What it’s really like having ADHD

Updated 11/11: I was undiagnosed with ADHD and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but I keep this post because even if I don’t bear the label of ADHD, each of the things I talk about below are still parts of my life and my story that are impacted by the challenges that I do face.


I used to check the stove every single time I left the house, regardless of if I used it that day. I just knew I was going to accidentally burn the house down one day, and then one day, my checking didn’t seem so bizarre because I was standing on the tea aisle of Kroger when I remembered that I had left a kettle of tea boiling on the stove which wouldn’t have been so bad. I abandoned my cart and drove home completely on edge.

Everything turned out fine.

I got an extension on a paper in school once because of an unfortunate experience of loss I had walked through. I had a year to write the paper and turn it in, and no matter how many times I sat down to do it, I just couldn’t. I ended up failing the class even though I had an A and that was the only assignment I had to turn in.

A year to write a 10 page paper. I’ve written 40 page ones in one night.

My first full-time job, my boss would often tell me things face-to-face, which was fine. I loved having conversations and bouncing ideas off of other people, but I’d later go to work on the assignment or project and realize I couldn’t remember anything we talked about, if I even remembered that we talked. So I struggled with having to play catch-up a lot because I’d forget about things that were considered vital. I live for emails and Asana. Those can be tracked. Conversations can’t.

I was working a temporary job that had a huge project management side to it, and I was actually super great at tracking the multi-million dollar marketing budget and inventorying everything in the marketing department and placing orders, but I wasn’t as great at tracking the print collateral pieces because the systems in place to track them (basically just several hundred email chains) were difficult for my brain to not get lost in. So to do the job well, I was doing double the work. Every email I got, I was adding to my project management software on monday.com and then still having to go through their systems on the corporate side.

I did double the work so no one would know that there was something different about me.

I’ve actually never been fired from a job or been asked to resign because I’ve always just over-compensated in other areas to offset the deficiencies I have, but that just leads to unhealthy habits of overworking yourself, and unfortunately, when you go back and try to tell people about your struggles, they don’t always believe you because you’ve proven you can do the work. Yet, I can’t not overcompensate because that’s my safety net. Without it, I’m at the mercy of my brain. And I never know if it’s going to allow me to get the things I need to do done that day.

Most days, until my to-do list is 100% clear, I live my life always on edge. I don’t trust myself because I know that something could go horribly wrong, and I’ll be completely blindsided from it. Every text. Every email. Every phone call. Every piece of mail I get, the first thing I wonder is “What did I forget?” and “How badly did I mess this up?”

I went to see my psychiatrist recently, and he always asks me “How are things?” So for the first time, I said out loud what I had really been feeling for a while.

I feel like I’m at a really weird place in life. I don’t feel like I’m that great at anything. I don’t feel like I really belong anywhere. I never feel settled. I have all these things that fill my schedule. I have a lot of people in and out of my life that I interact with every week, but at the end of the day, I don’t really feel like there’s anyone that really understands me… not when it comes to this.

I’ve gotten better at asking for things that I need or when I need help, but I also hate it because people who don’t have my brain don’t need those same things. And how long is someone going to tolerate that before deciding to just hire or work with someone who doesn’t have those challenges?

So it’s this perpetual feeling of being second best at something. And when I am talking to people, I don’t even know how to articulate what I’m thinking sometimes. I need time to think. So I feel like I come across really impulsive, rude, or dumb sometimes because most people I’ve met don’t need that pause.

I think I was so used to being weighed down by all the things I dealt with as a child that when that wasn’t my #1 problem anymore the dynamics changed. I never expected my self-esteem to take a hit because now it’s just me… and my brain. Not me and anxiety or OCD, etc. ⠀

And it’s hard sometimes not to feel like “I’m the problem.” I guess when you said I had ADHD, I thought that was the least of my problems, and somehow, because I’ve worked through a lot of the other things, this has emerged as being my biggest challenge. And I’m so much more aware of the things that make me
quirky. It’s so frustrating sometimes.“


I am not a doctor or mental health professional. This site and all of the content on it is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition.