This is an excellent description of me. I’ve never been very consistent, and now that I’ve embraced my ADHD diagnosis, I know why. For the longest time, I really did buy into the idea of “laziness” (it doesn’t exist, but that’s another post). I genuinely believed I was lazy. It turns out, I’m just oriented differently. Oh, and this was me internalizing ableism without knowing it, since I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college.
We’re all capable of orienting ourselves in different ways. Neurotypical (NT) folks default to priority. I default to interest. It’s an aggressive default, too. I’ve heard hyper focused ADHD brains described as “a Ferrari with bicycle brakes”. It’s apt.
ADHD is an executive function disorder. It isn’t a deficit of attention, it’s a lack of control over attention. If I’m locked into something, I have to spend a lot of energy to pull myself away from it. Video games, coding, doomscrolling, conversations, basically anything that consistently gives me a solid dopamine hit. It’s difficult to operate my bicycle brakes when my brain has been flooring it for several hours.
This results in what I’m sure appears to be odd behavior to most people. For example, I’m currently staying up late typing this out, instead of sleeping, despite my lovely wife making sure I have a pillow and blanket so I’m comfortable if I fall asleep downstairs. I know the latest I’ll get up in the morning is 6am, which is less than six hours from the time I’m typing this. These brakes aren’t working very well at the moment.
Yet I persevere. I make use of my brakes, but they are inconsistent.
Sometimes, I’m able to apply even pressure and slow myself down gradually. Meds, a good night of sleep, and some alone time are usually enough to make this my normal.
Other times, I’m able to skid to a halt and switch focus very quickly. My brakes get the job done, but I need time to “replace the pads”, so to speak. A couple nights of good sleep, a morning without having to get up with the kids, socializing, and novelty are all helpful here.
Rarely (but not as rarely as I’d like), I slam them too hard, and “snap the cable”. Sometimes I don’t realize it until the next time I need to brake. This is usually the start of burnout for me. I’m slowly getting better at recognizing it so I can head it off a bit. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better at it!
Yesterday, I was a bit grumpy, because I was overwhelmed with the noise level in the house. My son likes his iPad very loud; he listens when we ask him to turn it down, but it still takes a toll. My daughter is loud enough to be three children all by herself. She also loves attention, so there’s that wrinkle. Some days, my defenses against becoming incredibly grumpy about the noise don’t last long. That was the case Monday and Tuesday, unfortunately.
Recognizing this, I took the opportunity to get out of the house last night. I hung out with my friend Sully for the second time this week. On Sunday night we sat around his garage (“we” including Hannah, his girlfriend, who is one of the kindest people I’ve ever known). Sully is a Laserdisc collector, so they were watching Miller’s Crossing on laserdisc when I got there. After the movie, he mentioned he had a copy of the BBC Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy show from the 80’s. I’m so glad we watched it. It’s based off the radio show they did in the late 70’s, and it’s so cool to see how it was interpreted onto the screen nearly 40 years ago.
We only got through about half of it Sunday night, so Tuesday we finished it up. Hannah was elsewhere, so while we watched it, Sully and I had really great conversations. They ran the gamut from goofy to profound. It was genuinely rejuvenating. I find myself today in a much better headspace, ready to take on the coming business of:
- Going to a concert on Sunday night (Katatonia @ Reggies)
- Taking the kids on a mini vacation
- A day trip to Michigan
All in all, I’m really looking forward to it!