This is What it’s Like to Live With ADHD.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Sep 8, 2013
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Sometimes my thoughts get stuck in my throat.

I can feel them piling up in there, lodged and frightened.

My jaw gets achy and my neck feels tight and constricted.

The muscles that run from my shoulder blades to the base of my skull act as levers that perpetually hold my shoulders up, making the weight that’s placed upon them that much more uncomfortable to bear.


And then there are times when my voice is a raging echo.

I holler.

I yell.

I cry.

My throat becomes a tunnel—no, a vacuum—that purges the winds of hell out through my mouth and into the ears of the people that I love.

At times like these, my throat feels hot and raw and unsteady—I am unsteady.


My husband says that I too frequently give him the final draft.

The rough copies, of course, have been floating around in my head for days—for weeks or months even—and yet my mind rolls these around until the point of exhaustion, when I can contain and inspect them no longer, and then—boom!these thoughts explode…into words.


Words are impactful.

Words are sources of great misery and pain and also elation and deliverance.

There is intense, insane power contained within your words.

So why do we throw them around so easily, so effortlessly—so carelessly?


It’s unfortunate—my frequent inability to hand out rough drafts and go through life on a more even keel.

I tend to hinge between quietly calm strength and, well, being unhinged.

Because I’m intense.

This word was recently used to describe the presence that I bring with me into a room when I appear.

It was also brought to my attention that I’m often unconscious of how threatening such an intensity can be—and I think that’s why I hand out these final copies.

Because when do you spare those around you from your constant barrage of internal chatter and your occasionally overwhelming internal fire and when are you hiding things away from them?

In case you’ve never experienced ADHD, or you haven’t  loved someone like this, this is what I’m describing to you: what it feels like to have internal hyperactivity and then try to pretend that you’re normal and not you—because you is someone entirely different from most of the people around you.

You are quick-witted yet impatient. You are passionate and intense. You are honest or, more accurately, unfiltered and, possibly, you are also unable of censoring yourself when you want to and really should.

So how do you learn to open up and be you when who you are is often too much for those other people?

And by too much I mean that when you walk into a room, your presence is palatable and obvious. This fiery energy of yours is nearly impossible to completely contain and others can feel it.

Sometimes they’re drawn to it and they don’t even know why.

At other moments, they’re uncomfortable and it’s not something that you did or said.

So basically you flit between attracting people like magnets and repelling them like magnets too.

And how do you deal with this?

Do you take medication? Do you exercise? Do you spend time in nature, where regular stimulation ironically provides you with a softness that feels a lot like peace?

Do you say screw fitting in to the world?


And maybe you do all of these things at different times.

You learn to accept who you are and the way that you work, even when those “others” around you lack this same understanding.

You explore the yogic concept of non-attachment to the reactions and feelings of others, and then you recognize that non-attachment doesn’t mean that you lack sympathy or selflessness so you  seek to re-learn this concept, newly applied with more balance between self-centeredness and sensitivity.

And you struggle.

You often wish that you were like most other people, and, at the same time, you shirk labels, boxes and limitations for yourself.

And this isn’t what it’s like for everyone to live with ADHD—it’s what it’s like for you (because we’re individuals and not a category and, besides, there are actually several sub-categories anyways, you know),

And because, as it turns out, you are not so different after all.

No, you discover, instead, that we all struggle.

We all fight with ourselves and, though we may be fighting different battles, it’s actually how you handle this process of struggle that’s important.

So you accept it when you’re called someone with ADHD, but you refuse to see yourself as anything but the person who you really are.

And your moving, typing fingers stop racing to meet your brain and you slow down and finally still.

You click save and decide to share this—your rough draft—because this is your story, for right now at least.

Sure, it will change and it will evolve, but you’ve decided to continue sharing these rough copies as they form and shift.

And that’s exactly what you want, more than anything else: for those others (for you, yes, you) to curiously and lovingly exchange papers with me.

Like The Mindful Life on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick



About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


14 Responses to “This is What it’s Like to Live With ADHD.”

  1. susanne says:

    Thank you. I needed this this week!

  2. alex says:

    right on. Thank you!

  3. Kirsten says:

    This made me cry… it is SO me!!!!! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Anne-Laure says:

    Intense… it is such a loaded term isn't it? Like you, I have ADHD and like you, I struggle every day with showing people what it feels like, and just sparing them because they can't handle that truth about me…
    Thanks for the post…

  5. Erica says:

    Nicely written, and very insightful. I have a daughter with Borderline personality disorder, and I think she has similar experiences.

  6. Thank you, Susanne (and you're very welcome).

  7. Kirsten, thank you so much for sharing your personal response. It's extremely meaningful to me.

  8. Thanks to you!
    It is a loaded word and one that can be defined in multiple ways—which is actually why I chose it. (Because "normal," etc can also be defined differently by different people.)

  9. Thank you, Erica.
    Borderline personality can actually be one of the shadow conditions that goes along with some types of ADHD…

  10. Amanda says:

    I was diagnosed 17 years ago and this is the first time anyone else's description has so clearly echoed my experience. Thank you for bravely sharing.

  11. Thank you so much for your feedback, Amanda. I'm just sincerely glad that others, and you, can relate.

  12. Jane says:

    A great piece. Teachers need to read this and maybe be able to step back and see a child a new way. Knowing a kid is ADHD helps but in a class of 30 others with maybe two or three or more kids coping with ADHD sometimes makes the issue of how to function amid chaos or hyperintensity almost unfathomable. It might help for the students to read this and come to an understanding of how they might find a filter to help in a group situation. A wonderful think piece that could be helpful to many. Thanks for illuminating the recesses of your mind!

  13. Thanks so much Jane. My mom (a teacher) said much the same thing! I'll have to mention to her that you seconded that.
    Also, from my perspective, many young girls get overlooked for ADHD diagnosis because they function well enough and don't have behavioral problems in school. I think we need to focus on moving the stigma away from ADHD as a problem child's issue.