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Jan 06, 2019 16:30:51

My ADD Brain: An Analogy

by @nicksimard PATRON | 546 words | 🐣 | 73💌

Nick Simard

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NOTE: I take medication now to help with my ADD symptoms. This describes what it feels like without that.

“Normal Brain,” As I Imagine It To Be

Take a moment and picture a swimming pool. You know, the kind you’d expect to see at a hotel — long enough to swim laps and with a depth of 8 feet or so at its deepest point. Now throw a billiard ball (I almost said pool ball but thought that would be confusing, given the pool) into the water. Ripples, right? Throw another one in, anywhere you’d like. Then another. And one more. The ripples are now meeting each other — colliding — but lightly since there is so much space between the balls’ impact points. The billiard balls have sunk (I assume…I haven’t tried this) to the bottom. You could fit so many balls in there, as the pool is quite large.

My (Unmedicated) ADD Brain

Instead of a hotel swimming pool, imagine a kiddie pool. The small plastic ones that fit a couple of kids comfortably. Throw one billiard ball in there. Ripples. Now throw another. And one more. And one last ball. The ripples are now colliding much more since the balls landed in the water much closer to each other. And four billiard balls in that kiddie pool are actually noticeable. The odds of future balls touching each other are much greater since there isn’t as much room in there.

What Does This Mean?

The balls represent thoughts, ideas, to-do items, etc. They come into our minds, hang out and affect each other a little bit because we can only think of — and remember — so many things. It doesn’t take too many of those balls for the kiddie pool to feel cramped. The ripples come into contact more quickly and affect each other more.

Now, consider that my “pool” likely has 4-5 balls thrown into it for every one ball thrown into the average “pool.” My smaller pool fills up even faster, all the while having these ripples crashing into each other.

Eventually, the balls make the water level rise a little, and it starts to spill over the edge of the pool. But the balls keep coming. And just for good measure, someone reaches in and grabs some of those balls (disrupting the water even more) then throws them right back in. The same ball is causing problems again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, the hotel swimming pool won’t even come close to filling up in a day. The frequency of the balls means that the ripples will have little effect on each other. The water level won’t be affected. Heck, there’s even room for people to get into the pool and they won’t be affected. The people in my kiddie pool? They have no place to sit, are getting all wet from the balls splashing water and are even getting hit by billiard balls.

That’s what my brain has felt like a lot of the time. Writing these posts may seem like yet another thing to do, but getting it out of my head helps tremendously. It’s almost like taking a few balls out of my pool and giving the ball-thrower some lunch so that he/she takes a break from throwing balls in my pool. 


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  • 1

    @nicksimard A great share and excellent analogy. This is a great piece that may help many others recognize and express what they too could be experiencing.

    Tracy Farnsworth avatar Tracy Farnsworth | Jan 08, 2019 15:10:56
    • 1

      @taowist Thanks! I should have mentioned what initially made me think that I might actually have ADD. I'll save that for another post :)

      Nick Simard avatar Nick Simard | Jan 08, 2019 23:40:20
  • 1

    @nicksimard Thanks for sharing this analogy as it makes clear the struggle you have with ADD. I am glad that you found writing posts therapeutic and look forward to more of your content.

    Brandon Wilson avatar Brandon Wilson | Jan 06, 2019 18:31:42
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      @brandonwilson it’s not something I’ve talked or written about a whole lot but I figured I’d share the analogy, since it can be hard for people to understand. It’s not just being distracted or unable to focus. There’s a whole lot more mayhem, hehe.

      Mind you, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 33, so I don’t know what it’s like to go through formative years being the kid/teen with ADD. Luckily, I didn’t struggle with academics. I guess I have a knack for learning, and the competitive side of me always wanted to be among the top students. Then after we had our first child I couldn’t juggle all the balls and things started spinning out of control. I started thinking I just wasn’t capable of being an adult, and it was super frustrating. Knowing what it is, and having some ways to harness it and work around it has helped tremendously :)

      All that being said, ADD/ADHD is over-diagnosed and we’re just throwing pills at kids when they may just be bored, or eating poorly, or not getting enough sleep, or spending too much time looking at screens, or generally high-energy. Not every kid who has a hard time sitting still or focusing has ADD.

      I opted for (daily) meds that target norepinephrine and dopamine but that aren’t a stimulant. I also have the absolute lowest dose of a stimulant in case I want a little more. But that’s not every day. So I reduce the symptoms but still get some of the “benefits” of ADD (that may be a topic for a future post).

      Nick Simard avatar Nick Simard | Jan 06, 2019 19:44:38
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    @nicksimard That weiteup was awesome.

    What do you do to focus with work tasks or what has helped?

    AG avatar AG | Jan 06, 2019 16:41:57
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      @ag thanks :)

      Focusing can definitely be a challenge. I work from home, which brings its own set of difficulties compared to working around co-workers. A few things that have helped me:

      - knowing what time of day I work best, for certain kinds of tasks

      - taking advantage of “hyper focus” when I find myself in it (one of the few positive “symptoms” of ADD)

      - listening to music without a whole lot of lyrics, often with noise-canceling headphones

      - creating what I call “hyper focus” playlists, with about a 30-40 minute run time and I play it on repeat. It helps me get into a groove and not be distracted by new music that might come up with something like Spotify’s Discover Weekly (which I do love, by the way).

      - I read somewhere that just having a brain dump where you write down all the shit that’s swirling around on your head can help. I do that sometimes. Just stream of consciousness scribbling (doesn’t matter if it’s legible) to empty the clutter.

      - caffeine helps :)

      - for reminders of “life stuff” that I have to do, I use an iOS app called Due for some of it. It will pester me until I mark the thing as done.

      - doing stuff in batches rather than bouncing from task to different task. I find the start/stop disruptive. So for example if I was going to go through old blog posts to modify the image, and also edit the text, I’d probably do the images for all of them since it’s all the same task and I get into a rhythm, versus image and text for one post, then image and text for another post, etc.

      I’ve yet to find the perfect to do/task system for me, which is frustrating. I think I’ve tried them all. I wish I liked Todoist but I just can’t make myself. At one point I really liked Wunderlist and then it was supposedly being sunsetted when Microsoft acquired it and made their To-Do app, so I stopped using it. Years later, it’s still going.

      I recently found a web app called Milanote that’s pretty cool. Lets you create your own layouts and system, including task lists. So I’m not put into a box as much, compared to most task/project management apps.

      Thanks for asking :)

      Nick Simard avatar Nick Simard | Jan 06, 2019 19:59:21
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      @nicksimard Thanks for the extensive answer! Im realizing that I do very similar things to focus.

      Ive also found that doing one task every day, first thing in the morning, that I really, really don't want to do really kickstarts my productivity for the whole day.

      AG avatar AG | Jan 07, 2019 11:01:59
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