I am unbroken
It’s a strange place to feel precisely the same and completely different.
I’m still daydreaming.
I’m still zoning out.
I’m still easily distracted.
I still struggle to maintain focus for longer than 10 minutes.
I still talk way way way way too much.
I still say inappropriate things without realising they are
– for example, earlier this week, I was talking with a couple of colleagues at work. We were discussing the addictive nature of diet coke, and one of them said they couldn’t drink fizzy pop because their body reacted to it, so I asked, ‘can you burp?’ thinking this was a sensible, typical question. Nope. Both of them laughed, got up and said their break over.
I still send 12 messages in a row in a rant to my friends.
I still try my hardest not to interrupt people when they are talking.
I still fidget
I still lose things all the time (I need mittens on a string for charger cables, phone, wallet, lip balm, water bottle etc.)
I still wonder aimlessly from one room to the next, wondering what
I’m in there for (I’ve turned this into a dance now so that it doesn't feel as pointless)
I still have an incredible urge to buy things I can’t afford with money I don’t have (oh yes, I need 14 different kinds of salad spoons)
I still act/think impulsively (like I could just run around my garden naked)
I still struggle to switch my brain off.
I still need help with the finer details.
I still get super focused on pointless things.
I still talk to myself ….. and now my dog.
I still get overwhelmed.
I still struggle with sensory overload.
I no longer think it’s because I’m broken; I no longer believe that everyone is like this. It's just that they are better at managing it than I am and am ultimately just cleverer.
And I was ok with that or relatively primarily ok with it because no matter how un-mainstream I am, I love who I am.
I didn’t love even a fraction of myself in my teens, in my twenties and for half of my thirties.
Until I found the courage to cut ties and have no contact with my dad; in the six months that followed this empowering decision, I also lost my job, and my boyfriend split up with me. All the while, I was getting floods of childhood memories I had suppressed.
Memories of the thousand different covert ways my dad manipulated me, reminding me repeatedly how I was taught that I was worthless and only as good as what I could do for him.
My drinking got worse, my everything got worse, and then it stopped because, for some reason, on the 28th of December 2018, I woke up different. Hungover yes. Feeling horrific, yes. But not in the same frame of mind. Instead of falling into my hangover routine of fantasising about a future me, a little voice said, ‘but you’ve been fantasising about this future Lou for the best part of 20 years, and where is she? We’re stuck with you.’
And then Einsteins' definition of madness popped into my head, a report that I had pompously recited to others about their lives, never considering I should apply it to my own
“doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.”
It was madness; I was mad. But finally, after all those years of suppressing the memories of erratic behaviour, impulsiveness and a lifetime of low esteem, I was done being 'mad', and I did something different.
Four years on and;
I’m six stones lighter
I’m fitter than I have ever been
I’ve three half marathons, five full marathons and two ultra-marathons
I’m at University; I’m getting decent grades despite being unaware of my ADHD
I have career goals
And I love myself.
I thought that after overcoming my childhood trauma and the drinking problem, I’d be able to focus and not daydream as much or zone out. I’d not get distracted or act impulsively; I’d be able to concentrate on the finer details and maybe not talk so much.
But none of it stopped. All that happened was my self-esteem improved mainly due to feeling empowered, feeling in control of my life and having healthy ways of managing my emotions, but nothing else changed.
And so I came to think, ‘ok, well, I’m broken, and I’m ok with it.’
I’m flawed, but in general, I’m an okay person. I try to do the right thing. I try to be kind to people and match that kindness with how I treat myself.
So when that video popped up on my feed, ‘hidden symptoms of women with ADHD’, I was stunned.
It explained my entire life, and suddenly, I realised, it's not that everyone else has all these things going on but manages it better; it’s that they don’t have anything to work. They are mainstream, and I am not.
It was the first week of the Spring term at uni this week (WC 24th Jan 2023). I started the second term of the second year of my degree in Criminology.
Some of the readings, especially the older ones, are dense with what I call academic acrobatics – which is to say, using four fancy words when one simple one is enough. I struggle the most with these because with every other word, I have to look up the meaning, and even after doing that, I still haven’t got a clue what is going on. Maintaining focus on this is difficult for my peers but impossible for my fellow non-mainstreamers.
I watch the lectures so I can pause as and when needed and rewind after I’ve realised I’ve zoned out and seminars are hit-and-miss.
I struggled with most of the material this week, which is not different from most weeks as it takes me about three times longer to understand any of it, so I’m finally grasping week one material when everyone else is now in week 3.
And I thought it was just that I was not as bright as the others and had to work harder because I’m not as bright. And as much as I love who I am now, I did berate myself and get frustrated and annoyed at myself, especially over my essays. I want to do the best I can, yet I still struggle to remain focused enough to complete the editing process—the attention to detail.
But now that I know why I have been so kinder to myself. Instead of pointlessly forcing myself to sit in a live lecture knowing full well I will be watching the entire thing again because of zone-outs and distractions, instead of pushing through on a paper where I’m stuck in a loop of reading the same paragraph over before a zone out, instead of getting frustrated with myself for not knowing the answers in the seminar even though I’d just watched the lecture an hour before I just let it go.
I gave myself a break; I reminded myself why I was like this.
Cutting ties with my dad was a freeing experience; quitting alcohol forever was a freeing experience, and each of those things has helped shape who I am today. Still, nothing is as freeing as understanding the core of who you are when you’ve known something was missing/different/odd about you all your life.