What is it like?

I’ve heard the question posed from time to time “what does it feel like to have ADHD?”. No one has ever, to my memory, asserted this enquiry in my direction, but to be fair, anyone vaguely acquainted with me would know that asking that sort of question would result in too many minutes of their life spent being monologued at. It’s a question that intrigues me, since I have no idea what it feels like to have ADHD. I may as well ask you what it feels like to be neurotypical. Like you, I have no baseline for comparison – I have only ever been this way, so how would I know what it’s like to be any other way. Since my ‘condition’ is down to genetics and wiring, rather than affectation and learned behaviour, I can’t simply try being neurotypical out for size, in the same way as a neurotypical person forgetting their keys is not the same as momentarily being ADHD. And here’s the reason the why the question fascinates me. What you’re really asking is what it’s like to have a different type of brain (ADHD, ASD, colour blindness, dyslexia, left handedness). And I’m particularly fascinated by one type of brain – the neurotypical brain. Neurotypical people are a wondrous enigma with their weird ways. Here’s some:

Queuing: Imagine being able to just stand in a queue and wait for something. IMAGINE! I have been known, when presented with a queue of people waiting to get something that I REALLY want, even if it looks only to be a shortish wait, to either give up completely on having that thing or, should it be available elsewhere, to trek for miles to get it there instead. Neurotypical people – how do you queue? How do you deal with the crushing pain of surging impatience? The anxiety that the person one person ahead of you will have something REALLY LONG AND IMPORTANT to say to the person at the counter? Do you think about other things than the mental torment and endless frustration of being stuck, powerless, humiliated and tormented? How?

Hobbies: I think that one is only supposed to have one or two hobbies, or even none! How is this done? How do you sustain interest in a single subject for any period without getting distracted by 20 others? Is there a knack to passively enjoying a pastime over and over, getting the same level of delight out of it every time? How do you choose the SINGLE BLOODY THING THAT YOU’LL DO OVER AND OVER UNTIL SUCH TIME THAT YOU HAVE NOT ENERGY LEFT TO DO IT?

Boring stuff: the physical pain that is caused by doing dull, repetitive tasks – is it just a dull ache for you, rather than the stabbing, electrified sensory assault that is normal? Do you subdue your fear of doing finances, or workplace bureaucracy with medication like me? Or do you have some other method of quelling the anguish, stress and physical discomfort?

Listening: When you are “listening” to someone, what do you actually think about to stop yourself from talking over them with whatever is on your mind? On the occasion where you do start talking, how do you just say a few appropriate words rather than just rabbiting on about some vaguely related bollocks? How do you “listen” and focus on what is being said without your brain darting around a hundred different things, most not related to the matter in hand? Is there some special technique for that?

Thinking: What does it feel like to just have one thought at a time? How do you decide on that thought, and then sustain it for a period of time? How do you have thoughts about stuff that it’s important to have thoughts about, even when it’s not something you really want to think about? When you sit there an think, do your bowels loosen as your excitement and stress level rocket at whatever it is in your head at that moment?

Concentration: so I get that neurotypical people can concentrate. We have something in common, I can concentrate too! So here’s my question: how do you stop concentrating on something? I’ve seen you people break away concentration when it’s appropriate to do so, and it seems so easy! Then you just go back to what you were doing, so cool! I’m in awe, seriously. Also, how do you concentrate on the thing that you’re supposed to be concentrating on? And when you’ve been hyper-focused for days on one thing that you weren’t supposed to be doing, and no one can get through to you even when addressing you directly, and you’re exhausted and disappointed with yourself for having wasted so much time on doing something when other people would rather you were doing something else, how do you make everything OK? How do you make sure you don’t get fired, or dumped or whatever? Is there a special method for this? And when someone makes you concentrate on something that you’re not really interested in (even though you may have been obsessed and passionate about it days before) for long periods of time, how do you deal with that crushing depression, rabid anxiety, creeping paranoia, self-loathing and incipient inadequacy at not being able to do something so simple and common place? Thoughts please!

I’m genuinely curious. I often surreptitiously observe neurotypical people in wonder, trying to figure out what’s going on in their heads? Someone should do a study or something…

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