What It’s Like to Have an ADHD Brain

Most often, though, it’s half-baked big ideas that turn my mind into a clown car. Ideas for work. Ideas for a new book. Ideas for the nursery for a baby who doesn’t exist yet. The world is full of endless possibilities to contemplate, and my brain has no idea where to put them all. They just tumble around in there like balls in a lottery machine.

In the ADHD brain, the team is short-staffed.

Tuning things out is another formidable task. William Dodson, MD, an adult ADHD specialist in Denver, Colorado, writes in ADDitude that many people with ADHD have amplified senses, making it hard for us to block out stimulation. I hate shirt tags. I don’t like being touched unexpectedly. Loud music in the morning stresses me out. I turn my phone upside down on my nightstand so I can’t see the gently pulsing light as it charges. Ambient noise is my escape from nocturnal household sounds — ticking clocks are torture, and I live in fear of night-owl neighbors with booming baritone voices. Even in winter, I would sleep with an oscillating fan facing the wall until my husband bought me a white-noise machine.

I’ve developed good habits. I take medication. I make to-do lists every morning. My desk is plastered in sticky notes. I don’t play music while I work — I’ll just end up listening to it — but my trusty fan helps muffle the sound of my brain arguing with itself. I keep pages upon pages of overlapping projects. It’s not uncommon for individuals with ADHD to have trouble visualizing an entire task from start to finish. I pick up one thread, follow it for a bit, grab several more along the way, and before I know it, I’m holding a tangled ball of yarn. As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed the patience to occasionally pull a thread free.

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