Smart Girls with ADHD

ADHD isn't one-size-fits-all

ADHD

Reading with ADHD

ADHDBeth Harvey6 Comments
Reading with ADHD
Reading with ADHD

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.

As I've mentioned before, this is why podcasts and audiobooks are fantastic (I love Audible - you can try it out by getting a free book using my affiliate link below).

I've also found that using a Kindle to read (or the Kindle app on my phone) really helps. By making the font super-large (yes, to the "I'm-an-elderly-person-who-has-forgotten-their-reading-glasses" size) I actually read much faster and I can't lose concentration as I've only got a few sentences to deal with on each page.

I'd love to hear from you! Share your tips about reading with ADHD in the comments.

How to Move Forward After Facing a Setback - Thoughts on a Friday

InspirationBeth Harvey1 Comment
One setbackis one setback - it is not

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.

I wondered if I'd made the right decision by creating it, whether it would negatively affect future job applications, if I am really helping other women with ADHD. At other times I thought, 'I haven't posted anything new in two weeks - it's too late now'. Most often I wondered, 'what if people judge me?'

It was only after my anxiety began to dissipate that I realised how negatively I had been thinking. The very point of this blog is to show girls and women that we're allowed to be confident in our abilities, we can stand up for our ADHD-selves, and we can speak out about having ADHD. For me to worry about starting the blog because I'm nervous that I'll be judged is to go against my own beliefs: that by encouraging discourse about ADHD, we can slowly but surely remove the stigma of this, and the other mental health issues that are so often a part of our experiences.

Merel and Carolyn Mallon (The Distracted Mom) - two other lovely ladies with ADHD - got in touch with me this week, and both made me think again about pressing delete. It helped so much to speak to other wonderful young women who share similar ADHD experiences.

When you're struggling to move forward after facing a setback, take a deep breath, talk to someone who understands, and/or write about it, and simply move onto the next task. It's never too late to bounce back.

Beth

 

How Podcasts Calm my ADHD Brain

ADHDBeth Harvey4 Comments
HOW POCASTS (4)

If, like me, you have ADHD, you may read the title of this and ignore it immediately. How could you possibly listen to an hour-long podcast when you can't even pay attention to real-life people's stories? I thought the same thing. That is, until I actually started listening to them (You got me, I can be pretty stubborn at times).

The thing about podcasts is that you can use them however you want. You can pause, rewind, and, most importantly for me, you can listen to a podcast while doing something else. Something you probably shouldn't do when talking to actual people.

Discovering Podcasts

train

I listened to my first podcast when I began commuting last year. I began a master's degree at a university that involved taking a 2-hour train journey each way (it was a 4 hours-a-day, 3 days-a-week of travelling kind of deal).

On my first day, I brought a book and tried to read it. I got as far as page two - a complete failure. There were far too many distractions on the train and I lost focus every time somebody near me moved. I was worried. 4 hours a day? This was only Day #1.

I'm going to be so bored.

On Day #2, I came prepared. The evening before, I downloaded my first podcast from the iTunes store: an episode of (the excellent)This American Life. I took a window seat, put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and began to listen to Ira Glass and his effortless voice tell a story (I can't remember which one - if I'd known how much I'd come to love podcasts, I would have realised the importance of this moment and could have taken note).

One of the first podcasts I remember actually told a story set in Belfast (where my train was heading, coincidentally) in the Tarred and Feathered episode. Until this point, I presumed that podcasts were essentially recorded radio shows: busy, overwhelming discussions with noise and laughing and arguing. This American Life was an entirely different experience. One clear voice told the story above silence. It reminded me more of the way my dad would read books to me when I was young, than a radio show.

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.

A podcast continues on its own and doesn't let you get stuck on a certain thought or distraction.

Okay, so it wasn't perfect. There were still times when I lost my focus. When, for example, someone would walk by me or sit down on the seat next to me, breathlessly dumping their shopping bags onto my lap, pushing me against my side of the train, when there were clearly other free seats around us. You know the sort (side note: if you don't, you may be the sort).

Over time, I slowly found out that the only way I could actively listen to the story, was to do something else simultaneously, something a little monotonous. Whether it be staring out the window or playing a game on my phone (I’d recommend 2048) or, when at home, painting, or knitting, or building a piece of IKEA furniture. (The latter is a great way to listen to podcasts, from experience...)

Just be sure not to make the task too complex, or else you end up with a whole new thing you really need to concentrate on.

Fidgeting is Key

At first, I thought that what I was doing may be multitasking but I realise now that it seems to be more inline with the 'fidgeting-to-concentrate' stories that have been circulating the media recently. For those of you who have not come across these, the findings of a 2015 University of Central Florida study of 8-12 year old boys were found to show that those with ADHD could actually concentrate better when they were able to move around or fidget.

I find that by carrying out a monotonous or repetitive task, I can give my entire focus to the podcast. This may not be the case for everyone but go try it out if you haven't already and let me know if it works for you (I really hope it does because it's awesome).

My Podcast Recommendations

Not only has it been incredible to concentrate enough on a podcast to actually take it in, but I've come to love some shows so much that I really have to recommend them, so here goes:

Radiolab

My favourite. This is the podcast that changed my mind about podcasts. I can't quite explain how much I love Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Their editing is on another level.

I still think the music they use to portray colour spectrums in the absolutely incredible episode Colors is mind-blowing. (If you don't have much time, skip ahead to about the 9:30 mark to hear this).

Jad and Robert (we're on a first-name basis, in my mind) actively listen with me, regularly stopping the story mid-point with a "wait, whaaaaat?"

Their audio style feels so manageable as an ADHD-listener. I can't zone out, because they don't. Or, at the very least, if I do, the shock and resulting questions by the hosts make me skip back to replay what I missed.

 

Lore

This one is a new favourite. An independent show created by writer, Aaron Mahnke, Lore is a bi-weekly podcast about 'the history behind scary stories'.

Like Radiolab, Mahnke utilizes music to add depth and atmosphere to each story, which helps me pay more attention. Really impressive for what (I think) is a guy making a podcast on his own.

My husband, Jack, and I listened to all seven episodes of this (so far) on a road trip to Galway last week and they were perfect. I would go listen, if I were you. Here's a link to Episode 2, The Bloody Pit, for your enjoyment.

FYI: Some of the podcast can get pretty gruesome - as he says, sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.

 

 

Meet the Composer with Nadia Sirota

Meet the Composer is great. Again, it's the music, I like the music, it seems. I found out about this one through a Radiolab episode and I'm so glad Jad Abumrad recommended it.

Nadia Sirota presents the biography of a composer, each time interviewing them about his or her artistic influences, background, and compositions. Here is a link to Episode 4 (the first episode I listened to) about composer Caroline Shaw who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music at the age of 30. This episode is really beautiful and is a total pleasure to listen to, like having your ears washed out with silk, fairy dust, and camomile tea.

The music and discussions are fascinating and they are often interleaved with excerpts of music that allows me time to process the spoken information so I don't lose track of what's happening. It's great if you're the kind of ADHD'er who zones out when listening to people talk (like I do). I'd recommend this one even if you don't think you would enjoy listening to a podcast about composers. There are so many fascinating elements to this podcast that it keeps my brain focussed on the listening part.

 

Stuff You Should Know

Last, but not least, SYSK is a podcast where two guys, Josh Clark and Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, discuss a topic (like Nostradamus) and tell each other facts about it.

This is by far the most laid-back podcast in my recommendations and I love it for this reason. Perhaps it's because Josh and Chuck seem as though they're learning about the topic in real-time at the same speed as the listener, or perhaps it's because they sound just like the kind of people you would want to hang out with while googling facts about an interesting topic at a party at university (was that just me?)

Either way, they present episodes on some excellent subjects that I realise, only upon listening to it, I don't know as much about as I should. If you're the kind of person who likes to repeat cool facts to your friends and family (again, is that just me?) you should listen to this one.  Also, their adverts are hilarious.

 

Do you listen to podcasts? How do you concentrate on them? Leave your podcast recommendations and tips below!

 

References _____________________

Guest Blog by Merel - Another Smart Girl with ADHD

ADHDBeth HarveyComment
Snip20150531_37

It really was the name of the blog that drew my attention. Because honestly, if you surf the net, there are plenty of things out there on ADHD. PLENTY. Sometimes I feel like everyone has become an expert all of a sudden. There are endless lists of "what it feels like if you have ADHD" or "what to know when you love someone with ADHD" or "life hacks for people with ADHD" and so on. (Don't get me started on what happens when you get hyperfocused on reading those lists; half a day down the draaaain!) I've read lots of those lists (some of them are actually really good). When I am reading them I feel understood. But then I jump back into the real world only to find out that, in my own reality, nobody I know understands what it's like to be somebody with ADHD or to love somebody with ADHD (except for my boyfriend that is, poor chap :D). What use are lists if there are no other people to connect with, to check my reality with?! (and no, forums are NO good; ten for ten henhouses OMG)

But the title of Beth's blog stood out a little. No, actually a LOT!

Smart girls with ADHD.

"Whohooohoo SMART girls with ADHD, YEEEES, they ARE out there"

*CLICK* FOLLOW!*

But from the moment I had clicked "like" and "follow" on every social medium possible (well, every one that I am familiar with that is), I had second thoughts (the classical split decision second doubts) :D What kind of girl would call herself SMART?! I gotta admit I first thought it was a bit cocky. Where I am from, we don't do that, calling yourself smart. Only other people are allowed to do that.

I'm not smart

 

We are a modest and humble; it is part of our upbringing. But apparently also where Beth's from, so she writes, on her blog.

"Aha I am going to like this one", I thought. *continues to read*

(I have to admit I have skipped through the blog like a squirrel, had to read every item on there at least three times to make sure I got it all).

And I must admit I do fit her description of a "smart girl with ADHD".

So, smart? But, at the same time, not allowed to call myself smart - how does that work, huh? Well, I have a medical degree and I am currently doing a residency. To most people a doctor equals smart. Which is of course a wrong assumption as I know a lot of stupid doctors (we cannot all be as smashing as Dr. Carter used to be, because girls, he truly IS the perfection of a doctor). At work however, I am not considered the brightest bulb in the tanning bed.

Supervisor: "Give me the answer to this question"

Me: "What was the question? What is this about? I wasn't even paying attention, I know nothing, heeeellppp".

So being and feeling smart depends a lot your own perspective. Like Beth says, we should start being proud of how far we've come and not depend on external factors for our self-worth. That is why I like her blog so much. It has as goal to empower and encourage others. We should start looking at some of the amazing things we can do because of our ADHD instead of looking at we can't. Yeah smart girls unite!

And yes, of course, I am a girl, a 29 year old I might add. I will turn 30 this year (or twenty-ten as the deniers like to say :D). To some, this is the age of a woman ("I am not a girl, not yet a womaaan''). At work I try to behave as a doctor-woman-person something. But whenever I am allowed to be myself I am definitely still a girl, even a child at times :)

growing old

And 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.

your crazy is showing

Unless you are the lucky to come across a colleague whom has a family member suffering from the condition you are bound to be misunderstood. It will work as a stigma and haunt you for the rest of your career. And it is probably like that in a LOT of jobs.

House

So there you have it - why I cannot (at least not immediately) reveal my identity (whoo mystery ghost writer kind of thing, right?) I am in a vulnerable position as a resident. The fact that it has to be like this is really one of the main reasons I truly do want to be a part of this project. There is so much misconception it hurts. We must get out there and break stigmas. And Beth started something great with this blog (thank you so much, Beth!!!!)

So, I made the decision (yep, the second in ten minutes that day) to contribute from time to time (and then it took me another month to produce something decent, hahaha, sorry Beth). I want to find more people like us and the only way is to get out there and reach out. I know because I've been alone in the dark for too long.

So I know what some people might be thinking (maybe I'd be thinking the same if I wasn't on this side of the story); look at this, two women, being hysterical, inventing problems they don't have, in order to avoid jobs they don't want to do.

No.

We have jobs. We contribute to society. We live pretty normal lives. We are not crazy (well, not in a bad way). ADHD and having a job are not mutually exclusive. ADHD and doing something with your life are not mutually exclusive. ADHD and success are not mutually exclusive. ADHD and being a girl or being smart are not mutually exclusive.

We can be smart ADHD girls and we can be good at pretty much anything, if we can just put our minds to it.

And Beth and I are here to prove just that.

 

 

By Merel (not my real name)

An ADHD Movie-Review - Avengers: Age of Ultron

ADHDBeth Harvey2 Comments
Snip20150502_65

My husband, Jack, writes about movies and comics and TV shows. He also talks a lot about movies and comics and TV shows and is beginning to write screenplays. My little sister, Katherine, is a comedy writer (she has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and is currently studying at The Second City in Toronto) and studies English and Film & Media. My cousin, Michael, also blogs about movies on his wonderfully-named site Epistemology Tonight.

When I was young, my dad took my sister and me to see a movie every Saturday morning and then he would spend the drive home discussing the plot, the themes, and characters in great detail with us — being a minister, he may have even incorporated it into his sermon in church the following day.

All our best friends are movie and TV and book and comic lovers. Our conversations revolve around plots and cinematography and camera shots. These are the conversations that I listen to, but struggle to take part in. I want to. I love movies, I really do. The problem is, I get lost when people start discussing specifics (okay, and I'll admit, some major plot points too). Some movies are just way too long! 

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.

If only my hyperfocus was dedicated to the movie, right?

Last Tuesday (cheap movie day!) I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. As usual, I took my medicine, asked Jack a ton of questions beforehand (so, tell me again, which Marvel films haven't I seen? Oops...) and did my best to concentrate on the plot and figure out what was going on. Most of time, I can’t pay enough attention to fast-paced movies and the same went for this one, so here are the 30 thoughts I had while watching it.

Sorry Joss Whedon.

Sorry film geeks.

Sorry to you, dear reader.

30 Thoughts I had while Watching Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are probably no spoilers — although, maybe? I don’t even know. I think I saw a different movie to the one you guys watched. Jack read this post first to check and he knows what's up and said I don't give anything away, so don’t blame me.

    1. So there are so many explosions and people and shouting. Oh, now there’s a slo-mo shot of all the characters. Am I supposed to know all their names? Oh yeah. Jack would know all their names. So that’s a yes.
    2. This popcorn is good. I don't normally get popcorn. I got sweet and salted mixed popcorn and it's good! I read that kids with ADHD who fidget, learn better. I wonder if it's the same for ADHD adults and popcorn-eating?
    3. Okay, I probably should have watched/re-watched all the previous Marvel films in the Avengers franchise. This is awkward. Who is Jeremy Renner playing again? He’s got a bow and arrow but I don’t think he’s the Green Arrow. Wait, is that even the one who is in the TV show Arrow? No, he's someone else. (Hawkeye, Jack tells me later. Well, now I remember that.) Who is Scarlett Johansson? Wait, slow down, there are far too many explosions, I just need to work out what’s happening. Give me a chance, Whedon!
    4. Scarlett Johansson. I like your hair colour. That’s the kind of colour I’d like to go. I wonder if it would suit me?
    5. There’s Mark Ruffalo. I like you, Mark Ruffalo! You were in 13 Going on 30 (like you could forget)! Wait, what was the name of your character? Oh yeah, Matty! And Jennifer Garner was in that and now she’s with Ben Affleck. He’s going to be Batman! That will be cool. I really loved Argo. I’d like to watch that again sometime. I also love that Scarlett Johannson was in Lost in Translation and Mark Ruffalo was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s so great because those are two of my favourite movies.Uh oh. I’ve missed a heck of a lot of dialogue and plot.
  • Concentration! Focus! Yeah! Now there are two glowing orbs of computer data. One is blue, one is yellow. Did they say what these are yet? Maybe I’m already supposed to know. I should have paid more attention to the last films, and the beginning of this one, for that matter. Tony Stark has something to do with these. I think he made them? So one orb is good and one is bad. The bigger one is bad. Makes sense, I guess.
  • Focus. Focus. Focus. So much is happening. I wonder if Joss Whedon has ADHD too?
  • Okay, it’s settled down and it’s much quieter now. They’re in a bar. I can always focus on conversations like this. No wait, lots of in-jokes from previous movies. Jack is laughing. I should probably laugh. It's too late, it’s turned into an action scene! Uh oh! Robots. I guess they are evil. I guessed this because they are trying to kill the Avengers. Good call, Beth!
  • So here’s a robot.
  • Here’s another robot. I’m pretty sure that’s the same one.

I totally thought Ultron Prime was a Transformer? No? Is that Optimus Prime? And Megatron? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!

  • Here’s another robot? Why do they all look the same? Snip20150502_62
  • (Post-movie question to Jack) Me: Why were there so many robots? I couldn’t tell them apart. Jack: That was Ultron. You know how the movie was called 'Age of Ultron'? Me: Ohhhh, of course. (Obviously I knew the title of the film before watching it…) Jack: *shakes head*
  • Why is Thor an Avenger? He always looks so out of place. I mean, Thor next to Tony Stark just looks silly. He looks like he’s from a different time period. Wait, is he from another time? And where is Loki? Captain America is from another time! Maybe Thor is too. Huh.Oh, Jack just told me Thor is an alien/god. Close!
  • You know who isn't an alien/god? Tony Stark. Tony Stark is a douche. We would not be friends in real life. Those T-shirts. That goatee. The sunglasses.

  • Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand. I like Mark Ruffalo.Aww okay, Mark Ruffalo!
  • Twins! Okay. So one of them is Elizabeth Olsen, so they’re kind of the "Olsen twins". Ha ha ha. Her eye makeup is pretty. The other is… Darn, I totally know his face! Who are you, man twin?
  • I’m finally concentrating more than I have on the film up to now! It takes a lot of focus and concentration to work out who this guy is. I know it’s not Jasper from Twilight, but he looks like Jasper from Twilight. But his face. I know his face. That is a recognisable face.
  • (Post-movie question to Jack) Me (while watching the credits): Aaron Taylor-Johnson was in that? Where? Jack: Yeah, he was Quicksilver. Me: Who’s Quicksilver? Jack: Elizabeth Olsen’s twin Me: No. I refuse to believe that he was Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
  • So Elizabeth Olsen can control people when her eyes go red. Seems like a useful superpower. Aaron Taylor-Johnson can run really fast. So, yeah.
  • What has happened so far, Beth? You have no idea. That’s what you get for not concentrating. From now on you’re going to focus on every single detail. You paid a whole £3 (again, yay for cheap Tuesdays!) for this movie ticket.
  • There’s a doctor called Dr. Cho...I love Cho from the Mentalist. And Rigsby! Just look at them.No, Beth. Concentrate.
  • The action has been relocated to the “African Coast”. Vague, so as not to offend a particular African country! Whilst simultaneously offending all African countries!
  • Hey, it’s Linda Cardellini! I loved you in Freaks and Geeks and ER and Legally Blonde. I’m so glad you’re here, Linda!
  • So they’re talking about the material that Captain America’s shield is made out of. I think you can get it from the “African Coast”.
  • Right. Time for a bathroom break! I could do with a walk. Maybe I’ll focus more when I get back. Oh wait, something important is happening just as I’m leaving… The music is changing and everyone looks interested. Should I stay? They’re taking too long to tell me. I’ll just go.
  • Back from the bathroom. Now the twins aren't evil! They're good! Yay! I don't know why though!
  • Now everyone is fighting and people are getting captured and explosions and sadness.
  • Now there are new Avengers? Who are these guys? I’m probably supposed to know. But, alas, I do not.
  • It’s the end of the film now. We’re staying behind to watch the credits because that’s what we do at Marvel films.
  • There is a blue man. Jack looks annoyed. He waits longer. There are a ton of credits. This film has been so long. 2 hours 20 minutes! Nothing else happens.

The End

Note: They were also in Europe and South Korea and lots of other things happened, according to the plot I found on Wikipedia. Sure they were, Wikipedia. It looks like we most definitely saw the same movie!

How One Criticism (in a Sea of Compliments) almost made me Quit

ADHD, Impulsiveness, QuittingBeth Harvey4 Comments
Saving the

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Why I wanted to Quit Blogging

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!”

Okay, I probably should have read those instructions because I don’t get it. Not a single bit.

What are circles? Who am I following? Are we friends? Where is my wall? Do I have a wall? Can anyone see my posts?

Yes, I studied some software development. And no, I don’t feel Google+ is particularly user-friendly to the brand new user (or anyone?) I mean, who actually reads those instructions anyway?

[embed]https://instagram.com/p/nm695/[/embed]

So, anyway. I clicked through the setup screens that awaited me. They suggested ‘Fun and Interesting’ people — how do they know who I find fun and interesting? But John Green was categorized as a ‘Fun and Interesting’ person, and I agree, so I clicked 'yes to all' and continued.

There I was, drinking coffee and posting a few links to my blog on my brand new Google+ page (what harm could it do, right?) when, out of nowhere, I received the following comments on two blog posts from a man that I do not know but was apparently 'Fun and Interesting'. Let’s call him Jafar. (I watched Aladdin last week)

    

Snip20150426_47 Jafar: ‘Ok? So why am I being push notified of this post? Why should I not report it as spam?

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Me: ‘Sorry! Haha today is my first day using Google+ I don’t know what I’m doing!'

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Jafar: ‘And a second push notification? Why am I being notified of your posts?’ 

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Me: ‘Oops! Today is my first day using Google+ I REALLY don’t have a clue! I’ll remove those posts! Apologies again!'

So, I told Jafar that I would take the posts down — and I did. That was it. But that was all it took to trigger my anxiety yesterday. I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong, but I’m guessing it was something to do with those pesky “circles”. (Seriously though, I still don’t get them).

After removing the posts, I spent a few seconds staring at my screen.

‘Who is this Jafar?’ ‘Why did Jafar receive push notifications from me?’

The directness of Jafar’s messages worried me. I didn’t mean to cause anyone any offence or inconvenience (although, really? If I get unwanted push notifications, I just swipe my phone and ignore them, but then confrontation is so not my forte). Yet, he seemed angry with me and that filled me with the sick, panicky feeling I get with social anxiety.

A few seconds later, a wave of emotion rushed over me. I felt angry, closed my laptop and then... (it's embarrassing to write) but Jafar made me cry.

This was stupid. I knew it was stupid but I couldn’t help my reaction (a common symptom of ADHD). At this point, my dog stared up at me: “But that douche, Jafar, isn’t even here”, said my dog (with his eyes). I looked back at him. "What would you know? You’re a dog." Okay, so I digress, but you get my point. My dog was right.  (He’s always right.)

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It was nothing. I didn’t even know Jafar. But, for those few minutes, I got so anxious that I couldn’t even think straight. The familiar wave of anxiety rushed through me. I hate that feeling. It’s been a while since I’ve felt it, maybe a month or two, but it was there and I couldn’t stop it.

Within a few minutes, I had made three decisions:

1. I’ll close down my blog.

It’s not worth it’: I started this blog as a way to talk about my experiences — I find writing about things always helps. (Try it!) I also decided to do this to find other hardworking, intelligent women with ADHD. But, what if it actually makes me (or even them) worse? Perhaps the best thing is not to put anything out there into the terrifying abyss of the worldwide web. I could just write this all in a private diary and it wouldn’t hurt anybody.

‘I can’t take criticism’: I mean, if I can’t even deal with a single guy telling me I’m unintentionally spamming him, what if I get trolled? What if next time someone doesn’t just target my inability to work Google+ but instead targets me — telling me I’m crazy or making it all up or that ‘only boys get ADHD’.

2. I’ll change my profile picture on Google+ from a picture of me to the Smart Girls with ADHD logo. I can hide behind it. At times, I feel that it is a physical shield that will protect me from the real-world. That way, if I flake out and give up on the site, people may ask ‘why has Smart Girls with ADHD not been updated since 2015?’ and they won’t even know it had anything to do with Beth. 

The same goes for using we and us when talking about the site on social media. Using the plural (even if it's really just me) gives me the sense of 'safety in numbers'. Once there are more of us, and I'm hoping there will be one day, writing may not feel as scary.

3. I need to watch Amy Schumer. Right now.

Amy Schumer is amazing and makes everything good again. Oh, and Broad City. Or Key and Peele. And maybe some 30 Rock? And Gilmore Girls. And New Girl. Speaking of which, if you don’t like GIFs, this site probably isn’t for you. #sorrynotsorry

What Made me Stay

I stayed because my readers are the BEST.

I began this whole project on Tuesday. That is less than a week ago.  It may have been a typical ADHD-fueled impulsive decision but it’s one of the best I’ve ever made. Already I have received such an amazingly positive response that it almost doesn’t feel real.

110 likes on my Facebook page (many of whom, I have never met)

130 followers on Twitter

1 on Google+ (and it’s so not Jafar, by the way)

However, it’s not even the numbers that made me stay — it’s the engagement. People I know, and even more that I don’t know, have been messaging me to tell me how much this site means to them.  That is awesome and is the encouragement I needed yesterday to keep going.

Out of the woodwork, we are slowly finding that we’re not alone. There are other great girls of all ages with ADHD around the world! We’re enthusiastic! Smart! Distracted! Messy! Hardworking! Creative! Impulsive! And we exist!

We may be a minority within the ADHD world, but this is only the beginning of a community. Up until now, many of us have felt as though we are exceptions to the rule. Only young, hyperactive boys get ADHD / You have a master’s degree? Uh, come on, you can’t have ADHD / Oh, sometimes I don’t want to study - I think I must have it too

There is far too much work to be done. We need to start improving the perceptions of ADHD and help others like us realise that having ADHD doesn’t have to be a solitary experience.

For these reasons, I’m going to keep going.

Besides, I doubt that Jafar knew the impact his words had on me. For all I know, he was having a bad day too.

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How ADHD made me Impulsive, Non-Boring, and Grateful for having a Wonderful Family

ADHD, ImpulsivenessBeth Harvey1 Comment
Outfitters

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.

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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.

Beginning medication was a massive decision for me (‘What if I lose the impulsiveness that defines me?’ / ‘What if I find out that ADHD is my personality?’ / ‘What if I’m no longer the same Beth?’) Before starting it, I made my husband, Jack, tell me everything different he notices and to tell me if become boring. I'm still on the same medicine, so either he's forgotten to tell me or there haven't been any major personality changes. Phew. 

When I began taking it (Concerta XL, if you're interested), I felt as though, for all these years, my real personality had become crushed by severe anxiety. Concerta seems to suppress (almost all of) my anxiety and tells my hyperactive brain to "shut up and listen for a second!" It feels like it's slowly letting the “real Beth” emerge again. I’m happier and less worried about what other people think of me. I've found new confidence in my abilities and have started to focus on doing things that make me happy — why didn’t I do this sooner? Throughout school and university, there was a part of me that was eager to pursue something creative but I never managed to concentrate long enough to do anything about it. Now I am spending real time working on creative endeavours (like this blog, for one) without switching to something new, by that afternoon. That's not to say, I'm going to be an amazing, dedicated blogger. There's a high chance that, by tomorrow, I'll be onto the next new thing. Stay tuned! 

Being able to focus on something is kind of awesome, by the way!

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Since being diagnosed, I have come to understand so much of my personality. I now understand my impulsivity (“Hey, let’s go live in Mexico for 7 months. Let's quit what I'm doing and fly there in 2 weeks”), my constant focus on the future (“Why should I have to clean up when I can obsess over returning to Mexico for the next 4 days straight, without leaving my room?”) and my life-long inability to read more than the first paragraph of a book without finding something new to do instead (‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a… — I wonder if I should back to Mexico? I’ll go check flights RIGHT NOW’).

Okay, so not everything revolves around Mexico. Although, I did leave on very short notice to live in Puebla, Mexico, just after turning 18. Such short notice, in fact, that I ignored (forgot about?) my crippling homesickness, anxiety, and the fact that I knew no Spanish… apart from ‘Hola’. ‘Buenos dias’. '¿Dónde está la biblioteca?'. ‘Hasta la vista, baby’. I wish this was an exaggeration for storytelling effect. It was not.

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I was ridiculously homesick, surrounded by Spanish-speakers for a large part of each day (who were some of the friendliest people I've met, by the way), and sat alone in my room a lot, hoping my family would think to phone me. We were still in the expensive, dial-up internet days of 2004… Our primary communication revolved around letters (yes, real paper letters sent by very slow post) and, much faster group emails on Hotmail.

Fortunately for me, I lived with my wonderful cousin, Jeannie, started taking Spanish lessons, made some amazing (English-speaking!) friends, and volunteered in the English Department of a school in which English language was compulsory — close call, Beth!

Looking back now to my pre-diagnosis/pre-medication days, close calls happened all the time.

Like, the time I quit my full-time job and went to live in Texas for two months with Jack, without much thought as to whether we could both survive on my part-time job from now on (that plan almost worked — or let's just say, we have an awesome family — thanks again, Jeannie!)

Or like that single month in 2009 when I:

  • Went to Norway (on a far-too-expensive-but-the-Ryanair-flights-only-cost-£5 holiday: seriously though, what’s up with your £30 pizza, Norway?)
  • Received a marriage proposal in Norway
  • Said yes
  • Quit my job in Scotland
  • Moved out of my flat in Glasgow
  • Moved to Belfast to live with my parents (without my now-fiancé) to start a master’s in TESOL
  • Quit the master’s the following week
  • Got a job working as a waitress on a train
  • Got tonsillitis so couldn't accept the job on the train
  • Moved back to Scotland

To reiterate - all that happened within a single month.

By the following year, I had quit the master’s, gotten married, moved back to Scotland, and had gone through three jobs (and received a further two job offers).

I saw my impulsivity as a gift (and still do). It continually lets me try out new opportunities.

Without my impulsiveness, I doubt I would have lived in Mexico, moved to Scotland, gotten my incredible job which I love, visited China, asked (my now-husband) Jack out, worked on a software diploma, or taken tin whistle lessons.

Yes, my ADHD can drive me crazy, cause me stress, and put me in situations I am desperate to get out off (let’s never mention that master’s again…) but I know I wouldn’t be me if I hadn't been so impulsive.

Why Blogging is Tough when you've got ADHD

ADHD, QuittingBeth HarveyComment
Blogging is tough with ADHD

Okay, you got me - blogging is not entirely new for me.

Winston New Girl Blogger

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. 

On 26th November 2012, I began a photography blog on tumblr. If you are willing to click on this link, you may notice three things:

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1. My photography skills are somewhat lacking. Particularly for a girl who had, the morning prior to creating this blog, decided that being a photographer was an excellent career choice: one in which she could earn a ton of money while doing something she loves. In fact, it was a career choice that she should pursue that very day - BEFORE LUNCH!

I’m not saying that taking pictures is an unrealistic career choice. There are, of course, so many amazing photographers around and I would do just about anything to take just a single photograph that's half as good as one by the great Ansel Adams. In Northern Ireland alone we've got the likes of my two awesome wedding photographers at Lifting the Veil and my very own cousin, Andrew, who started Smartsnap Photography and is so much better at photography than I'll ever be. The main hindrance for me is dedication. If there's one single quality that will never be brought up at the mention of my name over hors-d'oeuvre at the club, it's dedication*. 

It wasn’t so much a career choice as a decision with what I should do with my day. So, on the 26th November 2012, I became a photographer…for a morning.

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2. I managed to persevere with said photography blog for a full six photographs. I repeat SIX photographs.

The eagle-eyed reader may also note that all six photographs were posted on that very day, 26th November 2012 (and what a day that was). After that date, not a single post was made. I had lost all interest in photography and had moved onto my next career decision, most likely by the evening of 26th November 2012. Perhaps I had now settled on becoming a doctor or a marketing executive or a high school English teacher. 

Prior to being told I had ADHD, this was a major problem. I had no idea what to do. Well, okay, everything was an idea. Any opportunity, whether it be a PhD in Anthropology at Brown University (yes, the ivy league that I had zero change of getting into nor could afford), or a job as a branding consultant in San Francisco, or a two-month Latin course in Cork, or a data analyst in Germany, or an English teacher in Saudi Arabia or as a photographer. To me, everything was there to be applied for. It felt like the entire internet of jobs and new opportunities was waiting for me to find it, apply for one, get it, and, stress over it. Deciding what do to with my life became my life. 

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This was obviously a problem. Rather than working harder on the opportunities that I actually did have, right there and then, I actively searched for new opportunities, which only led to new problems and new stress. This is how I spent every single day.

People who know me, often refer to me as their 'quiet' friend. I'm an introvert, not one for socialising. I go to bed early. I don't swear. Most importantly, being the life and soul of the party terrifies me to my very core. Due to these awesome social skills, I imagine that many people (more acquaintances than friends, or so I hope) see me as "boring". That's okay. I get that. But let me straighten this up right now. My brain is not boring. No, my brain is that 7-year-old hyper kid who is poking you in the head with their sticky fingers and meowing like a cat in your ear before jumping up and down, yelling at everyone in the room to listen to them impersonate Jar Jar Binks again. Yes. My brain's inward personality is my hyper little sister, Katherine's, 7-year-old outward personality. My brain constantly jumps from idea to idea, with every new idea fighting for my full attention. The photography blog was just another new idea that hit me like an all-encompassing brick wall on the 26th November 2012.

3. Why does this photography blog contain so many watermarks, haphazardly added to each photo, you may ask? Well, 26-year-old Beth thought: ‘why use one consistent font size and position when I could make each signature as unique as a snowflake?’

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After all, I needed to do something to protect my images from being stolen by photography thieves. You know what they’re like. Always going after mediocre images without watermarks. 

*Maybe one day I'll get an invitation to have hors-d'oeuvre at the club. I'm sure I'll fit right in.

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