My former boss Mia Freedman announced last week that she had been diagnosed with ADHD. Her post on Mamamia got me thinking (again) about my own possibly neurodivergent brain.
I love that people are talking about this stuff and sharing their experiences. It helps to know you are not alone.
There were things Mia said that struck a chord with me, such as when she described herself like this: “Impatient, obsessive, anxious, impulsive, restless, fidgety and with a pathological fear of stillness.”
She also noted: “The inside of my brain sometimes feels like I’m accidentally sitting on a TV remote control that’s rapidly flicking through channels while I try to focus on a single show.”
I know that feeling. Although I would describe the inside of my brain as being like a cross between The Sims and Minecraft … not that I’ve ever played either of those games, I don’t need to because the building of new worlds and the virtual interactions take place in my head every waking minute of the day.
Other “yes” moments in Mia’s post were: “I interrupt people incessantly. I become so excited by my next thought or next question that I have to vomit it out immediately before I forget.”
“In a restaurant, I cannot relax or focus until I’ve ordered.”
Except in my case it’s more like “In a restaurant, I cannot relax or focus until I’ve ordered … for everyone.”
“I blurt out inappropriate things.”
Despite those similarities, I remain firmly on the fence about whether I would qualify for a ADHD diagnosis.
Perhaps I’m just a product of my environment.
Maybe this is how you turn out when you are a shy, nerdy outsider as a child, flirt with post-natal depression in your 30s, survive a marriage breakdown and a couple of nasty workplace experiences in your 40s and become anxious and menopausal in your 50s.
Sure, my brain is a bit left-field. And I have many quirks that weren’t on Mia’s list.
I’m not big on physical contact. I’ve had to teach myself to give compliments, show affection and ask people how are feeling. I don’t immediately notice if someone is looking healthy or unwell, thinner or fatter, older or younger. I sometimes even have trouble remembering their names and retaining their faces.
My bills are invariably paid late. I am incapable of filing anything and I constantly misplace important documents. I can’t keep a diary to save my life. I rely on remembering where I am meant to be and when, which means I live in constant fear of forgetting appointments and events.
Things like getting my hair coloured or having a massage or facial fill me with dread because they require doing nothing and I am very bad at doing nothing. It feels like I am wasting precious time that could be crammed with 50 other things.
But does that necessarily lead to a diagnosis of anything? Part of me would love to know whether there is a medical explanation for why I act this way. The other wonders whether it would make any difference.
I am functional. I am up more often than I am down. I have a job where my skills and quirks are appreciated. I keep a house, two dogs and two teenagers afloat. I have friends who love me. I worry (slightly) less about the people who don’t understand or accept me.
However, watching Em Rusciano’s Press Club of Australia address about having ADHD and reading Mia Freedman’s ADHD confession has been a revelation on many levels.
I have realised that I am draw to people whose brains and mouths are in hyperdrive too, because they get me. They don’t mind when I blurt out inappropriate things and interrupt them and talk about five different things at the same time, hopping and skipping through topics like I am rapidly flicking through TV channels.
I now find myself talking at warp speed to someone – like we’re having some sort of verbal jousting match, while everyone else watches in silent bemusement – and think … hang on … maybe they’re neurodivergent too …
Fortunately, while DD is the polar opposite of someone who is neurodivergent, he gets me too. Well, he often has trouble keeping up with my full-throttle brain, but he’s a good listener.
He told me as we sipped Champagne the other night that he often doesn’t think about anything at all at the end of a busy day.
I struggle with the idea that people can just be and not think about anything. Does that actually happen in real life?
It must be so relaxing to have a quiet brain. Mine is noisy all the time. It is a constant battle to get it to quieten down so I can sleep. The thoughts start exploding again the moment I wake up, even if it’s 5am.
At any given moment I am simultaneously pondering what colour flooring goes best with cane furniture, feeling sad about something that was said to me 15 years ago, wondering what I should cook for dinner next Saturday, planning a holiday to the Philippines in 2024 and worrying that I made a fool of myself at lunch, all while writing two press releases, compiling a newsletter and arranging to have dinner with friends next month.
DD and I have developed a special language with each other over the years that incorporates funny phrases that we have coined when texting each other.
One of his favourites is “try and keep up” – something I said to him early in our relationship when he was having trouble following my rapid thought processes.
Introducing dopamine into my hectic brain when we first started dating was like throwing a match into a crate of firecrackers. And it was oddly contagious. For the first few weeks after we started dating, DD’s brain – and his texting – went into overdrive too.
After a brief, unremarkable meeting in a pub, our relationship exploded into a frenzy of thousands of emails and texts and phone conversations while he was overseas for work.
He noted that while he gravitated to “crunchy”, sparky, funny people, the way he was feeling and acting during those first seven days – after I texted him out of the blue at 6.30am one morning – were like nothing he’d ever experienced before.
“My sensible self is observing this behaviour with the world-weary patience of a parent indulging their favourite child who is misbehaving but is also very amusing at the same time. You know they are over tired, hyper-stimulated and you feel you should really stop them running on the walls and ceiling and put them to bed, but you can’t because they are having so much fun and you love watching them have fun and you are secretly enjoying their manic behaviour and wish you could join in.”
He soon returned to quiet, chilled DD, but I stayed high. And there were a few years where I wasn’t certain that I could handle being with someone who wasn’t hyper like me. Then I found it soothing and lovely.
While DD’s inner manic child has receded, he still enjoys watching mine – when I get so excited and happy that I started to dance and wiggle my hips and talk at a hundred miles an hour.
He’s less enamoured with the times that I cry and cry and cry because I feel so desolately low, but it has been a few months since I’ve lost the plot, so hopefully it was just menopause hormones.
I do need to find a way to bring more peace to my mind.
The only time the thoughts stop bouncing around in my brain like a pinball machine -?aside from the six hours that I am asleep each night – is when I’m blogging them out of me via a keyboard or when I am floating in the ocean.
It has been too long between swims.
DD checked the water temperature over the weekend … 17C. Brrrrr ….
I might have to dust off my wetsuit …
Song of the day: Kate Bush “Running up that hill”