Category Archives: Blog

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone

I came on here to delete my last post, because it was so personal and so raw, and not the kind of thing we’re supposed to talk about.

But I am going to let it stand.

That’s because it is actually a very good depiction of what it’s like to be inside an RSD spiral. It did, in fact, get even worse after writing. I decided that probably he realised in real life I am a bit fat, so I stopped eating for almost two days. Or maybe he thought my breath was bad so I became obsessed with mouthwash. My rational brain knew damn well neither was true.

As I may have mentioned before, my brain runs on parallel tracks. I can know something is ill advised, irrational, and bad, but on another simultaneous track my world has fallen apart and I am beating myself up about something that was actually not my fault at all.

The next day I looked back at all the whatsapp messages (and then deleted them, and him) and realised that I had not bombarded him at all. My behaviour was perfectly reasonable and in keeping for the beginning of a relationship. And, in fact, I had been on top form. Casual, chatty, witty, quirky. I sent him some super texts, that he just replied “haha” and a laugh emoji to. He went to see a film I want to see so I asked him how it went. He said “Yeah, OK”.

I realised that actually I had been great, and he had fallen short. It still was the best connection I have ever had with anyone on a date. I do respect that maybe whatsapp isn’t his preferred communication choice (but I offered to phone…), but really there is only so much I can do, and he had plenty of the best of me, more than he deserved.

The stuff about being lonely and having no friends was an exaggeration but contains some truth in it. I am currently working on ways to remedy this. But I am fine, I really am.

Anyway, the thing with RSD is that when it strikes it is brutal, and I plummet into the depths, but it is usually short lived. I wonder if it is a kind of emotional version of ‘man flu’. (By the way, I definitely get man flu). It is a way of dealing with it by complete immersion, and then full recovery. It may actually be quite efficient.

But at the time I find it so hard. I cannot bear being anything other that healthy. Illness, heartbreak and hangovers are all things I simply cannot afford to have. I have too many things to do, too many people rely on me, and feeling under par brings me disproportionately low.

The whole grey phase of this particular RSD lasted about 48 hours, which is the usual, and then I woke up one morning to a blue sky and was totally fine, like waking up from an illness. The interesting thing about it though, is that even in the greyest depths there is another parallel track in my mind. This is the track on which I appreciate the garden, and the birdsong, and the bright pink salvias still flowering in the garden, and my boys’ beautiful thick brown hair, and my son being the narrator in the school Nativity play, and Wolf Alice’s ‘My Love is Cool’ album (my favourite at the mo) and and and… so many good reasons to be alive. Holding on to that parallel track, even if it’s by my fingertips, is the key to survival. It’s the life raft to cling to during the RSD storm, until I wash up on the shore.

Some self reflection lessons on why my life is a self made shitshow

So, where to start. How to say it. Be warned. This is going to be a miserable journey into self hatred and despair.

I am getting better at life these days, or at least I think I am, in that I can step back from things a little and see my own reactions, and realise they are part of the ADHD. This is vital for me because I have now entered what I refer to as ‘a grey phase’. And I need to dig myself out of it. I am hoping my new found self awareness will help. So here is the story of what’s been happening and here is my attempt to make sense of it all.

I promised myself I would stop looking for a partner because all it does is bring me pain. My rational mind tells me I am not cut out for relationships, that I should be on my own, and be like those people who choose it and are content with it. Like my fellow ADHDer Emma Watson, I should be ‘self partnered’.

But my heart cries out for that person, that person who is a shoulder to cry on, that person who appreciates me for who I am, my soulmate, a person to go out to discover and experience things with, but a person also to come home to and snuggle with. But I suspect I can’t ever have that. In the words of Lizzie Bennet to Jane “until I have your goodness I cannot have your happiness”. I am too complicated and emotional and talkative and intense and I suspect that I am not only unlovable but probably unlikeable too.

I stopped online dating because it’s for the best. Then one evening, drinking wine on my own and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to start it again. And at first it was quite encouraging. I got ‘chatting’ to a couple of guys. Both seemed lovely. Interesting, intelligent, chatty, and made it clear on their profiles that they were looking for something serious rather than just a fling. One guy I was going to meet with but then he said a few things about his political views that really jarred. I tried to let it go, told myself it didn’t matter in light of all the good things about him. But it festered, and we disagreed more, and it became clear this was not going to work. So we broke it off before we reached the date stage. It was disappointing but I am fine about it as it was genuinely for the best.

Then there was the other guy. His profile was amazing. Literate, intelligent, witty. Politically and philosophically he is one of the closest matches to myself I have ever encountered. He likes reading, and he loves rock music. We met up, and had three amazing hours in a pub in Bristol talking about music and films and life, having a laugh, and the time passed so quickly. At the end of the date he kissed me and said how amazing the date was. We WhatsApped over the next week, but he said he was busy, couldn’t arrange time for another date. He didn’t WhatsApp me nearly as much as I WhatsApped him. Then we were due to meet today after work. He seemed keen, we had lots of banter, talked about where we might go, all seemed normal. Then he said he didn’t feel too well, and could we reschedule, so I just said to him that’s a shame but I totally understand if he’s ill. But the doubts festered. And then it came, right in the middle of an epically shit day at work. He sent me a message saying it was ‘too intense’ and we are looking for different things and it won;t work out.

I was devastated, which is ridiculous, as we only went on one date, and he wasn’t even that nice looking! But my God I cried. And I am crying again now writing it. And I am angry with myself for being so upset. I can look back now and see that he was nothing special. But also I can see that he represented a lot of hope for me. That I crave people with those similar views and tastes to me. I was trying to make him the answer to all that. I was too needy. And I smothered him. So that is one of my self reflections for today. BUT also this, I wasn’t WhatsApping him to an unreasonable degree (a couple of days I definitely WhatsApped my dad more) and the level of engagement I was requiring was not an unreasonable ask. He did pretty much acknowledge this, and that he was the let down. So I guess there are two narratives here to explain it, and both are true. I know I have to move on from it and I will but, wow, the heartache, it is a physical pain.

This has brought me to a new realisation and it is huge. It’s this: I AM LONELY.

I am lonely, and I have no close friends. When I have a day like to day, and I go through thoughts and emotions like I just did, I have nobody to confide in. I am on my own. And I now suspect this is why I started the blog.

I am lonely, and so I seek a life partner to fix this problem, but that makes me too needy and clingy. Or maybe it does, but maybe not. There are plenty of people who have that ‘best friend’ partner and it seems to work. All the answers in one person. Magic.

Now, I like people, I am not shy around people, I can make connections and build rapport easily. I have a lot of what I would call ‘surface friends’, people just above the level of ‘acquaintance’. Mums who bring their kids round on a playdate and we have a cup of tea and a chat. They are all really nice people, but I wouldn’t want them to get a glimpse of what I am really like so I keep them at a distance. My birthday is coming up and I thought fleetingly that I would invite some of them out for drinks, but then I decided not to because they probably would be too busy to come, or I might say a wrong thing or talk too much.

I have got some really lovely, proper friends. People I have a deep connection with and who I feel do appreciate me for who I am. One of them is my lovely friend in Birmingham. But she doesn’t live near me so I can’t just pop round to her house for a cuppa. Also, she is super confident and gives my relationship woes short shrift because I think she sees me selling myself short all the time and finds it frustrating. And she now has many many friends local to her who are those kind of friends for her. And that’s fine, and normal, but I wonder how she managed it. I have another lovely friend and he lives up in Sheffield. I really should call him but I haven’t been in touch for so long.

And this brings me to the other moment of self realisation. That I am crap at keeping friendships going. Partly it’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing. If I don’t constantly see someone or keep in touch with them (WhatsApp, phone calls etc.) then they pretty much cease to exist. I had never noticed this before until I read someone on an ADHD forum write about it and I was like “oh my God, yes!” Someone has to have been in my life for a very long time for them to transcend that point and be still in constant existence for me. My parents are probably the only people that fit this bill.

A lot of the great friendships I am thinking about go back to my uni days but there have been one or two colleagues since. I can have these super friendships with these wonderful people, where we sit and chat for hours, where we share our thoughts and fears, or just muck around and have a laugh, and we are important to each other. Then one of us (usually me) moves to a different town, and we stay in touch a bit, but not much, so then I forget about them pretty much, because they are not right in front of me. Then I get to moments like now where I realise what I had, and what I’ve lost, and I grieve a little, and then I wonder where on earth I am going to find such friendships again now that I have no spare time. Also, most jobs I’ve had have brought up some really wonderful friendships with truly lovely people, but then I have left the job, and lost the friendship.

Moving house a lot + changing job a lot + forgetting about people when they are not nearby = no lasting friendships.

Having fantastic chat and banter with colleagues but then never having the courage or time to pursue a friendship beyond work =many opportunities missed.

Fear of rejection + fear of judgement about my parenting + not much spare time = opportunities for local friendships missed.

Yeah, my life is a shitshow and it’s all of my own making.

Edit to add: I finally caved in and spoke to an actual human about all the above. My lovely mum. She was very sympathetic, as she is my lovely mum, and acknowledged she has experienced some of the same due to moving around over the years but then she had to admit that it didn’t matter a great deal because she has a best friend with her. My dad. And that brings me full circle to the thing that broke my heart today.

AND THE EXTRA KICK IN THE TEETH: There’s the hatred I feel for myself being so self indulgent about it all. I have two wonderful kids who are growing up right in front of me, and I feel I should drink it in, and I should cherish them, and I should appreciate them more than I do. And I feel hatred that I am so winy and self indulgent when the world is full of suffering and greed, we’re in an era of climate chaos of our own making, and there is so much that should be fought, so much that is more important than my woes. I know this, and I fully acknowledge it, but it doesn’t make the pain go away. And the sense that I shouldn’t be feeling this way makes it worse.

I have also since read this wonderful update from Niraj, who is much younger than me but experiencing some of the same friendship drift.

Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson – Ambulance Blues

A friend recently drew this to my attention and I’m glad he did as it’s awesome. This is a really beautiful cover, but it has prompted me to revisit Neil Young, which is always a trip worth making.

Provided to YouTube by Polyvinyl Records Ambulance Blues · Jeff Rosenstock · Laura Stevenson Still Young ℗ 2019 Polyvinyl Record Co. Composer: Neil Young


Back in the old folky days
The air was magic when we played
The riverboat was rocking in the rain

Midnight was the time for the raid

Oh, Isabela, proud Isabela
They tore you down and plowed you under

You’re only real with your make-up on
How could I see you and stay too long?

[Verse 2]
All along the Navajo Trail
Burn-outs stub their toes
On garbage pails
Waitresses are crying in the rain
Will their boyfriends pass this way again?

Oh, Mother Goose, she’s on the skids
Shoe ain’t happy, neither are the kids

She needs someone that she can scream at
And I’m such a heel for making her feel so bad

[Verse 3]
I guess I’ll call it sickness gone
It’s hard to say the meaning of this song

An ambulance can only go so fast
It’s easy to get buried in the past

When you try to make a good thing last

I saw today in the entertainment section
There’s room at the top for private detection
To Mom and Dad this just doesn’t matter
But it’s either that or pay off the kidnapper

[Verse 4]
So all you critics sit alone
You’re no better than me for what you’ve shown
With your stomach pump and your hook and ladder dreams
We could get together for some scenes

Well, I’m up in T.O. keeping jive alive
And out on the corner it’s half past five
But the subways are empty
And so are the cafes
Except for the Farmer’s Market
And I still can hear him say:

[Verse 5]
You’re all just pissing in the wind
You don’t know it but you are
And there ain’t nothing like a friend
Who can tell you you’re just pissing in the wind

I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he’s talking to?
Because I know it ain’t me and I hope it isn’t you

The Clockworks – Enough is Never Enough

I have been quiet on my blog lately. Partly because life is happening all around me and I can barely keep up, so there’s no time for reflection, or if there is it’s fleeting and I can’t pin it down and put it into words.

But I have been listening to a lot of music. And I have been getting angry about things, which I combat by escaping into music or, if I’m really lucky, into sleep.

It’s Black Friday today, so here’s a brilliant song to mark this sorry occasion.

Director: Oscar J Ryan Production Company: Head & Wrecker EP: Ash Teague Producer: Ellis Fox DOP: Emma Langguth AD: Dave Neale Editor: Beth Roberts Colourist: Jules Willeman Online: James Bradley 1st AC: Davide Scalenghe 2nd AC: Matthew Hollis Camera Trainee: Ben Keeling Sound Op: Charlie Hinde Gaffer: Kian Altmann Spark: Will Jensen Art Director: Annie Harmenston Runner: Freddie Reeve BTS: Daniel Bailey Graphics: Studio 108 Cast: Sean Ryan, Pete Howard, Jack Horwood

Music in this video

Learn more

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Enough is Never Enough


The Clockworks


Enough is Never Enough

Licensed to YouTube by

The Orchard Music (on behalf of Creation 23), and 3 Music Rights Societies



It was a Tuesday And it was… bleak

Torn from the wreckage of a broken home

Only knows the love that he was shown

He barges into the Café he owns

To bark marching orders

At poor Kitchen Porters.

Fresh from the microwave,

A sandwich, thrown on a chipped plate

The kitchen is in a state,

There’s no need for pruning

When business is blooming

And his grandmother was a proud Filipino

Slips his mind as he

Dips his vote Into the world of a well known racist

Who explains it all in words he knows

These fingers were made for pointing

And enough is never enough

The busker boy’s chasing the dream

By the beggar with the card machine

And passing by the suit and tie wont cast an eye

Too fixated on a screen

And blessed are the meek I’ve heard them say but honestly

There’s no romance in poverty

When dinner is a novelty

And these fingers were made for pointing

And enough is never enough

Trudging Galway streets alone I can’t help thinking, not to blame, Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone

It’s with O’ Leary on the plane

And everybody loves to bitch

Factions speak louder than herds

When rags to riches

Turns wags to witches

Fine feathers don’t make fine birds

These fingers were made for pointing.

The madness outside and frustrations within

I have been staying away from the news, to protect my mental health, but I flicked absentmindedly onto the BBC News website just now and got sucked in again. Apparently Labour have now drawn level with the Tories in the polls. Well, they might have done. One poll suggests it, though it remains very close. I initially felt pleased and relieved but then despair set in. How on earth could it still be so close? This is the worst government we have ever had, and that is not an exaggeration. Corrupt, incompetent, and murderously negligent. People are dead, lives are ruined. And they don’t give a toss. I now know why. They don’t give a toss because they don’t have to. Loads of people keep voting for them anyway, despite it all. It blows my mind.

And of course COP26 is underway. All those delegates, but no citizen voice (not inside anyway), some mealy mouthed promises. I know negotiations are hard. I know compromise is usually a thing I advocate for. But this is too big and too urgent for caution and compromise. We need big, bold leadership. I am sad to say that Prince Charles, with his talk of us needing to be on a “war footing” and Joanna Lumley, talking about rationing, are the ones who are talking sense. This is a bigger catastrophe than the second world war. More people will die. The damage will be longer lasting and irreplaceable (and more will be lost than human lives). What intrigues and depresses me is that those who talk bullshit about the “good old days” of WW2 (yeah, millions of dead, what wondrous times….) are the first to complain at any mention of ‘make do and mend’, or rationing, or trading their car in for a bicycle.

I can sense I am getting pissy here. I am in a bad mood and it’s spilling into my blog. I started a new job last week. In some ways it’s great. The people are lovely and I have of course already spent a great deal of time chatting, which is how you find out about people and find out what’s going on. But of course the doubts crowd in. Imposter syndrome can be a killer. It’s a higher level job than I’ve been in before. I am in charge of lots of stuff, and a lot of it I don’t understand. I try to read documents that will explain what’s going on, but I can’t focus, and I just get more confused. I am going to have to ask someone. If someone can explain it verbally then I have a chance of understanding.

I left a job I loved, which played to my strengths more than any job I have ever had. So I have left the safety of that and thrown myself into a new situation. Why? Mainly to stop my commute. I was driving for almost two hours a day just to get myself to and from work. Public transport wouldn’t get me there in time so I had to drive. Me on my own in a petrol car. I just couldn’t live with the guilt of that anymore. I had been promising myself for four years that if a suitable job came up nearer home I would take it. I now have a job where I can realistically walk to work once a week, and cycle on another two. And, above all, I can get the kids to school in the morning without getting us up way too early to race to breakfast club before my commute.

But the kids honestly don’t seem to give a shit. And we are still rushed and stressed and grouchy in the mornings, just as we were before. And for all my efforts at cutting down my carbon footprint, I still have to drive two days a week because there are multiple locations, I can’t afford an electric car, and I finally caved in and put the heating on. We’re not even into the second half of November. So I continue to be part of the problem.

But what to do?

I am not parenting my kids very well at all. I am doing better than their dad who is a shouty disciplinarian, but I am the opposite end. My permissive parenting helps my younger son to grow, but my older son just becomes naughty and obliterates all boundaries, so I find myself, at wits end, becoming like their father. There must be ways. There must be strategies and things that I can do to make it work. But nothing I do works. He seems to want boundaries to push against and fights, physical and verbal. Or maybe he expects them, because that’s what he gets from his dad. But that still doesn’t tell me what I should do. Every night last week I fell asleep with a book about parenting autistic children in my hands. I have given up on it now, only five pages in.

I am trying to learn about all this. About neurodiversity (my own, my son’s, and other people’s) and how to create a safe, enabling environment. But all that has happened so far is that I’ve waded into a row on facebook about Gabor Maté (because as far as I can see everyone either adores him like he’s Jesus and he can do no wrong, or despises him like he’s the devil and his books should be banned). One friend of mine begged me to read ‘Scattered Minds’ because it changed her life and outlook for the better. Another said it made her so angry she still gets stressed thinking about it. Of the two of them it’s the latter person whose opinion generally carries more weight with me, so I am approaching the book with trepidation. But I cannot comment on the disagreement until I have read the book. I always say to students “go to the original source and make up your own mind”.

The book remains on my bedside table, along with a big chunky novel someone recommended, and both are unopened. Being at work every day and doing a job is the hardest, most challenging thing. It drains every bit of intelligence, energy, optimism, patience and goodwill out of me, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s not even a hard job. But I have nothing left for the evenings except to do the bare minimum: cook, provide the kids with clean clothes, get them to swimming class and back, go for a cold, soggy wander in the woods with them, sit at the kitchen table clutching a large coffee while they colour and stick stuff.

And when my son, seemingly unprovoked, tells me he wishes I was dead or suddenly leaps across the table to punch his brother hard in the face, all I do is yell and tell him to sit on the stairs until he’s calmed down. I’ve done years of listening and explaining and it made no difference. So shout is all my fractured, drained, impulsive, hurt self can manage in that moment. I know I am doing it wrong. I know I am falling short. But it keeps on happening.

I don’t have the time or headspace to do the thing that would rescue me (read novels) or the thing that I have an obligation to do (read Gabor Maté) or the thing that is crucial above all else (learn how to understand and parent my older son before I ruin his life).

So I run out of time, I run out of patience, life runs away from me, life runs away with me. And I feel really, really shit about it.

The End.

EDIT: Since writing this I have spent 4 hours watching gigs on YouTube (REM, Green Day, Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls). The dopamine in my system now is wild. I feel like I could conquer the world. I know it will all be gone by tomorrow, which is why I don’t want to go to sleep.

And I am still none the wiser about Gabor Maté. Or my son.

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.