What it Feels Like to Live With ADHD
‘Meet the Parents’ is a film made in 2000, where Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro got the chance to display their comedic genius. A guy living with his girlfriend decides to meet her parents for a few days, so they move in together with them for a weekend where they get to spend some good happy family time.
Ben Stiller plays the role of a nurse named Greg, that wants to propose to his girlfriend, but what he didn’t anticipate was the fact that the father was a retired CIA agent that puts him through a series of tests. His strict attitude contrasts with the chilling perspective of Greg’s, and their collision creates a chemical eruption of accidents and funny interactions.
What impressed me the most in the story was that much of the humor in it comes from the unaware, innocent approach of Greg who goes on a spree of embarrassing actions without his will, and somehow always finds a way to make things more difficult for him.
He makes mistakes, says the wrong things at the wrong time, has accidents that draw him incapable, and in general goes through one unlucky incident after the other that always manages to expose him.
The reason this was so relevant to me, was because this is exactly how it feels to live with ADHD. The little mental health disorder that goes by the terms ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’, that bombards you with enough excess energy that your brain jolts with electricity and is unable to keep its attention on one thing for more than a few seconds.
Even though I didn’t have a name for it back then for what it represented, I could relate to all these occurrences of misbehaving and strange circumstances because that’s what ADHD leads you to eventually as well. The mental-hyperactivity blocks you from immersing in your environment in a normal way and shatters you in a way that you’re never fully present and you are incapable to attune with those around you, triggering the series of misunderstandings that are bound to follow along.
Jessica Mcbee is a 32 years old woman that was diagnosed with ADHD from a young age. Even though she was exceptionally smart since a young kid, and she grew up with the best of scores, she noticed that little by little her path started to decline in ways she couldn’t grasp the reasons quite well.
She couldn’t hold any friends while growing up, she couldn’t hold her attention in class, leading her grades down, and she had trouble building trust with those around her. For example, while in college, she would ace classes that she forgot to sign up for, and she would sidetrack with the work of others and other distractions, forgetting to pay attention to her classes, till she eventually dropped out completely.
By the time she was 32 she had lost more than 10 jobs and she couldn’t hold her relationships the way she would like to, leading to one disaster after the other.
Going through Jessica’s story -there is a Ted talk here- there is one thing that struck out the most. From the beginning to the end there is a strong repetition of one particular motto.
“But I had potential.”
She was an exceptionally smart woman. She was dynamic and passionate, capable, and willing to do the hard work so much so that people would always admire her for it. Yet when it came down to the general evaluation, up to that point in her life, she had failed in almost all areas.
As Jessica describes in her talk, ADHD has three primary characteristics. “inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity”. Each one of those can be found in different amounts in each case and every person may go through a different experience based on the particular combination.
People with ADHD that lean more into the inattention side, are more likely to be day-dreamers, forgetful of the small things like where they put their keys on, and frequently procrastinating the stuff they should be doing now.
“People with inattentive ADHD make careless mistakes because they have difficulty sustaining focus, following detailed instructions, and organizing tasks and activities. They are easily distracted by external stimuli, and often lose things.” — AdditudeMag
This is the side that I relate the most to as well, and I can remember myself getting into all sorts of troubles out of my inability to harness the whims of my mind. I would be staring out of the window while teachers would be speaking, I would constantly day-dream, avert manuals and specific instructions in the work environment, and in general, have a strong dislike in details.
Before I understood the actual symptoms of what I was going through in my experience with ADHD, the disease would simply take hold of most aspects of my life. I would start writing a piece, do all the hard work of researching and finding some interesting information on a subject, and refuse to delve into the details letting the article be somewhat incomplete. I would always reach a percentage of 80% of whatever work I was doing and leave it at that as if it should be “good enough”.
The second aspect of ADHD leans toward hyperactivity and impulsivity which is characterized by constant movement, fidgeting, excessive talking, and general restlessness that resembles the situation that a devil has penetrated someone and he can’t find a way out.
This category also contains the cases where people are highly impulsive, take big decisions with little thought, and are unable to contain themselves or their anger.
“People with hyperactive ADHD often fidget, squirm, and struggle to stay seated. Children often appear to act as if “driven by a motor” and run around excessively. People of all ages may talk non-stop, interrupt others, blurt out answers, and struggle with self-control.” — AdditudeMag
And then of course there is the third category where people may combine attributes from both hyperactivity and inattention where they get the best of both worlds.
What is important for someone to understand in this, is that ADHD is a spectrum. People will experience it in various degrees and manners and the way it manifests in one may be completely opposite by the way it does to someone else.
For me, things were much harder when I lacked the knowledge of what I was going through. I wasn’t experiencing symptoms that would require medical intervention -or so I thought- but my inattentiveness would cost me 6 or 7 jobs, some of my best friends, and the ability to lead a normal life. Which makes the point that more awareness needs to be raised about what ADHD is and what people go through when they have it.