ADHD and the Work Sharks


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I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD-C.

This is the first time I have written about it.

It’s all new, not because I don’t know what it is or how it is, or what it looks like. But because I now see the cracks and imperfections in the lens through which I have viewed the world since I was very young. I thought I was seeing the truth, gained through hours of hard-thought insights and late night searching, impressive analysis and difficult acceptance. A reluctant embedding of trauma and its effect, radiating out from a central point – a central person – into the future-past. Into my teens. Into my adulthood. Into my time-puddled brain. But now… Truth is a coin which has been balanced on its edge for 48 years.

Now I am staring down 50 and looking back over roads travelled, dug-up, re-paved and closed for repair, and I’m thinking: “who was this person who lived my life?” and “who am I now that it’s too late to be anyone else?”

I’ve been watching some YouTube videos from Joe Nierman aka Good Lawgic, a New York lawyer who talks about life, law, faith and ideas (go to He triggered some thoughts.

The first thought came after he noted that when we are surrounded by people who have similar incomes to us, there is no envy. Envy only occurs when there is a mix of people who live in poverty alongside people who have visible signs of wealth. We compare. A situation which can be comfortable and acceptable to us in isolation can become intolerable to us when we see how others have it better.

The second thought came from a guest of his who said that the vast majority of the developed world live in more comfort and security now than did past kings and queens. For the most part, even those who feel that they are on the lowest rung in this laddered society have access to a roof over their head that someone else built, and warm food that they don’t have to grow or kill. There are plenty in the world who don’t, but then there are plenty who do.

What do these two ideas do for me?

One of my reactions to the ADHD diagnosis is to feel excluded from success. The firefly messages all around me tell a narrative of hard work, focus and social skills. 

Successful people study and work long hours, they form valuable relationships and learn to manage people. They are young. They are driven. I cannot relate to any of that, except for the driven part. And I think that my laser focus on Netflix binges, the optimal organising concept for my kitchen drawer, or  the difference between 30 shades of blue paint are not likely to form transferable skills. 

Successful people also frame any weaknesses in these areas into acceptable benefits. Like the woman who says with mock-reluctance that her weakness is a tendency to work too hard, or the guy who says that his weakness is his perfectionism. Here are attributes masked as weakness. A self-aware nod to the seedier side of work culture, and a way to provide an under-the-table look at the traits which an employer could exploit.

I don’t understand these stories – they are not about me, my brain, or my work.  Attention to detail for me is a spot-luck process. I can proof a book perfectly, but send an email to the wrong person. I can work for 14 hours straight on a relatively unimportant or non-urgent task which should really be flipped in an hour; then I can procrastinate and unproductively pick at a time-critical job worth a great deal of money. Even now, I am writing this blog post instead of working on a portfolio entry for my Chartership programme. This post is optional and no one is waiting for it; my first submission deadline for my Chartership is 6 weeks away and I am desperate to get it finished on time.

Is it any wonder that I look into the aquarium world of work and see only sharks and sharps? I have long joked that I am unemployable, and my current boss is a saint. Now I feel that the joke is on me. And here come the thoughts, a tsunami of doubt and fear and loss and disappointment, and never, never, never. Never gonna be successful. Never gonna be that woman in the great suit running the boardroom. Never gonna be earning that great salary with that smooth company car. Never gonna be doing the exciting work, the interesting work, the work that might make me feel like I have a purpose and a reason.

But then I come back to Joe and Scott. And the idea that we become unhappy not because we are in unhappiness, but because we are not comparing ourselves favourably to the narrative superheroes.

I am now looking for stories of success that come from working differently, thinking differently. I have discovered that there is a whole world of ADHD entrepreneurs and people who have success at holding down and thriving at work. When I compare myself to this group, I feel much better. There is hope here. 

So, what about the second idea? The one about looking at the hardship of the past before judging the apparent hardship of the present?

I am finding myself looking back at my life in terms of wasted decades and lost potential. If only teachers had seen the signs, if only my parents had spent time listening to me, if only the internet had been around, if only the guardians and practitioners around me had known about ADHD and the subtleties of its expression in girls. If only the world had been able to look neurodivergence in the eye and not flinch. In the 80s and 90s, that simply could not have happened. My younger self was lost to the waves.

And so I dwell. I am sinking into my memories, my toes curling in the silt of long-ago slights and losses and inflicted cruelties. 

But then I come back to my new idea. 

A new idea is like a new structure to build around your story – a structure that only I can build and a story that only I have the right to write. I make a cup of tea and I work out a way forward.

I’ll try not to compare myself to ideas or people who are different from me.

Instead, I will compare where I am today to the darkness of a time when I couldn’t see the way forward. Today, I am in a better place. 

Thanks Joe.


Mazes, mansions and money: a letter to a famous man


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I don’t know what the question is, but I’m writing to you for advice. A soft word perhaps in a glass world. A connection across a galaxy’s divide. I don’t care that you’re famous or rich or talented or oh so cool. Your voice reminds me of my father and your eyes make me think of putting warm socks on and settling in the embrace of a hungry chair. If you were homeless I would sit with you and wait for dawn.

My tattered brain is thinking tonight of angled mazes and lives not lived. I picture myself down a side alley, lost and lonely, unable and unwilling to try for the centre. I feel the discouragement of the world like needles in my heart. I lay myself down to my job and my mortgage and my endless distractions. I pull myself toward the things I want to do, to write, to discover. But all I do is drag myself into circles in the sugar.

I look at your blessings and freedoms, shadowed by your fetters and fears. I wonder, what would I do with your mansions of lonely gold? Would a cell still be confining to me if it glowed with care and need’s services?

And I wonder how you stand the hatred and cruelty of those who stand against you, pushing you back out through the open door? How do you open yourself over and over, each day a fresh wound? I would crumple like a paper airplane if I had your scrutiny and the weight of that tainted regard

You are inconsistency and consequence on a horse named Pain. You shine in your insecurity, hiding your strength like a black pearl in your pocket. You telegraph to the world and still ride on their scorn.

I wonder about the possibilities. I wonder what you see when you close your eyes. I wonder whether there is violence in your heart. I wonder if I could ever push the world aside like a curtain and stare at the sun the way you do. If I did that, would the black be comforting or would it chase me into madness?

So much wonder.

The reality-sea and accepting stigma


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I’ve been thinking about time.

Reality is made of time and we swim through it like a thick viscous sea. It holds the pictures of our life and we think we pass through them, but really they pass through us. Sometimes over and over again.

I find myself drifting away into the past sometimes, led there by a song, a voice, the shape of my hands or the colour of a sunset-stroked wall. But then I remember where the memory will end and I reject the memories like venom. Can’t remember that. Won’t remember that.

It astonishes me how many memories lead to something of which I am ashamed.

I find myself anchored to the present while I dream of a future that I am striving for, but which I still doubt my ability to attain. With so much shame, how could I be that better person?

I’ve recently been diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder- my body stops moving and speaking so well when I’m stressed. It’s a hard diagnosis. To be honest I’d have preferred something more physical and less stigmatising.

The symptoms have happened before and each time I have fought the doctors who said I was suffering from stress, and the doctor who diagnosed FND years ago. I was contemptuous and arrogant and self righteous.

But now I accept it.

Finally there is acceptance.

I am swimming in this reality-sea pulling a weight behind me of all the things I do not accept. The truth of my body and all she tries to tell me when I can’t or won’t listen – that has been freed into the murky depths of time past.

I look ahead at the blurred and uncertain pictures that bob in the currents of time before me. They form a path, which meanders ahead and ends… I don’t know where. All I can do is swim and drag my weight, hoping it will continue to get lighter as I accept more and more of myself and travel forward into my future.

Clouds in the Deep


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I watched a strange wraith-swimmer emerge from the North Sea this morning.

Fog lay over the water like a fluffy comfort, hiding the liquid cold beneath. I imagined putting a toe into that welcoming white cloud, expecting an angel’s grace to hold firm beneath you only to plunge, horrified into the icy needles of the early morning sea.

The swimmer did not look horrified as she climbed to the beach. She looked satisfied and a little brave.

I found myself wondering whether I was swimming in my own foggy sea, raising my head every so often to get my bearings before plunging back into an icy and unwelcoming soup of people and places.

If they would only part for me.

If I could only swim amongst them.

For some weeks, I have been batting a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The panic attacks wash over me in unpredictable frozen waves, pinning me in place like a fish waiting for the knife. I open and close my mouth, struggling to find what I need to live, to work, to be. Tears wet my face in messy lines and swirls which drip from my chin and nose. In those moments I feel caught in a maelstrom without depth as I circle helplessly towards the hook.

I am getting better slowly.

The new dose of Pregabalin helps and I believe the attacks are becoming less frequent.

I am even starting to make new friends. I stroke confidently toward them, hiding my fear and hope. My goosebumps and shivers. I adjust to the cold of the waters until it seems to fit me like a second skin. I am learning to swim in the deep waters.

Satisfied and a little brave.

Lassoing horses and blue words


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I know exactly where the words are kept and which ones I want.

I know when my hero and heroine share a grin because I’m in the room too, grinning with them. We all look adorable grinning away while the madman lurks on the other side of the creaky door.

Talking of madmen, mine has a hoodie on that smells like horses and there’s an old cough sweet stuck to the lint in one of the pockets.

My heroine is worried about being sweaty after all the running and hiding they have done today. My hero thinks she smells amazing, can’t wait till he gets to the part where he can kiss her, but mainly needs to take a piss.

Outside the clouds stick to the sky like grass seeds to a dog’s ears. The breeze tunnels through my words with the lightest of blues.

Bring me those words, I say.

Now lasso me and tie me to this chair so that I may write them down.

Sin and the PTSD pinballs


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It’s the simpler sins that haunt you the most.

A few years ago I met up with someone from the past. I was horrified when he reminded me of a sin I had buried. Something simple yet horrible that my younger self had done, exhaustive in its toxic memory. A memory that some out there still hold of me. How clear that I had hidden that sin from myself. It had got away from the list I keep of the ways I have disappointed myself.

As he spoke about the people involved and their enduring dislike of me, what I did poured out of my mind and into my heart.

I liked the boy. But most importantly I had seen him as an escape route from the relationship I had found myself beached on, like a washed up piece of driftwood on an unfriendly shore.

I had known that it was going to be a bad stretch of road with my boyfriend, soon to be husband. Soon to be father of my child. So when The boy had come along, I had thought it was worth the risk and had tried to clumsily capture him like a flag.

When he turned me down and stayed with his girlfriend (they are married now and still impossibly happy decades later), I felt as small as it was possible to be without falling through the cracks of the world and into the space between fear and regret.

Was that sin enough? No, that was the kind of sin that you recounted wistfully but with the courage of a life experience. That you owned and lived with. That you SHOULD own and live with.

No, the unforgivable sin had been lying about it when I was caught.

I told everyone that he had pursued me and that I had been the one to uncomfortably refuse his advances. I was convincing. His girlfriend had been appalled and the boy had been shunned for a time. Their relationship was tested and I had no right to be the cause.

They have every right to hate me.

The shame of the person I was sits inside me now like a malignancy, added to the many sins that I have spent years trying to dissolve with alcohol.

I should make amends. Go see them or write a letter. But I can’t. I can’t see that disgust in their eyes. And I can’t bring this into their lives again. You see, much as it haunts my life in living colour, I know that they have put it away into nostalgic drawers and anecdotes. I’m not going to raise that spectre. Convenient? Perhaps. But then again, I’ve been telling you I’m bad, why not weak too?

Does it matter that I had been terrified of losing my baby’s father when he found out? That as cold and volatile as he was, he was still the father and without him I would be cast away alone? That he wouldn’t keep a string of connection with the baby was a foregone conclusion if that happened (it did). He was barely standing in place with me as it was. So I sacrificed the boy.

Does it matter that the woman I was, with her cavalier and self-obsessed destruction of lives, was the result of a learned disease born of PTSD and despair? That the things the child had experienced led her to play out over and over the capture, conquest and callousness of men? That she really didn’t know what she was doing, just pinballing around the lives of her orbit.

No, it doesn’t matter. All those reasons are never going to give back the time and love and trust I took. And this is just one story of the swathe I cut. It’s a minor one in comparison to some.

Now the loathing comes again, a dark cloud in a dark night. I have hidden a pantheon of sins from myself. Each one coming under shadows and dirty blankets, each speaking to the damaged woman beneath. A woman I wouldn’t want to be friends with.

And I wonder if I will ever look at myself in the mirror and not see all these stories and not feel that second and third and hundredth chances are for everyone else.

Not for me who crawls on her belly.

The Blessing


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Note from the author: I wrote this blessing nearly twenty years ago. I always thought I’d sell it or get it put onto candles or something. Like many ideas, it never got past my rip tide of doubt and distraction. I wrote it on a piece of paper and folded it carefully into someone’s hands in a moment of meaning. I wrote it inside the cover of a hardback book I bought for a guy I wanted to impress. I copied it into a notebook half empty of thoughts and plans. I posted it years ago on this blog, thinking it might spread warmth and meet truth. And now I write it here again, hoping its words will refresh me and remind me of myself.

Go outside. Open your eyes. Breathe.

A blessing for life:

May the rain, invited, wash the sorrows from your soul, leaving glad shadows of battles bravely fought. May it drench you in contentment and seep into the cracks of your heart, softening the ground and quenching your need.

May the Sun tiptoe to you, bringing growth with gentle fingers and in boldness fright away your darkness. May it ripen treasured moments and warm your eyes with care unhastened.

May the wind – a gallant beast – bring your means and needs and nobly cast away your dusty burdens. May it lift your feet and see you wild and gentle to your door.

May the snow whisper to you of truths and comfort; and in its magic, muffle cares and squirrel time. May it caress your beloved land and in its peace, pause the world within.

Choppy seas and orbiting worlds


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I have been thinking a lot about orbits.

The universe is full of bodies spinning around each other. From galaxies to quantum particles, everything revolves. At every scale of existence, there is the push-pull of gravity holding us close and dark energy pushing us away. In our lives on Earth too, there are people who enter our orbit and there are bonds which feel just as push-pull ambivalent.

I’ve been wondering whether to bring another person into my constellation, and I have been trawling the online dimensions to see what I could catch. There are some lovely men and women out there, and I’m sure I could have a relationship with many of them.

But at what cost to my peaceful transit around the sun?

It is my experience that the need-want black hole of relationships sips from the stability of my orbit until it wobbles and kilters off into the blackness.

I am subject to the needs of gravity pulling us closer and closer until every decision must be discussed and every movement catalogued. I am subject also to the wants of dark energy pulling us into each other’s world to sample the things we never chose for ourselves. I travel helplessly toward the other person and I have to spend my fragile kinetic currency to keep myself and my identity intact. The inevitable imbalance of those two conflicting forces fractures my peace until the shuddering is over and my orbit is released explosively into the ether.

And even then, it’s not over. The aftermath of the emotional violence sends shockwaves through the vacuum as I hurtle and drive into the fabric of my life, lost and spinning. I slam into anything in my path and destroy the beautiful balance of my universe with my bitter and wounded, selfish orb. These are the stories of my years.

My dog, Muttley is my moon. He rises in my sky and watches over me, deflecting the asteroids of my little universe. He orbits me and I orbit him. His mass moves my tides and calms my storms.

On my planet there is a boat on choppy seas, and I know now where to stand in balance on its prow. Muttley and I have learned how to share this boat and balance in tandem. Together we look across our seas as we scream through the spacetime before us. We dance together, bound in our love for cuddles and kibble.

Through endless sleepless nights and sofa cuddles, we have taught ourselves to orbit each other as we fall at 30km per second toward the future.

Another person would introduce complex dynamics into our simple little two-body problem.  A new relationship would eclipse Muttley’s view of me, and me of him. The other person would bring his own moons and I would be lost beneath rings of competing noise. I made Muttley a promise when I rescued him and brought him onto my planet. I said that he would never be left alone again. His past would be wiped from his sky. That dog will never compete for my love nor wait for me to turn toward him. He had that in his first few years. No more.

I found myself making plans for a date the other day and I looked across at Muttley and saw the future twinkling in his patient brown eyes. The shutter of a decision gratefully made came down inside me and I severed the connection and came back to the world-verse I know.

Some might say I am being closed to the possibilities. Surely there might be a new type of person out there, just waiting to be caught in my path. A Black Swan might appear on my sea, the stars glinting on his feathers and his beak lifted to feel the canine moonlight. I am prepared for the possibility, but I’m not going to try to create it.

I have my universe, my moon and stars and that’s more than enough for a spacegirl like me.

Locked doors and lost mercury


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I’ve been thinking about losing things.

Sometimes I spend long, empty days feeling as though I have lost something, but unable to remember what it is.

Sometimes I can still feel a connection to something I’ve lost, like a long cord disappearing under a locked door.

I wonder if maybe I’ve lost pieces of myself over the years. Like little drops of mercury scuttling into dark corners and being left behind like notes to a failed alchemist.

In bleak times’ past, I saw through my lovers’ eyes and I became blind with shame. How careless I had been to lose the precious thing at my depth that told me who I was and what I was worth.

In my dreams, I hope that I might lose the cold unscalable walls inside me. Perhaps one day I might lose my fear like an escaped set of keys, or my distrust like a silent phone.

We cling to this spinning world, to each other, to our lives. We build hooks and houses; we hang on.

Because the next loss might be the last.