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03 February 2004 @ 04:55 pm
What it feels like to have ADD  
Xposted to adults_add, naturally.

This is in response to gowashfam's question earlier.

I have ADD Inattentive; I'm not hyperactive either.

What I told my mother once:
I feel like I have been chained and gagged and locked up in a basement by my worst enemy. This enemy looks and sounds just like me. This enemy then proceeds to live my life in my place; going to work, interacting with my friends and family, taking care of my house. And with every minute of every day, this enemy of mine who looks exactly like me works to ruin my life.

She holds me down and keeps me from doing household chores; I can hear her laughing at my futile attempts to break free. She ties me up in yards and yards of thick cotton wool in the morning, so that I have to claw my way out of bed, and I always get up late. She offends anybody who she doesn't ignore, and disrespects all of the people who I respect the most. On the few occasions when she lets me loose, I am so harried and upset that I seem like a madwoman to those who care about me. She humiliates and discredits me with every moment she keeps me in bondage.

When I take medication, it knocks her out, sometimes for weeks at a time. When that happens, I slowly creep out of the basement. And then, I am faced with the task of correcting everything that she has broken in my stead. I have to build my credit again; I have to earn my respect again; I have to mollify all my loved ones and re-build all of my bridges. I am never completely successful, because it is easier to tarnish than it is to shine. And as hard as I try, it is impossible for me to entirely and permanently convince my loved ones that the enemy isn't me.
Another description I gave my therapist once:
My brain is like an erratic puppy on a threadbare leash. I sit down to a task, and look at it. Within seconds, my brain wanders off in some direction, and I notice it and pull on the leash to haul it back to where the task is. It doesn't take long at all for it to decide there's something interesting happening in some other direction, and off it goes... I notice, and drag it back again, a bit more forcefully.

When it trots off in yet a third direction, I not only yank it back hard, I also give it a bit of a smack to remind it to behave. My brain sits in front of the task, glumly, for a full five minutes before it notices something else. This pattern continues, and the leash is fraying badly all the time, and I'm getting tired of dealing with the task and my brain at the same time.

Finally, my puppyish brain spots a cat nearby, and it tears away with all the force of a steam engine, and the leash just rips like nothing, leaving me helpless to draw it back. Then, I have to spend hours finding it again, and by the time I do track it down, the task is late, it's gotten dark, and I'm too exhausted to do any more work. And the last thing I can tell my superior is, "You don't understand, I had to deal with this horribly annoying invisible puppy ALL DAY!"
Another description:
ADD, to me, feels like the descriptions that I have read of Parkinson's Disease. That is to say, with Parkinson's, your muscles experience two simultaneous and overwhelmingly compelling forces: fierce movement and blunt paralysis. I heard someone call it the Goad and Halter effect... like a horse that is both being pulled up on its haunches by the harness while also being viciously whipped on the flank. The result is an extremely tense stillness, or tense very slight movement.

That's what it often feels like inside my brain. When I get stressed out, or if I'm put under any kind of pressure, my brain goes into Goad and Halter mode. I feel a furious compulsion to think, to work, to act, to be productive... to MOVE. Simultaneously, I feel a stupefyingly heavy requirement to stay put, to sleep, to drift, to daydream, to goof off, to PARALYZE. The two forces are at war, and as a result, I stay still, or move slowly, but with incredible energy and tension behind me at all times.

That's what's going on when I sit, quietly, playing Freecell for nine hours straight because of an English paper that I am supposed to be writing. Nobody would ever know to look at me. But if someone tries to talk to me or touch me in that kind of state of mind, I either jump and scream, or respond in a kind of slow motion panic. I am completely locked up, mental gears painfully jammed up and overheating, and there are only two outcomes: I either somehow find a way to pull the wrench and get things going again (I'm gradually getting better at this, but it's still far too infrequent that I succeed) or else the works stay locked up until the whole engine smokes and catches fire and shuts down, sparks flying, broken in a few dozen places and damaged in a hundred others.

That's when I fall completely apart and call in sick the next day; generally it takes several days to recover. Which doesn't help my situation in the least, of course. And to people who are used to seeing results from "trying harder", it's difficult for me to explain that the harder I try, the faster my brain locks up.
It wears many different faces, doesn't it? The days last week when I was having such a hard time, I went through what felt like all three descriptions, in succession.

At any rate... I hope that helps. I like metaphors, they tend to help me.
Current Mood: awakeawake
Laurabandie528 on February 3rd, 2004 09:56 pm (UTC)
btw, I memoried this.

You say the things I never find the words for.

And have I mentioned the fact that I'm envious of you because you can read books? Because I made it through that one that George wanted me to read, and I can't stomach another one. At all. I try, and I open it and look at the page and go "ugh" and need to walk away. Or turn on the television or some random movie.


I've gotten better at minesweeper though! :D
Wiseacreewin on February 3rd, 2004 10:09 pm (UTC)
Well, may I say that I'm envious of you because you finish crocheting projects? :) I love to start crocheting, but I have yet to finish something.

We all have our strengths!
Laurabandie528 on February 3rd, 2004 10:12 pm (UTC)

It's easier to do something for someone else than myself. I still haven't finished a scarf for myself. I have three laying around, unfinished.
Stephanie Wukovitzsebab on February 3rd, 2004 11:45 pm (UTC)
your describe it so well. any objection to sending the third description in an email to my SO?
Wiseacreewin on February 4th, 2004 05:38 pm (UTC)
Not in the least, that's why I made it pub. Thank you... I probably need to send it to my own SO if he didn't read it carefully. ;)
Wiseacreewin on February 4th, 2004 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oops! Sorry, I responded to this from e-mail... what I mean was, that's why I posted the OTHER version of this as public, when I posted it to adults_add.
The Mezzaninedeird1 on August 29th, 2008 03:48 am (UTC)
Wow. That's one three of the best analogies I've ever seen.

*adds to mems*
Innana88innana88 on August 29th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
I've actually used the puppy one myself. It is nice to see someone else describe it the same way. And number 3...yeah, that's it. That's exactly it. Thank you for sharing this!