Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When My Mind Grinds To a Halt

Writing the last post actually sparked a whole other train of thought for me...and I realized it needed its own room to grow.

Because it's so hard to explain to people why perfectly smart individuals with ADHD do some of the things that they do. If we're not just lazy, or stubborn, or contrary, or trying to be annoying, then what are we?

Consider this. I'm betting that this is something that other people with either ADHD or learning disabilities can relate to. There are many things that I just "get", effortlessly. There are other times when it literally feels like my thinking is stuck in molasses. Except I'm moving really fast, and stuck in molasses all at the same time, which makes it impossible to synch all relevant pieces of thought to one another in the present, immediate moment...because my energy is being spent on trying to pull myself out of the molasses, and trying to listen to people talking to me, and trying to rein in my racing thoughts...all at the same time.

These contradictions actually make the ways in which my mind is impaired seem even more obvious to me. Anything language related, I'm golden. Breathing air...golden. Haha. Anything math related. Oy vey. Oh I know a lot of people in general have a little trouble with math. That doesn't even cover it. I fully believe that I am "diagnosable" with some kind of mathematical learning disability. I took Algebra THREE TIMES after all, and that's as far as I meaningfully got. Geometry...forget it. And it's okay, I mean not everyone is great at everything. It's just that I literally can feel my thinking grind to a halt when faced with mathematical concepts, to the point where people are speaking English to me and it's like the words gets all mixed up in my head and I can't process it.

However...in my adult life I became, at one point an Algebra tutor. WHAAAT? True story. The perspective of having to figure out how to teach it to someone else helped the concepts stick...and I had a boyfriend in my twenties who was an absolute math genius, and a good teacher...and he and I would actually talk about math all the time. His take on this: you're not math stupid, you're just math slow. He would say "you need to forgive yourself for the fact that it just takes you longer to learn...it's okay.". Once I did, I realized that I could, in fact, learn math, and furthermore, I could TEACH math, but it did indeed take me a longer time and a different route to learn the material, and time and flexiblity were not often offered in my math classes growing up.

But anyway, the math example is just a model for you to consider...for there are other times I feel my mind grind to a halt, just like that. Often when I'm trying to do one of those seemingly innocuous things that seems like it should be easy to do. My Time Sheet. The Laundry. ..it's those moment where it feel like I am trapped, flailing in molasses and I'm desperately trying to cull the most important part out of what someone is asking me so that I can respond, and release myself from the moment, so I can try to remember what the heck I was doing, or wait, then there's that other thing I was about to do but, oh shit...now everything's cascading in my brain and I can't pull my arms out of the molasses...ack! You see? I hope so. As I'm moving a million miles an hour with a smile on my face, hoping I didn't just accidentally make you feel like I was brushing you off.

I just wish there was a way to make people understand.

This is why my trusty tiny notebook and pen are so important to me, it's my lifeline to remembering, and to relaxing, so that I don't have to carry the anxiety of remembering around with me too. Or the anxiety of forgetting...

It's why I am very honest with people that if they ever need anything from me, they need to write it down because I simply won't remember, and it's me, not them.

It's why I am blunt with people about the fact that I cannot remember names. Faces I'm much better with, but if I don't remember your name, don't take it personally, again it's me, not you. When I am simultaneously working to pull together so many factors in my own brain, maybe you can see then why remembering those kinds of things, the things that make people think that you are interested in them...are harder to imprint on the mind, and not out of lack of caring.

I can feel the line between my mind "working", as it sometimes does, and my mind "not working". Sometimes, it is directly related to the concept at hand, like a math concept...and the fact that I am not processing it well. And sometimes...sometimes it's just that the energy in my mind is literally on a tangent of some kind...all ramped up on enthusiasm and nowhere to go right that second...

That line is so clear to me, and I just wish there was a foolproof way to make it clear to other people.


  1. I understand.,,, When I am installing or building something(door,window,electic wiring,etc....),for a customer that is going to be asking alot of questions(I can spot em a mile away..lol). Before I even get started, I will give them a breif history of my last 3 yr.s, and the trouble I have finding words, and pronounicing at times.

    That seems to work good for me. They understand that I am a professional, and can show them by my work, and will carefully go over everything they need to know, when I am finished.

    It can be very frustrating to have a customer asking why I doing this or that, while I am trying to do this or that. Or I should say, very distracting, and will forget what the hell I was doing, before I stopped to answer them, and take 10 min. to try and find the words they may understand about it.

  2. Yes.

    And it's not because you hate people...it's because it's just distracting. Yup :)

  3. Exactly! I have to explain, that I have a fear of being seen as arrogant, and "talking down" to someone, when I use synonyms of simple words, that may make me sound like I am trying to show how smart I am, when I'm not. I am just lucky that I was able to pay attn. long enough in school to learn how to use synonyms.