I’m sure like many of you, I worry about how people perceive me. It’s not that I’m obsessed with it but at least once weekly I leave a meeting or social event thinking, “Geez, I really came off looking like an egocentric jerk.” Or I cringe recalling a stupid and perhaps borderline inappropriate comment I’d made.
Before I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it was much worse.
For example, years ago, I was in a conference room with at least a half dozen staff members being interviewed for a job when I noticed one person stifling a yawn. Of course, that caught the attention of my undiagnosed and easily distracted brain. I interrupted myself and asked the would-be yawner, “Am I keeping you up?” Yes, I really said that. **CRINGE** Needless to say, I didn’t get the job despite it being for an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities. But then again, I didn’t know about my ADHD at the time and, certainly, they didn’t either.
Among other areas of the brain, ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex — an area known to be responsible for what’s known as executive function. So, yes, I have or have had difficulties making decisions, regulating my emotions and with impulsivity — including what comes out of my pie hole at times. I said, have had because I’ve evolved since getting the diagnosis. That’s not to say I’m cured, I’ve just figured out ways to reign in my overactive brain.
But I’m not always successful.
When I have an idea, I still get excited about it. I mean REALLY excited, like there’s a true physical reaction that I struggle to control. My heart begins to beat faster and I begin to bounce a bit – maybe some of you have witnessed this phenomenon in real-time? Think Arnold Horshack from the 1970s American sitcom Welcome Back Kotter.
So when an idea strikes during a conversation, I still feel the nearly impossible-to-control urge to share it. You see, my brain is a Ferrari – it has two speeds: Blindingly and too-often recklessly fast and full stop. So, yes, I interrupt sometimes or bully myself into a conversation.
However, now that I’m learning to make nice to my neurodivergent brain, I’ve discovered I can sometimes stop myself from speaking by pausing and asking myself, “Self, is this truly salient to the discussion or will it will add anything meaningful to it?” I always keep a notepad beside me so that, much like a lawyer in court, I can give other people the opportunity to state their case while retaining my ideas until it is my turn to speak.
This works in a couple of ways. Sometimes when I look back at that list, I discover that some of the things I’d written down aren’t worth sharing or that someone else has already said it. And when the conversation does allow for me to respond in a more polite fashion, that bit of time has allowed me to also gather my thoughts and share them in a concise manner rather than (dare I say it) in a rambling fashion that is too often my ilk.
My ability to control this hyperactive part of my brain will always be limited but I am learning to better control how I respond to it.
And just to be clear, I’m not using ADHD as an excuse; I’m merely trying to explain it so perhaps you can understand us neurodivergents better. And since the diagnosis, it’s gotten better – those of you who know me only post-diagnosis must be thinking, “Omigosh, what was she like BEFORE she became more self-aware?” Consider this: One of my closest friends once told me I’m exhausting. Can imagine what it’s like for someone like me who isn’t able to escape the constant barrage?
I’m curious. Do you have ADHD? What has your experience with it been? Is there anything you’d like me to explore related to ADHD or disability in general? Or do you have a story to tell? Please share in the comments or send me a private message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
If you liked this post from More Than Normal, perhaps you’ll do me a solid and share it? Or better yet, sign up to receive future newsletters hot off my dyslexic fingers.