I have ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — and was officially diagnosed in 2015, as an adult. Among many, many other things, it means I can’t block out stimulus around me; I hear, see, smell, etc everything going on around me, and can’t help the fact that I do. In crowded places, this means I get easily overwhelmed. It also means I can rarely pay attention to what I’m supposed to; my brain focuses on everything around me, and therefore nothing.
This means it’s hard (and sometimes nearly impossible) for me to sit in a church service and take anything away. I end up disoriented, frustrated, and exhausted at best. Some people don’t believe this; they say I am not trying hard enough, or ask me to ‘give it another chance’.
What they don’t understand is that it is, quite literally, painful for me. It hurts my brain, and makes me want to run and hide; it’s overwhelming in every sense of the word. I was at church this last Saturday, and after it ended, I decided to record down my thought process throughout the two-hour service. I missed quite a few bits here and there, and it’s not entirely in order, but it’s more or less accurate. I’ve also left out some parts where I recalled private memories involving others that wouldn’t be right of me to share (for example, I saw a few of my students and my brain went to the times they misbehaved in school).
I’ve changed names for sake of privacy, and explanations or actions will be purple and underlined.
As you can see, as time progresses, it gets more rapid and more intense. At some points, which I’ve put in all caps, it was literally like my brain was shouting at me, and that was ALL I could hear or think about in that moment.
When my thoughts get jumbled up, towards the ending, and I jump from topic to topic, it’s because I’ve become so overwhelmed by all the stimulation around me that everything went numb and I was getting (literally) dizzy; my thoughts, therefore, were also jumping more than usual, and I couldn’t stick to one train for more than a couple seconds.
In any case, here you go:
Entered church building with Alexis (my best friend) and took our seats; we sat with some people from my cell group. We are on the right side of the hall, the second last block of chairs. We are in the fifth row from the front, and I am in the second last seat to the aisle. Alexis is to my left, and there is an empty seat to my right.
It’s worship already? Oh. No. Pre-service prayer and worship. Do I stand? Do I sit? Okay I’m not the only one sitting maybe I’ll sit.
Remember, check my phone cos I need to give that thing to her. I’d been asked by my mum to pass something to someone from church, and was told she’d text me when she arrived.
Maybe I’ll stand. I like this song. And Alexis is standing. Also, worship.
What time is it?
I should check my phone. Why hasn’t she contacted me?
I love the design of that poster.
I wish I could draw.
I should check my phone. Oh a text! Alright, meet her after service. I should ask Alexis to remind me. I’m not gonna remember.
Oo okay worship is starting.
Celia leant over and asked us if we wanted to go with them up to the front, which is customary for the young adults and teens to do; I missed what she said because I was trying to figure out what the first some was from the music.
Wait, what? Ohhh go up front.
Okay. I’ll go.
Wait why isn’t Alexis going? Nuh uh if I go she goes.
I dragged her with me.
Ooo worship. I know this song; how do I know this song? It’s an original from our church I think?
Oh hey, I know the person playing the keyboard! Man, I wonder how she is. (I won’t write what I thought for privacy reasons, but my mind went back to my school days since we attended the same school (though we were in different classes), and memories surrounding her, not all of which are happy or pleasant ones.)
Man the music is loud. I love it.
I wonder if I’m singing on key.
I shouldn’t have dragged Alexis. That was wrong. I should apologise.
Music is too loud. She’s worshipping. I’ll apologise later.
Oh I don’t know this song.
Man that dude playing drums is really going at it. I wonder if I’ll be good at drums. I want to try.
Oh hey isn’t that Stan? One of my students; a lot of people from my church also attends the school I teach at.
Oh Carter’s here.
Man, Stan is really tall.
Don’t forget, apologise.
Wait. Isn’t this Hillsong? Yes, yes it is.
What’s the Sign for Holy Spirit?
What’s the Sign for Go– oh, right, I remember.
The Sign for Jesus is easy.
Death…life… how do I sign a ‘to’? You don’t really use those words in ASL so..? I’m learning American Sign Language, and one way I practise is by singing words of songs. As I’m thinking these, I’m signing to myself.
Oh, Alexis’ back is on screen. Is that me on screen? Oh, yes. Huh my hair looks odd from the back.
Okay. Worship. Focus. Close my eyes. No, wait, what if I hit someone?
Also, what are the next lyrics?
Hillsong does have some pretty good songs. I prefer the Desert Song from this album. But the title track’s good too.
I hear a lot of sudden movement from somewhere behind me, to my right, and automatically look.
Oh, the Pastors are moving to the side. It must be the last song. Darn it. I like worship.
Are we going back to our seats..? No. Not yet. Prayer.
Oh, Pastor Malcolm. Hah. I still can’t get over the fact he doesn’t get excited; how’s that possible? I should tell Alexis. She’d find that amusing.
I miss diving.
So. Many. Prayers. Which. Do. I. Listen. To.
Oh. Prayer’s done. Okay, NOW we go back to our seats? Yes. Yes we do.
Wait. Where am I sitting?
Oh. Right. Duh. OH SANDY IS THERE HI SANDY! Oh and that dude with the deep dimples. What’s his name? I don’t know it. Ah well smile and say hi. Gosh those dimples. Gosh dimples in general. I don’t like him, mind you. Just dimples in general.
Did…did Pastor Malcolm just say the music was arousing? What? That’s… what? AHAHAHAHAHAHA amazing. Evan and Scarlett would find this hilarious.
Since I’ve deleted social media apps, I have no way of telling them. I glance over and see that Alexis is already texting them.
Oh, good. She’s done it already so I don’t have to wait until tonight.
What other word could he use besides arousing? Huh. I’m not sure. Huh.
I’m suddenly passed an offering bag by Alexis; I’ve missed the entire announcement of this.
Oh offering. I don’t have cash. Wait do I pass it behind or forward..? Crap. I don’t know. Let’s just pass it to the back.
I pass it to the back, turning as I do, and catch a glimpse of the people directly behind me.
Huh the couple behind me is holding hands and sitting reallll close together. How irksome.
I turn my attention to the front and notice something directly before me. The seats are your typical chairs, connected by a metal … thing … that also acts as a place to put your bag, Bibles, and other items.
There’s a blue bottle on the metal thing in front of me. It’s at an odd angle. Is it wrong if I reach out and correct it?
I hope passing it to the back was right.
Oooo fidget spinner. It’s okay I don’t need it yet let’s let Alexis use it. Oh it’s Pastor Oliver today. I wonder how Pastor Caelan’s doing.
Pastor Caelan was our elder Pastor for many years, but he recently stepped down and passed that role to Pastor Oliver. I find myself glancing around, to my left and right, without intending to.
Oh, hey, Luke is sitting opposite me. I wonder how he’s doing. What did mum say to his mum? My mum recently met with his mother.
Hah, disc Apple ship. That was so clever yet so lame. During cell group, someone put a picture of a CD, an apple, and a ship to spell out ‘discipleship’; it had been the topic for the sermon, and it made me think of what happened in CG.
I miss the ship. The Logos Hope, where I’d served for 3 months in 2015.
Hey, that’s a quote I’ve heard before. Who said it? Hmm. The pastor had said, “If we don’t disciple our children, the world will. I still don’t remember where I’ve heard it before.
That bottle is still annoying me. Who’s is it? Can I reach out and fix it?
Hang on that other quote’s not quite right. You totally can do it. It just takes more effort. The pastor had earlier said, “You can’t disciple your children in something you don’t have.”
I still don’t know what word he could’ve used instead of arousing. Hey, I wonder if Evan or Scarlett have replied. I should check. I ask Alexis to check; each time I think this, I do the same. She also checks it periodically, so sometimes I glance over and she’s already on it and think this thought.
Wait can you disciple your children in something you don’t have?
Wait what did Pastor Oliver just say?
Huh the guy in the seat opposite me is on .. insta? Looks interesting.
There’s a child behind me. I can hear her whispering. Why won’t she shush? I can’t hear the pastor over her.
My mind went to someone I know who is Christian by name, but doesn’t know Christ.
How can I reach her? Lord, give me the words and the chance.
Hey let’s make an origami seahorse. Right, what were the steps? Ah yes.
Urg she’s still whispering behind me.
I finish the seahorse.
Dang it, it’s too small and it tore. And the tail won’t curl up nicely.
Let’s try with a bigger one.
WHY WONT SHE STOP WHISPERING.
Dang it, it tore again.
Oh hey I wonder if Evan or Scarlett have replied.
Wait what did Pastor say?
What time is it?
Let’s play Tetris. Or rather, 1010. Urg how did I ever reach 9k? I wonder if I can reach 10k. 1010 is a game that uses Tetris like pieces. You can place them wherever you want and try and clear lines. They give you three pieces at a time and if you can’t fit one, you lose. 9k was my highscore at that point.
The pastor plays a video, one where children are blindfolded and asked to locate their mothers in a line of women.
OH YAY VIDEO. I LOVE VIDEOS.
Awwwwwwwwwwwwww that kid is so cute.
Why the fudge are the couple behind me whispering to each other?
AWWWWW THAT CHILD IS ADORABLE I WANT CHILDREN.
Huh would I be able to recognise mum by her touch? I’d probably just yell a rude word and the one who goes “I know you are but what am I?” is her.
THEY ARE STILL WHISPERING.
Ooooo the dude drank water and now the bottle is straight thank fudge.
Hey I wonder if he’s still on his ph–yes. He is.
Or would she say “takes one to know one”?
Things are too loud and everything’s happening around me I want to plug my music in and hide. Urg it’s too loud. GET OUT OF THIS PLACE NOW OR I’LL DIE.
Wait I was playing 1010, wasn’t I?
I won’t die don’t be ridiculous.
I go back to my game, and lose.
Oh dang I didn’t see that piece. Ah well. Too bad. Start over!
BUT IT FEELS LIKE I WILL.
Hah it’s a Dove commercial isn’t it. Knew it. Those are so predictably lame. “Mothers are all different” hah.
TOO MUCH STIMULATION RUN AWAY NOW.
Oh look a woman at the opposite end of the hall is getting up and moving to the .. is that the crèche?
She’s opening the door… why isn’t anyone helping her? She’s got a baby in her arms.
Wait what IS a better word for arousing?
Where’s the event happening? Alexis (who is from another church) had come to my church to attend a hang-out event for young adults.
Oh good she got in alright.
Someone’s clicking their pen on my right…
THEY WONT STOP WHISPERING.
I wonder if Evan or Scarlett have replied.
STOP CLICKING THE DAMN PEN.
I caught the words “We should waste time with God” from the pastor.
Wait wasting time isn’t a good thing to say because if it’s wasted it means it wasn’t worth doing the thing. So why is wasting time with God considered good? It’s not a waste. It’s a privilege and a joy.
Can I walk out because of the clicking and whispering?
Wait why is there someone moving to sit beside me? Where did she come from???
Huh. I’m a skeptic.
Oh gosh I’m becoming like Evan.
The pastor makes alter calls and she goes up front and begins to help pray for those who responded.
Ohhhhh she’s one of the people praying for others. That makes sense.
I must get that skepticism from mum.
Wait. Is the person behind me sobbing?
I try and sneak a glance behind by pretending to stretch my back.
Oh. She is. Okay try not to stare now. Wait he’s holding her really intimately. Is that even appropriate?
Oh hey Margaret is up front. She worked her ass off I’m glad she did well. If only Luke worked that hard.
Why is Celia there?
Oh Carter is praying for I use a nickname for someone in our CG. I wonder why. Come on now stop being a busy body.
Okay dude you need to stop sobbing it’s doing my nut in.
Oh. Celia’s a leader, right. Duh.
Hey, I wonder if Lucas and Mark are going for the event.
That’s rude. I’m sorry lady. Cry if you need to but uh, do it softly?
Hang on. What was the message about?
Oh, we’ve ended. Cool.
NOW CAN I GET AWAY?
I should ask where the event is happening.
Oh hey look Stan’s there.
I’ll ask Celia.
I look around to see if I can spot Celia.
Oh. And I need to give that lady the thing. Where was I supposed to meet her?
Oh there Celia is let’s ask her.
I ask Celia.
What WAS the message about?
Oh yes, I’m meeting her outside. Let’s go do that now.
I leave the hall with Alexis.
What I Remember From the Service:
That one guy was on insta.
Two of my students were behind me three rows, to the left.
Luke was in the opposite section, on the right, one row down.
That bottle was frigging annoying.
The couple behind me were definitely touching too much.
SOMEONE LOVES CLICKING THEIR PEN.
Something about ‘world discipline children’, which I swear I’ve heard somewhere before.
Spending time with God isn’t a waste of time; that’s wrong phrasing.
I wonder why Pastor Malcolm doesn’t get excited. Surely missions and serving is reason enough?
I wonder what Dimple Dude’s name is, and how I know him.