I have been describing my condition as “imagine 20 radio stations playing in your head all at once.” This may be even better.
Imagine that you’re sitting in a room with no doors or windows. There are no exits. There’s a television in this room with you. It’s on, it’s very loud, and it keeps randomly switching channels. There’s no power button. You can’t turn it off. There’s no volume. You can’t turn it down. You can’t escape.
(I recently read very similar description by Jake E.S. Taylor, a teenager with ADHD, in his book ADHD and Me: What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table .)
Now, imagine that you can carry that room around in your head. Television is just as loud and random as before, but no one else can hear it. Imagine trying to go about your daily life of going to school or going to work, having a relationship, or just trying to carry on a conversation. Imagine trying to do that in a world mostly full of people who don’t have random televisions blaring away in their heads, and can’t imagine anyone else really does either. Including you. “It’s all in your head,” they say.
Well, yeah. That’s the problem.
Medication, in my experience, doesn’t shut off that television. It turns down the volume, and slows down the channel switching. It doesn’t “cure” my ADD. But it does make the symptoms of ADD manageable, so that I can use the other tools I need to manage the my ADD symptoms.
Some of us manage pretty well without treatment, for a while. We compensate, not always successfully, but maybe enough to get by.