ADHD and Marriage: What It's Like to Own an ADHD Brain

You are not alike, and one of the big differences between you is what it feels like to live with your brain.  You may be surprised at just how different your head feels than your partners, once you start to discuss it (go ahead – it’s a fun conversation!)  So, in the words of those who know first hand, what IS it like to see the world “through” an ADHD brain?

Fast, noisy

First and foremost, it’s fast and noisy.  There is a lot going on, and it often isn’t very well organized.  People wh ADHD say having an ADHD brain is like:

  • listening to a radio station with a lot of static
  • driving down the highway in a heavy rain with windshield wipers that work intermittently
  • having 49 television sets in your head going all at once
  • having everything in the room shout at you all the time
  • being in a really fast car without good brakes

Not Hierarchical

My brain tells me what’s most important automatically, filtering out stimulus and giving me direction in a way that I’ve learned I just take for granted.  Not so the ADHD brain.  Imagine this:

  • it’s like having the Library of Congress in your head, with no card catalogue
  • it’s like a puzzle out of the box onto the table.  You know there is a specific order to the pieces but it’s not immediately clear what it is, and you know it will be a lot of work to figure it out

The Sweet Spot is Different

Many of the people I know with ADHD thrive in situations that would just plain be stressful for me.  The other day one woman told me:

  • I am happiest when I’m with other people with ADHD and we are tossing ideas all over the place and it’s fast and furious and we are juggling a million things

This is her sweet spot and it’s important for her partner to understand that.  You can’t just take someone and say “no, you can’t be like that!”  It would be like someone insisting that I juggle a huge number of things all at once.  I’ll grant you, I juggle a lot, but I do it by laying out a schedule of when I’ll do what, figuring out my priorities, and attacking the challenges in a well-planned and efficient order.  My sweet spot is efficient organization.  This is quite different from enjoying doing it all simultaneously.  (Just the thought of that gives me the jitters!)

My husband’s version of juggling a million things is 35 windows open on the computer all at once, many of which he is working on at the same time.

Nothing Like the Present!

I’ve written before about the two ADHD time zones – “now” and “not now.”  Here’s a good analogy about time and ADHD:

  • I look at time through a paper towel roll moving from left to right on a timeline.  I see only what is in my vision at that moment…sights that are out of my little window are often forgotten

I’m sure there are many more ways to describe what it feels like to own an ADHD brain.  All you ADHD partners out there, will you share your thoughts with us?