The Worker and the Bridge Troll
One of my favourite illustrations for how my ADHD brain works is the worker and the bridge troll. I came up with this last year, I think, and it’s been incredibly helpful. (When I remember it.)
So, in my brain there’s a bridge. There’s the worker, and her job is to ferry stuff back and forth across the bridge, from the country village on one side to a town on the other. Under this bridge is bridge troll, and the bridge is their property. The bridge troll isn’t vicious, malevolent or greedy. They’re just hungry. A lot. You have to feed the bridge troll, or else they will harass the worker. If they get hungry enough, they’ll even sit on the worker and stop her from doing her job. Feed the bridge troll, and they’ll sit on the side, and the worker can do her business. Sometimes, the bridge troll will even join in and help the worker, though that’s unpredictable.
The important thing to understand is that BOTH the bridge troll and the worker are my ADHD brain. You can’t have one without the other. The worker can’t do her job without the bridge owned by the bridge troll.
My ADHD brain feels like there are two things running simultaneously, and if the one system isn’t engaged, the other won’t work nearly as effectively. I have to find ways to engage both.
So, what does this metaphor mean practically? I have to feed the bridge troll if I want to get stuff done. There are lots of different ways of doing that. I can use music, podcasts or YouTube videos to feed the bridge troll while I do dishes. Medication feeds the bridge troll. Exercise, working with another person, or using fidget toys are other ways of doing the same thing.
If something is interesting and captures my attention, that’s when the worker and the bridge troll work together, and I don’t need to worry about keeping the bridge troll occupied.
Bad brain days are when the bridge troll sits on the worker and I don’t have anything to feed it.
So anyways, usually if I’m stuck, I try to remember, “How can I feed the bridge troll?”