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ADHD Paralysis - is it really a thing?

A gold outer ring on a dark green background with the quote "ADHD paralysis is when we are overwhelmed physically, mentally or emotionally and struggle to do what we know is required, as our brains reacts differently to a neurotypical brain.

Over the years I have noticed family and friends planning or simply deciding to do something and it just happens.

They plan a day of decorating or decide that they are going grocery shopping, and that's that. It's done unless something else happens, meaning they get what they had planned done first or move things about and still stick to that schedule.

I have to be honest, I look at them and sometimes wonder how they manage it all.

For some of us with ADHD, life isn't always like that. In fact unless my plans involve other people or deadlines, my life most definitely isn't like that. Especially at the weekend. I am not one of those people who always like to be busy. Being busy all the time is exhausting for me and I risk burnout.

I can go to bed on a Friday night with all sorts of plans, including what time I'm getting up, where I'm going, what I'm cleaning, what I'm eating etc etc and I can almost guarantee that the next day never goes as intended, unless it is plans that involve other people and I am bound to them.

For many of us with ADHD, the intrinsic motivation is there and for the things we love doing, it can be easier and mean that we just get on with it. But not always.

Then there's the tasks that are mundane, that we don't really enjoy and even though there are benefits, the inner voice that says I need to do this or I should do this, while sometimes loud and critical, isn't quite enough. Our neural transmitters aren't stimulated enough.

We know we need to do things that will improve our health and wellbeing, our living environment and our relationships with others, but we can find ourselves frozen; unable to move our limbs to get up and do the thing that needs doing , yet sometimes we are able to move our limbs to do other things. Even when we know that actually doing the expected would be beneficial to us.

With it comes a certain amount of shame and guilt. And on some days this is worse than others. For many it isn’t a pleasant experience.

ADHD paralysis is a thing. It may not be something that can be officially diagnosed but for many it is something that affects everyday living. Sometimes it’s avoiding things until the last minute, procrastination, not being able to focus or spending time focusing on something that is definitely not the things that you or anyone else expects you to do.

Personally, the weekends are the worst times for me. I have sat for hours willing myself to get up and clean or make some food, knowing it needs doing but struggling to move my limbs. I know I will feel better once it is done, but the knowledge of all the steps in the task at hand is overwhelming. I dont even sit and think about all the steps anymore, I just know.

Something in my body freezes and I cannot move no matter how much I want to. I literally cannot make myself.

I have instead sat staring at walls while my brain does it's own thing. Time blind yet surprised at how long I can sit there.

Home is my safe place. I know I can get away with it there. There are no time restrictions and I have nowhere to be yet have things I could be doing. I struggle to get up and get on at the weekends, despite my best laid plans.. Whether it is also the result of too much interaction with people during the week or an element of burnout that takes time to recover from, it is hard to define sometimes. And I know I'm one of the lucky ones who can get away with it with very little said to me.

A friend messaged me the other day asking how I was and it took me a while to reply and my reply stated that I had taken to my room to avoid everyone. I very much needed my own space and really couldn't handle a text message, never mind a conversation. Thankfully she understood and didn't push things any further. What she didn’t know was that I had been sat for a very long time, willing myself to get on with things. I hadn't taken to my room, I hadn't actually left it!

And then this right here happens. I sit letting my brain just do it's thing for long enough and I get an idea for a blog or a quote in my head and off we go! I start typing and won't stop until it's done, my mind now occupied with something that interests me, just like it is now.

Maybe this is what gives me the much needed dopamine hit and it lasts long enough to finish what I'm writing and then get up and get moving.

Usually by this time I'm very aware that its after lunch and I haven’t fed myself or made any effort to clean, but writing this appears to be a welcome distraction. It's productive in that it's work, it’s more interesting than any of the other things I need to do, but it’s not really what I know I could be doing right now.

And so it goes on. It's a part of me that I have had to learn to accept, as much as it frustrates me.

I know that I will get up and feed myself eventually.

I know that I will get up and tidy up eventually.

I also know that it isn't happening right now and I have learnt to go easy on myself when that happens. It’s taken a lot of self-compassion, as well as learning how to silence that inner voice that creates the shame and guilt. I’ve also had a good look at how my ADHD affects me to gain a greater understanding of why it happens.

Now that I am aware it happens and have read many articles on it, I know that it definitely isn't down to laziness, although others may view it that way. I know when I am being lazy.

I've also learnt that if I want to do something badly enough, even when I purposefully decide to distract myself with a box set or whatever reason I give to not leave the sanctuary of my room (and yes it really is a sanctuary), I can set an alarm and allow myself just 10 more minutes of something. But I can also hit the snooze button (and yes this does happen).

I realise I am one of the lucky ones. I have no partner to worry about or answer to, my elderly father is still able for the most part and accepts that I clean the house in my own time (although family meals are on his time as he is diabetic). When he needs me to do things, I do what is required. My son is now grown up and can look after himself. That is when he’s not having his own ADHD paralysis - I see it in him too.

It can be difficult sharing this aspect of your life with others. It's hard for others to understand that you can't always just get up and do something, no matter how much you want to. It’s even harder if you haven't done what is expected, yet have spent time on something else. It’s difficult to explain and sometimes people only hear what they want to hear, their opinion already formed.

Let’s be honest, there are times when you want everybody and everything to go away and leave you alone and respect that sometimes you just freeze.

Some days you can't do everything, no matter how much you know you should. You can be a parent but cleaning your home as well as caring for your children may be too much, so you choose to care for your children first as living beings with needs that have to be met. You may or may not get anything else done. You can love your family and struggle to do all that is expected of you as a partner, parent, caregiver or sibling, each and every day.

It's frustrating for others too as sometimes they feel they have no choice other than to pick up the slack. It can cause resentment and friction. All of which can add to that frozen state.

Believe me when I say we do often beat ourselves up over some of the things we know we should be doing but can't.

I know that this blog is a kind of brain dump. Once this is out I probably will get up and get on. I've had so many thoughts today that getting this out is almost therapeutic.

I have learnt after years of freezing, that there are some things that I dont actually need to do today. It can wait until another day, sometimes until a deadline approaches. When there are deadlines I have recently discovered to purposefully set one 48 hours earlier. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I also know that once I get moving there is a chance I will keep going. I'll allow myself a 5 minute water/vape breaks and then get up again with the view that I'm almost finished. If you're like me, you may not get going until later than planned, but once started you may keep going until you achieve everything. Then again you may only get a portion of something completed.

Sometimes, all of a sudden, I will just get up and get on. I have no idea how it happens or I would do my best to make it happen more often. I honestly cannot explain that part of it. It's just how my brain works. Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough alone time and I’m no longer overwhelmed.

I have learnt that things don't have to be perfect. I try to clean every day but cleaning really isn't interesting in any way shape or form. Sometimes I clean things to within an inch of it's life and other times it's more of a general clean or a quick lick as my granny used to call it. It may not be to everyone's standards but I know I have done enough to prevent the spread of disease.

I know that sometimes the food I make isn't the most nutritious meal but it's all I can muster on that particular day. Other days I could quite happily prepare a banquet!

I also tell myself that once I have done x, y, or z (or all on the good days) I will do something I like, a reward as such. And I do this because I know how hard it has been to actually get started.

I also know that some say my weekends are just a bad habit, but they aren’t me and they have no idea how I feel come a Friday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I know that if someone needed something over the weekend and my presence was required, I would be there but there’s also a part of me that secretly wishes I didn’t have to.

Whether this makes sense to you and you're thinking "that's me" then I hope you’re now realising that you aren't alone.

If you have a loved one with ADHD and have struggled with the things they said or are expected to do versus the reality, I hope it has raised your awareness.

ADHD paralysis is a thing.

It affects many of us and for the most part, it can as difficult to explain as it is to understand. We do beat ourselves up over it. We know we should be doing more but sometimes we just can't at that time.

Learning how to deal with our own expectations and feelings at that time can be difficult, especially when what we are unable to do affects others.

A bit of understanding goes a long way. It's not perfect but it is what it is. Believe me when I say that if we could change it, we would.

So the next time some asks if ADHD paralysis really is a thing, feel free to say yes!

P.S. I actually stopped writing this just after 1.30pm and I did get up AND get on. See what I mean about the dopamine hit?


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