The ADHD, Social Anxiety Puzzle

Puzzles can generally be frustrating things can’t they? As fun as they are, you always find yourself getting irritated at the loss of a certain piece or when you just can’t seem to figure it all out and get it all to piece together. You may even end up throwing a strop or tantrum over it, or giving up on completing the puzzle all together.

I feel that suffering from ADHD and Social Anxiety is a bit like a puzzle for me. Every one is different, and I’m sure I’m not the only person that experiences both of these (along with an added slice of hypothyroidism, general anxiety and depression) but we all handle it in different ways and believe me, it’s a struggle.

Social Anxiety is where you can overthink social interaction and events. It varies from person to person but some cases of it mean the person might not want to go out at all unless they are physically invited to (as they feel you do not want them there otherwise) and some get shaken or nervous overthinking every thing that is said and done during a social activity. Also an overwhelming general fear of socialising with new people.

ADHD is a medical condition called Attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It effects your concentration and self-control. Your attention is limited and you have more difficulty being focused. You can also be very fidgety, and with hyperactive behaviour thrown in it can be a very difficult disorder to deal with.

I didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until I was in my 20’s. It wasn’t commonly investigated back then. Generally, everyone just thought I was a little shit and I was not very clever. I do sometimes question how different my life might have been if this had been picked up on in my childhood. If my grades would have been better, if I would have been medicated, would my future have planned out differently?

Now that I have gone in to the definition of those two conditions, imagine what it’s like to have both going on in your brain at the same time. I basically overthink every single aspect of my day to day life.

Having anxiety constantly makes me go back to overthinking conversations I’ve had with people, how I have behaved in front of others etc. But having ADHD also means that I am impulsive and have no filter what so ever. Sometimes this can be seen as a positive, because most people will have a genuine idea of how I’m really feeling because I can’t think up a lie before I open my gob. But more often than not, having ADHD is not such a positive thing.

I have made a fool of myself many, many times. With men, saying the wrong thing in front of friends, putting my foot in it unintentionally etc. For the first few times, I was bummed but it sort of blew over. But now because there’s been so many mishaps with this, my social anxiety has gone beyond peak level. I have a horrendous fear of meeting people full stop.

The internet makes it easier to pretend. It’s easy to hide behind a filter and follow random people and like their photos without ever having to let them experience what you’re like as a physical human being. But even social media gives me panic attacks at times because I overthink what strangers may think of something I did online.

I once deleted Tinder because I accidentally super liked someone who was a mutual friend, I basically spent all day freaking out thinking that the guy was going to laugh about me to the mutual friend or send me some mean message and make me a laughing stock. Why that automatic thought occurs I’m not sure, but my guess is due to the bullying in my past, this now makes me assume everyone is always going to see me as a negative. But In hindsight, the guy probably just did what most people do when they see someone they don’t fancy superlikes them and has a giggle about it on their own and swipes left. No harm done.

Social anxiety really doesn’t allow you to be logical too often though. And ADHD always overpowers me when I am out at social events, it is hard to not have a filtering process and just say and do dumb shit around people. The social anxiety generally plays out afterwards. I’ll go home and then lay in my bed and rethink every single action and word that happened. If one person even gave me one slightly funny look or disagreed with something I said, it will play on my mind for a long period of time. Then it brings the pending fear of seeing that person again in another social event. Once you have that mindset that the people you socialise with have a problem with you, it is very hard to break out of it.

So this is why I describe my disorders like a puzzle, I spend each day piecing different bits of each disorder together to try and make a big bright picture which makes me happy about the conditions I have. I always see all this stuff about self-love and acceptance of who you are but it can be very hard to do so when you are easily disliked for things you’ve done that are beyond your mental control.

Because that is something people don’t physically grasp with ADHD. We can’t control what happens with it. It’s easy for people without the disorder to sit there and go “it’s just an excuse so you can be a little shit and misbehave”. Trust me, it’s not. I don’t know about other ADHD sufferers but I would love nothing more than to not have a lack of filter and be hyperactive so easily. It’s also actually rather offensive to accuse someone with ADHD of making excuses. Imagine as a woman if you suffer from PMS or get hormonal when you’re due on… imagine how annoyed you get when people bitch about it but it’s something you can’t control. Well, that’s how I feel about my ADHD outbursts.

I’m not sure if the Covid-19 pandemic has been a positive or not for the above, because I can’t go out and socialise. But my fear is it is actually making the anxiety aspect ten times worse with the lack of interaction with people, it might make me more anxious when the time comes to go back out there. Also, I fear my ADHD is going to multiply from excitement when I’m out and about again.

I’m still trying to manage both of these things and try not to let them overcome me too much. My people skills and filter still needs a fair bit of work but thankfully I do have friends in my life who get me. It’s just the meeting new people thing I am useless at. But, I am learning to accept this big brain puzzle as part of who I am. The right people will understand it and help me through it. It is very hard to not care about what other people think of me when I have these conditions, but I’m working on it.

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