By now, you’ve probably noticed that “funky brain wiring” is a phrase I use pretty regularly to try to describe what is going on in my squishy pile of neurons. It is a phrase I use to express that, for better or worse, my brain is wired differently than other people’s. I don’t like the words neurotypical or neurodivergent. To me, they smack of Tumblr-esque political correctness, no matter how accurate a description they may be. Those words just make it sound like there’s something wrong with me, and while that may be the case from a neurologically normal standpoint, I have adapted well-ish to both depression and ADD.
ADD is a tricky beast. I do not have a formal diagnosis from my doctor because I do not want to be medicated, but I have completed enough reliable self-evaluations that it’s pretty clear. I think people have a certain wariness regarding self-diagnosis, which is generally wise, but when trustworthy articles on ADD and self-evaluations keep saying the same thing, over and over…
Besides, women with ADD, especially adult women, tend to face a bit of stigma and resistance in getting a doctor’s formal diagnosis. ADD is a “boy’s disorder,” and its stereotypes are of elementary-age boys who will not shut up in class. I could go on all day about how there are different types of ADD, and some people have hyperactivity while others do not, but that just seems exhausting and, to be honest, a little boring when so many good sources already exist on that.
What does ADD look like for me?
- Extreme difficulty starting or finishing projects. I’m fine in the middle. It’s the stuff at either end that just feels so insurmountable. I have struggled with this since childhood.
- Contributing to a conversation with something seemingly unrelated because in 5 seconds my brain went from the topic to something it reminded me of to this thing over here to that and then over there and finally out of my mouth. It’s like my brain plays “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” all the freakin’ time.
- Becoming distracted mid-conversation and just completely not hearing the other person.
- Panic at the prospect of large tasks/inability to break it down into chunks.
- Executive Function Disorder
- Impulsive behavior, such as buying. I impulse buy like a fiend. It has had serious and negative results on my finances before.
- Difficulty expressing emotions in healthy ways.
- Doodling on my notes during meetings/appearing inattentive despite trying to listen.
- Speaking too quickly OR getting lost mid-sentence and speaking too slowly/trailing off.
- Impatience when someone is taking too long to get to the point.
- Struggle to see the big picture when I don’t understand my part in it.
- Improved ability to focus and communicate after drinking caffeine.
It’s a difficult thing to live with sometimes, like when I’m playing D&D every week and there’s so much to focus on that I can’t focus on anything, so I get more and more antsy and talk more and more and get louder until I realize that I am being completely beyond annoying to myself (and possibly to those around me)–
I think I’ve always been like this, to some degree. I think my family and I always just brushed it off as “childhood” or “immaturity” or “just needs improvement.” And while all that is true to some degree, it occurs to me know that this is the way my brain is made, for better or for worse. I feel like it does have its perks, which is why I do not want to be medicated. I do not want to lose the joyous parts of my wiring.
- I can make connections really fast, like anticipating the conclusion to a story.
- I always have lots of dreams and things I’d love to do, even if I struggle to make it happen. (Go big or go home.)
- I can be detail-oriented (in a good way, not an obsessive way).
- I can read people well. (Not sure if this is an ADD thing, but it’s something I like about myself.)
- I have very vivid dreams. (Again, not sure if it’s ADD, but I love it.)
- I can usually think quickly and come up with witty remarks or puns, so I am really funny.
- I can bounce from task to task with ease because I like novelty.
- I am spontaneous and fun.
- When I latch onto a project I love, I can focus on it and sail through to completion.
- I am creative and vibrant when given the mental space to be so.
- Sometimes when I get distracted, it’s really just that something has attracted my interest. It means I’m very curious and love to learn.
- Most ADD people have something they are super good at. For me, that’s academics! I love school. I’d go to college forever if I had the money for it. There’s just something exciting about taking classes and learning new things.
This is really why I call it funky brain wiring instead of neurodivergence. Yes, I’m “abnormal,” but there are a lot of beautiful things about the way my neurons fire. I don’t want to wallow in my ADD and let it be an excuse for bad behavior–though it is a valid explanation for when the negative aspects rear their ugly heads–but I also do not wish to be “cured.” I wish to harness what I can do and live a good life, a thriving life. I don’t think I need to be medicated for that.
(Now, being medicated for the depression is a whole other topic of conversation. I am very glad I take something for that.)
I may not always feel it, but deep down I believe I am an interesting and unique person. I have something vibrant and beautiful to offer the world just by being me. Describing myself as neurodivergent or whatever just makes me sound like I stick out, like I don’t belong. But if I say funky brain wiring, it indicates that something “isn’t right,” but according to the dictionary it also indicates that something is “passionate, soulful, authentic, stylish, exciting.”
As long as I’m living a good life and doing no harm to myself or others, just leave me and my brain cells alone in our weird tango of shifting attention spans.
Per aspera ad astra,