Floating In My ADHD Mind

I’m a philosopher. I mean author. Homeschooling mom.

A single red tulip growing in a purple hyacinth flower bed
Image by the author

To enter my mind, you need to cross the barriers. All of them. But you just asked the question, and the alarm still sounds in my mind; all openings sealed, and I’m trapped inside.

You smile. We just met. You’ve no idea my mind had barriers, and I’m smiling back, appearing perfectly calm to you.

I’m not sure how many barriers there are, each with a narrow crack within it. But they move constantly, rarely falling into line. Just like me. When the cracks are aligned, a magical moment of focus occurs, light shines through, and you can talk to me and gain my full attention.

You seem to think you’ve gained it. You seem to think you don’t even need to gain it; you think it’s granted. I try to make it true, but my mind swirls. Right now, and anytime the cracks are misaligned, anything you say can, and will, be used to divert my own thoughts and musings.

We are both still smiling, both still waiting for your question to somehow be answered.

That ubiquitous, natural question

That ubiquitous, natural question. The question to lock my mind irreversibly, throwing the barriers into panicked disarray. My life scurries before my mind’s eye, occupations, dispositions, predilections, obligations; projects, choices, ventures, roles, pursuits, objectives, goals, vocations.

“So, what do you do?”

What do I do? What do I do? What do I do my whole life, and what do I do right now, to fend off the question?

It’s messy, muddled, breathless; it’s all over the place. It’s unexpected, vague, exhausting. It’s my ADHD life. It’s fragmentary and it’s loud. It is almost anything but deficient, as the name suggests: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But oh, is it disordered.

“I’m a philosopher. I mean, an educator. I mean editor. Translator.”

I learned computer science. Until I didn’t. I changed to political science. Then, to English literature. Translation studies. Philosophy. This last one stuck, though; I earned a PhD in it. And stayed to teach undergraduates. Until I didn’t; then I taught kids and teachers, seniors and the general public. Until I didn’t. I then translated and edited, tutored and researched; eventually, I didn’t. I left everything to homeschool.

“Actually, I’m a homeschooling mom.”

Your smile is still there, but confusion stirs in your eyes.

By now, my kids are all but grown up. Finally having some free time, I set out to write my first novel, turning my ADHD reality into ADHD fantasy fiction. Yes, I’m writing an ADHD fantasy novel.

Your eyebrows raise in interest, but your smile twitches. I see that. What do I actually do, it seems to ask? What is it that I do? That one thing all normal people come up with, what they do.

My mind stumbles

My mind stumbles. I want to say these are all parts of inconsistent me, ever-changing me. This is actually but a fraction. I dance, create, design, produce, bake, code, film; decorate, deliberate, experiment.

But I can’t tell you that, because you want to know what it is I do. It’s a question in the singular form. I can see you take me as whimsical, frivolous. But this does not accord with my PhD, at least. So, what sort of person must I be?

There’s an easy answer: I’m a person with ADHD. That’s who I am, and that’s what my resume attests to. It has a little bit of everything and nothing very continuous, like everything else in my life. If I’m hooked, it could be for life; if I’m not, don’t bother. It wouldn’t help, anyway.

Then, just as I’m about to mutter some excuse for who I am and what I do, it happens. A bright, almost blinding light penetrates my mind through the perfectly aligned cracks in the barriers, illuminating a new truth: I don’t follow the ‘normal’ path. I’m not ‘normal’. I’m different, and therein lies my strength.

My smile broadens a little, but I dare not utter a word of this to you. The clear light tells me you wouldn’t understand, and I might lose what little new confidence I just gained. So I play along, and turn the question back to you. What about you? What do you do?

Now, all that’s left is pretend I’m focused enough to listen to your answer.

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