My whole life the world has been rather assaulting. The noise. The lights. The smells. Basically all of it. And I never realized that the way I experience the world is different.
In April I found out that though there are many, many people that experience the same bright, smelly, noisy world I do, it’s not really supposed to be like that. And I found out the reason why I experience the world the way I do–ADHD.
I didn’t know much about ADHD. I didn’t know that sensory processing issues are a huge part of ADHD. I didn’t know about sensory overload; I didn’t know that ADHD isn’t just about not being able to focus in on something–it’s more about not being able to filter things out. And the big one of course- I didn’t know that I have ADHD.
The more I learn about ADHD, the more “ah-ha” moments I have. Looking back, I now know that my hatred of tight clothes; my hair coming over my ears; the smell, taste and texture of onions; crowds; the feeling of lotion, sunscreen or any amount of make up on my skin–all that and so much more is because of ADHD sensory processing issues.
Now that I have been diagnosed, I am also more aware of how my ADHD affects me from day to day. This past week, for example, hailed in a new semester. Sitting in class has always been an inexplicable torture for me. But now I am more aware of why. Now as I sit in class I am aware of my need to fidget, of how hard it is to just sit and listen; of how the voices in the hall, the sound of the AC, the typing of the other students, the laughter of the class a floor above us, the smell of the kid across the room’s snack–how it all constantly bombards me and pulls my “focus” in a hundred different directions. It’s not like I’m dying to get up and run and jump around the room. It’s not that I have a hard time sitting when my brain is engaged. It’s just that my ADHD brain has only two modes–processing everything and therefore focusing on nothing, OR intense focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. So no focus, or hyper-focus.
ADHD hyper-focus is definitely a real thing. But today I want to focus on the other end of the spectrum. I think of it as hyper-awareness. The brain is supposed to filter the sensory input it receives and basically tune-out or turn-down the input that is not important. So a non-ADHD brain is able to filter out “background” sounds, smells, sights, and feelings, and keep them well, in the background. This allows it to direct and maintain attention to, say, the lecture. But the ADHD brain doesn’t filter like it’s supposed to. So instead of having one thing in focus and everything else in the background, everything is in the foreground. Everything. All the time. And that gets pretty overwhelming. And exhausting.
Right now I’m trying to think of a way to wrap up this post, but our next door neighbor is edging their yard and my niece is resisting nap-time upstairs and I hear the rattling of the dryer and through my window I see the people across the street moving in and… you get the idea.
And this is me on medication. Though my doctor and I are still working to find the right dose, so I think it could be better. Man that edger is loud. And I’ve been working on this for like an hour. Yikes.
So if you’re ever trying to talk to me and it seems like I’m not paying attention, don’t be offended. I promise I’m trying. Probably. But that friggin edger!
P.S. Yes, I wrote this two weeks ago (Labor Day) and forgot about it. So there’s that.