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What ADHD Feels Like

Reading time | 3 mins

When it comes to describing what ADHD is to others, I sometimes feel like I could talk for hours, and other times I feel woefully inadequate at making others understand.

So instead of struggling through it alone, I reached out to some friends of mine who also live with ADHD to get their take on what it feels like to walk a mile in their shoes.

Don’t just take my word for it: Here are some choice explanations of what life with ADHD feels like.

A little something extra

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful, witty network of friends with ADHD. We all have varied opinions on what it’s like to live with ADHD, though some tend to focus more on the positive impact their diagnoses have had on them. My friend Angelyn calls her ADHD a “beautiful mess that keeps me on my toes.” Judith says it’s “an invisible, life-altering experience that has made me who I am and will always be.”

Some think that ADHD gives them an edge, like Thaen, who calls it “my superpower that allows me to [see] many different perspectives at once.”

A dose of creativity

While some people don’t see it as a superpower like Thaen, they do find that ADHD enhances — or perhaps even causes — their creativity. Speaking of, the most creative description came from my girl Aamaal, who described her ADHD like this, “Lucius Fox/Bruce Wayne phone tap monitor wall scene from “The Dark Knight” with craft supplies, a deep dive into life sciences, and live concert and radio streams spilling all over the place.” Try and unpack that one!

Courtney said that ADHD was like “the epitome of thinking outside of the box, creativity run rampant” for her.

It can be challenging, but I love how ADHD can help us think outside of the box and get creative despite our frustrations sometimes.

The battle for the brain

Speaking of frustrations, these descriptions wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t tell you what it feels like to be in a constant battle against your own brain. If you’re able to empathize with that sentiment, it may be that you’re like my buddy Chris, who suggested that to understand what ADHD feels like you should, “Put on your favorite podcast, then open up your favorite book, and read it ... while driving.” (Don’t actually do that, please.)

Ginnie’s description was one of my favorite visuals ever. She said, “Having ADHD is like having a toddler, a teenager, and an adult wrestling for control of the same brain, all at the same time.”

Dani knows that struggle well. She said, “I am ahead of schedule until I veer right and do that other thing instead. I'm getting things done, but nothing on my list. And, at the end of the day, my eyes are blurry and my brain foggy.”

Me and ADHD

My ADHD and I are in a different place lately. I’ve long thought of ADHD as an unwelcome guest in my home, leaving behind messes that I have to clean up. However, I recently came to the conclusion that this line of thinking isn’t productive. Why? Because when you have an unwelcome houseguest, you spend a great deal of energy trying to make them leave, and my ADHD is with me for life. It’s not going away, not ever, so I’ve had to change my mind about the way I view it.

Now, I think of my ADHD like a toddler I have to babysit. I have to supervise it constantly and make sure it doesn’t get into anything. Sometimes the toddler gets cranky, talks back to me, and won’t cooperate, but other days it’s peaceful. By not pushing away my symptoms and learning to accept them, I’m coming out of a lifetime of shame, and I’m able to see this part of me as something that I can live with harmoniously — instead of fighting a part of myself like a mortal enemy.

For more information on how to manage ADHD, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

ADHD-US-NP-00046 MARCH 2019