Turning My ADHD Reality Into ADHD Fantasy
How I stopped fighting ADHD and began to love it
“ADHD fantasy?” said the man, “I don’t think that’s an Amazon category.”
Well. Fitting existing categories has never been my super-power.
“Why can’t you be like everyone else just for once!”
“But what’s the point of being me, if I’m just like everyone else?”
This snippet from my book makes sense, doesn’t it? Too bad it took me decades to figure this out. Until then, I have spent decades trying to squeeze my thorny edges into the neat square box society has made for me. Yes, in case you’re wondering, it has been too tight, and yes, I do carry some scars from the failed attempts to get in. The biggest one is probably losing sight of what I can actually accomplish and what I can’t. Most people base their self-belief on their past successes and failures. I do that, too, except I count any unfulfilled idea as a failure. Trouble is, I have way too many ideas to implement even a small fraction of which. Another difference is that most successes other people don’t even count — because they take them for granted — become failures in my case. Arriving on time. Paying bills. Remembering what you told me. Getting back to you, as I promised (and meant to).
The past, or: words matter
The result is an unrealistic view of success. Sometimes believing I can actually make it, no matter the goal. There’s nothing I can’t do in the morning shower. Yet, as I lie in bed, tossing and turning in a futile attempt to fall asleep, I know I will fail. Yes, I have been working very hard. Yes, I think I’ve done a very good job. But I can’t succeed. Can I? No, I can’t, I know that. After all, I have failed so much more often than I have succeeded, and in such tiny tasks!
When you talk to your kids, pupils, friends, spouses, yourselves — watch out for your words. And thoughts, because they show, too. Sometimes, just one more doubtful gaze is all it takes to kick them off the path of “I stand a chance” and throw them into the “why bother” river. Why bother ask again, when I know I’ll forget it again? Why bother try, when I know I can’t concentrate? Why bother to be nice, when I know I‘m bound to antagonize them sooner or later?
The present, or: inside and out
ADHD is a strange thing: on the outside, all you can see is someone not caring enough to pay attention to what you ask of them, but spending hours reading or playing video games (the nerve!); someone who won’t keep their mouth shut, but won’t listen to a word you say (what self-indulgence!); someone who will either go crazy over celebrating your birthday, probably excepting you to do the same for them (whoever needs that? as if you’re not busy enough!), or completely forget about it (and still expect you to celebrate theirs. Doh!)
In the inside, amazingly, spreads a whole new world. I care a lot about your requests, but I couldn’t pay attention, because I was reading. I wasn’t even aware you made a request. My mind has a hard time filtering stimuli, so it may completely lock into a hyper-focus when I try to concentrate. It will still automatically respond to you, but I will probably not even know it did. Like your kid asking you at the dead of night if they can cut your hair. “Yeah, yeah, sure,” you mumble, and wake up as a cactus.
It’s just the same for me with talking, listening, planning, celebrating: life is an all-or-nothing experience for me. I have a super-turbo button and an off button. Why, is there anything in between?
I have always written. Short stories, letters, blog posts, lesson plans, professional writing, copywriting, academic writing. Years ago I managed to complete a PhD in philosophy while raising three toddlers. It was no easy task, but I persevered, living mostly in the super-turbo state. Needless to say, arriving at the finish line had me believing, even late at night, that I actually can do anything. But life went on. New failures have accumulated, and when I set out to write my first novel, it was a constant battle between “Surely I can do anything, certainly as a writer” and “This is a whole new kind of writing. The mere thought is crazy.”
But I carried on. The basic idea sprung from my own life with ADHD, but mostly, from being diagnosed. Late, but not too late. My diagnosis shed a new understanding over my whole life: I’m not flawed; I’m different. And my difference sometimes shines. A whole new, fantastic world began forming in my mind, and I’m writing it to life.
The Future, or: building the ADHD-compatible life
Thinking ahead (says my super-turbo button; being delusional, says its opposite), I began to search for Amazon categories that my novel would fit into once it’s finished. It is definitely a fantasy. But what sort of fantasy? Most fantasy sub-genres are defined in relation to the world they create. I went through them, and couldn’t find a match. It does not take place in medieval times; on the contrary, modern technology is present. It doesn’t have old sages or chosen ones; it has protagonists with ADHD. It’s not high fantasy nor low fantasy; it’s on your eyes’ level fantasy.
My fantasy world draws from my own quirky mind, which could not have existed without ADHD. It’s an ADHD fantasy taking place in an ADHD wonderland.
This helped me realize I am at the culmination of a path I moved to about a decade ago, following my diagnosis: rearranging my life to live an ADHD-compatible life. It’s not just about writing. I plan to self-publish, aka take the Indie, or don’t-tell-me-what-and-how-to-do path. It is, by definition, ADHD-friendly.
So I bother. I don’t know if I stand a chance, but I bother writing something different. I have come to think that if what you do doesn’t fit any ready-made definitions, you may well be doing something right. Or not, but you’ll never know until you try.
You can follow my ADHD fantasy fiction here.