Category Archives: Blog

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.

Back to school

I am having quite a chaotic time of it mentally at the moment. Work is busy, and there are the logistics of getting the kids both back into school. They each have a day to go in in full PE kit, then another day to go in in partial PE kit, and of course for each child it’s a different day as they’re in different years. Then there’s making sure I’ve ordered all the lunches in advance, and paid for breakfast club, and arranged my son’s emergency care plan in case he has a a seizure… and there’s ordering home testing kits for COVID, and making sure I have enough berries and mini cucumbers to send in for morning snack time… and there’s the staggered drop off and collection times for social distancing purposes, with the instruction that parents mustn’t turn up early or late for drop off, just at the precise time to avoid crowding. There’s an ADHD mind f**k if I ever I saw one. I haven’t mastered it yet, ranging from stupid early to legging it to the gates, and no in between. I struggle a lot with parenting, though mostly it has nothing to do with the actual kids.

Work is trundling on, and I am of course catching up with my blog because I have marking to do. Being the person I am I cannot mark quickly or superficially. I spend days and days putting it off, then days and days unable to concentrate on it, with the words just patterns on paper, not meaning anything in my head. Then it clicks and off I go, dedicating heart and soul into it, second guessing my marks, agonising over every decision. The picture shows my living room floor, on which I have lain sprawled on my stomach for most of the day, with piles of marking, some novels for when I am losing my mind, and the obligatory cup of tea.

Speaking of reading, I have just finished “Girl, woman, other” and absolutely loved it. A review will be appearing shortly. I am also about a third of a way through the other two books in the picture, both of which are good. I do struggle to read one book at a time and usually have a few on the go. I don’t think this is particularly an ADHD thing though, as I know a lot of keen readers do it.

In the wider world, what can I report? In my local town they are going to destroy more of our beloved green space to make way for new housing that nobody needs or wants. The residents have raised petitions with huge amounts of signatures. The town councils have both opposed it, and yet the county council will go ahead anyway, they always do. There was even an article in our local newspaper where they interviewed a local estate agent who was enthusiastic about how many homes are selling, and how everyone wants to live in our lovely town. Not exactly impartial news coverage. And then it mentioned, just as a side note, that he also happened to be a County Councillor. Well, there you go. In the words of Jed Bartlet “is it possible to be shocked and yet not entirely surprised at the same time?”

In the world beyond that ….far too much in the press about Harry and Meghan. The only headline I saw relating to it that resonated with me in any way was a daily mash headline that said “Monarchy in crisis because there is no f**king point to it whatsoever”. Amen to that.

I am working on some helpful links and resources to put on this blog, so it will be more of a help than just my random prattlings. I am also writing posts on diagnosis and medication, given that neither process has been easy for me, and I think sharing my experience will probably help. But they are works in progress, to appear at some undefined point in the future. Which sums up everything really.

My ADHD Brain, Episode Four: Routines, Structure and Rules

I suspect routines would probably help me, you know, things to do daily or weekly at a certain time. However, I have never really done them. I often think of something and decide to start, but how do people keep going with it? How do they remember to do it? Just because I did this first thing on Friday last week doesn’t mean my brain will go “Oh, it’s time for…” first thing on Friday this week. In fact, I know my brain definitely won’t. I’ve even had people suggest to me that I might remember to do certain things if I have a regular slot for them in my week or day, which is one of the weirdest things I’ve heard. Seriously, neurotypicals, is this actually a thing that happens?

I need structure, which I think is different to routine but, again, I am rubbish at starting or maintaining structure. For me, the structure usually comes from an external source and, on the whole, it helps me. I do best in situations where I am forced into a deadline–it’s why I work well in teams, as I kinda need to meet with a colleague to talk something into existence, and to have the deadline of preparing something for when we meet.

‘Routine tasks’ and ‘routine jobs’ are definitely a no no. I couldn’t do a job where it was the same every day, that would drive me over the edge. However, a job with structure is great. I need a day where I can look at my calendar and be like 8.30-10=enquiry shift, 10.30-11 =meeting, 12-2 = teaching. It’s going to be a largely happy and productive day because I know where I’m at. I will turn up on time and do a good job. But give me three things that need to be completed today, and a ‘free’ day in which to achieve them and I unravel very quickly. I write them on a post-it, then ignore it and faff about, lose track of time, lose the post-it, drift aimlessly, fall into a pit of self-loathing and despair and then finally, when it’s dark and the working day is finished, have that ‘Oh crap these need to be done by tomorrow morning’ realisation which kicks my ass into gear. So, yeah, structure is generally a force for good.

But rules, not so much, and I consider this to be a benefit of my ADHD. I’ve always been an independent spirit, acting in a way that makes ethical and practical sense, rather than the way an organisation or society in general wants me to. If you are ever faced with a rule (and, yes, a law) I think you should ask yourself three questions 1) Who created this rule? 2) Why did they create the rule? 3) What happens if I disobey? Question 3 should be answered in terms of what happens to you as an individual but also what happens to other people, or to things and places. What is the full impact of non-compliance? I find that many rules and laws do make sense, and whilst it may not be convenient for me I can see the bigger picture and comply. But there are things that exist for no sensible reason, uniforms and dress codes being my personal bugbear.

I still vividly remember being sent to the office of a lady at my school who I think was probably a ‘pastoral care’ person. I was about 14, bullied, miserable, self-harming, had even thought of killing myself. She started by noting that I had twice forgotten to hand in a workbook and, the shame of it, the workbook of a friend who was off sick. I apologised profusely and was then interrogated on why I had forgotten, as I was such a good girl in all other respects. Then she proceeded to ask me why I chose to wear a long black skirt and Doc Martens boots to school, to which of course the reasonable answer is ‘because I like to’. (I do love my DMs and still wear them though not, sadly, the same pair). By fixating on conventions, rules and expectations, she missed the person in front of her, who could really have done with some help.

Now I have a neurodiverse child with a lot of sensory issues I am going through the battles again for him. He won’t wear fitted trousers, only loose fitting joggers. It took a loooong time to get the school to agree to let him wear black or grey joggers instead of trousers. He also loves his wellies. I try to get him to wear his special sensory school shoes and a lot of the time I manage, but if he is clearly distressed and violent and insists on his wellies, then honestly, what’s the point in making him and me miserable over footwear, FFS? Personally, I think if he wants to go to school dressed as a princess wearing wellies, then why is that a problem? As long as he is happy and learning, it’s all good.

I really hate gendered things too, like toys and clothes, or just restrictive gender-based conventions. When I got married I nominated my best friend to be Man of Honour and my husband nominated a woman to be Best Woman. At least four people came up to me at the reception and said how wonderfully unconventional we were, as though this was some deliberate radical act, when actually all that happened is his best friend is female and my best friend is male, and the conventions that had been set out for those roles didn’t fit our reality. So we changed it, no big deal. Weddings are oddities though, and marriages. They really bring out the conservatism in people and places where you didn’t think it existed. You think you’re living in a liberal, equal, enlightened world and then suddenly … not so much.

Anyway, I digress (as usual). In summary, I think it’s vital to keep perspective and really think about what’s important and what isn’t. Although my ADHD makes me a bit rubbish at prioritisation on an organisational level, I think on an ethical and philosophical level it’s a superpower. Think for yourself and ask questions. Always.