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"I'm Waging a Civil War Inside My Brain"

ADHD is a perplexing, frustrating, and disruptive condition still too often questioned and misunderstood. We are smart, people say. We just need to try harder or stop procrastinating. If only it were that easy. Here's the truth about why we can't always do what is good for us.

14 Comments: "I'm Waging a Civil War Inside My Brain"

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been really struggling lately with how much to share about my ADHD. I often feel like people don’t get it or think it’s not real. And it certainly always feels real to me.
    I have been working on some articles for my blog about what it feels like to have ADHD and I had to double check that I didn’t write this one!

    My pharmacy was out of the Adderall I take so today I didn’t have my medication. Meanwhile, I spent 6 hours writing 2 huge blog articles without getting up once. at the other extreme, I can’t seem to get a sales page up to launch a program I’ve been trying to launch for 2 years.

    Like others, I hate the term “disorder.” I like to think of it as “attention direction difficulty” — my executive function sometimes makes the wrong choice about where to direct my attention.

    Love this site and the useful resources here.

    1. Re: Your “How much to share”….

      It’s a tough one, isn’t it? I have told a couple of people… friends… in desperation… as a way to get them off my back. Not sure they believe it. None have taken the time to properly read up on it, which I find disappointing and insulting actually. If you’re going to beat someone up about their behaviour and lifestyle, you might at least try to fully understand it.

      Most of my closer friends tend to be A types who do, do, do. Always doing. Multi-tasking and completing all of them. It isn’t deliberate on my part that I choose folks who are achievers, live orderly lives, have beautiful homes, gardens and work places, take on and complete projects… or maybe on some level, I am unconsciously attracted to them because they seem to hold the key to what is a locked door for me. Whatever the reason, it is a kind of hell much of the time.

      It’s a mystery to me that they have not come to terms with the fact that no one in their right mind (sorry to offend anyone… I use the term lightly) would CHOOSE to be late all the time; live in total chaos; not have anyone in their house for 15 years; hear sounds others can hardly detect; feel very agitated in noisy places;be ridiculously affected by people moving, tapping, clicking, rocking; never complete a project or deadline on time or with any grace/style; be financially wayward and living on the edge for years. Even if they believe ADD is a crock, how can they conclude that I, that anyone, would WANT to be like this as a way of life? It is mind boggling to me.

      The two I am closest to, don’t realize how disrespectful and hurtful their attempts to bully me into changing are. Both have offered to ‘help’ me sort out my house, etc., but only on their terms, in the ways they think are best…. essentially getting a truck and throwing things out. I hav pulled away from most everyone and feel myself retreating from them as well. Having every conversation or in the case of one of them, every dinner or gathering, turn into a “what are you going to do about the state of your house… why are you living like this… I will help you sort it”, always in front of other people, as they are somehow an accepted part of the ‘help team’.

      I feel as though I am being defined by this and although it is a major problem… major… for me… and is understandably frustrating for others, on top of all the regular negative thoughts and talk I have with myself, anger is becoming another issue. I NEVER criticize them for their flaws or point out weaknesses. Probably because I know if I did they’d be gone in a flash… criticism is a one way street with them…. but on the odd occasion when I have felt compelled to say something I have been respectful and thoughtful in the way I have shaped my words.

      Anyway, did not intend such a long response. Your question or comment about sharing the ADD with others clearly hit a nerve. Having found a reason, a basis for the way I have been since birth, it is devastating to have it dismissed by those who have read a lightweight magazine article on what is essentially my life.

      What have others done in this regard? To tell or not to tell?

  2. This is one reason why I really can’t stand the NAME, “Attention DEFICIT Disorder.” Because if we’re honest about it, we do NOT a deficit of attention! If we did, we wouldn’t be able to get lost for HOURS, doing things we can really engage with. (A lot of people say they can get lost and stay super-focused doing what they love; that’s true, but we can also engage with stuff we really don’t like, too–like arguing on social media. Or worry endlessly about stuff that likely will never happen. Or any other bad habit we can’t shake. And sometimes, even stuff we love to do can’t hold our attention, and we wonder why.)

    The issue really isn’t our deficit of attention; it being able to direct our attention span where it needs to be. It’s about getting our brains to engage with a task; finding the start point and following it through to the end point, without losing our way. I prefer the phrase, “Brain Engagement Spectrum Differential.” Because with all the tasks our brains must do, there’s a whole spectrum of ways our brains do or don’t engage with it.

    1. Hello combatTVgirl,
      I love what you had to say. You put into words what I’ve slaved mentally, trying to think of ways to explain.
      I have to be honest-I love the hyper focus most of the time, that is when it’s constructive. Other times, it keeps me locked into a loop of negativity, and I have to ask for help to get out of it.
      Thank you, as you made my day!


    2. CombatTVgirl – love your comment that perhaps the key is “finding a start point and following it through to the end point without losing our way.” So quotable I put it in my bullet journal. I think an extension of this is we need to turn many things that neurotypicals see as a simple task into mini-projects, at least until they become hardwired. Example: a neurotypical might simply put “Transplant Flowers” on their to-do list, whereas I need to put down “1. Find garden tools 2. Find potting soil 3. Layout tarp to work on etc.” Breaking it down into steps provides me that start point/end point I need to be less overwhelmed. If I am less overwhelmed, Im far more likely to do it.

  3. At 70 y.o., I can say that I would not trade my ADHD for anything less. While frustrating at times, I love my creativity and ability to think outside the box. I consider ADHD a gift, and not a disorder.

  4. We actually know there are six or seven types of ADHD that are mostly caused by an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. Other types can affect different parts of the brain (like the temporal lobes) and some types can develop after suffering a brain injury. The Amen Clinic has done extensive research that shows the brain activity of a person with a normal brain verses a person with an ADHD brain. It’s really fascinating, and Daniel Amen’s book explains it very well with examples and stories of each ADHD type. I highly recommend it if you couldn’t already tell lol.

  5. I like to think of ADHD as a wild powerful horse, maybe taming our wild horse is a good way of seeing it. On the other hand, maybe not, but calling it a disorder is demotivating.

    1. I was lucky enough to be the twelth child born just as WW11 was winding up. Male children were treasured at this time as were all children in our family. Encouragement and support from the 7 others who lived to their teens at home and my mother was unbelievably great Through the constant games and chores and the exposure to an extremely organized structured home I was able to learn how to tune into hyper focus when needed. It helped that i was interested in everything, fairly athletic in Team sports Ockey ,Baseball, ad Football, and excelled at swimming,.a river cottage that e rented for $100 a summer, honed those hyperfocus tools til i could memorize virtuallyeverything I heard in class and complete homework while still in middle school without ever taking a book home or a sngle note in class. Punished often in school for talking and given a 0 in one math exam for usiing a pencil instead of a pen, Pan ahead 60 years i an now memorize 110 pieces of classical and modern music Bass parts to pieces 3 to 20 pages long without ever taking them home to practice.
      What made hyperfocus a switch that i control in me.
      What if hyperfocus is a muscle. What if we can turn it on at will.
      Has anyone else felt that way.
      Oh yes like many other famous ADHDers I am ambidextrous (lefthandeded ) due to an accident as a toddler broke my left arm. One less piece of the puzzle .one larger amygdala

  6. I’m 75 years old. When I was a kid, ADHD had probably not been identified, or if it had, most people didn’t know about it. To my parents and my teachers, my ADHD (inattentive type, or ADD) were called laziness, irresponsibility, not trying and not caring. I bought in to the story, and thought that was true.
    I tried not to be those things, but it kept happening. The best I could do was deny it and hide it, which often didn’t work.
    I even got through graduate school in counseling, and could tell you the symptoms, but didn’t recognize it in myself. After graduation, I diagnosed a lot of people with ADHD, and still didn’t see my own, until one day I said, “Hey, I do all those things.”

    I had a blood pressure problem, and couldn’t handle the amphetamines, but I read about Strattera, and asked a doc for that. It’s expensive, even with insurance, but I recently read that the FDA has approved four generic producers of amoxatine (Strattera) and it will soon be cheap. What once was around $200 will be around $30 a month.

  7. Another element demonstrating it is real is a range of symptoms other than inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. There is insomnia in children, in greater proportion than in most other children. On average, ADHD kids tend to be smaller than others. There may be other characteristics that suggest this is not just an excuse.

    1. With regards to your insomnia comment….

      I am 66 years old. As a child… from day one till perhaps 10 years or so….. I functioned on only a few hours sleep… which meant so did my family. My parents were 40 when they had me and my maternal grandparents both lived with us… you can imagine how my sleeplessness affected the household. I would get up and ‘bake a cake like my mothers’ at 2am when I was 4 years old… rearrange the furniture in rooms…. go outside (fenced area) and play in the dirt or swing in a hammock in the middle of the night. At the age of 3 years much to my horror in thinking about it now I was put on phenobarb to help me sleep! Essentially it sped me up.

      As I got older I did sleep but it was very hard to get there and I often woke up. In my teen years I turned night into day… staying awake till all hours and eventually mid to late teens slept most of the day and was out & about during the night with like minded friends. After that I was a night owl and have returned to that in recent years.

      We all know the importance of good sleep…. endless articles on the subject. I’m sure most of us are affected by the quality of ours as ADD folks and I’m sure it impacts us in all sorts of ways. I watch myself NOT doing the things I ought to to help with this. Watching t.v. or on the computer in the evening… binge watching… getting up when I awaken during the night to watch “just one more episode” and finding myself still there hours later.

      How about you genedoug?

  8. One element demonstrating that ADHD is real, is that stimulants tend to calm a person with ADHD, where they would stimulate another person. Conversely, sedatives tend to stimulate some persons with ADHD, while another person would be sedated or anesthetized.

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