I recently experienced a genuinely mind-blowing ADHD a-ha moment during a conversation.
As a later-in-life diagnosed with ADHD adult (at 41 years of age) these thoughts & realisations occur any number of times per day. It’s as though I’m in a constant cycle of (only one example): ‘Hey, that happened. That was harder than I anticipated. No one else seemed to struggle. Oh. Hang on. That involved some <insert skill/process> that I lack/struggle with. No, you’re not dumb or worthless. It’s the ADHD. That makes complete sense. I’m ok. I’m exactly who I’m meant to be & don’t need to measure up to anyone else. Such a relief to know that there are reasons for my challenges & struggles; I literally never have to feel that shame ever again’.
In reality, I don’t get through that whole script as I’ve gotten distracted, but you get the idea.
I like to call these daily thoughts: ‘moments of re-framing hurtful, upsetting or defining incidents & assumptions because I now know what I didn’t know then about my brain & it’s provided me with much-needed insights to snuff out my negative feelings & calm down any residual trauma associated with these past experiences’.
And just like that, I’ve added way too much back-story & potentially diluted the essence of this experience.
So back to it. I was at my son’s school at pick-up time & standing with some friends of mine.
This time of day is my most dreaded part of the day (or equal to morning pre-medication administration). I start mentally preparing myself as soon as lunchtime passes & my anxiety rises minute by minute until it’s over.
During this after-school transition, I legitimately have to work really hard. Although this all happens in a matter of seconds, it feels as though I’ve broken them down into individual moments, or manageable parts, in order for me to operate.
I start by looking to find my son, I mentally confirm he’s exited the school gates & is approaching me, I remind myself to breathe as he approaches as I’m about to be hit square in the face by his after-school physical & emotional explosion, trying to calm the situation down OR more realistically, ensure my son, myself & others are kept safe during this detonation, need to block out background noise, scan the periphery for any potential threats that are likely to add gasoline to the explosion that is my son, hope this incident ends quickly while putting on a brave face that ‘I’ve got this’ to all the spectators, sorry, I mean parents, that are judging me, my son & my parenting (or lack thereof obviously) skills while my pride & confidence, & sometimes even me, get a battering.
And, I’ve literally done it again. This is NOT part of the story.
But it does add context.
Anyway, on this day, after my son’s explosion, he headed to the oval to play.
I’m left heightened & exhausted & shoving my feelings down my throat & begin a conversation with my friend.
I ask her a question, but her son has now approached to ask her a question, before she gets to answer me. We both chat to her son & have a few laughs & he runs off.
My friend then turns to me & said, ‘what did you ask me’?
I looked at her blankly. ‘Um, did I ask you something’?
She said, ‘oh yeah. anyway…..’ & started to answer my question. And got us back on track. Her response reignited some of my neurotransmitters & made connections making me able to continue the conversation.
Except, I interrupted my friend with an ‘Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised something massive’.
She said, ‘what’?
I said, ‘no really, it’s massive. I need to marinade over this’.
Now if this was my first interaction with this person, it might well have been my last, but lucky for me, we both laughed & kept talking.
So, has anyone worked out yet what my a-ha moment was?
Don’t worry. I’m about to tell you.
It was at that very moment when I asked her if I’d asked her a question, that I realised the extent to which others around me have carried me through social interactions & conversations.
I’d like to call myself a genius for manufacturing this strategy, but I’ve really not. It’s purely luck. Or not. I’d like to be a genius at something.
Whatever the case, I have however relied heavily on others during conversations to respond to ME, in order for me to recall the actual conversation, in order to continue having it.
And the only reason I worked this out, was because my friend forgot the question I asked her & asked me to repeat it.
There would now literally thousands of interactions I’ve had with people, where I‘ve asked them a question & gotten distracted to the point I’ve forgotten what I asked them & even that I actually asked them a question.
Thinking back to times when this has happened before, I wanted to know how I over overcome or overcompensated this flaw, & what I do in those situations is laugh it off & say something along the lines of, ‘oh doesn’t matter’ & quickly follow it up with asking another question about something totally unrelated (or maybe not, I dunno) to deflect from the fact that I’d been distracted &/or tuned off.
Read that again…… I’d been distracted &/or tuned off……. from a conversation that I LITERALLY STARTED.
I hate when these things happen. It makes me think that my friends think I don’t care about them or what they’re saying or telling me, which is simply not the case.
This is proven to me by way of my friends, remaining to be my friends & keep having conversations with me not caring how many times I lose track (if they even notice it, because the masking in me is fine-tuned & perfected).
My friends know that my distractedness, my shitty recall, my struggles with keeping on track or the topic itself aren’t a reflection of my feelings towards them or the level by which I’m invested in our friendship/relationship.
This is purely a symptom of my ADHD. It’s not a character flaw, a question of my moral code or conduct, intentional or manufactured.
This realisation; the extent to which I’ve subconsciously relied on others as prompts, as path ushers, was & still is, monumental.
Now before you say, ‘oh, but we all get distracted, we all forget what we’re saying, others help us during conversations too’, this is NOT the same thing.
I’m talking about a legitimate reliance we have on others to just get through an interaction or conversation.
It seems that one of the strategies that support me daily is having Neurotypicals in my life. Or hyperfocused Neurodivergents.
Either way, it’s good to know that my mates are literally scaffolding my scatter-ness.