ADHD Paralysis

As a kid, I always loved playing Pokémon. I loved the challenge, the strategy, and the excitement of never knowing what creature I would run into in the tall grass. I loved learning new moves and finding new ways to win bouts without taking too much damage, but one thing I didn’t like was the electric affliction “paralysis”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why the creators would add in afflictions like “sleep” and “poison” and “burn” and even “paralysis” but I definitely didn’t enjoy the idea of skipping moves or having to waste a turn using a potion.

What I don’t understand however, is why a power greater than me would chose to similarly inflict me (and others with ADHD) with the very same affliction I combatted in the game – forcing me to “skip moves” and search for the kinds of potions that could refocus my brain and allow me to be productive on days when the dopamine doesn’t want to cooperate.

TikTok, ADHD, and Executive Function

About a month ago the TikTok algorithm directed me to a creator that has put in quite a bit of time into understanding ADHD. This kid whom, I don’t think is older than 21, then uses his platform to educate others on the pitfalls and misconceptions of the disorder. Anyway the guys username is @Connordewolfe and if you both have ADHD and/or subscribe to apps like TikTok or Instagram he’s a great resource to have (very digestible) and if he somehow comes across this blog I hope he’s not offended that I referenced him or some of his content directly.

Anyway, ADHD PARALYSIS – so somewhere in the past month or more, this creator, Connor, posted a TikTok about the topic of ADHD paralysis, where in he preformed a skit that essentially said he couldn’t do anything that day or was basically frozen all day because he had a package coming at 8 pm. [Personal anecdote bellow]

Anyway, so before I saw this video describing ADHD paralysis, I didn’t know that there was a word for It. And obviously, part of this is my fault, because while I’ve struggled with ADHD my whole life – I spent so much time trying to avoid it and suppress it, that I never thought to do any research that could properly explain why I did the things I do.

Yes I realize this is backwards but it’s how my brain works so shhh.

[if you have a decent understanding of what ADHD is you can skip to the next heading… otherwise enjoy the ride]

Anyway, ADHD paralysis. So if you didn’t know this – ADHD as a whole is a condition that effects ones executive function. Executive function is essentially what allows someone to get started on a task, organize the process of the task and then sustain the effort needed to complete said task. (It’s also what allows someone to coherently organize their thoughts… something I clearly sometimes struggle with)

So, obviously, not being able to, or having deficits when it comes to executive function can cause some if not a lot of problems in someone’s life.

And because ADHD isn’t taken all that seriously in some circles or is ridiculed in others, some people get misdiagnosed, some don’t have proper access to testing (it’s expensive), and others might just be too embarrassed to get tested at all.

Yikes

So what is ADHD paralysis?

Seeing that ADHD already creates a deficit of ones executive function, it’s hard to believe that there would be another blocker on top of an already tricky situation. But there is. See ADHD paralysis is what happens when you really want to get started on a task but you can’t quite get your brain to cooperate. Sometimes nothing triggers the paralysis and other times it might start because something (like knowing a package is coming) does.

For me this shows up in my ability to start, and more so, finish, short stories and novels.

“But if you say you want to do it so bad, why don’t you just do it?”

Well that’s the problem, I can’t – I can’t physically get my brain to cooperate and so I find myself losing track of time and staring at walls and zoning out because despite wanting to do something, I just can’t get myself to start or move or etc. But then it gets confusing because on the flip side of that, once I do get started (or excessively motivated), I can follow the rush (“the dopamine”) and get things done insanely quickly.

But the crazy thing is that ADHD paralysis doesn’t just encompass starting a home project or writing something. For me the real paralysis comes when I have something to do hours from now or even days from now and can’t convince myself or rationalize with myself to do other things while I’m waiting for that other thing to happen.

Think of it as an “all or nothing” complex.

For example: I once spent a day and a half waiting for a package I had to sign for because I didn’t want to miss the mail man. Now at this point you could ask “ok so you waited… but you were probably doing work or something right?” To which I would reply, a big fat NOPE. Having been waiting for that package for so long I decided that on the day it was supposed to arrive I’d just wait on the porch. So I did. I sat on the porch from 11:30 to at least 4 or 5. And for hours I didn’t move because I was hyper focused on making sure I wouldn’t miss the mail. And sure I scrolled on my phone and watched the dog, but even then I didn’t actually manage to accomplish anything that day because I was frozen by the fact that receiving the package was the only task I had to accomplish that day.

That being said you can imagine how unamused I was when the package didn’t arrive that day and was delayed until the next. At which point, I also spent hours that next day similarly sitting on the porch before I got so anxious that I forced myself to go to the back yard and get a home project done. But I was only able to do this because my line of sight reached around the house and I could still see when the mailman arrived.

And it doesn’t just happen with mail…

Look, as a relatively successful 25 year old whose earned two degrees and is thankfully employed, I obviously can’t always afford to wait until something happens. And I obviously didn’t get to where I am today without finding ways to get myself to get something done. But sometimes it’s a real fight to navigate the very real anxiety I get when I am waiting for something to happen and don’t have much to do between the now and then.

That said, I have definitely put time into training myself to get the tasks I need to do done by finding work arounds to the way my brain functions. And sometimes this means that I just have to ride the wave and do the impulsive thing that’s keeping my mind from focusing on what I actually have to do on that day. (For example: writing this blog right now rather than eating because I was waiting on my next assignment to come in. – it came in ten minutes ago….)

So obviously, this isn’t to say that I don’t still slip up and let my zoning out get the best of me sometimes (like waiting 6 hrs for a damn package or writing a blog) but I can say that I do make an active effort to trick myself into doing all the things I need to do. So in that way I guess I can say that, when my bag is full (following the Pokémon theme) I definitely take advantage of the potions that allow me to “heal” my paralysis, and when the bag is empty I do my best to take those days as they come, paralysis and all.

Wrap it up Rachel…

All in all I think ADHD is something people don’t recognize for being as challenging as it can be. I think people are quick to just write it off because some people abuse the system by getting medications they don’t actually need and so they forget that people with ADHD don’t necessarily get the same rush or focus with their medicine.

And I also think that people with ADHD, like me, can really benefit from putting names to the symptoms and emotions and afflictions they face daily.

So if you’re like me, or even if you aren’t, I hope that in reading this you or someone you know might be able to benefit by knowing you aren’t alone and that you are allowed to validate yourself when it comes to the way you know your brain works. And lastly, I hope you know that you don’t need anyone else’s permission to be who you are, even if that person isn’t the one you or someone else expects you to be. [Stay tuned Friday for that blog – and have a great week!]

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