As you probably know, I’m a mum of three children. Two are diagnosed with ADHD and one is neurotypical. I am literally on a mission to raise understanding and awareness of ADHD. On social media (Twitter and Instagram) I asked the question, ‘What does it feel like to have ADHD from people who know?’.
The response was so overwhelming, I felt I had to share it with everyone. For me it was an insight into how my children must feel and to be honest, I cried. I mean I know the fact and figures etc, but to get inside the head of someone with ADHD, it just sounds truly exhausting. A daily battle. The fact that ADHD is still so misunderstood, that our children have to first suffer a label of being lazy or naughty, breaks my heart. Please take a moment to read some of the amazing quotes, all anonymous. I am so grateful that they shared this with me.
It took a lot of years for me to be able to cope having ADHD. I couldn’t settle always on the go, having 10 projects going at the same time and unable to focus or get bored really quick. Trouble sleeping with 1000’s of thoughts going on inside my head. But that was just me
I’m 42 and was diagnosed last year. Right now, I’m just sad because my mind is at the same time my most valuable tool (creative, etc) and worst enemy (shame for not being “normal”, not being to control feelings or thoughts). I wish I had known about my ADHD when I was a child.
I have no concept of time & I can’t just “fix” it. As an adult, this causes my low self worth.
I can’t explain exactly how I feel but I’m going to try… Having ADHD feels very….. isolating, emotionally draining, exhausting and annoying… When trying to get others to understand what is going on inside my head i end up going round in circles, it makes me feel even more like a weirdo…nobody can be bothered to educate themselves on what complexities ADHD symptoms/traits create on a daily basis.
If I had to have ago at trying to get someone to understand what it feels like I would have them sit in a quiet room and start doing some work sheets, then I would bring in a choir, allow them to sing their hearts out, then I would introduce a band, whilst with all the noises going, I would keep reminding them constantly to sit down and sit still, focus… After that I’d believe that they would understand what it’s like being inside the head of someone who suffers with ADHD…
Our minds have constant emotions and anxiety racing round, they don’t stop they just get louder, they become more and more intense… the emotions become very extreme and strong, there’s no way off “ignoring” them.. we don’t have a choice. It’s like we have 4 different conversations in our heads at a time and we can’t mute them… that’s why we can’t just sit still, stop talking, start focusing more… it’s like you’re setting unrealistic goals and expectations for those who have ADHD.
It’s like asking someone who doesn’t speak English to read you a book fluent English… it’s impossible… unless you communicate and support us in our journey of learning our differences we aren’t ever going to meet your expectations…there is no in between if you’re happy then you’re very happy, but if your sad you’re really sad…it is intense for us and the people who care about us! Having ADHD makes things hard, it feels like you are living a curse at times. It feels disappointing, depressing… but there’s so much more to us than just our ADHD.
Guilt/shame spiral followed by hyper focus vortex. If any of these comments resonate with you personally I’d look into your own diagnosis. I didn’t realize I had adhd until I became a mom!
My brother’s always had it. Two things he told me. Stimulants (like caffeine) calm him down. And years ago there was a TV commercial about ADHD that said it was like watching tv while someone else randomly changes the channel constantly. Accurate.
Lots of confusion, lots of overthinking failures/shortcomings, lots of unhelpful energy, lots of hyperactive moments where I’m super productive followed by moments where I can’t catch any thoughts and feel like a failure. Lots of setting unrealistic expectations for myself.
Constantly being overwhelmed and exhausted. I know I’m smart, I know I’m capable. But what other people can do routinely or subconsciously feels like a Herculean effort to me.
I used to be a musician, so… My brain is too complicated and convoluted: In order to verbalize simple thoughts/feelings, they have to travel through a French horn while everyone else gets to use a trombone.
Honestly the best way I can describe it, it’s like hearing noise even in deafening silence. When I’m super stressed and have lots to do, my mind cannot focus on one subject and so shuts down. Even in a very quiet room, I can’t even hear myself think due to the loudness of my mind
Imagine being tired all the time, and having amazing ideas constantly, imagines knowing that you’re super capable but can’t get anything started and then because you have all these ideas… You just don’t do anything, and feel tortured about it. And there will be self torture.
ADHD can feel like.. Having to put more effort than our peers just to keep our heads above water Constantly negotiating w our minds to complete every day tasks due to executive dysfunction Low self-esteem bc ADHD effects every aspect of our lives & we’re often seen as lazy
Feel a million different things, senses full open, no filters. Or I’m all in my head. It’s the things I am blind to that neurotypicals take for granted that makes for a good deal of the suffering.
Like you are on a different frequency from others. They’re too slow and fast for you at the same time. And you are too slow and fast for them too. It’s a bizarre feeling of just being on different planes.
I have so much thinking at all times, I can’t remember stuff I want to remember when I need to though, and there’s never quiet. Sometimes I get really obsessed with something then it goes away. Relationships are hard.
This is what I tell my head guy. There is Practical Me and Impractical Me. The first one has grand plans and firing on all cylinders. The other is the opposite always procrastinating and no follow through. The two are in a constant struggle.
Constant buzzing in my brain. Swimming through treacle to get to thoughts. Things that aren’t in my immediate field of vision fail to exist. Time has no meaning.
It feels like… being *just* behind *just* out of the loop *just* missing something like your missing information everyone knows.
The best way I can explain it, and it’ll sound weird, but: Everything in my mind is happening around the world I’m in. It becomes harder to focus on what’s in front of me the more is going on around me.
No fewer than 7 trains. Of thought running at the same time, all while being completely unable to sit still.
For me, a mix of extreme difficulties focusing on anything that doesn’t interest me, absolute fixation with what does. It can be 3am and instead of attending to unpaid bills or work emails I’m writing a spoof of a JFK speech which I might hate by the time I try to record it.
Imagine you opened your browser & saw 100 different tabs & remembered each & every tab and why you started each search.
Kind of like fireworks…. one goes off and you are admiring it and then bam another one is going off and you weren’t quick finished with the first one. Things just pop in my mind or I’m already doing or saying something without thinking about it. As a kid I would all of a sudden be so hyper and I didn’t know how I got there.
I liken the inside of my brain to the chaos of the stock market floor. Several lines of thought running at all time, lots of bids for my attention constantly, and when it all becomes to much to handle 🤯🤯 but on the positive side I can see patterns in human behaviour, design, politics, etc. That others can’t see as easily. I also have been likening my brain speed to when you listen to a podcast at x1.5 it’s quick but it has advantages and disadvantages.
It’s like having 100000 podcasts all playing at the same time in your head and they are all arguing with eachother. It’s also feeling “buzzy” on the inside as my son’s puts it! It’s wanting to do everything at once but finding it too hard to decide where to start so you so nothing. Then it’s being utterly and completed absorbed by 1 particular thing and nothing else exists.
It feels overwhelming cause there is so many thoughts coming in at the same time. It takes intense concentration to get stuff done sometimes. If there are ways to increase dopamine throughout the day that helps.
It feels like knowing I can do anything, everything even. I am amazing and talented and capable of magnificence, but I can’t find my keys, and I forgot to put on deodorant, and we needed to leave 10 minutes ago but the van is still covered in ice and snow and the kids are playing with the crap lying all over the front hall instead of putting their socks and shoes on and omg I forgot to fill out the permission form and I need to email the doctor and I haven’t done my blood work yet and we are out of milk, bread and toilet paper… and on and on forever….
It feels like everything coming at you all at once at equal velocity and not being able to differentiate between any of it and being expected to be able to on a moments notice.
I have ADD, it feels like my brain is in a fog a lot of the time, I can walk tight past some garbage on the counter and my brain won’t be like HEY WE NEED TO PUT THAT AWAY! My brain doesn’t even see it so I have to make am extra effort to actually put the garbage away. I have to put like 3 alarms on my phone to remember an appointment, I can remember a lot from my childhood but have trouble remembering current things or things I need to get done.
When my to do list gets overwhelming (which it almost always is) I just get super tired and I don’t know where to start so I procrastinate. I can also hyper-focus on things like scrolling endlessly on social media because I don’t know what it feeds, but it feeds SOMETHING in my brain 😂
I also do the same with drawing, I’ll ignore everything else going on around me while drawing if I don’t give myself limits (I usually give myself one section to work on and then put it down to try and get something done) also I have such a hard time understanding math, when I’m helping my kids and look at a math question my brain feels like it just goes blank, and if it’s a written question about math I have to read it over and over again until it makes sense to me. I don’t know if this helps or not but I figured I would share!
The thing is I can’t remember so much what my ADHD was like as a kid! But all I remember was that my imagination was crazy. I was always day dreaming (so that’s the mind racing). I would always twiddle my hair in school and day dream if I hated the subjects. If I loved something I could sit and do something for hours! Also I had (and still so ) such loooooow self esteem. Look up rejection sensitivity dysphoria if you haven’t yet. The negative thoughts stay with you and I wish I was praised more for my efforts
Fast… all the time, but only knowing because you get yelled at for being fast .. all the time
For me I’m either 100% or nothing at all 0% there is no middle ground and that can be hard to cope with at times but once understood you can live a very happy life…
I would say you know how your carrying in groceries and your phone starts ringing at that exact moment and it could be that really important job opportunity you have been waiting on. But while all that’s going on your kid is riding her bike in the driveway and falls while at the exact moment the dog is barking because he’s excited to know your coming in the house.
It’s like trying to remember what period you had Spanish In the 10th grade because you had a substitute one day and you really liked her shoes and your trying to recall the brand of them.
Hyper-focus can be exhausting but so rewarding when the dopamine hits. Everything is left till last minute. I either message back immediately or not at all. Thank you for doing this for your kids. I didn’t realise I had it till my son was being assessed and its still hard to parent him sometimes even when I get it! X
I feel like my mind is constantly on the go thinking of new ideas . Things to see and do . I flit from one thing to another her. Get so easily distracted . I lose everything all of the time . I’m forgetful . I’m usually not listening as I’m thinking and stuck in my head . If I love some thing I’m obsessed with it and talk about it constantly and if I hate something I don’t want to hear about it or engage . I’m head strong and know my own mind ..there is so much to ADHD I only recently got diagnosed after my son so I’m learning too and about myself . I think this post is amazing and your kids will thank you for truly wanting to understanding how they feel and think
It feels like almost all important thoughts are being screamed out by a person really far away in a room that echo and distorts the words while next to a room full of people saying their own random thoughts out loud and you are stuck between both rooms trying to both filter the sounds from both and remember the important parts. Honestly that process alone feels like trying to catch running water with one hand, it’ll always slip through your fingers.
… I have come to embrace those moments as my mental creativity times. Then there’s the fidgeting and impatience (blurting things out, interrupting, difficulty waiting in lines). I’m almost always late–no matter what time I wake up, and I have sensory sensitivity.
I’m intelligent, creative, and filled with ideas that seem to fall from the sky constantly. I’m usually tense; I catch myself with my shoulders near my ears all the time. Then there is the steady buzz of internal energy, which generally means my heart is also racing, and my mind is processing faster than I can write or speak. My brain automatically looks for connections between things, so it’s not uncommon for me to make a connection between something I think connects with what someone else just shared. The problem is that the other person might feel as though I made the conversation about myself. I have trouble following conversations and not zoning out if it lasts beyond five minutes.
I lose my train of thought often, and I speak super-fast when I’m excited. Did I mention the child-like enthusiasm over simple things that make me happy? Or the endless stores of energy for the exciting something of the moment? Or that just because I typically enjoy an activity, I may not want to be bothered with that same activity again until the next time it excites me? Or that my interests frequently change, so there is a pile of unfinished projects?
Wow is all I can say. I hope everyone that read this found it so insightful. As a parent, it can be so hard to understand how your child is feeling. As a child, it can be so hard to verbalise how they are feeling. I am so grateful to everyone who shared their personal experiences with ADHD, and what it truly feels like to them. If I’ve learnt anything from this it is most definitely that I must try really hard to be patient, because however hard it is for me, it is 100% harder for them. If anyone would like to join my parent support group on Facebook, please do click HERE.