Smart Girls with ADHD

ADHD isn't one-size-fits-all


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 Podcasts Calm my ADHD Brain

ADHDBeth Harvey4 Comments

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


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:


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.



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

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"


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.


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.


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)

3 ADHD Symptoms That Drive You (and Me) Crazy

ADHD, SymptomsBeth Harvey3 Comments

1. I've Cried in your Face

When I was six years old, my witty self joked to my parents that “Katherine (my one year old sister) cries EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.”

My parents both laughed and responded “Beth. So do you.”



My response to criticism was to cry. And cry I did.

I remember being given a bad mark in a history exam when I was 15. In class the following day, I was quietly talking to my friend (being my usual inattentive self, of course!) and my teacher stopped talking. Looking directly at me (which, in turn, led to the entire class turn around to look at me) she announced: "Beth. You of all people need to listen to what I'm saying".

Okay, so the teacher was pretty terrifying, but the shock of the situation, the disappointment of getting such a low mark, and the anxiety of being watched by the entire class of 15 year old girls, made me burst into silent tears. I spent the next hour totally unable to control myself, trying to cover my face with my blazer and doing my best to hide so the class wouldn't see. Of course, everyone, including the teacher knew I was in floods of tears, but they were too polite to say anything. So that was kind of nice.

Until this year when I received an ADHD diagnosis and started taking the right medication, I would end up crying regularly. Only now have people pointed out, "Hey look! We can have a proper adult debate without having it escalate into tears!" I always felt so silly and immature for acting like that in situations but now I have begun to see it as a symptom, rather than a personality trait.

Hey, I'm a real adult now!

2. I've Changed My "Life Plan" SO MANY Times

I have a lot of ideas. This is typical for people with ADHD. Our brains are busy with so many thoughts and ideas all the time.

So I may have told you: "It's always been my dream to move to Japan"/"Study speech therapy in New York"/"Run an English-language bookshop in Mexico City"/"Live in a yurt"/"Be a stock broker" but no, these are not actually my dream plans. 

The thing is, I know this as well as you do.


It's difficult when your ADHD makes you become so hyperfocussed on something exciting and new that it becomes all you can think about. (A regular occurrence for me...)

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!

Just don't ask me about how those plans are going a month from now, okay?

3. I may not have listened to you (and I'm sorry!)

On a regular basis, I've been involved in a 2-person conversation with someone, only to discover that I have actually forgotten that I'm even talking to them.

Over the years, I've developed an excellent skill-set which includes head-nodding and saying, "yeah", "mm-hmm", "sure", or "Oh no, that's awful!" at the appropriate time. Okay, this wasn't a conscious development but I've become pretty good at it.

The problem is that I often realise that I'm not even remotely listening to what you're saying. I then have to switch back into listening-mode only to realise I have absolutely no clue what the other person is talking about. I need to spend a good few minutes listening for cues and trying to decipher the topic.

This one is not a good quality for a linguist like me...

On the plus side, again the medicine is really helping with this. I still lose some awareness on the topic because I've begun to think about that major life plan again (see #2) but seem to notice more quickly and can keep up with what's being said. Phew!

So this is mostly good (apart from those times when what you're saying is so boring, I wish I could be thinking about something else...)




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