Tag Archives: ADHD

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.

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.

My ADHD Brain, Episode One: RSD

My intention with the blog was to document the processes that take place inside my brain, weird goings on I have had all my life, but which I now understand are due to my ADHD. Below is a particular incident that illustrates Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, or RSD which you can read about here.

So, last week when dropping my older son at school (he has a place as his neurodiversity classes him as vulnerable), my younger (supposedly neurotypical) son, who is an unstoppable chatterbox with no inhibitions (wonder where he gets that from…) starts telling the Headteacher at some length about how we are reading Harry Potter together. The Head very primly responds “Oh my goodness, really? Harry Potter is too scary for our house”.

Her kids and my kids are the same age and she knows I know this. So, in one instant she shot down his enthusiasm and reprimanded me. She shouldn’t have said it, but my reaction was totally over the top. I didn’t say anything to her (as she’s my kids’ headteacher, had it been another parent at a social group I would, probably wrongly, have verbally ripped them to shreds) but the comment festered and it poisoned the rest of the morning. I still think about it from time to time and probably will for the next couple of years. As soon as I got home I set my younger one up with his home learning and spent a furious 40 minutes researching all the other primary schools in the area and looking into the process for transferring kids to a different school. 

Thankfully, it abated somewhat and I was actually able to see my RSD for what it was. I was able to step back and get some perspective. In case you’re wondering why it’s worth getting a diagnosis -this is why! In the olden times pre-diagnosis, it would have torpedoed an entire week and I would have developed a lasting hatred for the Head that would never have gone away, no matter how nice she might have been on subsequent occasions. 

My life is peppered with such incidents: slights and judgey comments that have the power to enrage and destroy when you have a sensitive soul and an RSD infested brain. 

In the Beginning

I started this blog in a rush of hyperfocus in January 2021, on the basis of a thought process that went something like this… “I am sick of wasting time on TV series that go on and on and social media that sucks me in to pointlessness and arguments. I am going to reduce those elements in my life, and re-introduce the things that always used to make me happy and keep me sane namely, reading, writing, listening to music, and discussing them with friends.”

I have found as I got older that my friends and I dispersed to all corners of the country, and I don’t have time to go out and make new ones. So this blog is a way of trying to get that connection back. I will invite those people I already know, who I discuss books with in real life, but I am also hoping to make new friends and to open myself up to new things to try. So please do stop by, feel free to agree or disagree with my reviews, and please do recommend anything you think I’ll enjoy.

Neurodiversity is a theme that will crop up regularly. Having recently been diagnosed with ADHD (and referred for assessment for OCD) , I finally have a framework, and some sort of explanation, for the craziness of my mind, for my innate weirdness, and for that feeling I have always had of being not quite like everyone else, of bustling through life without ever feeling I was really being me.

Thank you for reading this far. I hope you enjoy my posts. Take care and happy reading!