I was chopping carrots for our dinner when my wife asked me a very difficult question:
"What are you thinking about?"
I struggled for a few seconds trying to collapse all the topics that my mind was jumping to and from. On one level, I was thinking about the carrots, but I was also pondering the formation of the solar system and remembering a book I had read when I was a kid, while many other nascent thoughts were forming in the background. These concurrent thoughts happened in the space of a few seconds but to explain them in words would take at least two minutes. Sometimes having all of these thoughts in my head at once makes it hard to communicate.
“Uhh…ummm... uhhh, ” I replied as I tried to visually scan my thoughts. Seeing my struggle, she smiled sweetly and said, “Never mind. It’s OK.” I took a deep breath and relaxed.
Throughout my life, I've met people who wanted to pathologize the way my mind works. Teachers, friends and family have wanted me to accept the ADHD label. Doctors wanted to prescribe medication, but I don’t like labels or unnecessary pharmaceuticals.
These are the two modes of my mind and I prefer my own term for it: Attention distribution/attention magnets, or A.D/A.M. It’s not a disorder, it’s just the way some peoples’ minds work. There are times when my thoughts feel like a thousand metal marbles dropped on the floor, scattered in all directions. On the other hand, when I become fascinated by something it's like I've placed a huge magnet in the middle of the room and all of my thoughts run in one direction, to the exclusion of everything else. There is no middle ground between the two.