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ADHD and Sensory Issues: Why Is Everything So Loud?

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.

Basically Sherlock is an ADHD brain….

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.

Another Not-So-Smooth Start to a Semester

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll remember that my last semester started off with being unable to get my infusion for three weeks and then coming down with whooping cough. Needless to say I was hoping for things to go a bit smoother this semester. But that’s not really how life works I guess.

Thursday was our first day of classes. I had three classes (French, Screen Writing and Dramatic Literature) and a meeting to update my accommodations letter. While I was in Screen Writing I got the bad news–my sister and niece had started throwing up after I left for class. We had the dreaded stomach flu in our home.

The last time I had a stomach virus I was a brand-new 19-year-old. That virus damaged my digestive system, causing gastroparesis (literally “stomach paralysis”), and leading to some very miserable months and ultimately two years away from school. So naturally I have an intense fear of dear old norovirus and all its relatives.

Egged on by this fear I did everything I could to avoid coming down with it this time img_0084around, but by the time I became aware of its presence it was far too late. That night around 9:30 I threw up for the first time. And then again. And again. And again. Until about 5 or so in the morning. *shiver* The stomach flu is the WORST. Every time I have it I get like minor PTSD where for a while I can’t stand certain foods, clothes, tv shows, movies–anything that is associated with the experience. This is especially true for the virus that permanently messed up my digestive system and changed my life.

EA57ED6A-C454-4F26-A275-0833E9EACA3BBut like I’ve said before, even the worst of things pass, and so did this. Well it’s passing. Friday I was still quite sick and miserable, even though I had stopped involuntarily ejecting the contents of my stomach and intestines. Mostly I had gotten really dehydrated and I was having a hard time getting sufficiently rehydrated. I ended up going into the local urgent care in the afternoon because of this; they did not give me a saline IV as I had hoped they would, but they gave me some strong anti nausea medicine to help me be able to sleep and drink more. I hadn’t slept since Wednesday night so I was beyond exhausted. Later Friday (about 4), I laid down to take a nap and woke up at 9:30 the next morning!

Right now as I write this, I am doing my infusion. I didn’t want to do it until I was well hydrated again, since insufficient hydration makes the infusion process (and aftermath) seriously miserable. And I’ve had quite enough of that this weekend.

So yeah, another rough start. But I don’t think it bodes ill for the semester at large–I think it’s gunna be a great one, as a matter of fact. Because, well, why shouldn’t it be?

A Day in the Life of this Zebra

Something kind of surprising that I’ve had several people tell me since I started this blog is that it has been “eye opening.” I guess that’s strange to me because, well, it’s nothing new for me. I sometimes forget that I’m a zebra living in a world of horses; when I hear other students talking about their Friday night plans I automatically think “Sillys. They’re forgetting that it’s infusion night tonight;” when I spend all of my breaks bouncing between doctors appointments, I forget that, that’s not the purpose of school breaks for everyone. Some people can’t imagine what it is like to have a malfunctioning immune system or a head that is always hurting–I can’t imagine what life would be like without them. So whether you’re a horse wondering how a zebra spends her days, or a zebra wondering if you’re the only one, here’s a day in the life of this zebra. (This is a Monday from a couple of weeks ago, but still overall a pretty good representation of an average day)

Monday 8:30 am

I wake up even though my first class isn’t til 10:00. I don’t like having to rush in the morning.

I start my day with cranberry juice and emergen-c. Mostly to prevent UTIs but also just as an immune booster. Then I get dressed (with thermals underneath my clothes because I’m already that cold), etc. and have breakfast.

9:50 am

I’m off to Fundamentals of Creative Writing. Today we are workshoping our poem #2 for our poetry portfolio. Maybe I’ll let you guys see it once I’ve revised.

11:00 am

Creative Writing is over. Normally I’d be heading home but instead I have to go make up the French test I missed on Friday because I had a bad migraine.

12:00 pm

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Home again home again. If niece number two isn’t already asleep then I’ll probably sitdown to do a nap time with her. Nap time with this aunty means we snuggle on the couch watching simple songs on YouTube until she falls asleep. Then I either do homework or also fall asleep.

1:00 pm

Nap time is over. I’ll grab a quick lunch and then head off to French.

1:30 pm

French. We’re starting a new chapter today. I’ll also find out how I did on the test. I hope I did ok–it was hard studying this weekend with a migraine/migraine hangover. (I missed one question, but all things considered I’ll take that quite happily).

2:30 pm

French is fini and now I’m off to Approaches to Literature. We just finished reading the Tempest. Now I think we will be writing a paper about it. Woot woot.

3:30 pm

Done with classes for the day! I head home and change into sweatpants and a hoodie. I sit down to steam and watch Netflix for a bit. Probably the Great British Baking Show since they just put up a new season. Steaming helps prevent sinus infections and also seems to help ease the aching of my head/face.

4:15 pm

Now that I’ve taken a break it’s time to get down to business, as it were. Let’s see what should I start with? Probably the essay for WWI Lit that’s due tomorrow that I haven’t started…

5:00 pm

Been working for 45 minutes, made decent progress. I deserve a break. So I go out to the living room to see the girlies for a minute.

5:15 pm

Ok back to work. I can do this. I want to finish the rough draft so I don’t have that much to do tomorrow, though it’s not due til midnight.

7:00 pm

Whether or not the rough draft is finished, I can’t think in cohesive sentences anymore. Time for a dinner break.

7:30 pm

For niece number one it’s time for a pre-bedtime breakdown. For me it’s time to choose which is more important– my French hw or finishing my WWI Lit reading for tomorrow. I think I’ll go for the reading. Takes less brain power and by this point my head is hurting at least medium from looking at a screen for so long writing the essay. So I get comfy and dive into All Quiet on the Western Front.

8:15-8:30ish pm

Either I’m finished with the reading or my brain is finished for the day–either way it’s time for some healthy hot cocoa (raw cocoa powder, honey, cinnamon, turmeric, pink salt and a touch of grass fed butter) and an episode of Stranger Things. My sibs have already finished the new season but they’re watching it again with me so I can get caught up. I only have two episodes left!

9:15ish pm

The first episode is over. Now I have to use all my willpower to tear myself away in the 15 seconds before Netflix starts the next one and I’m committed to another 45 minutes. Time to hop in the shower.

9:45ish pm

Shower done. Now time to clean out my sinuses with the neti pot thing and do my nightly stretching. As you can see I spend a decent amount of time each day just trying to prevent sinus infections, which are my bane.

10:15 pm

Take melatonin. Read. Pray. Brush teeth, etc. Fill up humidifier for the night. Set alarm for tomorrow. Take cough medicine. Rub Vicks vapor rub on chest (been doing the last two ever since I got whooping cough in Sept). Lights out by 11:30.