer.
I’m learning to lean into things that free my brain. I’m learning to lean into the things that make me feel freed and refreshed. I’m learning to replace the time spent on my phone with spontaneously exploring a city, visiting the humane society to pet cats, and walking through the local art museum.
I’m learning to work on it. I’m learning it’s OK to talk about my ADHD, even though I don’t fully understand. I’m learning to become a better friend. I’m learning to follow through with plans. I’m learning it’s all right to ask someone to repeat something they said or to ask for help. I apologize not for who I am, but how I’ve handled myself.
I’m learning to accept and love the way I’m scientifically made and work to better myself. I’m learning not everyone is the same. We are all made unique and differently, and the differences are strikingly beautiful. These are the cards I’m dealt with, and I’m going to make life strikingly beautiful as well.
Follow this journey on Nicoletillotson.com.
Image via Thinkstock Images