Category Archives: Blog

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.

My ADHD Brain, Episode Three: Late to the Party

This is about how I just don’t pick up on things if they’re not immediately in my sight. Or in fact they might blatantly, obviously in my line of sight but I just haven’t seen them because my brain is tuned to a different frequency. 

The biggest one of these I can think of from recent years is the Arctic Monkeys. Apparently they hit the big time in 2006, when their first album came out. When did I become a fan? In May 2020 when I saw their set from Glastonbury 2013 on iplayer. I knew nothing about them except that I had vaguely heard the name. I watched that set and was like “OH MY GOD, they are brilliant, how did I miss them?”

What the hell was I doing in 2006 (and in fact in every year since) that so distracted me? I do remember mid-00s thinking that music wasn’t really very good anymore. The 90s were so brilliant, but things had really dipped. I mostly contented myself with listening to REM, Nirvana, classical music, and waiting for the next Radiohead album to come out. In 2006 I was living, working and studying in Sheffield and moaning about how shit most music in the charts was. How did I miss that there was a Sheffield band making exactly the kind of music I like and doing well in the charts? 

I have even since discovered they played at the Olympics Opening ceremony in 2012. I watched that. I can picture us sitting in the living room, watching the ceremony. I remember Kenneth Branagh, and the clever bit where the Olympic rings were raised, and I can picture the big torch thingy. And I remember feeling sick again, and getting a positive pregnancy test later that night. But I do not remember the Arctic Monkeys. At all. 

Anyway… I have thankfully now caught up after 15 years, and can say I am blown away by their brilliance. I am in love with the Sheffield-ness of them. Seriously, ‘summat in your teeth’, ‘You’ve got the face on’, and, my favourite ‘mardy bum’. My favourite album is still “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not”, every song conjures a vivid image in my mind, and I am transported back to my teens, my childhood even. According to family legend when I was about six I called my sister a mardy bum before dumping a box of lego over her head. 

What is the purpose of this post? I am aware I have strayed off on a bit of a tangent (I do this a lot)! I guess what I’m trying to demonstrate is my inability to pick up on things unless they find a particular way in. Whilst my radar can sometimes pick up on things nobody else notices, and ask the questions nobody else thinks of, I frequently miss what’s right in front of me (sometimes literally, you should see me when I lose my car keys…).

It’s weird really, as I crave variety and new stuff. The thrill of discovering a new band, artist, writer for the first time is one of life’s great pleasures so you’d think I’d be constantly on the lookout. I am also pretty good at horizon scanning and seeing the bigger picture. I would count these amongst the positive traits I attribute to my ADHD. But maybe sometimes I am too busy scanning the horizon that I miss whatever’s right under my nose.

Lockdown Blues or ‘You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til it’s Gone’

Two things I have been doing off and on since March 2020 are: one, watching gigs on YouTube and cursing my past self for missing them and two, watching walking programmes on TV. I love a good walk through the British countryside, and whilst the kids and I do go out everyday for a local walk, and are blessed with nearby countryside, what I miss are moors, having grown up near the Peak District. Where I live now is very nice, and it has some good woodland and grassy hills, but there are definitely days when I miss the bleakness of a windswept moor.

It’s for this reason that I was attracted to the BBC’s Winter Walks around Yorkshire and Cumbria, and itv’s Cornwall and Devon Walks with Julia Bradbury, now that I can’t travel to either.

I have watched most of the Winter Walks now (can’t bring myself to watch Baroness Warsi -petty, I know, but I can’t stand the woman) and can particularly recommend the episodes with Lemn Sissay and Simon Armitage. Watching Armitage reminded me of his excellent book Walking Home, which I thoroughly recommend, and also the poem he wrote last year called Lockdown.

Having decided to find the poem again to make it February’s Poem of the Month, I discovered there is a version set to music and, wow, it’s absolutely stunning. To read the poem and watch the musical version go to February’s Poem of the Month.

In the Devon Walks programme I got a pleasant surprise when suddenly up popped Seth Lakeman playing some of Kitty Jay and talking about the myths and legends of Devon. I am a big fan of Seth’s music, and it’s about time he got a Music Monday outing so you’re in for a treat tomorrow!

My ADHD Brain, Episode Two: Weird obsessive bubbles

OK, so you will not be surprised to learn that ‘weird obsessive bubbles’ is not an actual technical term. However, it is the only way I can think of describing one of the odd things that happens in my head. Whilst other aspects of ADHD definitely impact me I think that for me personally this is the strongest.

I will discover something, be it a band or a TV series or even a character or particular storyline, or a specific song, or a place (I used to have an obsession with Finland -I’m still waiting for my moment of glory in a quiz) or a project (planning my vegetable garden, spending hours every night making a photobook as a gift)… and this thing will take over my mind and my life. It will become an itch I absolutely must keep scratching until it’s raw.

Then, suddenly, ‘pop’, the bubble has burst. I will immediately swing the other way and be unable to palate it at all, and then after a while it will sneak back again but in a more healthy, balanced way.

If i could control the interest, if I could harness it, then it would be a great asset. However, I can’t. My brain will pick what it’s going to obsess about and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to change it. Sometimes these obsessions are useful, but often they’re pointless, and they can arrive in my brain in such roundabout ways.

Here’s a particular example that happened to me a few months ago.

One night, just as I was going to go to bed, I realised that my alarm was still set. I wanted a lie in, so I went onto my phone to cancel my alarms, and when I had done so it said ‘no alarms’. My brain immediately went “no alarms and no surprises” and that became my earworm for the next few days. 

I have been a Radiohead fan for many years. I have all their albums, I have seen them live, but for whatever reason I haven’t listened to them at all for about three years. Yet this one random incident triggered a complete Radiohead obsession. For about three weeks they were literally the only music I listened to.

I kept myself up late one night trying to work out which one was their best album and, in fact, how I would rank them in order. I knew I would not be able to sleep until I had done it. And all the while I knew it was a pointless thing to try to do, I didn’t even want to do it, but it had to be done. (In Rainbows came top, in case you want to know). Then, once completed, I lost the list, but that didn’t matter. The Radiohead bubble had burst and I was back to just listening to them from time to time, in a healthy way.

As a footnote: there is another side to this. A friend once commented that she likes to have me on her quiz team, because if I get a round on something I know about I will really know about it, but also that it blows her mind how I don’t know “some really obvious things”. This is because if it has never grabbed me, and has never piqued my interest, then it probably doesn’t really exist for me. There are many well known celebrities, events, sports, that even someone without an interest would know a bit about, as they can absorb it from the world around them. Not me. If the brain doesn’t want to know, then it won’t. More about this in Episode Three.