If My Brain Were a Car

ADHD is tough to understand — even (maybe especially) for those of us who have it. In middle school, it’s easy to resent your ADHD brain. And I do sometimes. But I also work hard to recognize how it makes me faster, stronger, and more resilient.
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What It Feels Like to Have ADHD in Middle School

I am Jackson J., an 8th grade student who has ADHD. I have had ADHD as long as I remember. I want to change the perception other people have towards ADHD. I have had a hard time in school the past years. ADHD has affected a lot of my life in good and bad ways. I now believe that ADHD is not a disability, it makes your brain have a different capability for creating solutions for things we thought were an impossibility.

A normal person’s brain is like a commuter driving to work in the morning very civilly and respectfully. He drives the same route and arrives one or two minutes early. Then there is my brain.

My brain also starts driving to work each day. But after about an hour, he gets out and looks around to see he's in a jungle 200 miles away from his work and he has no idea how he got there. This is the best way I can describe that feeling I get when I finally snap back to attention after drifting away in thought; I am so far away that it is questionable how I got there.

I like analogies (and cars and computers), so here is another one: My brain is like a 10 terabyte hard drive (that is 10 times 1,000 gigabytes, which is a huge amount) with an extremely fast processor, which means that I’m thinking about one thing and then eight seconds I'm thinking about something completely different. Like a super-fast computer, I can have countless applications open, running at top speed all the time and I never slow down — until I crash. But if you have a slower processor (like the normal person’s brain), you only do the things you absolutely need because every program and document takes a long time to open and execute. You do one thing at a time; you work linearly. I work like a firecracker explosion.

My brain goes on thinking rampages. I start at one place, say a math problem. The next thing I know I’m thinking about how I’m going to play airsoft with my buds in Los Angeles during Thanksgiving. Before that math worksheet is complete, my brain has visited 100 different places — all at top speed. The other computers (aka brains) in the room just focused on finishing and turning in a correct math sheet.

Though I can’t always control it, I’m always aware of my mind’s speed and scattered attention. And what that’s built up in me is a persistent and deep fear of messing up. Nobody likes to hear in their head, “HEY, YOU CAN’T DO YOUR WORK PROPERLY! HAH.” So I steer clear of tasks that I know will be tough. And when my mom asks me what I’m thinking about, I say “nothing” because my whole life I’ve been yelled at because I wasn’t doing or thinking about the right thing. I was thinking about other stuff or I was off task or I did something REALLY STUPID.

It all adds up. I’m afraid to do things wrong. So when my mom asks me, “What do you want to talk about?” I say, “I don’t know,” because I don’t want to say something that will make her judge me. Now, I’m not saying my mom judges me. It’s just that my brain is so used to being in trouble that it doesn’t want to mess up again.

One thing I get in trouble for constantly: fidgeting. In class, I do angel hands, play with my fingers, shake around, make faces, pick up anything and do anything with it, etc. If I’m not doing something (anything), my brain thinks I'm trying to go to sleep. It will actually start turning off. Sometimes reading is stimulating enough. Sometimes, thinking is stimulating enough. But sitting in class and just listening makes my brain literally start to fall asleep. It's crazy.

Some kids I know drink soda to stay awake, but caffeine has the opposite effect on me. It makes me very calm. I’ve also heard that ADHD brains get addicted a lot faster than any other brain. For example, my mom recently had to bring in all of the armed forces to unglue me from my new computer screen. Just kidding, but you get the point. We get addicted a lot faster. It might be because we need to be doing something all of the time.

This need for stimulation is not all bad, though. If there is a project that I really want to do on cars (I love cars and know a lot about them), then I use this thing called hyperfocus. What this does is make me use all of my brain and block out everything else. So right now writing this I am hyperfocused. But when I started this paragraph, I stopped to think about the good things of ADHD and I literally felt myself go out of focus. It’s kind of like getting yanked out of a deep sleep or meditation. It almost feels like you just ran the mile and you're regaining all your life back into you, only without the physical pain.

It’s pretty hard to explain, but the bottom line is I am focusing so hard it drains the energy out of me. When I come out of a focus like that I can feel the gates open and thoughts barrel into my brain at a million miles an hour. Hyper focus blocks out my thoughts. I can use it in school, but it’s difficult when I'm going in and out of focus to listen to what people have to say.

The bottom line is that ADHD isn’t all bad. And just because you have ADHD doesn’t mean you should change who you are. ADHD doesn’t disable you and it doesn’t make you a shy reflection of who you really are. It’s just like learning to code: You can’t go in thinking you can fix everything, and you may need help. Most importantly, you need knowledge. The trick is getting knowledge to fly into your brain half as fast as all those thoughts do.

 
 
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