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ADHD – Flickering Thoughts

I have been meaning to write a long post for a while now about my battle to get a diagnosis for ADHD, a battle which started 18 years ago and is still going on.  The GP appointments; the referrals; the knock-backs; the self-doubt and depression; the feeling that I’m fundamentally useless**.  Long story short; my current GP finally managed to get me a referral to a consultant psychologist for an assessment as to whether I should be referred for assessment for ADHD.  It’s all terribly vague but I finally feel like I am in the hands of people who care about my welfare and are happy to take me seriously.  The psychologist said that, while he isn’t an expert, he completely believes I have ADHD and has pushed my referral on to the next step.

**I don’t think of myself as “fundamentally useless” anymore, now I call myself broken.  My boyfriend hates this, saying I’m not broken and he loves me just the way I am.  Of course I love him for this but he doesn’t understand that seeing myself as broken gives me hope that I can be mended and is so much better than seeing myself as useless.

Anyhoo.  I am now quite happily referring to myself as ADHD and it helps.  It helps me understand myself and it helps me feel less ashamed when other people are confronted with the results of my symptoms – wildly untidy house; inability to remember directions; overactive chatter gland (I just made up that organ); forgetting what people do for a living, why they were in hospital, the names of their children and so forth.  So instead of trying to write huge long articles I’ll never finish I’ve decided to start typing up smaller anecdotes illustrating my symptoms and how they affect my life.

—–oOo—–

On Friday morning I was cycling into work.  It’s a 25 minute journey and, as there was little traffic that morning, I started thinking about my lunch.Soup  A quick mental tour of my rucksack revealed that I did have my purse and it did have money in it.

A little while later I started thinking about my lunch – I had a tub of soup in the fridge,  I had intended to eat it yesterday but had made alternative plans.  Lovely!

Shortly after this I started thinking about my lunch.  With the current event on at work, at the moment lunch is being provided for staff on Fridays.  That makes things nice and easy.

A short distance up the road I started thinking about my lunch.  Fortunately I hadn’t eaten that tub of soup in the fridge from yesterday so I could have that.

I mentally scrolled through each option at least twice, never associating the thoughts with each other until, just a few hundred yards from work, I realised what I had been doing.

—–oOo—–

On this occasion the damage was limited because I was not in a position to act on any of the options but, had I been in a car, there is a good chance I would have stopped off at one of the shops along the route to work to pick up something for lunch; a sandwich perhaps, or a roll to go with the soup.  While I was there, I would smell the bakery and, without my diet crossing my mind, or the porridge I keep at work, I would grab a pain au raisin for breakfast, or should I have a cinnamon whirl?  I would’t be able to decide so would buy (and eat) both.

Sometimes the thoughts in my head are like butterflies, never resting long and so ethereal as to leave no trace of ever having rested their wings.  I do stupid things, not because of any conscious decision to but because at the time the reasons I shouldn’t do them do not exist to me.

Do you have challenges like this?  Are you an adult with ADHD or do you have friends who are?  How do you view them or yourself?

More anecdotes to follow (I hope).

Love,
Jen

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My Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites

When I was a young teenager, my Dad lent me Equal Rites; an hilarious tour-de-force of sexual inequality and stereotyping which planted the seed of my lifelong love of the Discworld.  He didn’t say why he lent it to me; he never does, he just quietly does little things like that which influence the entire course of my life.  Since that day, the works of Terry Pratchett have featured through my life and relationships, pinning down memories of people and places which otherwise might have slipped through the colander-holes of my brain, and I am a little sad knowing that a brilliant spirit who has brought joy and laughter to so many people has moved on from this world.

I would like to share with you some of the ways Terry Pratchett has touched my life.

Pyramids

I met Nadia when I was 16. I had just changed schools for my A-levels and was alone, in a new school, in a new county, among strangers. She had been away at boarding school for a while and was returning to a school where the cliques had formed without her. Neither of us seemed to have much in common with the rest of the girls but we quickly discovered a shared love of Terry’s books. And playing cards. Out of lessons (we had none together) we were inseparable and we were each other’s link to the rest of the world. Once, when we had found out that Terry was signing books at Waterstone’s in a nearby town, we snuck out of school at lunchtime, having brought in with us a good supply of Terry’s books in our school bags, and headed to the station. In the shop, we waited in the queue for so long before we finally reached the front.  We probably played Cribbage – we usually did. Having listened to Terry’s opinions of people with bizarrely spelled names as he signed the books of the people ahead of me, it was in a quiet voice that I spelled my name for him.

Nadia is my oldest friend and one of only four people I know I will be friends with until we die.  Of the other three, two had large TP collections already when I met them and the final one (my Prince) has loved the TV adaptions of Going Postal; Hogfather and the Colour of Magic he’s watched with me (with added commentary on the bits they missed out, but he’s used to that) and is currently borrowing my well-loved copy of Small Gods.

Mort

Here’s a memory I wouldn’t trade for anything.  On the same day Nadia and I were queuing in Waterstone’s playing Cribbage, my Nan was there too (not that any of us knew that).  She had made the trip into town just because she had heard that Terry was there and she knew her Granddaughter read his books.  She had no idea which books I had and which I didn’t but as it turned out, Mort was pretty much my favourite, to the point where I already had around three copies.  In a lifetime where I have mislaid and replaced so many of my books, this is the only copy of Mort I still have.

My Nan was a wonderful woman who loved me more than I ever deserved and I still miss her deeply fifteen years after she passed away.

Reaper Man

When I was younger, my parents would often take my brother and me to France to stay in caravans or campsites.  One year, when I was a teenager, my brother went to Corsica with his school so my parents invited one of my cousins to come with us.  We went to the south of France and the weather was gorgeous almost solidly for two weeks.  The exception was one day when we left the campsite to go to the beach.  When we got back at the end of a long day, it was obvious that it had been raining.  Hard.  All day.  Having been used to the fabulous weather we had experienced for most of the fortnight we had left the rainflaps on the windows of the tent rolled up to allow some ventilation and the interior was flooded.  I can’t remember the full extent of the damage but Reaper Man, along with my (other) signed copy of Mort had been on the floor of the tent by my sleeping bag.  They were saturated.  I guess Mum must have taken the sleeping bags to the laundry to tumble dry them or something; all I remember was Dad arranging my books open at various different pages to try to help dry them out.  He put them in the microwave when we got home.  They remained my favourite books for years afterwards and I have read each one a number of times.

Raising Steam

I still haven’t read this book.  It has been sitting on my bookshelf for months while I have been reading other things and that makes me feel a little guilty, as if I have been unfaithful to Terry with other authors.  This has just jumped to the top of my reading list.

My Top Bookshelf

There are so many more moments I could write about, so many more books I could photograph.  Looking at this picture I’m thinking Small Gods is upstairs by the bed; Good Omens is in a case I haven’t finished unpacking from my summer holiday and I really, REALLY need to replace the Carpet People.

I wouldn’t call myself a super-fan.  I’ve never been to any conventions, I don’t have Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook and I’ve never finished reading any of the Science of the Discworld books, my shelves do not have any models of Discworld characters on them.  Terry Pratchett’s writing is just so much a part of my life that it feels like I have lost an uncle.  It’s sad to think that some day my collection of his novels will be complete and will stay that way.

What memories do you have of this wonderful person?

Love,
Jen

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Mondays Like These

Well, that was an interesting day.

I’ve had an absolute ‘mare of a weekend!  There didn’t seem to be anything in particular going wrong but I was just depressed through the whole of it; with four children in the house that was a recipe for emotional disaster for me.  Monday rolled around and it felt like a potential turning point; this was the moment when my week could either continue downhill or start climbing back up towards some level of emotional stability.

The first thing I did on Monday to influence this was eat a banana before I left the house.  My commutes last week had been hard, I was running on empty all the way in and by the end of the week I was shattered.  The difference in my commute after a banana was impressive and I got into work to have my breakfast feeling energised rather than drained.

The second thing was the arrival of my Teapigs Matcha kit, about which I will write a full post soon.  I’m not sure if it’s coincidental timing with other things falling into place but, after drinking a matcha shot at lunchtime, my afternoon was so much easier than it would normally be.

A pleasant ride home was followed by Board Games Monday with my boys when we played Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, a game which used to belong to my brother when we were the age my boys are now.

LVD 3

Expedition Disturbs the Undergrowth

Pteranodon Swoops!

Pteranodon Swoops!

LDV 1

Considering his next move

 

 

 

 

The little guy won this one, being the first to get two gold coins from the temple out of the valley, which made for a nice, quiet evening!

An excellent start to the new week; things may be starting to look up for me.

Love,
Jen

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My Quiet Places

I suffer from anxiety and depression.  My head gets filled with a jumble of voices; images; songs; numbers; words; worries and so many other things. They build up and up, like hair in a plughole, further and further restricting the flow of energy inside me, disrupting my concentration and creating a stagnant pool of frustration as I try to battle my way through the day.

I need quiet places.  I don’t mean audibly quiet, although that certainly helps, just somewhere which inspires my inner peace, somewhere I don’t have to worry about anything for a couple of minutes.  Not all of my quiet places are places; some of them are activities or even people.

My favourite quiet place is in the arms of my boyfriend or holding his hand as we walk.  There’s something about his touch, about this wordless reassurance of his love and acceptance of me which calms the crazy of my mind like a summer breeze wafting through an Audrey Hepburn movie.

Watching a movie is often good for a bit of escapism but the effect is transitory, with the exception of Audrey Hepburn (see above).  Unless I’m watching them from within my boyfriend’s arms.

Books are wonderful escapism too but I seldom seem to find an opportunity to settle down with a book uninterrupted and I dislike having to snatch a paragraph here and there without time to immerse myself in a story.  I love having an hour or more to really sink into the book to the extent that the feelings, emotions and background of the hero or heroine linger after I’ve put the book down, leaving me frustrated, sad, scared or teary with happiness.  Far more so than movies, books take me out of myself and into the mind of someone whose problems I can understand, problems which will probably be solved by the last chapter, which is preferable to the ongoing chaos inside my own mind.

My sanctuary while I’m at work is the ladies’ room where, for just a few minutes at a time, there is nothing in my day more pressing and the peace, when there’s no-one else there and the extractor fan is off, is cleansing.  This works less well at home, where the children have no respect for the sanctity of the bathroom and the meaning of the closed door.

At home the study, which we recently reorganised, is probably the closest I have to a quiet place.  It is currently the tidiest room in the house and the lack of clutter helps to ease the clutter in my mind.  Unfortunately the boxes of paperwork, books and unsorted stuff from previous house moves are creeping back in, meaning the room is started to get less organised…  Also, it’s right next to the play room which means the noise level can creep up when the children are at large.

Where do you go when the world gets too much for you?  What do you do to detox your spirit?  Do you have any advice for me?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Love,
Jen

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Relieving the Strain or Small Changes

I have been suffering (ask anyone who lives or works with me) with screaming pain in my shoulders and neck for months now.  I have been walking around as if I had books on my head, desperately trying to keep all my movements smooth.  I gasp if I move my head to suddenly, squeal if I sneeze and live in dread of my commute where, bike or car, I must keep checking my blind spots.

A hard pillow didn’t help, nor did a soft one.  Curling up to sleep was no different to stretching out.  On my back; on my side; on my front, nothing.  I was living on a cocktail of Panadol and ibuprofen and smelt constantly of heat gel but even if they had made the pain go away (which they didn’t) they still wouldn’t touch the cause of the pain.

I was starting to resign myself to the idea of having to go to the doctor, something I never enjoy doing, if only for the inconvenience but then, about a week ago, I glanced over at my manager of the last couple of months and I had an idea.  The kind which makes you slap yourself on the forehead.

Allister is fairly tall, topping six foot with a few inches to spare.  He had also complained of a bad neck until we raised the level of his monitors by a few inches, bringing the tops to the level of his eyes.  Why it didn’t occur to me at the time that the same solution could be applied to me is beyond me; I guess I’m better at solving other people’s health issues than my own.

So, rather than raising my monitors, I lowered my chair by a few inches and my screaming neck pain started to go away!

A couple of days later I thought I would try moving my keyboard closer to me so I wasn’t stretching to type and the pain in my shoulders reduced dramatically!

I am amazed at the effect these minor adjustments have had on my quality of life!  Now, rather than being continually beset by neck and shoulder pain, I can focus on more important things!  Like why my ankle hurts when I run… (I am such fun at parties!)

Love,
Jen

2

Death on the Roads

Another cyclist was killed on the roads of London yesterday, so I have put aside the post I was working on to reflect a little on this tragedy and, selfishly, how it affects me.

According to the BBC website article about the incident this was the first cycling fatality in London this year.  Road.cc concurs but adds it’s the fourteenth in Great Britain in less than a month!  The Evening Standard adds a few witness testimonies to the story but it’s still hard to piece together exactly what happened from the available information.

BBC article
road.cc article
Evening Standard article

The initial reports had a woman in her 30s, cycling through London during rush hour, sucked under a truck as it turned left.  The woman’s age has since been quoted as 29 but the whole thing still strikes very close to home for me.  I know to never let myself be caught on the inside of a large vehicle turning left (equiv. turning right in USA or other countries where you drive on the right), even if I’m turning too, indeed I do my best to never be on the inside of a large vehicle at all, overtaking them on the outside if the situation arises, but it’s hard to avoid sometimes.

Did she know that too?  Could she see what was going to happen to her in the seconds before it did?  I don’t know if she had put herself in that position not knowing how unsafe it was, either because she didn’t realise the truck was turning left or because she was unaware of the physics of long vehicles turning.  I don’t know if the truck was overtaking her when it turned so she had no choice.  Maybe she was just head-down, focusing on her ride and getting to where she was going on time, a trap into which I could so easily slip, especially in winter when I wear a tubular cloth around my head which partially blinkers me (I’m going to stop doing that now).

I’ve sat in the cab of a lorry, courtesy of the Metropolitan Police who seem to run bike/lorry safety sessions quite regularly near Kings Cross/St Pancras, around the corner from where I used to work.  Even in modern lorries, with slanted dashboards and extra mirrors, visibility is very poor and the time required to check all the mirrors is easily sufficient for a bike to come alongside or slip in front.  Without the extra mirrors (which are not required to be retro fitted into older lorries) and slanted dashboard the blind spots are enormous.

I just want to take a minute to think of this poor woman and her family, along with the other 13 fatalities and their families.  Is it just luck that I haven’t joined their numbers or have I made my own luck – blazing lights; traffic awareness; obeying the rules of the road?  Many of the principles I learnt during my driving lessons (half a lifetime ago) I have imported directly into my cycling, especially the first lesson my uncle (a driving instructor) ever taught me.

Always drive (or ride) as if everyone else on the road might be an idiot.

Chances are most of them won’t be but it’s always prepare me for when I encounter someone who is.

Stay safe,
Jen

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Touch Typing or How I Learnt to Stop Looking and Trust my Fingers

Touch typing is a skill I managed to learn years ago.  I use it on a daily basis and I can’t imagine my life without it.  I believe anyone who regularly types on a physical keyboard can learn to touch type but it does take some practice, dedication and a leap of faith.

When I was fairly young, maybe just out of primary school, my mother bought me a notepad-style book designed to teach someone to touch type; I guess she thought it was a valuable skill which would make me more marketable when I was older and looking for a job and I agree with her.  I never had any intention of becoming a secretary but, knowing my Mum, that wasn’t why she bought it anyway.  I wasn’t typing enough at that age to stand any chance of picking it up but the basics stayed with me, specifically the pattern of colours.

At the back of the pad was a sheet filled with little sticky-backed squares in eight different colours, the idea being you stick a set of the stickers onto your fingernails (the adhesive was very difficult to remove!) then decorate your keyboard with more of the stickers to represent which finger is responsible for which keys.  The layout was something like this, although the colours were almost certainly different.Keyboard

The book then took me through a series of lessons, typing different words then moving on to sentences.  The early lessons were colour coded to help locate the letters but by the later ones I was expected to start remembering what was where.

I didn’t do much with the book at the time but in later years, when I entered the workplace, I remembered the layout of which key belonged to which finger and started to make an effort to use the correct finger rather than just stabbing at the keyboard with my index fingers, first just focusing on what I was supposed to be stabbing with my index fingers then working my way out, a finger at a time.

Soon, all this became automatic and I would stare fixedly at my fingers as they typed, effortlessly finding the correct keys, but the problem with that is if I did make a mistake (don’t we all?) I wouldn’t know about it until I surfaced periodically to scan what I had typed.  At the grand old age of 23 (or so) I realised it was a waste of time, all this looking up and down. A swimmer would be able to swim faster and more smoothly if she didn’t have to keep turning her head to breathe every few strokes, likewise, my typing would be faster and smoother if I didn’t have to keep raising and lowering my head, having to stop and proof read what I had written, which seldom had errors anyway.

A work colleague of mine at this time was in a similar situation but, whereas I spent weeks staring at my screen, teeth gritted, eyes bulging with the effort of not glancing down, she had the advantage of her husband levering off many of the keys of her home computer and replacing them to read I LOVE YOU one Valentine’s day (he sacrificed a second keyboard for the additional O) so there was no longer any point in looking at the letters on the keyboard.  She left them like that.  They’re probably still there.

So now, when I sit down to write, I always take a second to locate my fingers on the keys (most keyboards, certainly English ones, have a raised dot or dash on the F and J keys for just this purpose, along with one on the 5 of the numeric keypad).  To me, it’s like taking a deep, cleansing breath.  My thoughts flow directly from my mind to the screen, the process is so automatic now.  It was worth every second of the effort I put in to learning this skill, not only for the increase in efficiency but also because it freaks people out a little when they approach my desk and I look up at them while still finishing my sentence, and that’s fun.

I read somewhere once that a proficient touch typists fingers will slow down after a typing error, their muscle memory picking up on the mistype before the eye even registers the mistake on the screen and it does feel to me as if my fingers know better than my brain does when I make an error.  The only time this doesn’t work is when my fingers (usually the right hand) slip left or right by a column.  I have hit send on more than one email signed Heb.

Do you still type with 2 fingers, or maybe 4?  Do you type with all your fingers but still watch them as they flutter over the keys?  Go on, give it a go.  What do you have to lose?

Love
Jen