For me, distraction is just a part of the creative process - or so I tell my myself. Then there are the times that I'm ready, laptop open, cup of coffee at hand, but can't for the life of me manage to get a single word out of my head and onto the screen.
I love using Trello to organise my life and I’ve mentioned it a few times in the Smart Girls with ADHD Facebook group. Recently, I’ve been asked to explain how I use it so I’ll give that a shot here. I first came across Trello in 2014 while I was studying software development. I loved it immediately: the simple user interface, the ability to add links, videos, documents and photos to my to-do cards, the backgrounds.
People can be snobby about actually “reading” the book, but I really don’t understand where this pretentious attitude comes from. The ultimate purpose of reading a book is to process the words, to understand the author’s goal, to interpret the meaning, and to hold that knowledge. Bear in mind that traditionally, storytelling was spoken, not written.
We accept that people learn in different ways, so why is there still judgement about listening to a book? This is before I even get into ADHD, Dyslexia, and similar issues which may affect a person’s reading abilities.
From the age 13 I was addicted to Diet Coke. But not that addicted, of course. I had “rules”, you see. Truthfully, I drank so much more than I ever admitted to myself.
I limited myself to one can a day — like it was a good thing. Each day I’d buy a can at work with my lunch. Just one, so don’t judge me.
Okay, so I’d have another after lunch if I was working later, but only on the days that really required additional caffeine. The days with the deadlines and the people asking me questions and with the overwhelming amounts of emails.
Each evening I would only drink Diet Coke if my husband and I were at a pub quiz. That was usually on a Tuesday. And sometimes a Thursday.
I am a clutterer. I hate clutter. It is distracting. But it seems to follow me everywhere I go. Clutter is delayed decision-making. Clutter is piles of potential projects and schemes. Clutter is a physical representation of procrastinating undesirable activities.
I got to a point in my life that my clutter was paralyzing me. My house was becoming non-functional as a result: boxes of papers that I needed to "go through and file", but that I never would; dozens of failed organizational systems that, in the moment, I was sure would solve all my problems; half-finished projects; newsletter clippings; magazines that I would recycle as soon as I finished reading them; pictures, notes, recipes, and important legal documents all mushed together.
I finally had an epiphany that stuck.
I cannot manage the volume of paper in my life.
Before being diagnosed with ADHD, I completed a 4-year degree and a master's degree, both in Linguistics. I also, more recently, completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Software Development. In hindsight, my ADHD always hindered my studying, so I found ways to get deal with my lack of focus in order to deal with the demands of postgraduate study. Here are 5 of my tried-and-tested study methods.
Before taking Concerta, I was worried that I would become “boring”. I feared that I would lose my creativity, don a grey suit, and get a job as an accountant. Okay, so I’m ridiculously terrible at maths, so that probably wasn’t going to happen.
Over time, I found that my creativity actually increased. I used the time I’d spent before scrolling mindlessly through Twitter, Facebook, and BuzzFeed in the past to actually be a productive member of society. The only way I can describe it is that, before Concerta, I was a consumer, and now I’m a producer.
When I was growing up, girls didn’t really get diagnosed with ADHD. Everyone just thought I was talkative and liked to be the center of attention. Which wasn’t not true. Later, though, I learned from a brain scan, that talking appeared to be how my brain activated my prefrontal cortex. In normal people terms, that means talking helped me focus.
Looking back, I think I was the girl who talked a little (or a lot) too much, a little too loudly.
I wanted to create a site that gives me the capability to have frequent guest bloggers on here. This means you!
For a while now, I've been trying to think of ways that I can create a platform where females with ADHD can share their own stories and experiences.
So.... (drumroll, please)
Yes, I have ADHD. Writing it down gives me shivers. I've known this for about two years now and I still haven't come to terms with it. Why? Because doctors don't get ill. We keep working when we are physically or mentally sick. Doctors don't go see doctors and certainly not psychiatrists. It is the irony itself. Amongst the people that treat all kinds of illnesses in the rest of the population illness itself is not accepted. Especially when it comes down to psychiatric conditions. You are weak when you admit you have a burn-out or suffer from depression. You are crazy when you tell you have autism or ADHD. It is just not accepted.
Reading can be tough for many people with ADHD (like me). I've always struggled with the act of concentrating on a book (despite getting a joint degree in English Literature and Linguistics, and a master's in Linguistics!) so I've had to find some ways to deal with this.
Without consciously focusing on the podcast (everything outside the window was too interesting), I became aware that, in just a few minutes, I was already entirely invested in the story and was desperate to continue listening to hear the story's resolution.
When you read, you need to concentrate. You need to process what you have just read and need to know when to turn the page. You need to re-read the words when you miss something. And you need the willpower to ignore your surroundings.
With a podcast, you don’t.
Sometimes it can be difficult to move forward from a setback. Over the past few weeks, I've had bad anxiety (as I've mentioned here before). This time it was caused by a few changes in my medication. At times I felt so bad, I thought seriously about deleting this site.
Poll: Have you told your boss about your ADHD? Do you think it's important that other people know about it? Vote here and share your thoughts.
It can actually feel relaxing to be engrossed or even obsessed with the act of researching everything I can about this new life decision. It lets me escape from the anxiety and racing thoughts that come with everyday life. I used to actively seek out new opportunities (degrees, jobs, trips) online, just to have something to help me feel better and get super excited about.
The problem is that I can't keep my mouth shut. Before I know it, I've told everyone I meet about my great new life plan! It's just too exciting!
At times, I go to the cinema when I’ve got hyperfocus — my primary ADHD symptom, in which I can’t stop focussing on a single idea for days or weeks (or even months) at a time. Yes, sometimes people with ADHD can focus too much. Go look it up! It's a real thing!
WARNING: Do not go see a movie when you have hyperfocus, especially when that focus is on something like moving to America, or writing a blog about ADHD(!), or something else that really requires hours of scouring the internet for ideas. On these days, the movie is a lost cause. All I can think about is that thing I've got on my mind. I feel like I'm too busy to watch the movie because I'm supposed to be doing that other thing.
The problem with writing about ADHD from a first-hand perspective is that, I actually have to try to write with ADHD. I also have anxiety — something that is slowly improving, but not completely. Yesterday was an “Anxiety Day”.
Someone (online) said something that annoyed me. It wasn’t particularly mean and, to many of you, it will seem so insignificant that you will even question why I bothered writing about it. Strangely, the criticism was about my posts on Google+.
First of all, let me tell you, I am totally new to Google+. When I say I’m new, I don’t mean I’ve been there for a few weeks or even days. We’re talking hours here, people. After signing up, Google+ began to take me on a little tour of how to use it. Of course, having ADHD, I ignored all the instructions. “Get to the point already! I don’t have time for this!”
Although I have only recently been diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve always felt like something has been inhibiting me since I was young. Only now, at the age of 28, has it been recognised as a real-life condition that requires real-life medication and real-life doctors’ appointments.
Knowing that “my crazy personality” has a name has made a huge difference. Bear in mind, I totally understand why some people prefer to steer clear of medication and that’s great too! After all, everyone is different.
Okay, you got me - blogging is not entirely new for me.
Over the last decade, I started a blog about linguistics. A blog about copywriting. A blog about learning corpus linguistics. A blog about learning Arabic. A blog about politics - don't even ask about the last one. I truly don't know. My main problem is that I possessed a certain lack of enthusiasm after day one of each new thing.