“If you would just focus, you could do this.” I remember being told this throughout my school years.
So I have to focus, focus on getting the work done. But then I begin to think about focus. Why can’t I focus? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? They said if I “just focus,” but how do I do that? How do I focus? So now I’m focusing on focus and trying to figure out how to focus. It’s like a never-ending horse race of wondering about focus. Horse races are in circles. Me focusing on focus. So I wonder who won the Kentucky Derby last year? That’s a big horse race. I remember going to Derby parties as a kid.
But man, those were some good parties. I miss those kinds of parties. Focus…that’s right. I need to focus on my work. Yes, math work. Damn that’s a lot of work. But all I have to do is focus. No, I’m not going to do this. I will do it later. Look, there’s a squirrel climbing the tree. I wonder what he’s doing. Looking for food? Is it a male or female? How do you tell on a squirrel? Focus on math. But the squirrel is over there and he’s cute.
That’s how my brain works about 85% of the time. Never does one thought not lead in 10 different directions. I’ve gotten better at reining them in, but there are days it’s exactly like the paragraph above.
So if you think attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (formerly called attention deficit disorder) is no big deal, that it’s an excuse or a cop-out for being lazy, please read the above paragraph. Imagine that every single day of your life, with every single thought you have during 90% of your waking hours. Then you might get a tiny glimpse of what it’s like to have ADHD or ADD.
My brain never stops. Sometimes it overwhelms me, and I get depressed. Depression is commonly linked with ADHD/ADD, as is anxiety. I happen to suffer from all three of those. It’s hard for people to understand how depressed it makes you feel to know you are smart enough to do something, to know you could do it, but your brain can’t and won’t stop enough to let you do it. I could’ve made straight As in school. I was more than smart enough, but my mind wanted more. It wanted different than the school gave me, so I did the least amount to get by so I had time to dive into what my brain wanted. It’s never stopped, ever. Even as an adult, I still do the same thing.
If you know someone who has ADHD, please don’t discount that diagnosis as “no big deal.” A person with ADHD can struggle just as much with their own mind as some people struggle with real physical pain. It challenges those who have it in ways most people will never understand. Just the fact that our brains won’t work as we want them to can make us sad and feel alienated.
So when we look like we’re listening but really aren’t, it’s because our brains might be about 100 miles down the road on 10 other topics. We aren’t being rude, but our brains, well, they have other plans.