Most children are born with a cute little button nose. Or a teeny birthmark. Sometimes they even have teeth, like Albert Einstein (yes, I know this isn’t true, fucksake). I was born with the very special quality of being ‘An Intolerable Pain In The Arse’. That’s not a medical term, but given the fucking excruciatingly irritating nature of the condition I would say it’s a fairly accurate description of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the olden days we just called it ‘hyperactivity’, neither terms go any way to describe what a ball-achingly unrelenting and exhausting condition it is.
Cursed with a mind that struggles to concentrate, my little peanut brain houses a million and one ideas before breakfast that I have to instantly act upon or they will instantly be forgotten. I’m a walking, talking etch-a-sketch, brain firing this way and that before going blank with agitation. Only an etch-a-sketch can’t throw itself against a wall with frustration. So it’s a shit analogy. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all…
My poor family had to deal with a child that would never sit down, nor play quietly and required constant supervision lest social services were called. I once flung open the first floor windows bellowing for help and that I’d been abandoned, while my family were happily sat downstairs. In another noteworthy incident, my poor confused mother was fielding expressions of sympathy from neighbours because I had convinced them that I had a degenerative eye condition that would soon render me blind. I created elaborate fantasy lands in my head that only the most patient and determined adult could drag me out of. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t exercise self-control. And there was no Ritalin. Instead there were darkened rooms and gruff physicians with noisy printers and sticky electrodes. Journeys to unknown places and people who purported to know the delicate squashy matter inside my skull better than I did and who decided to try and control and subdue what they couldn’t understand. That experimentation was short lived. My mother knew that an uncontrollable child was better than a tranquillised one.
As an adult, I’m a rare breed. ADHD in adults is statistically a small amount of people, but I am female and that’s even rarer still. This is of little comfort and although I am able to sort-of-cope with it, I acknowledge that I’m incredibly difficult to spend time with – I lose thread in conversations, forget what I’m talking about and veer between breathless animation and quietly zoning out. When kids do this, it’s accepted that they are badly behaved due to some kind of failing on the parents part (it’s not. And a thousand fuck you’s to anyone who thought my mum was a bad parent). When adults do it then it’s just rude and annoying. I have come to accept that I am and always have been rude and annoying.
I am incapable of sitting down and focusing on one project, so I have developed a working strategy that sees me flit from job to job, giving short bursts of attention to each before heading on to the next task. I eventually finish everything, but it’s so precarious that it must be like watching a toddler juggling razor blades. I have neural pathways that resemble a bowl of well-mixed spaghetti bolognese, communicate far better in type than I ever could face-to-face and I am constantly asked how I manage to fit all my ‘to-do’ into my day. I often joke ‘I don’t need much sleep’, but that’s actually not true. I probably require more sleep than most because I am exhausted. I work around my exhaustion. And wear so much eyeliner that no-one has truly seen what my eyes look like since 1987.
Today I was researching coping strategies for the most problematic of my symptoms (forgetfulness). During this fifteen minute google-fest I had 11 other IE tabs open (one of them an art history programme on iPlayer – I absorb information as I work. Another ADHD trait), my iPhone pinging to my left, iPad bleeping to my right and two further phones on my desk. In amongst the cacophony of digital noise and the constant buzzing of my own head I discovered another common thread between ADHD sufferers – the inability to say ‘no’.
This is a problem. Mainly because I can’t fucking remember the last time I said no, but equally because I might have done and literally CANNOT FUCKING REMEMBER. All I know is that I have a to-do list that would make you shudder, which suggests that ‘no’ isn’t a word that comes easily to me.
Now think about this: imagine saying ‘of course!’, ‘no problem!’, ‘sure!’, ‘yeah, I can do that’ and ‘it’s fine, honestly’ to EVERYTHING YOU ARE ASKED TO DO. Without looking at your diary or mentally referring in any way to your current commitments.
You just glimpsed inside my noggin.
So in looking at ways to cope with my nature, I am told that something as simple as negativity could revolutionise my life. This strikes me as incredibly stupid. If ‘no’ is so life transforming, then how the fuck does anything get done? Because for every person who says ‘no’, there is a person who says ‘yes’. For every sedentary pillock there is a woman in big eyeliner and questionable heels clambering under a desk with a roll of packing tape. The balance of the world is restored by the fact that for every several hundred lazy bastards, there is a single Ritalin-deficient adult just waiting to pick up ALL their slack. Go Nature!
So Me & My Fucked Up Brain need to exist for the good of the cyclical equilibrium of the universe? How fucking arrogant is THAT? Really, I’m looking at everything arse-about-face. My ADHD is a part of me as much as my bad skin or scarily small feet. It’s something that I have, I cannot change and has ultimately made me the person I am today. My bad skin means that I wear supreme amounts of glorious slap, which I enjoy immensely. My ridiculous toddler feet means that I am fortunate enough to be able to wear stonking designer shoes for a fraction of the RRP. MY ADHD means that I can (mostly) comfortably cope with three jobs and maintain a reasonable level of Pinot Grigio in my body at all times. I’m a totally infuriating fuckhead, but now and again I manage to cram in doing some jolly nice things ‘just because’. I also do a lot of things completely selfishly. Hey, no-ones perfect, right?
I’m tempted to write something about the rich tapestry of the world now, but I won’t because I may be an annoying nob, but I’m definitely not a saccharine wanker. Instead I’ll just give you a shot of the legendary Ramones.
This is inside my head. Just add eyeliner. Jealous? No, I didn’t think so….