Pictured: actual image of my thought processes.
I wrote this just over a year ago and today found an email someone had written to me as a result. That email made me think this piece should have a home here too - edited slightly (ages, names of site etc) to bring it up to date.
My feelings around the realisation I made last year have matured. I have learned/am learning to work with who I am, not who I wish I was. This, I have to tell you, is a very much better way to be. So…old post, new place.
I wasn’t going to do this but I changed my mind. Why wasn’t I going to? Because I could imagine the eyerolls and the disapproval. The whispers of “Bandwagon”. Emphasis on imagine. Then I realised that even if those things were happening, I don’t care.
I want to talk about liberation and shadows; joy and shame, and the deepest exhale. I wouldn’t have been able to had I not witnessed others finding them first. So consider this me stepping up for my turn holding open the door. This is about ADHD.
About two years ago our 15 year old daughter came to us and said, “I think I have ADHD”, and like crap parents we said, “Really? But the things you’re talking about apply to all of us. We don’t think you have ADHD.” In her 15 year old wisdom she said, “That’s because you both have it too!”
As we moved through tests, evaluations and the path to diagnosis for her, it became obvious along the way that if she scores a figurative 8 out of 10 for ADHD, Charlie is a solid 10. This wasn’t a huge surprise. A family friend (and doctor) whose job it was to assess kids for what was then ADD, back in the 90s, said he was an obvious case. But at that time in the UK, it wasn’t officially recognised that ADD lasted past your 16th birthday. Somehow it magically disappeared along with the birthday cake, so why pursue anything? He was 35 at the time. Also, he’s not interested. Accepts it, shrugs, moves on. I know...he’s weird. And distracted by something he cares more about.
Meanwhile I was being quietly and stubbornly insistent that I’m fine. After all, I’m the memory/diary keeper for both of them, me, and now my Dad. I run two households. Clearly I am fine. As long as you don’t look too closely.
But what I was reading about ADHD just felt more and more familiar. I mentioned this to a friend who is awaiting diagnosis and she asked if I’d considered getting assessed. I half-jokingly said I already had more than enough to deal with, keeping these two (and a parent with early stage dementia) on track. But she opened that door for me and so I started looking at online tests.
As I answered the list of “1 = Never….5 = Always” questions, I hung around the 3. The 3 that = I’m fine. All the time, an increasingly assertive inner voice was saying, “Oh come ON! You know that’s a straight 5!”
I thought about this. I thought about that “When did you stop living and start coping?” question. I realised I was answering through my coping strategies. I inherited a strong memory and an engineer’s mentality that says if something isn’t working you can always knock something together to get it going. So after decades of this, I bloody cope. Mostly.
I went back to the test. And another. And another. And another. I think I did five. Answered from my bones, my impulse and my truth. Tested as High Probability every time.
I spoke to my aunt about it and she’s supersmart. She said, “I suppose it’s like a test for arachnophobia that uses the question, ‘Do you run from the room every time you see a spider?’. By the time you’re this age you’ve come to terms with the fact there are spiders in your house. You get someone else to move them. If you’re heartless you hoover them up or kill them with a shoe. If they’re not too big and hairy you hold a glass and a piece of paper at arms’ length and get them out to the garden. But you very, very rarely run from the room. However...does the thought of touching a spider still make you vomit and cold sweat? One hundred per cent. Arachnophobic.”
Isn’t that brilliant? And absolutely accurate. I cope just fine. I am not fine.
ADD. No H. Inattentive, not really very Hyperactive. That’s me. This is how a lot of adult women present with this neurodivergence.
The weirdest thing happened. I expected nothing to change but it all did. I felt liberated. I felt as if I were permanently about to burst out laughing for no reason. Me, who had been struggling with a spell of depression. Suddenly all the dark, shame-filled stories that I locked away (or more accurately, screwed up into a bin liner and stuffed into an overcrowded cupboard under the stairs which I then padlocked)...they make sense.
The thousands of times I’ve felt broken and incapable, exhausted and useless and just plain crap at working out a life that most people seemed to find so clear...they make sense.
The constant genius ideas never realised.
The studies started and never finished.
The imposter syndrome.
The feeling that everyone else got a manual that I did not.
So many other things.
They. Make. Sense.
And for 58 years I didn’t know. Goddess bless the internet and the Meme Cherubs.
It feels a bit like this:
In our culture we’ve slowly become more and more linear. Specifically since the Industrial Revolution. Organised, timetabled, scheduled, legislated, guidelined and deadlined. School, factory, marriage, family, 9 to 5, Mon-Fri, clock in clock out. Order and societal norms.
It works, it’s often beautiful and it’s efficient. Many (most?) people adapted and thrived. Still do. But some of us didn’t and couldn’t. We stayed wild. Feral at best. The numbers that are springing up now that the information is out there make me wonder if it’ll actually end up being an extrovert/introvert situation. We’re everywhere. Who knew? We’re not broken, we’re just not domesticated.
If modern society (where I live anyway) lives in metaphorical beautiful, convenient, comfortable, efficient buildings, the neurodivergent belong outdoors. Building shelters, foraging food, dealing with the unpredictable in some frankly shitty weather most of the time and not enough light in the day to let it go well but look at the view! We don’t get the air conditioning but we get the breeze on our face.
Yep. Reductive and overly positive but give me a break I’m new here. Just don’t get me started on the concept of time. I may have alluded to my relationship with the wibbly-wobbly in my last blog post.
I told this little story of indoors/outdoors to my daughter and she said, “Yeah I get it but I really, really still want to live in the house.” Of course she does. She’s already exhausted and I’m not going to gaslight her.
I’m glad she knows now. That she knows something about herself that - as hard as it is - means she is stronger in her self-awareness. I didn’t know and all my life I’ve tried to live in a house and make it look awesome. All my life I’ve been a frustrated, ashamed failure.
At 58 I’m entering the borders of my second Saturn return. I’ve been wondering what could possibly cause big change at this point and, er, I think I found it. Bring it on.
I've tried so many times - and some of you will have witnessed this - to build some kind of online work or business. It never sticks. It never gets off the ground. The experts recommend consistency, reliability and perseverance but at some point my experience told me I can’t do those things, so I gave up trying. There was maybe a little half-hearted flurry of activity now and then but I always knew I’d “fail”. I can’t do the same thing for any length of time consistently. Repeatedly. Maybe for years. I used to wish and pray that I could change but I couldn’t and now I understand why.
Freeing myself from that pointless effort is giving me space to see what I can do and how. So I’m going to play with it. I’m going to try building my dream with all these rocks and branches and feathers and bones I’ve found out here. If it all falls down, I’ll live.
The name of this place is At The Wild Edges. Sometimes it’ll be a blog, sometimes a podcast. Sometimes a video and sometimes a thought. Or all the above. Sometimes it’ll be me going off and standing in a stream just living my life. However and wherever it manifests, in whatever form, it will always be me. Believing it’s worth another shot after all. Messy, feral, inconsistent, sometimes coping, but trying always to live.
Attentive. Delighted. Devoted.