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“Taming the Beast: How I Broke My ADHD Distractibility”

“So much of managing ADHD is learning how to tame the beast of distractibility, avoiding distractions before they can become opportunities for failure.”

I’m supposed to be writing an essay. But my gaze is toward the cold, clear window of my room. Small raindrops are smashing against it, and the ever-changing design of the rain has put me in a trance. I shake my head, trying to release myself from the hypnotizing display.

I must finish this assignment, but it is difficult for me to focus on such a mundane task. I look at the clock — it is not as late as my tired eyes and fatigue might suggest.

I push forward, but not before looking back at the clock one last time – and noticing a tiny scratch on the glass. How did that get there? I wonder. Did someone accidentally bump it off the wall? Throw something at it? They couldn’t have done it on purpose. So many possibilities! It then dawns on me that I have once again become distracted. My brain is jumping around way too much to focus.

Distracted and Distracting: My Wandering ADHD Mind

Living with ADHD is not easy. It impacts practically every aspect of life — school, work, relationships, and beyond. For me, distractions have been an enduring source of frustration, luring me away from a task and snapping shut when it’s caught me, preventing my escape and my ability to get much of anything done in a timely manner.

Though I’ve been a victim to distraction many a time, I’ve also been the distraction.

[Get This Free Download: How to Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No!’)]

I’m back in the third grade. I’m wriggling in my seat, wishing I could leap off my chair and dance along with the afternoon sun. My energetic mind needs more stimulation. I adjust my shoulders, rolling them back and forth. It’s not a smooth movement; it resembles the jerky motions of a squirrel. I roll my shoulders in short bursts, pausing between each roll. My fidgeting, fueled by a nuclear power plant’s worth of energy, leads me to start tapping the ragged eraser of my pencil on my desk — the tipping point for my teacher.

She calls out my name for all the class to hear, informing me of my irritating, distracting actions. I quickly put down my pencil, shoot up straight, and hold my shoulders still. But my head hangs low in embarrassment. I was blissfully unaware of what I was doing and how it was impacting other students.

Distractions: How I Tame the Beast

So much of managing ADHD is learning how to tame the beast of distractibility, avoiding distractions before they can become opportunities for failure. I try to keep my desk clean and work in “simple” environments. I go to quieter places to avoid being distracted by, or distracting, others. I also stay away from windows, for they are portals into a new and distracting world. I turn my phone on silent, and make good use of my headphones.

When I enter the campus library, I do so with determination, searching for the ideal spot – not a scenic view, nor a table to socialize, but one that gives me the fewest things to see. My back is turned toward the occasional student walking by.

[Read: How to Manage Your Distractions]

I lay out my laptop, my notebook, and my textbook on the table. I intentionally leave my phone in my bag to quelch its time-stealing potential. Putting on headphones, I play simple study music to drown out any noises from others in the room. It is just me and my homework now. I crack open the textbook and begin taking notes.

My brain is desperately seeking excuses to avoid doing this grueling task, but there is nowhere for it to go. I have cut myself off from the world of distractions. My homework is still boring, but at least I can get it done sooner, without the beast there to consume me.

Distractions: The Power of ADHD Medication

My ADHD medication is not a miracle drug. But with my prescription, I’ve sometimes been able to drift off into distraction — and pull myself back out.

I finish up the last bit of notes for math, and look up from my textbook. I give myself permission to stare off into a nearby window. The sun is still high in the sky, and there are bees buzzing around the flowers just outside the glass.

I watch the bees do their job for a moment, enjoying the short break. I listen to the wind chimes as they sway in the breeze. The bees and the chimes would have eaten away all my time in the past, but not today. I feel different, like I have more control. I know my mind will still drift off to distractions, but I can stir that loose steed back into the pasture quicker than before.

Distractions: Next Steps


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