So, one of my favorite shirts is a gray button-down with Darth Vader silhouettes all over it. When I wear it, I need a specific pair of socks: they’re black and feature Kylo Ren wielding his trademark cross-hilted lightsaber (because I am that goddamn nerdy). And, one morning, I couldn’t find them. I skipped past numerous different pairs–featuring Pinky and the Brain, Harry Potter, and miscellaneous literary characters/allusions–because I cannot mix genres or fandoms. I eventually pulled the drawer out of the dresser and set it on the bed to more easily dig through the fucking thing. When I finally found them, the sense of relief that washed over me was deep and so goddamn profound. And that, my friends, is what hyperfocus and/or hyper fixation for people with neurodivergence.
Hyperfocus vs Hyper Fixation
Once you finish marveling over how utterly amazing my sock drawer is, you’re probably thinking that I may have a problem. I don’t blame you; it’s what I think every time this happens. And, it happens a lot. Way more than it probably should. But, every so often, I get an itch that can only be scratched in a certain way. Maybe it’s like the example above (which is actually hyper fixation but including that word in the title made it too long), Or, I get so totally lost in whatever I’m doing that nothing else, and I mean nothing else, in the world exists (this is hyperfocus). And, my past is filled with hobbies that utterly fucking consumed me… for a few months/weeks/days. Then, they were utter fucking forgotten (which is a combination of the two).
Hyperfocus and Hyper Fixation is a Double-edged Sword
Like my need for routine, hyperfocus/fixation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My usual gnat-like attention span lengthens and I can get some shit done when hyperfocus kicks in. Hyper fixation, on the other hand, helps ensure that I stick with a thing long enough to get it done. Or, in the case of a new skill/hobby, that I stay with it long enough to pick up some knowledge or expertise. That’s the good side of things. On the not-so-fucking-good, Hyperfocus and fixation will take me down some insane rabbit holes (I do learn some cool things though. Like, the story of Joseph Pujol, aka Le Pétomane). Because of this, it’s not always the shit that needs to get done that actually gets done. Which is less than great. You know?
Making the Best of a (Not So) Bad Situation
So, right about now, you may be thinking, “Holy fuck, that sounds just like me!” Or, possibly, “Holy fuck, that sounds just like (insert name of loved one)!” I mean, there have to be some NDs who haven’t alienated everyone who cares about them, right? But, I digress (sorry, occupational hazard). Right after that, you say to yourself, “What can be done about this shit?” The short answer? Not that fucking much. Really, you just kind of have it. It’s like an ugly figurine that your grandma gave you: you’re not a fan but you can’t get rid of it for reasons beyond your fucking control. I know that sounds bad, but not as much as you’d think. Because there are a few things you can do about it.
How to Wrestle This Pig
Yes, there are ways to make hyperfocus, hyper fixation, and even neurodivergence work for your ADHD-ridden ass. None of them are easy, though. And, they may leave you more than a little fucking muddy. Anyway, here’s my take on the matter:
- First up, you can just ignore it and keep doing what you’re doing. That’s not as easy as it sounds, though. I mean, you know it’s there and that means active effort to pretend like it’s not. Plus, I’m guessing that things aren’t going great if you’re wondering what to do about it. But you gotta do you.
- The next strategy is to ride that motherfucking wave. Like I said, when the shit kicks in you get things done, so fucking use it. Finish that book that’s sitting by your bed. Level up as much as you can in the game that’s your current obsession. Prep your meals for the next goddamn week. Basically, just go with whatever it is you’re focused on. Just remember that shit won’t last forever so make hay while the fucking sun shines.
- For an advanced level technique, try directing your focus/fixation into productive channels. This one is fucking hard. Like, “remembering to make a phone call” hard (If you don’t get this reference, be happy. It means you don’t have ADHD). It’s something I try to do as much as possible but my success rate is spotty, to say the least. It’s a one step forward, two steps back thing, except it’s more one step forward, five back. But when it works, it really fucking works. And, channeling something that’s caused me so much goddamned trouble into a productive vein feels pretty fucking good.
It’s Not Easy, But It’s Better Than the Alternative
I’ve spent a large chunk of my life jumping from one fixation to the next. And, I was homed in on that shit when it was fresh. Like, laser fucking focused. Then, for no discernable reason, that laser fucking focus would dissipate and I’d move on to my next obsession. And, I still do. Only, now I know what’s going on and I don’t feel quite so bad about it. Sometimes, I can even use it to my advantage. Sometimes. Because this neurodivergent shit tends to do whatever the hell it wants and stead-fucking-fastly resists any attempts at control. All too often, it’s like herding cats; the shit just ain’t happening. Other times, it does. It’s unpredictable and I’ve learned to just go with it. Is that the best way to handle it? Probably not. But, it beats the fuck out of driving yourself crazy as you try to live up to neurotypical standards.