Walls: An ADHD Metaphor

If you hadn’t noticed by now, metaphors happen to be one my favorite figures of speech. This post started off, by the way, with me searching for a youtube video on Justin Wilson; you’ll not see him mentioned again in this post– but it was what sparked the idea.

I can’t explain how Justin Wilson led to a wall metaphor about social filters between a non-ADHD* and ADHD brained person. No really, I can’t since I have since forgotten; but at the time it made perfect sense.

*I’m tired of calling these focused folks the typically-brained. Really,is the non-ADHD brain typical, or is the frantically spinning ADHD brain taking over. Think about that zombie apocalypse for a moment, all you damned linear thinkers.

When I ask JB what it’s like to focus on one idea at a time, he gives me the long, slow blink. Before answering, he stops to think, assessing whether I’m asking a legitimate question, or setting him up for an argument.

This, my friend, the stopping to consider a question or action before proceeding is a pure example of a social filter. Or for the purposes of my metaphor, a well-constructed, naturally-occurring wall responsible for protecting the inhabitant (brain) from both internal and external stimuli. I see it as the non-ADHDer carefully building a thin wall, with two tightly-controlled doors– entry and exit. Maybe a window or two. The supple walls provide protection from any low- to mid-range life happens attack. It’s only the truly life-altering events that even threaten structural damage.

Now let me describe my ADHD-brained social filter. I have naturally occurring materials, but those are for use in my Coping Mechanisms Machine, and are sadly incompatible with Wall Building. But I desperately needed a wall, so I constructed one with cobbled bits of Really Embarrassing Memory bricks, held together with my own naturally-occurring buckets of Oh Shit Did I Say/Do/Think That mortar. When construction began (long after everyone else, couldn’t find the hammer), I assumed a thicker wall was best, because it would block out more of That Which Distracts Me and keep in more of That Thought Which Is Inappropriate. Instead I learned that thicker means less flexible, and new cracks show up every day.

Instead of only one entrance and exit, my wall has…more. My brain– ever in conflict– excels and fails at compartmentalization, resulting in extra holes. Sometimes the new door comes when I acquire an irreparable (but not necessarily tragic) hole in the wall- like the one for when my Dad died, or the one for my husband, and each of the Small People.

The inside is reinforced with rolls of wallpaper reminders of my failures, and associated self-directed warnings:
that one expects way too much from you and gives you nothing back; but that one gives you a lot– you need to give her more; remember that time, during the awards ceremony in high school when you were goofing off instead of listening, and ended up in front of 500 kids, trying to accept an attendance award for the other Stephanie? That was fun. Remember when you joined the Navy one afternoon because you had a bad day at work?

I’ve recently installed a revolving door for people or ideas that come in, and want right back out. I don’t blame ’em, it’s rough behind the wall– only the strong, the similarly thinking, or the expert wall builders survive up in here. It’s the linear thinkers, who build good walls that impress me the most. How else could a Point A-B thinker survive a life with a Point Z-Q-K-B-V-27-L-Q-Shiny Squirrel-14-Z-B thinker?

4 thoughts on “Walls: An ADHD Metaphor

  1. I think you need to add a few more doors to the second picture haha, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes it is tough living with ADHD but it definitely makes things more interesting.

  2. yikes … you made me think about my brain in metaphor … I think it looks something like the Fortress of Solitude from the old Superman movie with Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory bubbling inside.

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