Whenever I start something that really challenges or interests me, there is no way I will do anything else until I have succeeded. From the moment I start, I no longer notice what is around me, I will loose any sense of time and I will remain focussed until I will be finished. No matter how difficult or how long it takes. Nothing can distract me and noting is important besides this one thing I want to do and there will never be a time that I will give up or abandon my mission. I am describing one of the “symptoms” of ADHD, one of the many things that is part of this so-called disorder. Hyperfocus.
What is hyperfocus?
Hyperfocus is the experience of deep and intense concentration that focuses on one topic, subject or task. For me it does not make sense that this is a symptom of a disorder. Both these words contain a very negative tone. I see my hyperfocus as my super-power, as a gift. When I enter this extreme state of focus, I can finally get things done. I am dedicated and passionate and I create amazing results. I perform best when I am in this state of complete concentration and I try to be there as often as possible, especially when it comes to my work.
Why hyperfocus is seen as something bad
How can a superpower be called a symptom of a disorder? This question makes me think about my mother while I was doing my art or maths homework. I never did any homework besides the assignments for these two subjects, simply because these really interested me. Often when I was working on my homework, my mother was doing some housewife duties around me. When I would be drawing or solving some difficult equations, she would always have something for me to do in the meantime. Prepare the table for dinner, put the laundry in the basket, move to another desk, stir the food in the pan, help unpacking the groceries…
I am not sure why, but whenever I was entering my state of hyperfocus, she would ask me to do something small at the same time, and this always ended up badly. The extreme concentration I was experiencing while I was doing my homework, did not allow me any kind of distracting sensory input. I simply did not pay attentions to any of my mother’s questions because for me they where distracting me from the things I was doing. And this is why my mother always got angry with me, she believed I was ignoring her, she believed I was rude. But it this really fair of her?
Dealing with hyperfocus
In my opinion my mother could have waited to ask me these things until I got out of my hyperfocus. Or if something would have been really important, she could have taken me out of my extreme concentration and talk to me when I would have landed back in this world. I never wanted to be rude to her, I never intended to not listen. I never ignored her, it just happened to be she would ask me things when I would be in a state in which I shut down all my senses. It was never a mistake of me, it is just one of the ways in which my brain functions different from my mother’s brain, but this does not mean my brain functions less well.
Hyperfocus in combination with my mother still leads to frustration, for the both of us. Recently she asked me to fix her computer, but within 3 minutes she was asking me questions about dinner and my work. My mother just won’t understand how my brain works. She will remain getting frustrated whenever I don’t notice her when I’m focussing on something else. And I will keep being frustrated about her ability to both trigger the state of hyperfocus as well as ending it abruptly with her anger. So yes, for my mother hyperfocus is a disease or disorder. But for my mother everything that does not fit her idea of normal is not allowed to exist.
Hyperfocus is a super-power
What I notice in other people and in myself, is that hyperfocus is far from being a disorder. In the office I work, my colleagues and bosses see my hyperfocus as a gift. Often I am the one that can make impossible deadlines, make the most beautiful drawings and com up with the most creative but out of the box ideas. My friends are extremely proud of the furniture and paintings I make when I enter my deep concentration. Besides, they know that if they ever need help, I will be there and won’t leave until they’re satisfied. My boyfriend deed my hyperfocus as a sign of passion. No matter how much I will ignore him while I’m working on something, he will understand me and give me the time I need to do the best I can.
For me, hyperfocus is a relieve, a gift. It makes the chaos disappear, it blocks all my sensory distractions and it provides me with the peace I need to finally be able to do what I want to do. Hyperfocus makes my ADHD devil disappear for a while and the whole world around me seems to be slowing down. I am blessed with a job that is so diverse, challenging and creative, that I can almost daily enter my hyperfocus and this has given me multiple promotions and opportunities. Many good things in my life have derived from my hyperfocus, from the gift that comes with ADHD.