Comorbidities and ADHD: Almost as Bad as It Sounds

So, when I was 33 years old, my (now-ex) wife looked at me and said, “I think you have ADHD” and I said, “What the hell is ADHD?” I can’t remember the exact words, but her response was essentially waving her hand in my general direction and saying. “All this shit right here.” That was the beginning of, let’s call it,” a season of self-discovery”. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder along with some dyslexia and dyscalculia. Those two d-words are what’s known as “comorbidities”. That’s a big word for additional conditions that occur along with a primary condition, aka fucked up little side orders to go along with your main course of bullshit. ADHD has several comorbidities and we’re going to talk about the fuckers that I deal with today.

Holy Shit, That’s Me!

Like I said, I found out about my ADHD quite a few years ago. That diagnosis was eye-opening, but it wasn’t the be-all-end-all. I still had a ton of issues. And, the stuff that was supposed to “fix” me? It wasn’t really helping Nor did it explain the extreme fucking weirdness that often characterizes my behavior. The picture became clearer one night when I watched Aussie comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special, Douglas. There’s a bit in there about an encounter she had at the dog park that leads to her uncontrollably sharing way too fucking much information. And, I’m watching her describe this meeting, thinking “I do that,” and “I do that, too,” and, “Holy shit, that’s me!” Not long after this, she tells the audience that she’s autistic. And, I’m sitting there, thinking, “Am I autistic? Fuck, I think I might be autistic.” Turns out, I was right.

I Sense a Disturbance…

So, here’s the thing: some comorbidities are worse than others. I mean, ADHD and ASD aren’t exactly a day at the beach, but they don’t totally suck, either. The same can’t be said for the next couple of things I’m going to tell you about. First up is sensory processing disorders. According to a review published by the National Institute of Health, “Sensory processing disorders are impairments in responding to sensory stimuli such as impairments in detection, modulation, or interpretation of stimuli.” That’s a lot of words to say that outside stimuli can really fuck you up. And, it can be anything. Noises, being touched, even the texture of your clothes against your skin can be too goddamn much to bear. And, an overabundance of any of it can lead to one hell of a meltdown. The worst part is, there’s very little you can do about it.

You Don’t Like Me! You Really Don’t Like Me!

Next up is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria or RSD. ADDitudeMag.com says it is the “extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life.” Imagine having a voice in your head who’s always talking shit, telling me what an awful person you are, how nobody actually likes you, that barely they tolerate you, yada yada yada. And, the rejection I might be feeling doesn’t even have to be fucking real! It can be all in my goddamn head and still be just as intense as if I was actually being rejected. All too often, though, it’s not imagined. People with ADHD get so many more shitty messages about themselves than neurotypicals and that takes one hell of a toll. As you can see, sensory processing disorders aren’t fun, but RSD straight up sucks.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

It turns out that anywhere from 50% to 70% of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder also have ADHD, so it kind of tracks that I have both conditions. Why that’s the case is apparently a matter of contention among the science-y types, but that’s not saying much. Those fuckers love to argue and almost always end up off in the weeds, going at it about the small shit ad fucking infinitum. Right now, the consensus is that ADHD and ASD are two distinct conditions but who knows how long that shit will last. And, really, it doesn’t make much difference on the day-to-day level. You’re going to do the same shit to deal with them whether they’re two completely different animals or different sides of one coin.

So, What’s the Big Deal?

The big deal is knowing. Yeah, I know some people make a lot of noise about “I don’t believe in labels” and such. But, that’s basically some neurotypical bullshit. Neurodivergent people don’t complain about being “labeled” because, and listen carefully, it’s always better to know. I mean, if you don’t know, how can learn useful–not to mention healthy–coping skills? And, there are also mental health considerations. Hell, just the knowledge that “Hey, I’m not a garbage person, my brain is just fucking different” has a huge effect on an endie’s mental well-being.

Are Comorbidities and ADHD a Walk In the Park?

You might have noticed that the title of this piece contains the phrase, “Almost as Bad as It Sounds.” A group of words containing any form of “morbid” is not going to come off as happy, light, or even just non-depressing. It’s a goddamn heavy word and generally not any fun at all. But the thing is, it’s not a great word for all the shit that comes with a neurodivergent brain. Sure, RSD (and its close personal friend, Imposter Syndrome) suck so goddamn hard, but my ADHD means I’m almost never bored. And, when I am, it doesn’t last long. So, no, comorbidities and ADHD aren’t a walk in the park. But they’re not the end of the goddamn world either. Just one more thing we endies get to live with. Every fucking day.