Recently on one of my social media sites, I asked my followers to describe what ADHD feels like for them.  The responses provided an interesting insight into what living with ADHD feels like.

Why ask people what living ADHD feels like for them?

Well, even though an increasing amount of research is being done on ADHD, the vast majority still focuses on issues related to diagnosis, treatment, and the observable behavior of people living with ADHD.  As a result, there is relatively little appreciation and understanding about other important aspects.  Specifically, the experience of what it feels like being diagnosed with and living with ADHD.

In this first of three blog posts on “The Feelings of ADHD,” we start with what it “feels” like living with ADHD…the ups and downs and in-betweens.  And who’s better to explain than those living with ADHD…people just like you.

Here are some of the responses I received to the question – “What does ADHD feel like to you?”

“ADHD feels like an invisible barrier to my life.  It prevents me from being or doing the things that I want and because you can’t see it, other people don’t have a clue how hard I really try.”

“ADHD feels overwhelming and confusing like ten thousand things are yammering for attention and all of them are equally important.”

“ADHD feels like I have islands of thoughts all disconnected…it makes me anxious and exhausted trying to make sense of them all.”

“Like I’m not smart enough…like people are eating cotton-candy in my brain.”

“At times, ADHD feels exciting and creative, like when I put things together and see the common pattern. And also frustrating that I can’t put that into action and benefit from all that creative genius.”

“My ADHD feels like I am out of control of my brain and my life…I don’t like it because I get too excited and do things I’m not supposed to, then I feel bad, guilty and ashamed.”

“Sometimes it’s fun because it keeps me going and staying active; even though I’m tired.”

“When I was diagnosed with ADHD at first it was a huge relief finally knowing what the missing piece had been all these years.  Later I realized that being diagnosed is just the first step, not the solution.  I have gone from feeling angry and blaming myself, people in my life and the ADHD to being very sad, wondering if things will ever change.  Through it all, there is part of me that somehow keeps going.”

“It’s a heavy veil you can’t shake off; a heavy secret you feel you need to hide. You have to work harder for everything, but you don’t know why — it’s frustrating and gets really exhausting.”

“When it’s good, it’s very very good. When it’s not, it’s awful.”

“Like I am on one side of glass and can’t get to the other side.  I know what I want to do, I can see it, but I can’t break through.”

“It’s lonely… you can’t talk to anyone about it, and you get really tired of hearing, “Why don’t you listen?” and “You’re not trying hard enough,” when you’ve been trying really hard to begin with.”

“ADHD feels like always experiencing failure and failure; until you realize you are playing a different game that you can win, IF you play it differently according to your own rules.”

“When my symptoms are well managed, I love having ADHD and see it as my super power.”

“I feel incredibly anxious, often self-conscious and it’s like I have no control over myself and my symptoms.  My brain feels very cluttered; like I have heavy mental fog and chaos.  It is incredibly difficult to sustain focus for very long.  I also feel very frustrated with myself because no matter how hard I try at achieving a goal, my symptoms interfere, which then makes me feel like a failure.  As a result, I retreat and only see myself as having many problems with no solutions.  It’s very discouraging”.

“ADHD makes it hard for me to communicate with people like I want.  For instance, when trying to express my thoughts or feelings, my goal is to communicate assertively.  But instead, it comes out sounding more aggressive. This is frustrating because I am not an aggressive person, I am a patient, understanding and empathetic person, but these qualities are hiding behind the ADHD symptoms which people can’t see.”

“Living for nearly 60 years with undiagnosed ADHD has taken its toll.  Throughout the years it’s like I have collected and still carry all the moments of failure and it keeps dragging me down and holding me back.”

“I don’t feel heard or understood by my doctor.  She gives the impression that she knows my ADHD better than I know it myself.  Therefore, everyday feels like a struggle or
a battle, and I feel very, very, very TIRED. More than tired; exhausted. I feel incredibly anguished from this combination of emotions and thoughts.  Despite all of these difficulties, I acknowledge that there is still hope, it just feels far away.”

“Sometimes I just need to unleash on ADHD.  Sometimes it is simply too much to bear. Sometimes I allow myself to sink into anger and self-pity.”

As you can see, living with ADHD encompasses a whole spectrum of feelings. Feelings like…relief, struggle, frustration, exhaustion, anger, sadness, hope and many more.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these comments?  What does living with ADHD feel like for you?

I’d like to know and invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box following this post.

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