If Having Adult ADHD Was Hard Before, It's Been Amplified By The Pandemic

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
If Having Adult ADHD Was Hard Before, It's Been Amplified By The Pandemic
Scary Mommy and Peter Griffith/Getty

I have ADHD severe enough that I take the FDA’s highest permitted long-acting dose of methamphetamines, and I still have trouble functioning on a regular day. Having ADHD during a pandemic makes basic living and adulting far, far more difficult at a time when our basic living and adulting skills are most needed. I can drive other people bonkers. They can drive me bonkers. ADHD and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, especially in women, with one fueling the other. Caffeine keeps me sane. Caffeine prevents me from drinking enough actual, vital liquid. I forget all the things all the time because generally I can’t even remember what day it is, let alone what week.

An Example of ADHD During a Pandemic

I am writing this essay at 3am the day after it was due. There are several very good reasons for this.

First, I can’t sleep. This is common. According to ADDitude Magazine, about 75% of people with ADHD say they can’t “shut off my mind so I can fall asleep at night.” Try having ADHD during a pandemic and see what happens. You’re either obsessing about the pandemic, or obsessing about other things so as not to obsess about the pandemic. In my case, I fall asleep rapidly (thank you, modern medicine), and wake around 3am with racing thoughts. I’m already awake; I might as well write.

I also forgot what day it was. No, I literally forgot what day it was. Everyone jokes that staying home during COVID-19 has jolted time into meaninglessness. For those of us with ADHD, time was a problem anyway, and with no external cues, it becomes this strange ocean rather than a moving river.

And even if I had remembered the date, I couldn’t remember if my work was due that day, anyway. I had to check. So I was singing “Substitute,” freaking out, and scrolling like a madwoman all at the same time. Those of us with ADHD are champion multitaskers.

Hobbies Become Obsessions

I’m a writer. I write a lot. Like, a lot. Like, to the exclusion of many other normal human activities — and this is on a regular day. It’s called hyperfocus: the “experience of deep and intense concentration among some people with ADHD” according to Healthline. Having ADHD during a pandemic seems to exacerbate it. Maybe we need a mental escape. Maybe we can’t cope with the social isolation. Maybe we’re chewing our goddamn nails off because we can’t even drive around and sing “Under Pressure” really loud, which is what we usually do when we need to calm the hell down.

Maybe that’s me. Anyway.

My husband’s ADHD is nearly as severe as mine. So while I sit on a hammock on the front porch and pound on my keyboard like that Kermit gif, my husband has erected a complicated woodshop in our carport and has begun building All The Things. Tables. Bookcases. Lap desks. Stilts. He’s currently ginning up some extremely complicated UV sterilization box involving wood, mylar, duct tape, a UV light, a fan, and bizarre Amazon purchases I no longer question.

Our children, who also have ADHD, are currently so into Metroid on old school Nintendo — with my oldest playing, my middle son navigating, and my youngest watching like this is The Greatest Story Ever Told — that my middle son literally paid my oldest to play the game yesterday. Having ADHD during a pandemic does some weird stuff to you.

Having ADHD During a Pandemic Gives Me a Relationship With Caffeine

An intense one: I’m either looking at my cup of coffee and saying, “Caffeine, you’re my only friend,” or glaring at it with resentment and singing, “Hello darkness my old friend.”

I drink a lot of caffeine. I wake up to coffee. I continue drinking coffee. In the middle of the afternoon, if I don’t drink one of those Monster Energy drinks, I crash hard. I struggle to drink regular things, to the point that we’ve realized I’m most likely, in the absence of available Starbucks black tea, to consume sugar-free blue Gatorade. We have to buy it from Amazon in giant packages with single-serving packets, like Splenda or something. Having ADHD during a pandemic usually means I’m so busy focusing on writing or parenting or six other things that I forget to drink it, anyway.

Having ADHD During a Pandemic Means Losing Vital Items

Sounds stupid, right? How could you lose your wallet or car keys or prescription sunglasses or driver’s license in your own goddamn house?

Don’t use it for a week. Then see what happens.

We don’t go out. So, we forget things you need to go out. Like the aforementioned car keys and wallets. I’m forever losing my CBD vape pens. Speaking of pens, where the hell are mine? Oh yeah, the ever-bored children stole them again.

You Think You Had a Reason To Be Distracted Before?

Y’all, I can video-call my friends in the middle of the day and they will pick up. We can talk forever! Or I can decide that, since my kids are playing Metroid, I need to show them the “All Your Base” video:

And did you know you could make T-shirts on! So then I needed to make an “All Your Base” T-shirt, because one of my favorite distraction hobbies is making T-shirts with disaffected slogans on Canva. This led to a deep dive down the interwebs.

A swim in the depths of the internet is a problem for everyone. Having ADHD during a pandemic means that it lasts for hours. Don’t even get me started on what can happen if I get hold of TikTok. I had to uninstall that thing from my phone.

Basically: imagine a pandemic, but with everything turned up to eleven.

And your house is still a mess, because cleaning it is not an interesting task. If you have ADHD during a pandemic, or ADHD anytime, really, you save your focus for interesting tasks. Laundry is not one of them. Sorry, kids. Go dig a shirt out of those baskets again.

Who are we kidding? You weren’t going to wear a shirt anyway. Unless it’s that “All Your Base” tee, of course.

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