My ADHD Brain, Episode Two: Weird obsessive bubbles

OK, so you will not be surprised to learn that ‘weird obsessive bubbles’ is not an actual technical term. However, it is the only way I can think of describing one of the odd things that happens in my head. Whilst other aspects of ADHD definitely impact me I think that for me personally this is the strongest.

I will discover something, be it a band or a TV series or even a character or particular storyline, or a specific song, or a place (I used to have an obsession with Finland -I’m still waiting for my moment of glory in a quiz) or a project (planning my vegetable garden, spending hours every night making a photobook as a gift)… and this thing will take over my mind and my life. It will become an itch I absolutely must keep scratching until it’s raw.

Then, suddenly, ‘pop’, the bubble has burst. I will immediately swing the other way and be unable to palate it at all, and then after a while it will sneak back again but in a more healthy, balanced way.

If i could control the interest, if I could harness it, then it would be a great asset. However, I can’t. My brain will pick what it’s going to obsess about and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to change it. Sometimes these obsessions are useful, but often they’re pointless, and they can arrive in my brain in such roundabout ways.

Here’s a particular example that happened to me a few months ago.

One night, just as I was going to go to bed, I realised that my alarm was still set. I wanted a lie in, so I went onto my phone to cancel my alarms, and when I had done so it said ‘no alarms’. My brain immediately went “no alarms and no surprises” and that became my earworm for the next few days. 

I have been a Radiohead fan for many years. I have all their albums, I have seen them live, but for whatever reason I haven’t listened to them at all for about three years. Yet this one random incident triggered a complete Radiohead obsession. For about three weeks they were literally the only music I listened to.

I kept myself up late one night trying to work out which one was their best album and, in fact, how I would rank them in order. I knew I would not be able to sleep until I had done it. And all the while I knew it was a pointless thing to try to do, I didn’t even want to do it, but it had to be done. (In Rainbows came top, in case you want to know). Then, once completed, I lost the list, but that didn’t matter. The Radiohead bubble had burst and I was back to just listening to them from time to time, in a healthy way.

As a footnote: there is another side to this. A friend once commented that she likes to have me on her quiz team, because if I get a round on something I know about I will really know about it, but also that it blows her mind how I don’t know “some really obvious things”. This is because if it has never grabbed me, and has never piqued my interest, then it probably doesn’t really exist for me. There are many well known celebrities, events, sports, that even someone without an interest would know a bit about, as they can absorb it from the world around them. Not me. If the brain doesn’t want to know, then it won’t. More about this in Episode Three.

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