I’ve struggled for years trying to find the perfect way to explain ADHD to friends and family, or at least to myself. Not ADHD as a whole, complete and beautiful mess – no, just a certain slice of life living with ADHD. What I try to express poetically and succinctly is the progression of understanding of the depth to which ADHD (and all his buddies in his little red wagon) affects one’s life.
Here’s a scenario, laid out in likely steps:
- Jim is unaware, undiagnosed, and wondering why life is a struggle.
- Jim learns about ADHD, is thinking maybe that’s the issue, and reflects on things.
- Jim realizes it’s much worse than he previously thought, so he seeks out professional guidance and that leads to a diagnosis.
- Jim gets more of a grasp of how his life is affected by ADHD, focusing on the here and now.
- Upon living with this knowledge, Jim gradually comes to other realizations (‘That’s why my marriage failed!’)
- Jim seeks out more aggressive meds, therapy, exercise, etc.
- Jim realizes more and more how deep this thing goes. VERY deep.
- Eventually Jim sees that EVERY facet of his life and love has been affected in some way by his ADHD.
This may not be everyone’s experience. But it’s what I’ve lived, in broad strokes, and I have a feeling that it may resonate with more than a few ADHD sufferers. Essentially, the more I lived knowing about my ADHD, and the more I learned about it, the more areas of my life (choices, mistakes, breakdowns, relationships, etc.) were illuminated as having been impacted in some way.
I hadn’t been able to think about a fitting metaphor or analogy. Was it like flashlight in the dark – in that the more I shone a light on dark corners, the more I learned about this disorder and its role in my life? And the more I learned, the bigger and brighter my flashlight became? Not really, but that was the closest I could get.
Then Covid19 hit. And of course, it didn’t hit all at once. We’ve all seen how it unfolded.
First there were a few cases, then a few more, then a lot more. All far away. Good to know about, but surely it would be dealt with. But things got worse. Much worse. It travelled. People were dying. Gradually people started thinking about the impact of this virus on their lives. For me, it was a constant readjusting of my response. Stores closing, schools closing, offices closing. A gradual increase of awareness of how big and how dangerous this thing really was – and could become. And eventually it got so big that it became the biggest thing. It became everything.
This is where I see parallels with ADHD – or rather, a sufferer’s understanding of ADHD. I may think I have a handle on things, and life is going relatively smoothly – and then bam, some facet of my ADHD shows itself, and suddenly I’m in a spiral of depression, guilt, and emotion. When I reflect on it, I realize that I need to increase my awareness, learn to identify triggers that I hadn’t considered before. I need to lockdown.
This can be done in retrospect, too. Suddenly a cringe-worthy scene from adolescence, and after years of wondering why it played out the way it did, can be illuminated by a new understanding of the reaches of the disorder. ‘This thing is bigger than I previously thought. I’m going to need more tools to fight it’.
Does having his analogy help me? Yes. It helps me to steel myself to face other challenges. It makes things clearer. It has taught me to never underestimate my disorder.
I would love to hear your metaphors or analogies about life with ADHD in the comments below. Thanks for reading!