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What the Weekend Is Like With ADHD Paralysis

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It’s 3:29 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and I am sitting at a table by the window of a small coffee shop, just me and my laptop and latte. After a busy day finalizing work before the weekend, this is the first chance I’ve had all day to sit down. I take my first sip and feel myself relax into the weekend. I smile as I gaze out the window and think about what I achieved today and how good life is.

Except it’s not.

And I am not sitting in a café. In reality, I am at home. I haven’t left home all day, and I won’t by myself. Opening my laptop to write this is the first productive thing I’ve done all day, besides showering, which was a small miracle in itself. In reality, I woke up at 8:30 a.m., then 10:50 a.m., then 11:45 a.m., before finally getting up sometime just before 1. I use the term “getting up” loosely here. What I mean is I moved from my bed to an armchair in the living room. And continued to doom scroll on my phone.

I’ve been in ADHD paralysis for two hours, which is actually a short amount of time compared to usual for me. Just finding the will to get out of freeze mode and into the shower took more energy than I thought I could muster. And if it wasn’t for the intense hyperfocus of the idea of writing this down, I’d still be sitting on my bed right now, hair dripping wet onto the sheets, with a towel loosely around me, for who knows how long. Thank god for a new hyperfocus to pull me out of the freeze of another ADHD paralysis.

For most of the afternoon, I’ve imagined that I was sitting in a café with my latte and a view other than these four walls. But my imagination is usually as far as those ideas go. With agoraphobia, it’s nearly impossible for me to leave my house alone. And even if I did manage to get to the café, I can’t have a coffee, because the caffeine will set off a series of heart palpitations and tachycardia that could potentially put me in hospital, if my SVT gets carried away and my heartbeat gets dangerously fast. Thankfully it’s been almost three years since an SVT hospital visit.

So instead, I sit here at my dining room table, with crumbs all over the kitchen bench, dishes accumulating at the sink, piles of “stuff” on most surfaces, and the remnants of past hyperfocus sessions dotting the house or shoved into drawers and forgotten. A piano collecting dust and sheet music never played. Canvases, paint brushes, and acrylic waiting to be painted, that earring business I started last year, more books than I will ever be able to read in five lifetimes… I’m severely depressed.

But it’s OK. Because tonight I am going out with my girlfriends for early drinks and then to see a band. At least then I can feel normal for just one night. I can laugh with the girls and drink only a little too much, and dance for hours to some great music. I’ll wear the new dress I bought with the sequins on it and feel amazing in it because I love the way it sparkles.

Except I won’t.

Because even though the sequin dress felt amazing in the changing room at the store, when my dopamine levels were reaching the stars with how it sparkled, now that I’m home I realize it doesn’t have the amount of stretch I need to not feel claustrophobic in it from my overactive sensory sensitivities. I’d have to wear something practical instead, so I didn’t feel like I was suffocating. And I couldn’t drink even just a little bit, because again, palpitations and a highly elevated heart rate that refuses to come back down on its own would mean either immediate bedrest or a trip to the hospital. Even with my noise-canceling earplugs, I’d be too overstimulated by the noise of the band to enjoy it. The sensory overstimulation would feel like a hundred thousand nails being driven into my flesh. I’d glance down at my arms, expecting to actually see all the pockmarks, the pain would be so intense. But instead, as I held my arm out in front of me, all I’d see was it shaking with anxiety and overwhelm. Then I’d feel my lip start to shake, and hot tears rush from my eyes and make their way down my neck. I would hang my head with the humiliation of being in my mid-40s and crying in public. It’s hard to say if this time I’ll be able to stifle this meltdown, or if my entire body will start to shake uncontrollably from the overstimulation. I’ll lose all ability to make decisions as my prefrontal cortex checks out on me.

At this point, I’ll know I’ve ruined the night for everyone who is with me. Someone will offer to take me home, insisting that it’s totally fine and not a bother and no trouble at all, they’re “just so sorry this happened” to me. And the tears will shift from tears of release to tears of shame and guilt. I’ll get home and get into bed, and the existential dread will envelop me as I pull the covers up around me to feel safe, or to ground myself, or who knows why I do it, I just know I need to be tucked up tightly.

But it’s OK, because even though today I didn’t make it out of the house, and tonight I didn’t get to go out with the girls, tomorrow is a new day. And tomorrow I’m going along the coast with my partner. We’ll stop in a beachside town for lunch and maybe a short walk before driving home. It’s going to be amazing. Tomorrow I can relax and just enjoy a day out and the freedom of a day trip away from home.

Except I can’t.

Because I can’t leave my town without one of my very small circle of support people, preferably my mum. As I write that I hate myself for being 43 and needing my mum more than any adult should. (My partner has a disability and as such is not a physical support person I can rely on). So if we want to get out for a day, someone has to take us. At 43. There’s that self-loathing again. Once we arrived, we’d have to stay close to the car, because to me the car symbolizes safety. If we went for a walk, we couldn’t go far. And if my support person gave us some space, I’d have to know they were contactable immediately and within a few minutes from us. I’d be hypervigilant the entire time…Where are my supports? Where is the closest hospital? Are there people around if…if…if I die?

If I die? These are not the “normal” thoughts of a woman in her 40s having a day trip with her partner. But they are my constant companion wherever I go. Trauma is my constant companion wherever I go. I should be enjoying the sunshine on my face, the view of the waves and the beach. I should be enjoying lunch and some great conversation with my partner. But instead my mind is filled with a constant stream of questions, like “How far away is help?” I wish I could just think rationally about it and realize that if I was going to die, there’s not much anyone could do. I wish health anxiety would loosen its grip on my mind. Or that I would loosen my grip on it.

Oh well. It’s Sunday now, and even though the weekend was far from how I thought I’d be spending weekends in this phase of my life, at least I can have a quiet Sunday and feel refreshed ready for another week.

But instead, I stay in bed until 5 p.m. I’m completely burnt out from trying. My life is slipping by while I’m trapped in this endless nightmare I can’t escape from.

Originally published: April 11, 2024
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