ADHD and Other Letters: Listen to How You Talk to Yourself

Note: this is a repost. I think I wrote this one in the middle of 2019, but I can’t be sure. I converted to “draft” without realising that the post would get taken down; I wanted to fix the footnote now that I know how to do the anchors.

Alternatively: “Mate, do not punch yourself in the face just to get in first, it’s not a good strategy.”

(Why yes, I did have some trouble with the title, why do you ask?)

At this point, I’ve read a good deal about ADHD (naturally; I am who I am). I’ve been reading the descriptions and explanations and therapeutic recommendations. I’ve been reading the experiences of other people, particularly other adult women, since that’s a very particular subset of ADHD folks.

A very common message in these sorts of books is one of acceptance: accept that ADHD is neurobiological. It’s a part of you, and it’s not a moral problem, and it’s not shameful. It does come with strengths as well as the more obvious difficulties. There’s emotional dysregulation, but there’s also a tendency towards passionate interest and dedication. There’s forgetfulness and chaos, but there’s also a strong correlation with creative problem-solving. There’s a noisy, distracted brain that freaks out and can’t concentrate, but there’s also a vast sea of ideas.

Mainly, though, we tend to focus on the challenges and the difficulties. Forgetting things all the time. Losing your train of thought. Losing your keys. Endless lists and post-it notes, endless calendars and diaries you forget to check. The inability to perceive time passing, a world that exists only in now and not now. Difficulty deciding to do things. Difficulty deciding anything. Fatigue and brain fog. An inability to manage and organise life in ways that seem very, very simple to neurotypical people.

Then there’s the shame. Why is it so hard to stay tidy? Why is it so hard to be organised? Why lose things? Why don’t you just concentrate? Why don’t you just try harder? You’re so sensitive. You’re so defensive. You’re so exhausting.

Most ADHD people (if not all) hear this litany at some point throughout their lives. It’s cruel and it’s miserable; it comes from a very human and understandable place – if you don’t have any form of executive dysfunction, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it’s like and why can’t you just do it for god’s sake…

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After the Storm: Salvage Ops and Letting People Help

evacuated in my pyjamas

Most people in my life learned about what happened to the Mountain Fortress from Facebook, in a short post I’d managed to get out there via our wavering 4G reception. Text as follows.

Enormous tree has crushed half of house. Literally crushed. Bedroom destroyed. Spare room destroyed. If anyone has cat carriers we need two. Still can’t leave driveway. Michael on phone to emergency services now.

Cats okay. Dog okay. can’t get to bathroom, meds or clothes.

What became of this Facebook announcement, what followed on from it, is really what this particular blog post is about.

That first night was about survival, about taking care of the animals, finding a place to stay (Dad’s) letting people know what was going on, and getting to Dad’s place. After everyone went to bed, I stayed up until about four or five in the morning, wearing a fluffy onesie that my stepmother lent me since I’d been evacuated in my pyjamas, and they were covered in very cold mud, and I sat up in the living room with Michael’s laptop: to update social media again, reply to a few messages, and to email my doctor and ask for replacement prescriptions.

There was so much to think about, so much to worry about. We were pretty sure we were underinsured by a few hundred thousand dollars, and we wouldn’t find out for several days that our specific insurer indexed our coverage annually. We needed to recover everything we possibly could from the wreckage, and we’d only seen it in the pitch black of the storm and associated power outages; we had no idea what we’d even be able to salvage.

Even if it weren’t for the insurance shortfall, I’d want to salvage everything, because I like my stuff.

The last post told a story that was brutal to live through.

This is about what happened right after that. I call those first few days “Salvage Operations.”

Continue reading “After the Storm: Salvage Ops and Letting People Help”

The Forest Fell

I haven’t updated for a while. I couldn’t. Even when I could, I felt like I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t this, and I wasn’t ready to write this yet.

I’m ready to write this now – though this isn’t the whole story.

This is just that one night.

can you see tomorrow?

It feels right now as if we live in a strange world, a terrible world, and there are good reasons for feeling that way. It’s hard to grasp that, up until the latter half of the last century, it wasn’t usual to live in a predictable world. News travelled more slowly; the world was more isolated; the privileged citizens of privileged nations could remain ignorant of what was happening elsewhere (they still can, but there’s a level of insularity and ignorance that takes real work in the present age, and it used to be easier).

But there were wars. There were famines. There were epidemics (if not as many pandemics, since travelling was a slower process; they were not unheard of). There were genocides.

They didn’t stop in the second half of the twentieth century, hell no. There were still wars, famines, epidemics (HIV, for example) and genocides. All four horsemen of the apocalypse were active and busy.

It’s more that there were those corners of privileged, colonial nations that could see a future with some faint notion that there was a pattern and a plan.

I’m not a historian, so this isn’t the sort of thing I’ve tended to think about very much, except insofar as historical context interacts with some other form of critical analysis.

But right now, I think about this a lot.

Not because of covid, or the pandemic. Not because of the fires that devastated the continent. Not because of the rise of conservative, right wing libertarian evil that seems to be working to take away every small step of fairness and progress and compassion that we’ve enjoyed for the sake of the nameless, faceless shareholders.

I think about this because, up until the 9th of June, even though I had no idea how things would shake out with covid, even though everything felt unstable and frightening, I still had some idea of what the future would look like for me – I knew what it would physically look like: in my visual cortex, my mind’s eye, I knew what tomorrow would bring, at least as far as breakfast was concerned.

But on the 9th of June, there was a terrible storm. It was wrong. We looked at our radars and we looked at our maps and it was wrong.

That’s not where the wind is supposed to come from.

Continue reading “The Forest Fell”

ADHD and Other Letters: Neurodivergence on the Road

There’s work for me in Perth; for funding reasons, it needs to be done by the end of June. I haven’t earned more than a couple hundred bucks in about 18 months, and before last Sunday, I hadn’t been on a plane since September 2019. We’ve been waiting for the state borders to open, hovering on the verge of booking flights, and then finally it all seemed to fall into place.

I’ve been here a week, now. I’ve got another week to go – possibly another week after that, but we need to have a look at the workload and the budget. It’s not cheap to get me here, or put me up, or to pay me.

So here I am, two hours behind and not quite 3,500 kilometres from home.

I find it interesting how travel like this interacts with my ADHD and autistic coping mechanisms, so that’s where I go today.

Just under 3,500 kms, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 2,150 miles.
Though as we can see, I can save the extra 38 kms by taking the coast road when passing from South Australia into Victoria.

I’ve travelled this route for fieldwork. Flying is easier.
Continue reading “ADHD and Other Letters: Neurodivergence on the Road”

ADHD and Other Letters: Hacky Problem Solving – The Comfy Chair

In the previous post, I explained that ADHD offers specific cognitive challenges that force us to think outside the box, and that we tend to solve problems in creative ways, using approaches that feel like shortcuts to us, because we’re just using what we have; but sometimes they are quite innovative.

And I gave a few examples from my own life.

In this post, I’m going to take you on a journey through the most iterative hacky problem solving I have ever undertaken, and what I have ended up with is a bizarre jury-rigged solution that… mostly works.

The Problem

I am hypermobile, which is something I’ve written about a lot in my O Bendy Gymster posts, but what you need to know for this post is my ligaments don’t hold my joints in place very well, and my muscles have to pick up the slack. They are always tight, and always tired. I also hyperextend my joints without realising, because that’s normal motion for me.

In periods of stress, the muscles tend to spasm, and I don’t monitor my range of motion.

Thanks to the rotational hyperextension of my wrists (i.e., I can twist them right around), I have worn through the discs that support the joint near the carpal tunnel. There was inflammation in those tendons and also on the other side, and in the thumb joint. Basically, my hands were a bit fucked. I couldn’t do lab work or play console games for ages, and I could only type for short stretches. It sucked.

But it also meant I got very serious about the ergonomic layout of my desk.

Continue reading “ADHD and Other Letters: Hacky Problem Solving – The Comfy Chair”

ADHD and other Letters: Hacky Problem-Solving, Part One

I’m not one of those people who thinks that ADHD is a superpower. It’s a disability with real costs and lifelong challenges.

The flipside of that is that our brains have ways of adapting to those challenges and finding workarounds and shortcuts, and that means that we have a tendency to be creative problem solvers, and to be pretty resourceful, because if all we want is some hacky solution that will do the job for now, we will become absolute wizards of engineering.

In Part One, I am going to provide you with some examples of my own hilarious hackery, and then in Part Two I will take you on a journey.

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Dive Log: In Which I Continuously Tilt Sideways For No Apparent Reason

(this was going to be a Facebook post, and/or a Twitter thread, but it kind of ended up being too long, which is a thing that has never happened to me before, not even once. This explains some of the idiosyncratic punctuation, which is a bit of a deliberate Twitter dialect. Just go with it. Anyways, whether you find this story entertaining or confusing probably depends on whether you SCUBA dive, but I’ve tried to add in explainers)

Yesterday’s Fish Count dive managed to perfectly blend “even experienced dive guides have the occasional brain fart” with “I cannot believe how well I managed that, what a fkn gun” and I choose to find it entertaining (rather than embarrassing).

(explanations for non-divers provided in brackets)

The day’s golden moments started with my arrival on site, a full seven minutes early. Given that I have the whole “ADHD delayed onset sleep phase” bullshit (aha, there is a legit fkn medical reason I suck at mornings, I feel vindicated), and this was an unusually early start (I stumbled out of bed at 5:32am), so I was pretty psyched. Sure, I’d allowed an extra half an hour in my conservative time budget, so that’s twenty-three minutes swallowed by the unfeeling beasts of eternity, but still: seven minutes early, motherfucker. Professional as FUCK.

Continue reading “Dive Log: In Which I Continuously Tilt Sideways For No Apparent Reason”

ADHD and other letters: Prioritising People

I’m a fortunate person, I think. I have wonderful friends, many more than I suspect I deserve. They support me when I’m at the end of my rope, they forgive my foibles and quirks, they occasionally call me on my bullshit when that’s needed (usually gently, and with care), and they are all-round excellent humans.

They are the greatest blessing of my life.

For myself — as a person with ADHD who doesn’t manage time well — the greatest frustration of my life is that there is never enough time to spend with these people. Some dear friends go months – even years – without contact, and then we meet up and it’s like no time has passed at all, but I always regret those gaps of time.

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Doctor Fancy Pants Does Febfast (Kinda)

(apologies, I am owing one ADHD post, though I’m tempted to class “The Bridge” as being sort of in that category even though it’s more about human relationships and communications, because when we have ADHD we are more likely to end up really needing to both fix relationships we may have stomped on, and set boundaries when we in turn get stomped. Anyways, I have fallen into a major post-lockdown depressive episode and the post didn’t happen. So you get this instead! Fundraising! Everyone’s favourite thing! But wow do I really believe in this cause you guys)

Kate, dammit, what are you giving up for Febfast?

Yeah, fair play. I actually don’t drink much these days (seriously. Once a month? Once a week during some parts of Melbourne Lockdown). I’m on a pretty restricted diet for medical reasons (no sugar for me – or barely). And I work out a lot (hypermobility is a demanding mistress).

Early on in lockdown, we instituted the tradition of Fancy Zoom, which involved getting all glammed up, and for some of us, making a cocktail for the occasion. This is a “margatini”. It’s gin, lime juice, and cointreau, and is vaguely keto at about 10g carbs. It’s also delicious. Look at all that damn salt. The tradition of making the cocktail only lasted a few weeks, but it was a pleasant ritual, and also essentially quadrupled my usual rate of alcohol consumption to “once a week”.

But what did I do during lockdown? Shit, I bought so much stuff online. Cardigans, slippers and trackie daks featured heavily (because WINTER and LOCKDOWN dammit). I got kind of addicted to fountain pens and colourful inks, and fancy notebooks – and these brought me genuine joy, and I bought pretty cheap inks, and they helped me in my writing and journalling. But. But.

Continue reading “Doctor Fancy Pants Does Febfast (Kinda)”

The Bridge

Imagine that you are traversing the lip of a great ravine – there’s nothing particularly interesting on either side, so use whatever background you prefer – and then you look up and you see someone on the opposite side.

It’s someone you love.

Of course you want to reach them, but the ravine is way too hard to climb (plus I have it on good authority that the floor is lava, so keep that in mind). You can’t fly, and you don’t have access to any sort of special communication technology.

So you’re going to build a bridge.

Continue reading “The Bridge”