You can learn a lot from the internet, you know. It may sound funny, but I’ve actually learned a lot of very interesting, helpful, and insightful things from videos on TikTok. It’s become my favorite social media app.
One of the topics that comes up often in my TikTok feed is mental illness. ADHD is a very popular subject within this genre right now, and I think that’s really awesome because it’s bringing awareness to the different ways that ADHD can manifest in adults, and women especially. It’s no longer just a “kid’s” issue—and although there are negative aspects to ADHD, there are also ways that it can be seen in a positive light. Some people prefer to use the term neurodivergent nowadays to describe many mental differences, including people with ADHD and those on the autism spectrum.
The word neurodivergent is great because it reflects the reality that people with mental differences aren’t somehow broken—rather, they are simply different. And being neurodivergent gives those people special strengths, as well as challenges. The challenges are mostly due to the way that society is structured to work best for neurotypical individuals, anyway. That’s one reason why neurodivergents often need to seek professional help and/or medication to help them cope with their challenges.
Anyhow, that went down a rabbit hole. My point with this post was to talk about hyperfixation. This is something that is most commonly attributed to ADHD. What it means is that people can get super-focused on something (or someone) and that thing (or person) can take over the majority of their thoughts and attention for a period of time. There are also food-related hyperfixations, in which people might want to eat a particular meal every day for a period of time. A common hyperfixation can be on a hobby or interest, a TV show, or a book.
I have given a lot of thought to whether I have ADHD or not, because there are a few ways that I definitely relate to the “symptoms.” One of those things is how I will start doing one task, but then get distracted by another task that needs to be done and start doing that task, and so on until I’ve started several tasks but not completed any. This, however, I mostly attribute to my lifestyle. Being a mom, and homemaker, and pet owner, and partner… well, it leads to many people (or animals) needing things from you, often at the same time, along with a lot of chores that continuously need to be done.
Ultimately, I have landed on “no”—I do not believe that I have ADHD. I do suffer from depression and occasionally anxiety, and I have recently realized that I do tend to hyperfixate at times. But the interesting thing about this is that I just learned that hyperfixation is not only attributed to ADHD, but to depression and anxiety as well. So that makes a lot of sense for me, and I feel weirdly excited about finally having a word and an explanation for some of my behaviors.
My hyperfixations in the past have often been pet-related. I will decide that I want a certain pet and then hyperfixate on that—including figuring out what I need to buy for the pet, what care the pet needs, setting up the living area for the pet, and adding the pet’s expenses to the budget. Then of course I get the pet and enjoy it for a while… but eventually, the hyperfixation ends and then I’m left with more responsibility than I needed on my plate. And so, I’ve rehomed a lot of pets in my lifetime. While this isn’t ideal, I also am very diligent about finding good homes for them—and as I’m learning this about myself, I am also trying to end the cycle.
Other hyperfixations have been on hobbies, exercise regimes, daily schedules, meal-planning, home organization projects, budgeting, homeschooling, potential career paths I could follow, and even people (specifically, romantic partners).
For me, hyperfixations aren’t extreme. I don’t spend every waking minute thinking about or doing the thing that I’m fixated on. But I do spend a good amount of time on it, in between my mandatory tasks such as taking care of my children, home, pets, and occasionally myself (haha, joke…).
From what I read, and it totally makes sense, hyperfixations are a way of diverting negative emotions, like those stemming from depression and anxiety, into something more positive. They can become a problem if they interfere with living a healthy and balanced life, but they can also be a suitable coping mechanism at times.
My current hyperfixation is karaoke, of all things. I went to an arcade with karaoke rooms the other night, and had some fun singing there with my boyfriend and brother. As it turns out, my singing in the car doesn’t translate perfectly to good singing into a microphone in front of other people! And even though I had fun, it was definitely humbling. Instead of saying “well, never doing that again!” I decided to practice until I get better, so that next time, I can sing confidently in front of more people. And as it turns out, it’s pretty fun to practice singing with the goal of getting better. And this has been a source of stress-relief for me that is very needed.
Right now, there’s a lot of stress in my life. I have a busy co-parenting schedule with Cory, which means a lot of kid-swapping and time alone with the kids, as well as time to myself. It’s a really good balance, but it does take a lot of mental energy to keep up with. I also have my boyfriend’s schedule and time with his daughter to consider, not to mention keeping up with chores and pet care. My dogs Buddy and Macy and my cat Leo live with Cory, and he takes care of them. I have my dog Pepper, my boyfriend’s dog Dezi, and our cockatiels Pikachu and Eevee living with us at our apartment, and we share the responsibility for taking care of them. Since homemaking and being a stay-at-home mom is what I consider my job, I do most of the chores at the apartment as well. Cory has taken over the vast majority of chores at the house, though I help him with some things still. All in all, I have a lot on my plate, but it’s still a manageable amount of things to take care of.
My stress also comes from challenges with building a relationship with my boyfriend, in the midst of both of us getting divorced and both struggling with mental illness. I’m used to being the one with the “issues,” and now I have to learn a new skill of supporting a partner through these things as well. We have had some incredibly painful experiences as a couple while figuring out these new dynamics together, and even though we’ve made a lot of progress, it’s still not easy.
I love RJ beyond words, and I am committed to being with him forever, just as he is committed to being with me. But that doesn’t make our relationship easy. We have challenges and things that we need to fight through and work hard on. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in that position, because things were honestly always so easy with Cory. And that fact alone has its own weight, which can add to my insecurities and stress over this relationship!
What it comes down to is that right now, my stress levels are high and my depression and anxiety are a daily struggle. But if singing “Let It Go” a dozen times in a day makes me feel a little better, then that’s what I’m going to do!
I love learning new things about myself and discovering that other people do similar things—it makes me feel less alone, and more “normal.” So, this is my reminder to go ahead and use hyperfixation as a coping mechanism, even when it feels silly. Because it’s okay to be a little weird and silly! It’s all just part of being human. 🙂