5 Things You’ll Never Understand About ADHD Unless You Have It

5 Things You’ll Never Understand About ADHD (Unless You Have It)

You’ll Never Understand

Our friend Shawn has some things he’d like to explain to those of you who don’t have ADHD. But as he says, if you don’t have it, you’ll never understand.

“So why is he telling you these things? Well, Shawn is pretty good at observation and no slouch when it comes to writing. So, in our estimation, if someone has a chance to get you to understand these things, it’s Shawn.

“You see, Shawn spends a lot of time, like many of us, wondering what went wrong and where and can it be fixed and why are there no summer camps for adults and where the hell did the car keys go and … oh, sorry, wandered off there. Gonna let Shawn take it from here I think …” editor

“Did you take your meds today?”

I get asked this question a lot. A lot of the time it’s my wife asking. I mean, I don’t blame her for this one bit. How the hell is she supposed to know. And it’s usually when I am being that extra bit weird.

The thing is maybe I did, maybe I didn’t take my Ritalin today. The first time I was asked this question, years ago, I took pause and immediately wondered if my ADHD medication was in fact turning me into a different person. Luckily it wasn’t, but it made me really think about what the medicine was and was not doing for me.

First of all, let me get this out of the way; medication doesn’t stop ADHD; period. What medication does do is help, and that’s a big thing isn’t it. No longer do I become so overly frustrated by the smallest task that I give up.  Medication doesn’t make me or make me not do anything. If that was the case then when I forget to take meds in the morning, I would be a completely different person. Medication is not a cure all, it’s more like a help all.


Imagine you have a disorder where the main symptom is not being able to pay attention. Now imagine that one of the other symptoms of this same disorder is paying way, way too much attention. Weird huh? Say hello to Hyperfocus.

It’s a blessing and a curse. Sure it’s great when you get complete tunnel vision trying to get rid of the virus on your computer that you legit spend 16 hours trying to fix … while you forget to eat. True story. I have done this several times. So yeah it’s great, I fixed the laptop. However there will be times that your loved ones are wondering why you’re dragging them around town looking for a goddamn wok so you can make an internet antenna that you read about online, and totally forgetting that they wanted to go out to dinner. And again, this is a true story.

I would love to know why this happens. I’ve read articles that say this is happening because you like something or enjoy the activity. Sure, I love computers but I can tell you without a doubt that I have no interest in Woks or how internet signals work.

This also brings up another dilemma because when this happens it’s hard for others to understand how I am focusing so much. It’s like, if I can focus on this one thing, why can’t I just focus on all things? Again, I wish I had the answer.

You don’t know what your doing

One of my main ADHD symptoms is fidgeting. If there were a fidgeting world championship, I’d take home gold. Whether it’s tapping my foot, playing the finger drums on any object in front of me or picking at my fingernails until they are raw, it seems that I just can’t stop.

So that leads me into a little story.

As I said above, there are times when I bite and pick around my nails and cuticles until they bleed. I know it’s gross and it doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen. So a few years ago I thought I would do an experiment.  I had to find a way where I couldn’t pick at my fingers. My first thought was wearing gloves or mittens but that wasn’t very practical.

One day while I was driving home, I happened to have both of my hands on the steering wheel at 2 and 10 o’clock. If both hands were preoccupied, holding the wheel tightly, then I couldn’t pick. This experiment lasted maybe 5 minutes. In my head, I was doing great, telling myself that I wasn’t going to pick at my nails. Then I happened to look down and I see my right hand and my middle finger rubbing against the cuticle of my thumb. What the hell? Even while thinking about not doing it, I was still doing it.

People at various points in my life have challenged me to sit still for 5 minutes, just to see if I could do it. Five minutes? That’s nothing. Only when you have ADHD and someone tells you not to do something every ounce of your being is telling you to do it. These ‘tests’ usually fail around the 45 second mark. What happens is strange. It’s as if every cell in my body is screaming at me. “Why the hell are you so still? Somethings wrong” I can feel a surge of energy inside me that feels like it wants to explode until finally, I just give up and start tapping one thing or another.

So if you tell me to stop doing something and I continue to do it, just know, I do try, and I’m not doing it on purpose.

I’m listening but I don’t hear you

One thing I hate about ADHD is the fact that you could tell me something and we could have a full conversation about something and not so long after, I will simply forget it ever happened. I swear to you, I was listening, I wasn’t ignoring you and what you were saying was interesting. It’s just, my mind sabotages me, like, a lot. I can’t imagine the amount of things I have missed out on in my life because I simply forgot about them. What about those people that don’t know I have ADD and think that I’m just a rude person for ‘not listening’ to them?

The other thing that goes along with this is ‘tuning out’. This is equally as rough especially in social situations where you miss half the conversation because it’s in one ear and out the other and you’ve only retained fragments of the conversation. Sometimes, you were able to pick up enough to figure out generally what’s going on but not always. When someone is talking to you face to face and you legitimately have no idea what the hell they just said, that’s the worst feeling ever. Again, it’s not on purpose and I wish I could go back to everyone I’ve ever done this to and apologize.

Put the keys on the hook

People that don’t have ADD sure do have great tips on how people with ADD should handle certain challenging tasks. In reality, it is great advice. In hindsight though, some things just aren’t as simple as you’d think.

Take for example the age old issue of me trying to find my car keys in the morning. The smart thing for me to do would be to put them in the same place every day, sort of like a key depository for safe keeping until the next day. Finally out of frustration, listening to me panic every morning looking for my keys, my wife bought a simple key hook that she installed right next to the front door. This was the greatest thing ever! I would get home every day, put my key right on that hook and viola, they would be there in the morning when I was ready to leave. That is, until they weren’t.

Eventually I would wake up in the morning and my keys wouldn’t be on that hook and I would go right back to square one. Then the next day it would be the same thing, and the next until eventually that hook was just another decoration on the wall. Sure, some days I would walk by the hook and say “oh crap” and hang them up but that one time I forgot, I am now forgetting forever, until next time.

No excuses

This also leads to very strange situations where I will put things in places that make absolutely no sense. Ask my wife why the toilet paper was in the kitchen cabinet or why I put my wallet inside of a desk drawer that I never use. In split second decisions I will think these things make sense and just go ahead and do them. By this point she’s used to it and just doesn’t question it.

So, even though having ADHD comes with a lot of challenges, I try to never blame my ADHD for anything. I won’t go around making excuses for why I am late to work every single day or why sometimes I will say things without considering the repercussions. Are they because of my ADHD? Sure, they could be. Could I control these things? Absolutely but not forever because there’s always going to be a slip up here or there. I can’t worry about when that’s going to happen, because it is going to happen.  I have ADHD and I am not perfect but perfect isn’t something I want to be anyway.




Writer, blogger, ice cream salesman

Owner/Proprietor Musings Of Shawn on Facebook





Jeremy Thomas

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