What It's Like To Have ADHD
ADHD is a complex and misunderstood disorder. By sharing videos like this and writing down my internal monologue, I hope people who don't have ADHD will understand what it's like to live with it.
A few days ago, I posted a video on X (formerly Twitter) of an ADHD simulation. This simulation, which is just over one minute long, shows viewers what races through the mind of the average person with ADHD; it also includes their point of view as they move about their apartment, struggling to complete one task.
The video is embedded above, and before you read further, please watch it.
The one note that I and others with ADHD have on the video is that the woman's apartment is much tidier than most people with ADHD, especially when they're in a heightened state of frustration as she is in the video.
After I posted the video (which was first shared by the mental health app Inflow, an app I have no association with and have never used), I was flooded with replies and direct messages from followers with ADHD who saw themselves in the video to a surreal degree.
Others said it helped them understand why their co-worker, spouse, friend, or relative struggles so much with ADHD.
Others asked, "isn't this what everyone has running through their head?"
The answer to that question is complicated and what often leads people to misunderstand what ADHD is. The answer is that many people will often, particularly during times of stress, have thoughts that jump from one thing to another in rapid succession. But with many people who have ADHD, this often debilitating internal monologue is a constant companion.
The other important thing to understand is that people can still have this rapid internal monologue but not get off track like people with ADHD do.
For example, John may have lots of thoughts that jump from one topic or another, but those thoughts don't stop him from going to the kitchen, doing the dishes, and putting them away. Because he doesn't have ADHD, he lets those thoughts flow through his head and stays on a task until he completes it.
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I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 13 years old. I didn't get any treatment through therapy and medication until I was 29. I have been taking Adderall since then. When I first started taking Adderall, I was amazed by its impact on my life and saddened that it took me so long to start taking it.
For people with ADHD, Adderall doesn't have the effect that it does on people without ADHD. Our dopamine levels are low, and Adderall helps to bring them up to more normal levels. Adderall calms me down and allows me to focus better than usual. For people without ADHD, it ramps them up beyond what is normal.
I started talking about having ADHD in 2019. I posted a 34-tweet thread late at night and woke up the following day to ADHD being the #1 trending topic worldwide and thousands of messages.
At the time, the thread was cut off at 26 tweets, and I had to continue the thread in another series of tweets. I have compiled the entire thread in a Twitter moment, which includes all 34 tweets, and have linked it below.
ADHD can and often does ravage the lives of people who have it. It is like a virus that spreads throughout the person’s life, impacting every single part of it. It is incredibly debilitating, and even though more people are discussing it, it is still highly misunderstood.
My hope by sharing videos like this and talking about my own experience is not only to help people with ADHD feel less alone and ashamed but also to educate people who don't have ADHD about the harsh and embarrassing realities of what living with ADHD is like.
After watching the ADHD video simulation, I tried to capture what races through my mind for a short time. I couldn't do it for more than two minutes as I had to be able to remember most of it. If I wrote things down in real-time, my focus would divert to writing down what I was thinking; thus, this wouldn't accurately reflect my internal monologue.
Here is what was going through my head for just two minutes. I have changed names and removed any identifying details. And I want to point out that I am writing this 10 minutes after these thoughts, so I will have forgotten some things that popped into my head.
It's important to remember that having ADHD means that if I weren't mindful at this moment, aware of what was going through my head, I would have started working on each of these tasks and then dropped them and gone to another text, all in real-time. Or I would have just been gripped by ADHD paralysis, not knowing where to start.
If you don't have ADHD but want to understand what it's like to have ADHD, read this out loud and imagine how difficult it might be to be productive with this racing through your head.
Two minutes of my internal monologue:
"I need to check the tracking information on that package. Reminds me to check on that envelope, I didn't get it yet. I need to call the company, I'll do that first. Ugh it's going to take weeks for them to send another one if it doesn't arrive. Maybe I need to have them send it somewhere else? I need to respond to John, he had a couple questions. But I need to make sure that I send a voice note with additional context, but that's going to take more time, maybe I should do it after. But then I need to follow up with Alana as she has been so patient with me. I need to tell her about my conversation with Alex yesterday. Oh yeah I promised Alex that I would send him the data he asked for. Oh wait I forgot about the data I need to fill in for Alana, that's what I'll do first. Did I put my psychiatry appointment in my calendar? They called me to schedule but not sure if I put it in when they called. Ugh imagine if I was sure that I had done it because I would do it every time. I got that great electronics spray which is so much better at cleaning, but I need better wipes for when I'm on the go. So what will I do first, I'm going to order those wipes first, that's quick and easy. But oh god I keep putting off the email response to James. I need to get that out of the way. That's what I'll do first. I need to tell my cousin about some stuff I thought about yesterday after I spoke to her. Maybe I'll write that down first so I don't forget. I need to write that memo for Meena, she really needs it. But is she going to read it? Is it a waste of time? Better to do it than not. I need to reach out to that source who has been following up with me. He has been really patient. I need to do some vacuuming now, I'll feel better after I do it. Yes, that's what I'll do first. But oh wait I need to dust my desk first and then vacuum. But ugh I need to do that thing for Alana, that should be first. I need to get rid of the hard stuff first and then do the easier things. Vacuuming is easy. Is the James email harder or getting that data for Alana? The James email is easier, yes, but then again I've been pushing it back for a week so it must be hard. I should check to see if Ben responded to my direct message on Instagram."