I realized the other day that people who are not on the A-spectrum (Autism, Aspergers, ADHD) probably have no idea what it is like to experience brain overload, so I want to try to explain. When I am dealing with ADHD overload, all these things are true:
[trying to think is painfully difficult and focusing is worse]
Trying to think at all is like trying to think with a massive headache; it takes a deliberate effort and it feels like a strain that almost hurts. Trying to focus my thoughts feels like when I haven't eaten for many hours and delicious food smells keep wafting by-- every single time, my attention is pulled away. But it's happening with every little sound or movement.
[everything is too loud]
Also, all senses are heightened and not in a good way. Things I normally wouldn't even notice become so loud and annoying they make me want to scream -- the sound of paper sliding as someone turns the page of a book feels like someone scraping dull blades across my skin. I get deeply upset by an uncomfortable chair, hot room, or any smell. All I want is for the stimuli to STOP.
[uttering words is a struggle and sometimes impossible]
Trying to speak, trying to utter words feels like trying to jump when I have been walking for so long that my legs feel shaky and it takes a constant effort of will to make each step. Opening my mouth and coordinating my tongue with my thoughts feels like lifting my arms after I just carried something too heavy for way too long. It just feels like so much work that I can't do it. I can think a string of words but pushing them out is nearly impossible. Sometimes when I do manage words they come out garbled and they always are short, labored phrases.
[and I cannot do anything right]
Trying to to do things feels like when I haven't slept for so long that all my muscles ache and I am moving slow and dropping things. I'm clumsy and constantly fucking up and every time it happens I want to cry and scream. And it just keeps happening no matter how careful I am or how much I am used to doing it perfectly.
So when I say I am having an ADHD overload day, it doesn't only mean that I am extra scatterbrained and forgetful -- that's actually the least bad of the symptoms. It is like having a bad cold, but cognitive (thinking) rather than respiratory (breathing). I love my ADHD brain with all its daily quirks -- except when I am in overload.