A User’s Guide: ADHD is a mental health advice column you won’t forget, thanks to advice from comedian and mental health advocate Reed Brice. He has a lifetime of experience with ADHD, and as such, he has the skinny on what to do when the whole world feels like a china shop... and you’re a bull in roller skates.
You’re doing that weird tapping thing with your foot again.
You just got another parking ticket you already can’t afford because you forgot to pay the meter… again.
You slept with who last night, grrrl?!
OK, maybe you’re not as much of a hot mess as I am (not the highest hurdle to jump, I’ll admit it). But maybe you’ve been struggling with your organization, mood, impulse control, or any of the other sneaky symptoms associated with ADHD — and you’re wondering what might be up.
If it’s affecting your ability to function day to day, how much longer are you going to let yourself hang there, struggling with your busted coping mechanisms, before you decide to look into whether it’s “just your personality” or the same mental health condition affecting millions of other people worldwide?
To review, let’s go over some of the most common ADHD symptoms to see if any ring a ding-dong bell for you, shall we? They include:
- poor focus
- hyperactivity and fidgeting
- difficulty following instructions
- impatience and irritability
There are plenty more facets to ADHD. Not everyone will experience them all, but these are the usual suspects that lead people to seek out some assistance. If you’re still not sure if they apply to you, let’s elaborate a bit more.
1. You’re a little bit ‘extra’
Can you never stop being a loud extra diva ever, ever?
Overtalking, restlessness, and fidgeting are huge tells for someone with ADHD. For me, it’s like my anxiety is trying to figure out a way to get out of my body as quickly as possible. I stutter and repeat words, flex my fingers and toes, and adjust myself in my seat approximately one thousand times per minute — when I’m able to stay in it at all.
“Now Reed,” you ask, “how do I know this is a mental disorder and not just a regrettable second cold brew of the day?” Fair question! It all comes down to how often you experience this and to what extent it affects your ability to get stuff done (and without getting shushed like the world’s worst library offender).
2. You’ve been described as ‘all over the place’
Are your focus and control a little... funky? Is staying on topic during a conversation harrowing? Like the time I was getting my ears pierced and I said to my friend, Will — he’s my oldest childhood friend, and we grew up near Joshua Tree together! If you’ve never been, you simply must — OK, sorry. We’ll talk about that another time.
If you can’t focus, it can be difficult to achieve your goals, whether it’s finishing a project you’re passionate about or just letting someone else talk during a conversation for, like, a SECOND. Staying on track is hard when your mental health condition gives you a hyperactive mind and too little impulse control.
ADHD can be exhausting. Remember there are tons of exercises, meditative techniques, and medications to get you feeling calibrated correctly. It all starts with recognizing the signs.
3. What’s the third one? Oh yeah, memory issues
No joke, I almost forgot to include this.
Do you open the front door and immediately forget where you’re going because you saw an especially cute dog (who among us)?
Are you constantly realizing you’re smack-dab in the middle of a conversation with a person you just got introduced to, and you can neither remember if his name is Justin or Dustin OR if he was talking about tropical fish or parakeets?
I also live in this foggy hell, which is especially hellish for me because meeting people and remembering the details of what they said is, like, a real big part of this whole “professional writer” deal, believe it or not!
Some days, no matter how on the ball I try to be about it, my brain just does not cooperate, and I end up looking like a diva who doesn’t bother learning people’s names or value their time. If you’re a diva who doesn’t learn names or value people’s time, werk, but those of us with ADHD work with our doctors and therapists on strategies to keep us from constantly being idontknowher.gif.
4. Your apartment would give Marie Kondo a heart attack
Are you so disorganized even Marie Kondo would take a look at your general state of affairs and say, “Hoo boy?”
Well, you’re not alone, reader. As a child, it was a fool’s errand trying to instill an Everything In Its Place outlook in me (especially since, full disclosure, I grew up in a hoarding household so the level of tidiness is uhhh relative). I was a sloppy kid, and I’m still a sloppy adult!
Take a good, hard look at your surrounding environment, finances, and perhaps undervalued Google Calendar and tell me honestly if you’re comfortable like this.
Clutter and loose game plans are The Enemy to those of us with ADHD. I personally believe this is one of the most difficult traits to reconcile. When it’s gone over the line from quirky to a set of harmful habits impairing your ability to live life to the fullest, it might be time to get some support.
…now if you’ll excuse me for one moment, I’m going to go make my bed.
So, what can you do?
Friend, today can be the day you both take accountability AND cut yourself a little slack.
You can’t excuse a medical condition for less than flattering behavior, but you can understand why it’s happening and learn new habits to inhibit that behavior. And you don’t have to do it alone! Talk to a doctor or psychiatrist, as they’re the ones who can get you properly tested and offer some next steps to getting back on track.
And if you do have ADHD? I’m your new best squirrelfriend — I’ll be right here at Healthline, digging into these issues together. Let’s figure out how to be the super dignified, have-it-together sovereigns we know ourselves to be underneath all this hot mess.
Reed Brice is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. Brice is an alum of UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts and was the first transgender person to ever be cast in a professional revue with The Second City. When not talking the tea of mental illness, Brice also pens our love and sex column, “U Up?”