Why It’s A Hard Time To Have ADHD And Why I Wish More People Had It

Tuesday 21 April 2020 13:50

People with ADHD don’t tend to become politicians.

We don’t have what it takes to be ‘yes men’. We’re not followers – oh we’re not leaders either (that needs focus and single mindedness)! We’re questioners.

People whose brains are wired in an ADHD way see and hear everything. It’s why we get irritated by the use of the word “deficit” in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s not a “deficit” of attention, it’s an “overload”;  everything gets our attention, like it or not.

Our brains are wired in such a way as to constantly be aware of the ‘Big Picture’, and we’re aware the whole time of not only all that is happening, but also all the possibilities of what might happen; good and bad. We’re bombarded by a constantly running array of “what if?” scenarios in our brains. 

While this is quite mentally exhausting, it has benefits.

I would put good money on the fact that those people in the world with ADHD wired brains could see how this virus situation would pan out long before the rest of the population (and the politicians). If governments had a few more ADHD wired brains in positions of power, I guarantee there would not be a shortage of PPE, lockdowns would have been applied much sooner and enforced with much more severity. And in all probability, a lot less people would have died.

But there’s a caveat.

Those with ADHD wired brains need trusted and trusting – the latter being of equal or even greater importance – ‘partners’ in the fight, who have not one shred of ADHD wiring. Those people are needed to focus on the tasks that need to done, but they need to do so with absolute trust in that which they can’t necessarily see, either right in front of them or, crucially, lying ahead of them.

The politicians with the power to carry out the tasks needed at the moment, must trust the scientists who are asking the “what if?” questions and doing the modelling, and the people must trust that the politicians are right to do so. This is not about something as petty and pathetic as party politics. This is not a time to be placating ‘the people’ and to be asking them politely and meekly to “abide by the guidelines, if you wouldn’t mind, we know you’ll do the right thing, thanks ever so”. This is not a time to be afraid to be authoritative.

Those people in authority who do believe what they’re being told by the scientists, must keep their focus entirely on that, and give clear, firm instructions to the people they’re tasked with protecting. This is not about finding favour, or about necessarily being ‘liked’, either now or looking back. This is about preventing a vast and increasing number of human beings dying. 

Here in the UK, it’s just not happening.

Our politicians, our law makers, and our law enforcers are tip toeing around, anxious not to upset anyone, and none of them are prepared to give the firm clear message that if you don’t do as your told, you will (at the very least) be served a hefty fine (a real fine, not a pathetic £30 for pity’s sake!). We are not seeing or hearing anyone prepared to say they accept that the people may be upset, even furiously angry with them for restricting everyone’s movements, but that they’d rather the people they are charged with protecting were upset or angry with them, than dead.

I am seeing, right here, outside my window, right now, people who think that it’s fine to not quite abide by what, after all, are only “guidelines”. In their eyes a little bit of “bending the rules” is to be expected. No-one (certainly around here!) is enforcing anything. No-one has actually TOLD us not to carry on as normal.

A probable 24,000 + deaths in the UK SO FAR, including those in the community. But they personally haven’t suffered, so it’s ok to bend the rules…

STAY HOME.

Protect the NHS.

SAVE LIVES.

Are these idiots who are behaving as if nothing’s happening, really thinking, “Yes, I know what that’s what the government keeps telling us, and splashing across our tv screens, and on hoardings, and across news sites – but they don’t mean it, not literally.”?

@!*#!@*#*!!

So, it’s ok for them to have family dropping round, to swop between each other’s homes every few days, to go out in their car for long and unnecessary journeys several times every single day because they want a “change of scene”. If they get stopped they know they can claim that it’s their one journey today, that they’re on their way to do “essential shopping”, or they can lie and claim that they live in a tiny flat in an urban situation that provides nowhere for their “one hour of daily exercise” (ie not the reality of a large detached house with ample private garden in a quiet estate with many green open spaces). And they can drive on with a smug smile on their face because in their view they “got away with it”.

They see a tiny bit of the picture, that revolves only around themselves, and is concerned only in this moment. They are consumed by selfish, irresponsible, stupidity and ignorance, and I guarantee that even if they knew the potentially catastrophic consequences of their actions, they would deny any culpability.

Because “the Government haven’t said that might happen”…

Oh mon Dieu! Je désespère!

Anyone can be carrying the virus, and be thus capable of spreading it without being aware that they have it. It’s been proved that symptoms may only present several days after the virus has been caught. Some ‘lucky’ people don’t even present any symptoms severe enough to cause them concern. But they can still spread it.

So ‘what if’ the selfish ignorant irresponsible smug git who goes off in his car for no good reason is carrying the virus. And ‘what if’, when he’s pulled over by the policeman who is putting his life on the line trying to get idiots like this one to see sense, he passes that virus on, maybe by doing something as obvious as coughing involuntarily, or maybe just by the transference of tiny droplets while talking, or maybe any one of a myriad of possibilities. And the officer, during the course of his duty over the next few days, before falling ill and dying himself, and before he’s even aware that he now carries the virus, passes it on to his colleagues, and other members of the public. And they take it home, and pass it on to their partners, and children…

Or ‘what if’ the copper that pulls our arrogant idiot over, himself has the virus already, and what if he does the involuntary cough, or the over spraying speaking…

Or ‘what if’, just because the sun is shining and he’s feeling a bit cooped up at home, the shortsighted and narrow minded self obsessed fool goes off for a drive and has an accident. And the emergency services that are called out could be attending a small child suffering with the virus, who is having a serious, and as it will transpire with lack of immediate care, fatal asthma attack? Or ‘what if’ the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident is carrying the virus and in the chaos and panic of smashed vehicles and trapped bodies, social distancing is completely forgotten…

At this point I’m sure many of you are laughing and declaring something along the lines of “Oh for goodness sake, you can’t worry about what might happen, you’d never do anything!”, or words to that effect. Well, no, I agree in the normal course of life, if you were so afraid of having an accident you never got in a car, that would be extreme. But these are not normal times. In normal times if, heaven forbid, you were alone in your car and you had even a serious collision with another solo driver, potentially two lives might be lost. At the moment, just such a scenario could result in a spreading of the virus that ultimately extrapolated to 20, 80, 500 people dying.

These are not normal times. The ‘normal’ rules simply and crucially do not apply.

Having a brain wired in the way of ADHD is a huge advantage in being acutely aware of the dangers at the moment, and of the means to avoid them; but it’s also a huge disadvantage for much the same reason – or rather, for being acutely aware that other people astonishingly, just, don’t, get it.

Having to constantly observe the actions of others – aware of the potential consequences and yet realising that they either aren’t, or they just simply don’t care, and recognising that I can do nothing about it – is mentally exhausting and paralysing. Seeing (not watching, but unavoidably seeing) the actions of my neighbours repeatedly, throughout each and every day, that have the potential to put an unknowable number of other lives at risk, and being unable to do anything about it, is completely mentally overwhelming. I have very little problem with the lockdown; I’m terrified by what’s happening outside my windows.

I have spent the last few weeks descending into what feels like a sort of madness, and I have now to protect my mental wellbeing as much as my physical health. I realise I have perhaps two options: close all the curtains or at least stay away from the windows (not easy in such a tiny house with rooms, and indeed windows, on one side only), while keeping the windows and doors closed and playing music or podcasts so even the sound of cars coming and going is cut out; or live at night, when the rest of the neighbourhood is sleeping.

I’ve extended the coloured film that I originally added to part of my lounge window so that I would not be in the direct gaze of my unpleasant and frightening neighbours opposite, so it now blocks out their coming and goings entirely. Sadly it also means I can’t wave to friendly passers by, and I lose most of the view of my soon to be blossoming rose. It has helped though.

I get up shortly after dawn and tend my little bit of garden that immediately borders the pavement outside – I won’t risk being out there at all when the constant stream of passers by are inches away; I may in due course just let that part of the garden go wild, or die. I don’t sit outside at all. I keep the curtain closed upstairs beside my desk on the side of the scary neighbours. At the moment I still like to watch people coming and going on foot further along the road. If I witness any more acts of threatening behaviour or vandalism – like the young people spitting at passers by, or the two who thought it amusing to set fire to the rubbish bin – I will close those curtains too; or take that final, and rather drastic action, and move into the night.

The actions of those around me will not improve, in fact I’m sure they’ll get even worse as this lockdown, in their view, “drags on”. I realise that my brain wiring is unable to allow me to do what others would find so easy, that is to ignore it. So I have to take what would otherwise be extraordinary steps to prevent my being aware of what they’re doing, in order to preserve what’s left of my sanity. I’m not sure that actually makes sense to anyone else. But if it works, that doesn’t matter.

So I will continue to do whatever I need to for my mental health, and I have the means to stay safe physically, and I’m grateful for the ability to have seen just how essential that was going to be even before it all became official. Now I just need to deal with the “deficit” bit of the attention – the bit that makes focussing on the essential tasks required to stay safe frighteningly haphazard. But that, as they say, is another story.


(I realise I could have subtitled this: Judy’s Slow Decline Into Madness. Hmm. You decide.)

Everybody Is Good At Something (or, “Can You Find This Tree?”)

Wednesday 11 March 2020 19:35

A few days ago our local canal society posted a little puzzle on their Facebook page. In the course of dredging the canal, a drone had been found, presumably having crash landed in the water some time before. Whilst the drone itself was no longer working, and was worthless, miraculously the camera card was still readable, and had footage that might be precious to someone. The challenge was on! Could the owner be found?

The society folk posted a still shot on Facebook showing an aerial view of part of the front of a house. The shot tied in with other footage and was likely to be where the owner lived, and although there was no guarantee of course, the assumption was that this property was near to where the drone crash landed; but they didn’t say where that was.

I looked at the photo and instantly something about the house rang a bell. I was sure the colour of the brickwork and roof tiles was a style used on a very large estate – a combination of housing and industrial units – where, 35-40 years ago, I worked, and where at lunchtimes I’d sometimes go for a run along the canal that passed nearby.

Over to Google Maps.

Now I must confess at this point that this is a bit of hobby of mine, trying to find exact locations based on snippets of photographs or descriptions. So from hereon I was in my element (and before you cry out, “Haven’t you got better things to do?”, I would respond by asking how many games of Solitaire or Freecell have you played in the last week?).

The first step was to ascertain which parts of the estate were nearest to the canal, then dive down into Street View and try to find the house, or at least identify the style and narrow down the location. I thought from the photo that it was a terraced house, as indeed that was what the majority of the houses were, but search though I might, I couldn’t find any with the sloping roof beside the front door; and the garage too was unusual as they were rare. What I didn’t realise was, the photo was misleading me by only showing part of the frontage!

Almost at the point of giving up, I thought I’d just try spreading the net a little wider to the fringes of the estate, and bingo, I finally found an example of the type of house, which turned out to be a very different design to the majority, being semi-detached and quite large.

Once the actual style of house was identified – though not yet the actual house in the photo – I zoomed out to the aerial view of Google Maps and studied the shape from above, then scanned around the estate as a bird would, searching for the same shape, diving down into Street View whenever one was located.

None of them matched the photo, but then I had a brainwave.

I’d been concentrating on the front door design and the driveway. But Google sometimes don’t revisit an area for many years. Front doors get replaced. Driveways get altered. I needed to focus on something else from the photo, and that’s when I realised the key to it all was the tree! Find a house of the right design, with a lamp post and silver birch tree just to the left of the driveway (on a large estate that spans both sides of about two miles of the canal). Hah! Piece of cake.

And that’s how I found it. From that point on it really was very easy. I was pretty sure I’d narrowed it down to a cul-de-sac on the opposite side of the canal from the main estate, and walking along the street in Street View it was easy to find the lamp post and make doubly sure by zooming right in to the markings on the tree. There’s about 7 years between the images (Google last visited there in 2012 apparently) but luckily tree markings may grow and stretch a bit, but they don’t change much (and lucky too, no-one chopped the tree down).

What has all this got to do with anything? Well, it comes back to the old negative voices I suppose. I submitted my findings to the canal folk, and they were overjoyed, and full of praise for the quality of my ‘detective work’. I just had fun with it, but it reminded me that it is something I’m good at – I’m sure it’s an ADHD thing, seeing the big picture and then hyper focussing down to the tiny details – and before, again, I hear the cries of, “Yes but it’s not going to earn you any money is it!”, actually. I remembered that in the past, it has.

A few years ago I made a cool fifty smackeroonies when someone asked me to find “a big house, right on the coast somewhere either Hampshire or Dorset, that was used as a hospital or convalescent home during WWII”. He’d spent a brief spell there during the war after being injured, and had glimpsed what he thought was it during a tv programme, but couldn’t remember any other details at all! (Yes, I not only found it, but I also was able to put him in touch with a local history guru nearby, and – as it, now a private house, had been recently up for sale – sent photos.)

I don’t think I’m about to set up as a Private Detective, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that skills that might seem a bit ‘off the wall’ are skills nevertheless. You might be the only person for miles around who can balance a tomato on their nose. Be proud. And who knows, one day you might be just the person someone else is looking for.

For The Tea Drinker With No Sense of Time

Monday 27 January 2020 17:00

Yet another wiring thing for those with ADHD, is a complete inability to judge the passing of time.

This can result in all sorts of problems, but one which is rarely mentioned is a great many cold cups of tea.

This little silicone lid is capable of keeping the mug of tea that was left to brew “for a minute or two” three quarters of an hour ago, hot.

It is quite possibly my best purchase ever.

The Dilemma, and Value, of Distraction

Sunday 26 January 2020 14:30

Yesterday was a classic day of wall-to-wall distractions that were out of my control. I got nothing done. 

Further along my little cul-de-sac someone was moving out. They had a small self-drive hired van and a couple of cars so made lots of trips to and fro, and whenever they were loading up, one of the vehicles had its doors open and its music system on LOUDEST. Despite my house being 150-200m away, with (double-glazed) windows and door firmly closed, the incessant BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! literally made my head ache, and made it impossible to think.

Even more continuously distracting though, was a neighbour opposite building a rather bizarrely designed fence around the front of his house.

I should explain, my daytime workspace at the moment, for several reasons including comfort and light, is a window-seat built into the lounge bay window, which in the winter, looks directly out onto the road. I’ve tried to create as much of a screen outside as possible with planting, but without shutting the light out completely, and especially while many of the plants are in their naked winter state, what’s going on outside is ever present. Usually this isn’t much – it is a fairly quiet road, and many houses open directly onto the pavement, so aside from comings and goings, there is little activity thankfully. Unfortunately on days like yesterday when there is, the distractibility of my ADHD brain goes into overdrive.

I tried to work, I really did, but between the incessant BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! from the house movers car radio, and the pneumatic drill of the fence builder, even without looking up to see the developing bizarreness of the structure that was going up, I was doomed.

Memories of schooldays, when I would be, seemingly pointedly and without caring, “gazing out of the window”, and the ensuing trouble it got me into.

Being aware of everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – that is going on around you, is far from the only symptom of ADHD, and it’s not even the worst, but it is incredibly inconvenient and can be exhausting. It does, however, have a purpose that, were we living many hundreds of years ago when humans were simply hunter-gatherers and other living creatures were either food or foe, would have been considered extremely desirable. Imagine how valuable it was to be able to pick up the sound of an approaching predator despite being deep in conversation about what colour to paint the cave. How vital to note a flash of movement of danger to your right even while aiming your sling at that evening’s supper to your left (thus ensuring that you don’t become supper for someone else)!

At school, I may have been distracted by the construction outside of a new bike shed when I should have been paying attention to why x=y, but no-one ever thought to ask what I HAD learned (I bet I could have given a very detailed description of how a bike shed is constructed for example), only punishing me for what I hadn’t.

Those of us with ADHD may be out of sync with the society we find ourselves in now, but we did very much have our place in times gone by. I can’t help feeling that society needs to be kinder and more flexible towards us now.

After all, the time for the special qualities of ADHD brains might yet return…