‘It’s like having a neighbor from hell, but the annoying neighbor is your own brain and they’re never moving out. You’re stuck with them forever.’: Woman advocates for neurodiversity, ‘The hardest battle is the one I fight against myself every day’

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“Why am I holding a pill bottle in this selfie?

Because I have ADHD, and after seeing multiple comments on a Facebook post stating that it’s a made-up condition to give parents an excuse for their kids misbehaving and being absolutely horrified by those comments, I wanted to address it. I needed to address it. That bottle contains the pills I take every day to help my brain function more like it should (although it will never be 100%). Having ADHD is like having a neighbor from hell.

A neighbor who plays the types of music you hate the most loudly enough to hear through your walls. A neighbor who blocks your driveway with their car and throws parties that last until 1, 2, 3 a.m. on a weeknight. One who stomps around right above your head so loudly you would swear that they are bowling with construction equipment? A neighbor that pays no attention to any attempts from you to get them to stop their bad behavior? That’s kind of what it’s like to have ADHD, but the annoying neighbor is your own brain and they’re never moving out. You’re stuck with them, and that metaphorical terrible album, forever.

You are fed your own thoughts at warp speed, too fast for your mouth to keep up, so you are told people can’t understand you because you talk too fast. You’re told you talk too much. Eventually, after hearing that enough, you stop talking. You eventually

“You know you have to be up at 4:15 for work, but the neighbor’s throwing a party again and you can’t get to sleep. You’re constantly frustrated. I wanted to address it. I needed to address it.”

yourself nothing you say matters anyway, or people wouldn’t be telling you this, and that sends you into a spiral of self-doubt and impostor syndrome that never really goes away. You did well in school, but independent work was a hurdle because you just couldn’t get yourself to do it, even though you knew you had to. (Last year, I frantically filed our taxes at the eleventh hour, despite having every document I needed, and knowing how to do it, for months.) You even put off doing things you enjoy, because that soundtrack in your head is constantly distracting you.

You know you have to be up at 4:15 for work, but the neighbor’s throwing a party again and you can’t get to sleep. The soundtrack is now replaying that moment today where you forgot an inconsequential thing that wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was one more thing you forgot, so you stew and stew and stew until the alarm goes off. You got no sleep. You take failure and rejection hard, and you take it personally. You don’t see it as a learning experience. You see it as one more time you had to work extra hard to try to fit in and do things everyone says you should do, but your brain gets in the way again, and it’s just one more disappointment to add to the list of disappointments that have accrued since you were diagnosed as a child. And so you begin to hold yourself to impossibly high standards, to belittle and berate yourself when you can’t live up to them. You develop an eating disorder to make yourself disappear since you are so very present, and everyone reminds you of it, and hope you can be a little less ‘there.’ When none of that works, the self-loathing begins again, and the bar is raised even further, to more impossible heights. You’re constantly frustrated.

Medication turns down the volume, and the music isn’t quite so present. The soundtrack is always playing, though, the same music you hate the most, over and over and over again, with no hope of it stopping. Maybe someday you’ll be able to change it to something that energizes you, something you love but right now, you’ve been listening to the same soundtrack for thirty years, and you’re just exhausted.

Why am I sharing this personal and kind of embarrassing recount of my life with ADHD? Because I’m not making it up. You’re not making it up. Mental illness and neurodiversity are real and valid and it does not make you less than, it does not make you a crybaby, an attention seeker, a bad person. It makes you someone whose brain works differently. It’s valid. One of my hardest battles is the one I fight against myself every day. You are doing just fine. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are loved.”

Courtesy of Jenna Levin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenna Levin. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this: 

‘She flatly told us his ‘problem.’ One phone call changed my understanding as to what was happening in the school walls.’: Son diagnosed with ADHD, mom talks about how proud she is he made it through school

‘You are on the highest dose I can legally prescribe.’ I sat in the doctor’s office, ashamed of who I’d turned into.’: Young woman with OCD/anxiety gets off medication, finally finds she ‘has the tools to power through any obstacles’

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