The Price of Hyperfocus

What activities do you lose yourself in?

WordPress prompt

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. I read this prompt and immediately got to thinking about The Zone, Hyperfocus and Loosing Myself. This isn’t what this prompt is asking about, I’m going to be taking a side angle on this one.

There is this state of being, a state of mind, that sometimes happens that I have always called The Zone. This is when everything clicks, falls into place and I am able to work on a project with laser tight focus. It is when the focus engages and the rest of the world falls away; everything else simply ceases to exist for me. For most people with ADHD, this is called Hyperfocus. All of us have experienced this at some point or another. Sometimes we just fall into it without realizing and other times we engage it in order to accomplish things that need to get done.

For me, this isn’t as consistent of a thing as I would like it to be. It can hit me unpredictably and I just find myself there. Other times, there is no way I could make it happen if I tried. It can feel like a super power. But the reality is that it comes with a high cost. I can get an insane amount of work done in a really short period of time and that always feels so good. The other side to the coin is that it means that I am not taking care of myself. When you are working so intensely that everything drops away, it means that you aren’t attending to your body. This means that you are neglecting your needs. No medications are being taken, food isn’t being eaten, water is not being consumed, you’re not going to the bathroom, you’re not stretching etc. and there is nothing good about this.

Tight deadlines and high pressure situations are likely to engage this mode for me. And the more serious the pressure is, the more intense the focus becomes. I can sustain this mode for really prolonged periods of time. I have participated in NaNoWriMo and it never fails to engage The Zone. I wake up, work all day and then only sleep when I hit the wall of exhaustion. This means that I can easily write the goal number of words. It also means, that I will flare something up. We aren’t meant to live in this state. It isn’t good for our bodies. It is never healthy to neglect our bodies.

What amazes and frustrates me about this is that everyone talks about The Zone, Hyperfocus, or Loosing Yourself as if it were a magical and amazingly good thing. It’s not. So why does it get perceived this way? I personally think there are two reasons: first is that is feels good and the second is hustle culture. The thing to keep in mind is that it feeling good is an illusion generated by social expectations and short term outcomes. This isn’t taking into consideration the long term consequences. That’s part of the problem though. When you have ADHD, the future doesn’t seem as real as the right now. And hustle culture is an abusive lie we’ve been told to feed the capitalism monster.

For those of us with ADHD, we are constantly fighting to maintain focus on the things we want to get done. We often feel like we are incapable of accomplishing anything. We know that we are smart and creative. We are capable of such amazing things, but because we struggle with staying on task, we never feel like we are meeting the expectations or standards of ourselves or others. This makes The Zone feel really good. It’s like finding the unicorn. In that moment, we get a taste of what it must be like to be able to “do the thing.” It feels amazing to be able to accomplish something without feeling like we had to fight for it.

Our society puts high value on being productive. At the end of the day, we measure our value and the worth of the day by the amount of work we were able to produce. This measure means that most of the time, those with ADHD are not measuring up well. When we hit hyperfocus though we suddenly turn into production gods and can now out produce everyone around us. We suddenly become capable of doing the work of three or four people. This kind of production is considered highly valuable. It is often the manner in which we are able to maintain our jobs and relationships because we can “catch up.”

These two factors come together to tie the knot upon the idea that hyperfocus is a super power. What it ignores is the price that must be paid for that ability. The price is not worth it. We must sacrifice ourselves; literally destroy our bodies, in order to produce at this level. This is one of the many factors that leads to those with ADHD having a shorter life span than those of the general population. You cannot live a long life if you are abusing and neglecting your body in a cyclic nature in order to effectively move through life. This super power costs us about 13 years of life. There isn’t much of anything that is worth dying for. Was the last thing you hyperfocused on worth dying for?

The next time you are thinking about engaging your Hyperfocus to bail someone out of a bind or to avoid being late for a deadline, consider if what you are achieving is worth dying for. We should also be thinking about the very real fact that most of the time the people that are demanding that we engage that Hyperfocus mode to achieve things for them are not there for us when we are stuck in chaos gremlin mode. Rather then ramping up the Hyperfocus, we can learn organizational, motivational and time management skills that will help us close the gap while not forcing us to pay the heavy price of our bodies.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have decided that I am done dying for people that are not even going to be there for me as a chaos goblin. They don’t deserve the benefits and the high price of Hyperfocus when they aren’t willing to help me when I need it the most. The other side of this is that those people who have supported me as a chaos goblin have never wanted me to pay the price for Hyperfocus because they love me too much. Don’t bleed out for the people who won’t even weep for you when you’re dead.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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