Snowballing

Life with ADHD can only be described as one thing. A struggle. We have a constellation of comical symptoms that sound ridiculous to a neurotypical person and most of the time, they cannot comprehend why we would be so traumatized by it

Before I was diagnosed, or even knew about the different symptoms in ADHD besides the obvious hyperactivity, I used to be puzzled as to why I found simple things so difficult. Small matters would always make me react like it was the end of the world. From the neurotypical worldview, I was just a failure. An overthinker, overreacting.

Even now, when I try to explain to people my symptoms, I find it hard to convince people that they are impairing. Truth is, when occurring once in a while, ADHD symptoms are really not a big deal. But when they occur constantly, and different symptoms can interract to produce other horrific symptoms, it adds up. Years of living in an unpredictable state  will leave you riddled with anxieties. Years of overcompensating leads to burnout.

My stress levels over time, from insignificant things

I’m writing this as sort of a mish mash article about what I call “ADHD first world problem symptoms”. I use this expression because that’s how it feels when I’m relating it to other people. Like seriously Rowina? There are children starving in Africa!

Alexithymia

Quite literally meaning having no words for feelings. Everything feels the same be it hunger, thirst, sleepiness, anger, sadness. My body will perceive all these feelings as “distress”. Like a baby who cries when it’s soiled its diapers, hungry or scared. It’s as frustrating to interpret our feelings as it is to try to figure out why the baby is crying.

Ah so what? You just have to keep track of your activities and feelings. If you haven’t eaten in a while then it must be hunger. If something terrible just happened, then you must be sad. Is it so hard?

Our executive functions are impaired. We don’t remember things most of the time. We don’t even remember to eat or even pee when we are doing things. Heck, I even forget to breathe when I’m trying to focus on something. The amount of times I’ve choked on my saliva because i forget to swallow it. Forget trying to keep track of all those things.

Still, what’s the big deal? We’ve all been too busy to eat or pee sometimes. It happens? Yes, but this happens ALL THE TIME and in EVERY ASPECT of our lives. It’s tolerable if it happens sometimes. But not all the time. It’s frustrating.

Aphantasia

This is referring to your “minds eye” or your ability to visualise things. When you try to close your eyes to imagine something, it draws a blank. Will you die from this? No. But it’s frustrating!

I loved to read. I learned to read at the age of 2-3 and I loved reading children’s books by Enid Blyton and the Peter and Jane Series. As I grew older and graduated to books with no images and novels, I suddenly became less and less enthusiastic about reading. I would speed through books just to get to the ending, without enjoying the story development and language.

I assumed I was just getting exposed as a fraud who pretended to like to read because it made me look smart.

Then I learned of aphantasia. It hit me, I could never imagine characters in novels if they didn’t draw them on the cover. Even for books adapted into movies, I would only able to imagine faces of characters who are casted in the drama. Characters or sceneries that don’t appear in the movie will just be a blank. Amazing!

My sister told me that when she reads comics she can even imagine cartoon characters as humans. No wonder she can enjoy these mediums, often spending hours and hours reading.

Even in med school, I struggled with anatomy because I couldn’t imagine things when its described to me. Also the reason I avoided choosing surgery as my subspecialty.

Again, won’t die from it, but it’s sad. We can’t visualise rewards to motivate ourselves, we can’t meditate, we can’t enjoy reading.

Wait Mode

Wait mode happens when you are incapacitated when you know you have something coming up. Even if that thing is a minor. I am the kind who tells my friends that I’m busy when all I need to do is get groceries that day. I’m not the kind who can just drop by for second for something else while waiting for something to start.

I remember being told off by my superior when I took a day off from work before my end of posting assessment because my other colleagues would normally just work and pause for 30 mins and do the assessment. Howww???

It occurs in ADHD because we cannot regulate our focus and often times, knowing something is coming up makes us unable to shift our focus to other things while waiting.

Temporal Discounting

Temporal discounting is when we see something as less and less valuable, the further away in time it is. The best example is that a person with ADHD will choose getting $5 now Vs getting $100 if they waited for a week. Another would be making plans, where we a get excited agreeing to plans and then regretting when the time comes because the novelty has run out.

We lose out on a lot of things that involve “long term investments” and are more prone to making impulsive decisions for the wrong reasons.

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Those are only some of the really cartoon-ish symptoms of ADHD which I wish you luck trying to explain or even gain sympathy from your NT counterparts. It’s so ridiculous, but for people with ADHD, we believe it because it really happens! These tiny deficits all add up over time causing frustration and anxiety.

 Worse thing is  that most of these symptoms do not get better with meds. Behavioral therapy can help maybe some of the time, but trying to fight it all the time is just downright impossible and just inviting another burnout.

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