Category Archives: Blog

A tale of angry people and wonderful music

Where has the year gone? One day I am writing stuff on my shiny new blog. The next thing I know it’s October and I haven’t posted for so long. It’s not due to having nothing to say. That has literally never happened to me in my life. It’s more a case of having too much to say, and not being quick enough to catch the thoughts, feelings and experiences and put them into words before they fly off to wherever they go.

I often wake in the middle of the night with many things, many observations ready to go onto the blog but I am too sleepy to move. Then when I wake up it’s gone, or floating around somewhere in the general porridgy mess that is my morning brain.

I don’t think this blog post is going to be very coherent to be honest as there are various threads that are tangled up. The first thing I want to write about is anger. Not mine, but everyone else’s.

I just have this feeling that outside my safe zone (ie my house) people are angry and miserable. A few weeks ago I was engaging in my most hated and stressful activity -trying to park my car in a tight space on a busy road. Unfortunately I misjudged and slightly biffed a big chunky car (why do so many people have big chunky cars nowadays? I genuinely don’t understand it -they are hard to park, expensive to run and really ugly, anyway, I digress….) I stopped, apologised, and asked if there was any damage. I couldn’t see any damage, thankfully, but there had been a scraping noise. I hoped any scrape had been to my car, as it has plenty of scrapes so another one won’t hurt. A very sullen woman came out, looked very pointedly at me, then at the car, then back at me, and said “can you see? Are your eyes working?” I would have thought she was making light of it but she was scowling. I repeated “I am so sorry, is there much damage?” “Can you see, love? Are you blind or are you just f***ing thick?” she said. So I repeated “I am so, so sorry, is there much damage? I will pay for any damage.” She walked away very slowly while her husband came out of the house. He walked over to me, also very miserable and scowling “can you see love? Do you need glasses?”. Again, politely, pleadingly I said “I really am so very sorry, is there much damage?”. Then he turned and walked away slowly. They both got into the car and drove away. And that was that. An odd, surreal experience, like we were existing in parallel universes, like that film where actually he’s dead (The Sixth Sense? Do I mean that one?) and some of the conversations have a slightly unreal feel to them.

I don’t think there was any damage to the car, but their hostility still hurts when I think back to it. I find these days that if something happens, like I bump into someone, or I knock something, or I inadvertently queue jump due to misinterpreting/not concentrating/being overwhelmed by information, which are things that often happen with me, the rage this sparks is off the scale. It always used to be that as long as I own up, apologise and offer to rectify things, then that is all that’s needed. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with them that counts. But I find nowadays people are disappointed with this, they want to get angry, or just they want to react a certain way and my apologising and being nice thwarts them. I feel like this country is full of sullen, miserable, petty, angry people ready to burst at the slightest thing. Thank goodness our gun controls are strict (knives are another matter, mind). 

In all these incidents it starts out I am 100 per cent in the wrong, but by the end their reaction has rendered them as guilty as me. But they don’t see it that way. One mistake, however well you’ve dealt with it, gives them the free rein to be nasty and rude to a fellow human being, which in itself is an offence and a wrong, one of the worst, and usually worse than the original offence. 

People are so disapproving of my autistic 8 year old and his meltdowns, but I daily encounter worse from neurotypical adults. My dad, who is in his 70s, thinks people have “forgotten how to behave”. I first thought he was just being an old curmudgeon but what he means is that people no longer feel that they are supposed to be nice or calm or kind, that they think having a strop and giving someone a piece of their mind is something to be proud of. 

This reminds me of another incident that happened to me since I last wrote. I was staying with friends in Birmingham and we had to catch buses across the city every day (an experience that confirmed me in my fears of public transport and reminded me why I don’t use it). We waited for a bus, and as usual there was no obvious queuing system, people just piled on from all directions. This seemed to be the norm from all the bus trips we had done. It didn’t really matter as everyone got on eventually. As I boarded the driver said to my friend and I that the same number bus was behind us and that it would be leaving before this one. In my head that translated as “be quick as it’s going to depart”. So, my friend and I got off the bus and raced to the one behind, I legged it onto the bus only to find it was completely empty. I turned round and my friend was standing well back, as was everyone else. I realise there was actually an orderly queue and that people had not yet started boarding the bus. Then it happened. A man who had been waiting starting shouting the most horrific abuse at me. “You c**t, don’t you have any manners? You f***ing ignorant cow!” etc. etc. This went on for a very long time. I tried to get off the bus but the driver just waved me on. So I went and sat down at the back. And people came on. I opened my mouth to apologise but everyone was giving me such stares of cold hatred, like they had just witnessed me beating an animal to death. Thankfully the abusive man went upstairs and my friend came and sat next to me. She said that it did look like I’d pushed in but that that was no excuse for that man saying those things. “But there’s never an actual queue, I protested!” But that was that, end of conversation. My life is riddled with such incidents. You think you know the rules, you think you ‘get it’, but then suddenly the rules change, and everyone else seems to know this. I never do. But I was so upset, so stung by the injustice of it, that it festered for many days afterwards. This is RSD, of course. Anyone else would have let the incident go from their mind, but I couldn’t. I silently but determinedly resolved never to come back to Birmingham ever again. I dissed a city of a million people based on one incident. It was a good few weeks before my RSD had abated enough for me to properly accept how silly I was being. 

But speaking of Birmingham…. I was there to attend the Moseley Folk Festival, my friend having invited me many times over the years (and I could never make it due to life stuff and lack of funds). It was my first experience of live music since covid, so I was glad it was at an outdoor venue. I had three masks picked out for the occasion but nobody else was wearing them so I soon forgot. It’s many years since I’ve been to a festival and it was utterly exhausting, taking out a whole weekend in the process. I don’t think I can muster the time/energy/money to do it again anytime soon, but I’m glad I went, partly to see my lovely friend again, but also as I discovered some new artists. There were many good ones, but for me the standout acts that I had never come across before were Frank Turner and Stick in the Wheel. This week’s music will be dedicated to these fantastic musicians. Frank Turner in particular keeps me going on bleak days, his music is so raw and truthful. 

Honestly, I feel like if I have music in my life I can survive anything. Music, books, nature, family and friends. They are the essential survival kit. But if everything else is gone, then music would be the one thing that holds me back from the abyss. Maybe that sounds like I’m over-egging it! Maybe I am, I just feel very grateful right now as I have since been to two gigs. Yes, that’s right, two actual live indoor gigs and both were superb. 

Wolf Alice at the Cheese and Grain was a particular treat. They were playing small venues as part of a campaign to get live music going again and it was amazing seeing them up close in such an intimate venue. I was only about three rows from the front and the atmosphere was properly electric.

Then a few weeks later I saw the Manic Street Preachers at Bath Forum. It was a great gig but I admit I was not in the best headspace. I felt so self conscious on my own. I got there early as I like to do, so I could be up near the front, but, not having anyone to talk to, the waiting was unbearable. I had to play games on my phone to stop myself from going mad. I had bought a face mask for the occasion which says “Libraries gave us power” on it but of course, when the day came for the gig I couldn’t find the damn thing anywhere. In my stubbornness, it had to be that one. I have about seven face masks in total but because I couldn’t find that one I didn’t take any at all! So I was face mask less. It bothered me for quite a while, but then I guess like everyone else, I forgot, and for the rest of the gig and the whole of the way home, I forgot covid even exists. And this is worrying. I have become part of the problem. 136 People died in the UK that day because of covid. It hasn’t gone away, we are just in a phase of denial, of compassion fatigue, of helplessness in the face of something awful and scary we seem powerless to do anything about. I think it’s the same psychology involved with climate change. We’re not powerless in either case, but it’s easier and more convenient to believe that we are, because that means we take no responsibility. 

Getting home afterwards was like a special ADHD version of Squid Game. Although I quite like multi-story car parks (because the bays are clearly marked and there are always spaces) I can never remember where I parked my car, so I usually take a photo of the location and the floor number, but this time in my pre-Manics enthusiasm I forgot, so I was left wandering about aimlessly looking for my car whilst simultaneously trying to look like I was walking with purpose and not lost and confused. Then when I finally got out I was confronted by two road diversions, one preventing me from getting to the M4 and the other preventing me from getting to the A4. So I kept driving round the city in circuits, thinking I was following the diversion, but then ending back at the same spot again, and realised I must be getting the symbols confused. Was I following a circle or a square? The experience managed to combine my three most hated things about driving: 1) lots of signage (my processing speed and prioritisation skills are not good enough, so my brain just goes “argh, lots of things!” and then I have passed the signs and have no idea what’s going on), 2) Driving in the dark (don’t know why this is such a problem but it is, maybe there are subtle things I notice and rely on that can’t be seen in the dark), 3) city centres (because they have things like one way systems, cyclists and pedestrians; I can’t concentrate fully on so many things at once, but they all require full concentration). I was very close to just parking up somewhere and sleeping in my car, so I could head home at 6.30am when it got light. But it occurred to me that’s probably not the done thing in Bath and I couldn’t afford a parking ticket. So on I went, eventually just picking a road that looked like it headed out of the city, even if it was going to entirely the wrong place. Finally, an hour and twenty minutes after walking out of Bath Forum, a country road led me into a small village I recognised, and the A4. An hour and forty minutes after exiting Bath Forum, I was home and managed to sleep for 5 hours before getting up to go to work. 

It was worth it though. Absolutely worth it. I love this band. To understand why is a tale stretching back to the 90s, a period of my life where I credit a small selection of musicians with saving my life. Most of the artists from that select group are dead or disbanded (or disappeared), but that the Manics (three quarters of them anyway) are still going, and still making relevant music, is a source of joy and inspriation. 

I have noticed that Seth Lakeman is playing the Forum in November, and Frank Turner is playing there in February. But I have nobody to go with. My friend from Birmingham can’t make it and there is nobody else in my life who would like or even have heard of them. Most of my friends don’t do live music. There are one or two I can go to the theatre or a classical concert with and that’s great, because those are enjoyable things, and there’s my friend from Birmingham who likes folk music. I also go to a gig every year with my sister but they are always bands that are more her thing than mine (Keane, The Killers, Travis, Stereophonics, Turin Brakes). I like these bands, I am happy to see them live, but they are not things that I love. I have loved the Manics for 25 years and have seen them live 3 times (I think, will have to double check that, my memory being shit and all) but always on my own. I have spent a fair few years wanting to see Green Day or The Libertines but all my friends hate them so I never went. I would love to see the Arctic Monkeys but none of my friends like them either, or at least not enough to be bothered with going to a gig. I saw Skunk Anansie were touring and tried to get some of my friends interested but they conceded that it wasn’t really their sort of thing so I gave up. At the moment I love Fontaines DC and Idles, but nobody else in my life sees the appeal. Sigh. I mean, if I can’t even muster someone to come to the Manics with me, I think I’m doomed to a lifetime of going to these things alone. And hey, maybe I should just make my peace with it. The only thing worse than that experience of driving home would have been doing it all with a passenger in the car.

Blog hiatus with special guest appearances from RSD and impulsivity

I have been riding some ADHD rollercoasters the past couple of months, so this blog has fallen by the wayside somewhat. Well, totally, as you can see. I have still been reading, so a backlog of reviews are coming your way! 

I think writing about what’s been happening is important, and will illustrate a lot of the emotional side of ADHD. Some adults have more what is called ADD, where it manifests as a lack of focus, inability to concentrate or organise. I have that, but I have the other aspects too, the emotional dysregulation and impulsivity. The story of the past couple of months will give a little insight into what that is like. It can be hell. 

So, May. A job came up at work, a promotion. Basically, it was all the things I like about my current job amplified, and the things I don’t like about it taken out, plus they would pay me more money to do it. I knew the job would come up so spent the past three years volunteering for things at work, always with that job in mind, so when it came up I would be armed. It came up, I applied, (and spent every evening for an entire week writing and editing and agonising over my application) I got an interview. There were so many applicants, mostly external, that there was a two stage interview process. I spent an entire week agonising over the first interview, trying to work out what they would ask me and having my answers ready. It paid off, because the interview went well and I got through to the final stage. The final 5 candidates. I really started to get my hopes up, my incurable optimism and enthusiasm began to build, I could imagine doing the job, I could think of the ways I would do it, even though my rational brain was saying ‘steady on!’, my imagination as always was running away with it. There were 10 days between the first interview and the second. And for 10 days my life revolved around preparation. I designed the teaching session I would deliver, I roped colleagues into being my guinea pigs while I practiced, I tried to guess what they would ask me, and rehearsed my answers over and over. I was feeding the kids rubbish food because my food prep evening was gone, for two days I ate only toast, I couldn’t engage with anything in the ‘here and now’ because my mind was on the interview I had to do and the job I would get after it. The interview and teach came. They were tough, I’m not going to lie, but I felt at the end of it a quiet, nervous confidence. I knew I had done a pretty good job. I usually come out of these things knowing I fluffed one or two questions but this time, this time I felt I’d nailed the lot. 

I took the kids to the park that evening and sat with my phone in my hand, waiting for the call. As time dragged on into the evening I began to feel increasingly uneasy. If I had got the job, then surely I’d be the first person they called. I treated myself to a hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles, and sat drinking it as the rain came down. Midway through I got the call “very very close second, very impressed with you, the other candidate just had that bit more experience”. And that was it. RSD central. 

Over the next 12 hours: I physically threw up, packed the kids of to bed so I could curl up in a ball and cry, decided I was not suited for my line of work, was possibly not suited for any line of work ever as I was such a useless human being, drafted my resignation letter, decided my dream was to be a stand-up comedian, started writing a script and googling local places I might try to get a gig, thought better of that idea and looked into selling my house and buying a large camper van, the n wondered if I could be a performance poet…. Then came full circle, and realised I do like the job I’ve currently got, and I want my house, and I have been an idiot. 

About 24 hours after the interview I was totally fine. But as you can see the whole process took over my life. It took my emotional energy, my time, and my executive functioning. It took pretty much all of it, and everything else in my life (my kids, my day job) was left with the dregs. But here’s the thing. I have been for other jobs, and I struggle to prepare, I struggle to revise, so when I turn up I have done pretty much zero preparation and just wing it. This has occasionally paid off. But I knew that for this job I wanted it so much and it was going to be very competitive so I switched into the only other mode I have. As I have mentioned before, ADHD for me basically means “all or nothing”. 

I say I was ‘over it’, but I did feel an emptiness inside. I really felt I needed something to pick me up. This is where the next disastrous episode begins. I have been separated for three years, and the divorce is currently in progress (finally!). In lockdown I felt so lonely. I am pretty independent, and I like that I am solely in charge of my household, but how I envy those people with happy relationships, having that someone to tell things to, to joke with, to hug. So, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided the answer to my woes was to find a boyfriend. 

Online dating, of course, is the only way to find a partner these days, and even more so in semi-lockdown. I have been there before, twice, and found it a stressful experience, an extreme version of ‘try to be someone you’re not so people will like you’. This time I was actually pretty honest in my statement. I started with two sites which had a reputation for being a bit more mature and sensible, (ie not match or tinder, neither of which I will go near), but they were so mature and sensible, every profile read ‘nice guy, likes chilling out, enjoys mountain biking’. Yaaaaawn. And I could never gain full functionality without paying them some money. With one site I caved in and paid, but all it gave me was 4 times more nice guys that like chilling and mountain biking, and are too slim and have no hair, and live miles away. 

Just as I was about to give up someone recommended a third site which actually has decent functionality without the paid version. It’s like social media on speed with a dizzying number of profiles to click on, and then ‘bingo’ when you have liked each other’s profiles, and can then message each other. Messaging involves particularly excruciating small talk, often drawn out across several days.

A few conversations spark up, but it’s just conducting small talk over text, and it’s depressing. I had one evening where I was in five different such conversations, talking about bands, or gardening or where we live… but it’s impossible to get the essence of a person from that. I would get a glimpse of a guy through all the small talk and really like him, and imagine our dates, and imagine us dating, and my imagination would be running years ahead, and then he would say something that just didn’t chime with me and the whole thing would come tumbling down. In the end I realised that I was wasting my evenings on this nonsense so I stopped. And ever since I have used the time to read instead.

What is the lesson from all of this? There probably isn’t one, except that I need to slow down, curb my impulses and stop myself “getting carried away”. Story of my life. I guess the lesson is also that a boyfriend is rarely the answer to anything, but that books usually are.

My ADHD Brain, Episode Nine: The Inner Life

So, apparently a lot of people don’t have an inner life. I’ve always thought I have a good imagination but this is one thing I simply can’t imagine. It’s like trying to grasp that space is infinite. I know that it is, but the imagination just can’t quite deal with it. Thus my imagination can’t quite cope with the notion that some people do not have an inner life.

Take a particular conversation I had with someone recently. And this is a highly intelligent person, by the way. He was talking about how the National Trust have started to mention on displays if a property was owned by a slave owning family, and he was saying that it’s a good thing and I was like “yeah, it is, but they’ve been putting this stuff on labels for years, like if a family made its money from the tobacco industry or the cloth trade, or they were part of the East India Company, so you already know when you’re walking around their posh house, don’t you?, and you’re admiring stuff but at the same time thinking about how the money was made, and it’s all part of the same story” And he was like, “well, I agree, but I don’t think they put that stuff in the info, and they don’t make the link between the trade and what that meant for people”. And that’s when I realised, no they probably don’t, but my brain had always filled in those gaps and made those links without me even realising that I hadn’t just read it on an info board. 

I like a good NT property, a nice Stately Home with gardens and landscaped park, and I’ve been visiting them for many years. When I go round the house my brain is usually saying something like this:

“So it was built in 1871, oh that’s interesting because at the same time the Paris Commune was happening in France, which seems incongruous somehow, all that noise and revolution there, and the quiet here…. Oh look, that’s a pretty tapestry, look at their beautiful hands holding up that fruit there, what elegant fingers, I wonder if this was a stylistic thing at that time because presumably not everyone had such lovely hands, I mean people are the same aren’t they, it’s just the depictions that change over time…the information board says that they made their money from coal mining, just think that all this beautiful stuff was built off the backs of children working down mines… the air feels quite fresh in here, but I can’t see an open window, I wonder where it’s coming from…  I can imagine these rooms empty of people and me running round them barefoot [cue visuals of me in a music video or film running round the empty house with bare feet]… Hm, OK, I don’t like the ceiling very much, very oppressive, very Victorian, how did they manage to imbue their interior decor with that aura? … onto the next room.” All of this will probably take about 2 minutes, maybe as many as 5 if something really grabs me.

This isn’t just how my brain behaves in stately homes, this is how my brain behaves ALL THE TIME. Until recently I thought this was normal. Now whenever I tell this to someone they look at me like I’m mad. So I asked my highly intelligent friend what he would be thinking of in the same situation. He paused and then said “I would probably notice a painting, and be a bit interested and then read the label, then I would take in the general view for a few moments and move on”. 

Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know how to do that. But, my god, life would be far less exhausting and confusing if I did.

Library Trip

I’ve just been to the library for the first time in over a year. The kids and I pretty much skipped over the threshold. Came back with my bag bulging!

I even found my long lost library card (which had been hiding in plain sight in… er… my wallet) 10 minutes before I was going to go in and ask for a new one. I’ve had this card for about 3 years now without needing a replacement which is a record.

I know I have shelves full of books at home waiting to be read but the thrill of a new batch of library treats can’t be beaten.

Here’s my haul…

My ADHD Brain, Episode Eight: Out of Time

So, one of the biggest things associated with ADHD is that we are bad at time keeping and can suffer from time blindness. 

Personally, this isn;t my worst ADHD trait, there are other things I am way worse at, but I am not great either. I do find I can totally lose track of time, and can think of some particularly notorious instances  in my past of being hours late and missing stuff entirely because the thing I was doing beforehand distracted me totally. But at some point, and I think it was in my mid 20s, I flipped the opposite way. I now get quite stressed and anxious about the possibility of being late. I overthink and over plan to ensure I get somewhere on time which means I am often super early but usually a bit stressed on arrival. 

As with so many things in ADHD, it’s all about extremes. For me, if I have to turn up somewhere at a specific time I will do one of the following three things, and there is no inbetween. 

Option A:

Be very late, by which I mean more than 45 minutes late. This results from not knowing or seriously underestimating the process of getting there, or not being able to find the place due to crapness at directions, crapness at map reading, and total lack of orientational awareness. Or it stems from having forgotten entirely, or thinking it was on a different day or at a different time. Again, I have got much much better at this over the years, though I suspect a lot of that is due to online calendars. 

Option B: 

Obsessively prepare and stress, usually printing off huge wads of paper with maps and instructions, highlighting and annotating bits, maybe even writing myself a point by point plan (literally ‘go to ticket desk, make sure this is no later than 11.20, after getting ticket make sure I remember a loo stop but THERE WILL BE NO TIME FOR COFFEE OR SNACK, then find the correct platform number which can be done by looking at the big board located in the middle opposite Cafe Nero’). That is a real life example from something I did a few years ago. My friend thought it was hilarious so I always kept it, but I was kinda embarrassed because I thought everyone wrote themselves these kinds of notes. It works though, as I am rarely late nowadays. I now have form for turning up very early to things. I am that annoying person who turns up 40 minutes early while the trainers are still setting something up. This leads me to option C.

Option C: 

Turns up super early and is stuck making small talk with people who are trying to set up the event, who would probably rather I am not there. So, I decide to go in hunt for decent coffee/pastry or just ‘have a little wander’. This, of course, has the result of making me late because I get lost or lose track of time. So, I obsessively plan, get there waaaaay too early, then wander off and end up actually being late. Oh yes folks, good old Option C is my commonest scenario. 

My ADHD Brain, Episode Seven: The Invisible Pixies

My ex used to say to me on a daily basis, sometimes in an exasperated tone, sometimes in a downright nasty tone, “Did the pixies do it?” or “Ah yes, another one for the pixies”. And no, he was not talking about the band (but that has set off trains of thought in my head and a delve into my music collection…). He was talking about me. 

I didn’t understand what he meant, only that in that moment he thoroughly hated me because I was an irreversably bad person. Now I have my ADHD diagnosis, and am observing myself, I know why he said this. It doesn’t make his treatment of me right, of course. 

I exist on different plains of consciousness. This is no great revelation as it’s something most people, probably everyone, has. We all know about subconscious, right? The thing is, for me it’s like there is a subconscious version of me alongside the conscious one, and she is really messy. I can tidy my whole house and organise the contents, so that everything has a ‘place*’ and then, 2 days later piles of stuff will have emerged, and the clear surfaces will be cluttered again. And I will think “how/when did this happen and who the hell did it because I have no recollection?”. But it must have been me. It can only have been me. And it happens every single time. I have now started leaving notes around the place to myself to make me stop, but subconscious me just seems to be ignoring them. 

This subconscious/autopilot zone can be helpful at other times though. If I have done something enough times or it has interested me enough for me to dwell on it, then it can move from the conscious zone, where it might be pretty hard work, to the subconscious. Then I am onto a winner, because I love to do things by instinct. Cooking is a good example for me. I am in a lot of social media groups for people with ADHD and I know cooking is something a lot of people struggle with. However, I am pretty good at it and I enjoy it. Looking back I think it’s because I’ve always been interested in food, and come from a family of people who like to cook properly, so I learned repeatedly over many years, just absorbing it. I have always struggled to follow recipes and I probably always will, but I have a fairly large repertoire of things I can just make by instinct. I also absolutely never weigh or measure things like rice or pasta, but I mostly manage to make the right amount, because I instinctively just know. I do have recipe books, and I do use them, and the first time I follow a recipe is usually a painful and stressful experience, but once I get the jist I can do it on instinct next time, and instinct will tell me if the texture is OK, or what ingredients I could add or substitute. 

The thing I cannot master, however, is meal planning. I have tried and tried. I even have a planner on the wall that I never use. My strategy is usually to look at what’s in the fridge, see if anything edible is growing in the garden, open the ‘cupboard of tins’ if necessary, and rustle something up. I am often not even entirely aware of what I’m doing, as I am in pixie zone, but it turns out just fine 9.9 times out of 10. 

So, cooking has mostly entered the pixie zone, or ‘magic zone of instinct’. I am trying to get gardening into it too, and have had some good moments, but I think it still needs work. I wish I could get driving into it too, and all the other things I find really hard, but have had no luck as yet. And conversely, I wish I could pull the messiness and the disorganization up into the conscious zone so I could control them but, again, I have had no success with this. 

*This will take huge effort and send me into a state of frenzied misery, which makes the very quick undoing of the hard work even harder to bear.

My ADHD Brain, Episode Six: The Moral Maze

For me personally, and I know this is the case for many others with ADHD, the hardest thing is actually dealing with other people’s judgement and, worse, their obvious disappointment when they realise that I’m actually a ‘bad person’. Of course I’m not, but a lot of my behaviours can make it seem that way. Even a lot of traits that aren’t that bad (being a crazy emotional romantic, having a good creative problem-solving mind) aren’t viewed in a positive light by our culture. I am essentially a Marianne Dashwood in a world where we’re all supposed to be Eleanors.

I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the ‘problem’ behaviours. So, read these descriptions of behaviour and ask yourself to reflect on what you would think of a person who did this. I have added some statements in italics which I think represent how people view the behaviour. I have encountered some of these from other people, but many of them come from my very vocal inner critic.

  • Is always late, sometimes very late, sometimes very late even when they know it’s important not to be
  • Is obsessed with not being late and so gets into an anxious state and turns up way too early for stuff
  • Forgets your birthday, even though you always remember theirs
  • Forgets people’s names, even people like colleagues or neighbours that they should remember
  • Gets people muddled up, even if they have had whole conversations with them in the past and should remember
  • Seems careless about people (see previous three bullet points)
  • Is very open about their thoughts, feelings and personal life. Have you no shame? Quit the oversharing!
  • Talks on and on about themselves and their opinions.
  • Doesn’t listen properly to others
  • Frequently relates the conversation back to themselves, eg ‘Oh I totally get what you mean, It’s like when I…”
  • Interrupts and talks over people. Wow they really are full of themselves! (Especially when combined with the previous three bullet points). 
  • Lets you down when you have trusted them with a simple task. It really isn’t difficult or time consuming, so it must be that they don’t care. 
  • Daydreams way too much and often seems to be in a fantasy world. Seriously, you’d have thought they’d grown out of that by now. 
  • Doesn’t respect money. Always short of money, getting into debt, unable to build up savings. And yet they have nothing to show for it? Where did it go? Honestly, some people are so spoilt and careless. 
  • Doesn’t prioritize friendship. They rack up credit card debts and can’t afford to go on holiday with you. But then they blow £100 on a water feature for the garden. Well, that just shows me how they prioritise their lives. 
  • Gets angry. This doesn’t apply to everyone with ADHD but is something I think we are more in danger of and is certainly something I can relate to. RSD, as discussed previously on this blog, is a major factor here, but also lack of impulse control. I can get angry as an immediate, knee-jerk response to something, without being able to slow down. I also feel things deeply. I am as likely to be angry about something happening in Yemen as I am about something happening at my children’s school. And both will get me absolutely incensed with rage. I am getting better at dealing with this, though I do believe anger isn’t always wrong or bad. For many situations it is actually the most rational response.
  • Doesn’t respect property and possessions. Their house is messy, some of it is in need of redecoration or repair. Piles of stuff accumulate in corners, on chairs, on surfaces. Cupboards are badly loaded with items that can tumble or fly out when you open the doors. And then there are all the things they regularly lose or break like the lovely framed picture you got them, or their third smartphone of the year. 
  • Doesn’t take their role as a parent seriously. They haven’t memorised their children’s birth weights, have lost the little red books, forget appointments, rarely sign their kids up for schemes and events before the deadline, are usually zooming up to the school gates at the last minute with those poor, stressed kids. 
  • Has no self control or self motivation. This one is exactly what it says on the tin. I am thoroughly shit at both of these and no technique I have ever tried has alleviated the problem. In our culture this is definitely considered one of the biggest moral failures and one of the things I have been judged for most. Seriously though, if you want to lose weight you just need to stop eating so much food. If you want to stop pulling your hair you just need to try really hard, it’s just mind over matter. Yeah, I am trying really hard, but you’re telling me it’s not good enough. Thanks for that.
  • A hopeless dilettante. I find so many things interesting, and I can imagine doing those things so vividly. I start in a rush of enthusiasm. But then I realise it’s more commitment and energy than I realistically have, and/or it’s falling too short of how it was in my imagination, so my enthusiasm vanishes, and I can’t motivate myself to do anything for which I have no enthusiasm. My life is scattered with incomplete projects and the debris from short lived hobbies. Honestly, your problem is you just can’t stick at anything.
  • Is commitment-shy. Ah yes, this. I am always tormented by the possibility of the ‘other’. I could be in a really happy relationship but can’t ever really shut off the thoughts about ‘but what if I was going out with him instead..’, I can be in a really great job but after a while (it’s usually around the 10 month mark) I am constantly signing up to alerts for new jobs and getting a thrill when they drop into my email inbox. I love my house that I’m in now. I have great plans for it over time, and I intend to live here for a long time. But I’ve been here over two years now and that’s a long time for me to have lived in one house, so inevitably I am signed up to Rightmove alerts and get weekly thrills from all the possibilities of other properties I could be in instead. Why can’t she just learn to appreciate what she has? How spoilt!
  • Can’t put down roots. This is related to the previous point. I recently worked out that since the age of 18 (that’s 24 years) I have lived at 15 different addresses in 7 different cities/towns. I have had 7 ‘proper’ jobs, as in permanent contracts (and I left all of those  within two years), and many many other temporary or freelance, so many that I can’t actually count them. And the weird thing is that whenever I move on from a place or a job, however much I enjoyed it, I don’t miss it or look back at all. I just think ‘well, that was fun’ or ‘that was nice’, and I shrug and move on, without regret or sadness. Even now, going through a period of looking back at my life (triggered by the twin events of passing 40 and getting diagnosed with ADHD), it is more of an academic exercise. I don’t ‘miss’ anywhere. I don’t feel ‘homesick’ about anywhere. So I really shouldn’t moan that I have no community and very few local friends. It’s my fault, to be fair! 
  • Is self obsessed, going on about themselves and their worries when the world is full of much more serious issues and suffering. Get a grip you navel gazing, overprivileged narcissist. 

This is not an exhaustive list. There’s bound to be more I haven’t thought of. If you have ADHD, please do add more in the comments. 

I am not saying that these behaviours are good. I can see why someone might find them annoying, upsetting or even offensive. But please understand, this is default behaviour for many of us with ADHD and it’s because of our brains, rather than anything to do with our hearts, our souls, our morality. Now I can look at the list, and see how it happens and why, I can begin to try and adapt. I take a lot more care to try and slow myself down in the moment, to stop myself taking over a conversation and to stop and listen to others. But it is hard work, and I won’t get it right every time. What I am saying to others is, please understand that these behaviours are the result of my ADHD, they are not because I don’t care or feel or take an interest in the people around me. I don’t breeze through life saying and doing whatever I want without a care in the world. I am not a bad person. It might just seem that way at times.

My ADHD Brain, Episode Five: What actually is ADHD?

I realise I have rather ‘put the cart before the horse’ as the phrase goes and started by jumping straight in and explaining some of the more peripheral and personal aspects of ADHD without first setting the scene and actually explaining what it is. This is probably because my brain is going ‘yawn, yawn, can we just get on to the interesting bits?’

So, in short, here’s what ADHD is. Thanks to the ADHD UK website for the clear and concise description, chunks of which I have nicked for this blog:

What is it?

ADHD UK: “People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with day-to-day functioning and/or development.”

What causes it?

Nobody is entirely sure but there are often genetic links. Part of the brain linked to executive function develops more slowly in the ADHD brain, and neurotransmitters don’t function in the same ways as in neurotypical brains, something that has been shown in brain scans. 

What are the diagnostic criteria?

Thanks to ADHD UK for the below though it can be found on many websites:

Inattention

Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:

Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.

  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organising tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting their turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or game
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

The ADHD UK website also describes Adult ADHD very well, and describes a process that has happened to me: “For those with hyperactivity a child may command incessant and demanding extremes of activity; then as an adolescent moving to fidgeting instead of larger movements, and as adult having a sustained inner sense of restlessness.” 

This is so true and so important. If you are looking just for someone who gets up and runs about a lot and is always physically active then you are going to miss a hell of a lot of ADHD adults. I fidget a lot when bored, and have quite bad trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling), and as a teen I had bad skin picking as well (which I have thankfully outgrown), but I am not very physically active or sporty. Above all it’s the internal restlessness that is the issue. A lot of my ADHD is on the inside, something that is common in adults, particularly women. 

Check out the excellent website of understood.org who add this description:

“People with ADHD have trouble with a group of key skills known as executive function . And that creates challenges in many areas of life, from school to work to everyday living. For example, people with ADHD often struggle to get organized, follow directions, and manage their emotions.”

And here are some links to useful, (mostly) reliable sources of information: 

I am also including the official NHS one, although it is pretty rubbish, to be honest. I have spotted numerous inaccuracies in it. If this is what the GPs are reading no wonder they’re confused and unhelpful. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Phew. Glad that’s done. 

I Won’t do What You Tell Me

So, a couple of things happened. This morning we got to the school gates early as it happens, only I didn’t realise we were early, I assumed we were late. I let my younger one straight away be taken in by the head teacher as I could see his class lining up. But my older one held back. There was a teacher at the gate who I was 90% sure was not his class teacher but I do forget and get confused because they all look kinda the same so I started to doubt myself. Then there were other parents and kids around who I recognised from his class. So I just said to him to go in, and he did, wandering aimlessly and lost before attaching to a queue of kids. It was only about 5 minutes later as I was halfway home that I became pretty sure that wasn’t his class, and that in fact his class had been waiting around outside the gates (hence all the people I recognised) and had not yet gone in. In fact, I was pretty sure I had heard someone calling my name and I guess they had been trying to say his class hadn’t gone in yet…. But I didn’t fully process the signal at the time because the school drop off is a chaotic mess of stuff going on. The processing always takes me a while. So I sent him in there to be lost and confused. He always goes in through the gates with his head hung low and it was worse this morning. Ugh. I felt so bad. So bad. It took me a good hour before I could stop thinking about it, and that’s mainly because it was overtaken by something else.

Ah, yes, the something else. A letter came round today from school. A letter about ‘blended learning’. Apparently they are going to continue with the online learning delivered via the app. This is something they did during lockdown to replace school. It was hard enough to keep up with then. Now it has come back, but this time it is essentially homework. Yes, that’s right. It’s to be done in addition to the school day. This two sides of A4 chart is divided into different tasks, some marked ‘could’, some marked ‘should’, some marked ‘must’. Must?! Excuse me? Are you telling me what I must do with my children in my (and their) free time?

Looking at it, the ‘could’ and ‘should’ are things like looking at the blossom on the trees and talking about the changing seasons which, you know, is something we have already done, because as a family we talk about stuff and ask questions. But the ‘must’ is all reading, spelling and maths. My older one is bright and is progressing well enough. But he can’t sit still and has sensory needs. I’d rather he spent his free time wading through the local brook in his wellies, thanks. My younger one is technically way beyond anything they’ve set in reading and maths. They keep sending him home with books with five sentences per page, whereas he can successfully read Harry Potter, albeit slowly and with much pausing to ask what the words he just read mean. His spelling needs work but I figure he will absorb it eventually due to his advanced reading.

But oh my god I was so flipping angry. They just load more and more stuff on the kids (and parents). I feel like as an adult people are constantly banging on about burnout and self care, but the way we treat kids is just building them up to experience the same problems. And it’s the sheer cheek of them telling us how to spend our time. I am tempted to create a chart for the teachers suggesting how they spend their free time, with some ‘must’ tasks around a mental health and neurodiversity reading list. See how they like it.

Anyway…. All of this drama unfortunately lost me a couple of hours of work time which I really needed, though I was able to find my own strategies for fixing myself. I had a little sit in the garden which was good, very restorative, and then managed to get on with some work and push out the angry thoughts. I have been trying for about 10 years to do this by using meditation and being ‘in the moment’*. It doesn’t work. What does work is drinking two mugs of strong coffee and listening to Rage Against the Machine for an hour. I am perfectly fine now. And I got some work done.

*Stupidest damn concept I ever heard. My mind is always as much in the future and past as in the present (and in places that don’t exist). I still don’t fully believe it’s possible not to be like that.

Spring chaos and a sad lack of reading

Vase of flowers from my garden. Mimosa and triple daffodils.

This past month I have been very slow with the blogging. I keep drafting things to post, about diagnosis, medication, being a parent with ADHD… and many more. The things I need to write about and share but can’t quite work out how to say. I then went through a general ‘what’s the purpose of the blog?’/’it’s all vanity and ego’/’it’s a distraction from things I should be doing’ phase. All I can say is that I feel a need to write it, even if it is sometimes slow to come. So I will keep on with it. And if the need ever goes away, the blog will stop. And if it slows down for a bit because my focus isn’t there well… that’s that.

I also haven’t read much, which saddens me. My evenings in March were mostly spent snuggled in bed drinking beer and watching stuff on Netflix and All4. I have hit a great seam of early 00s comedy including Spaced and Black Books, which I love and haven’t seen for many years. I have very few celebrity crushes but Dylan Moran is definitely one that has endured, and I am probably in minority when I admit I actually have a bit of a crush on the character Bernard Black as well. Yes, he’s an exaggeration because it’s a comedy show, but honestly, he’s a kindred spirit! There’s far too much in that character that I recognise! I’m nicer, obviously, and chattier, but I am actually almost as messy (the shame of it), as baffled by account and record keeping (this part of his personality is not an exaggeration at all, I am exactly like that and back in the day when I was self employed I did genuinely consider injuring myself to get a tax return deadline postponement…) have been that much of an alcoholic in days gone by (thankfully not any more), and would love, love, love to own a bookshop and ban mobile phones from it.

So yeah, not much reading or blogging but plenty of Dylan Moran. Life could definitely be worse!

Spring is doing its hot/cold thing, making me into a very stressed gardener. ‘Can I put the Dahlias out?’/ ‘Yes I can look ,it’s warm’/’oh crap, it’s going down to minus 1 on Monday night’. That sort of thing. Lots of lovely little seedlings, nurtured lovingly in my battered plastic growhouse, bravely (rashly) planted out into flower beds and veg patch, just in time to get frozen to death. In the meantime though here are some pictures from the garden this week. I think I’m going to cut all the tulips and put them in vases in the house as I am not convinced they will survive either.