There’s a whisper in my brain that I don’t always listen to, but I’m always glad when I do. The phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” When I first started freelancing, that meant, “Don’t always work in the same place.” So, I would check out a few different coffee shops, a couple libraries, even the food court in the mall. Sometimes I would sit somewhere without Wifi and do offline work, just to switch it up. I am not new to writing, but with my ADHD consistency and organization is hard. With Covid-19 looming large, nomadic writing is not practical. Switching my work environment might mean changing rooms, or maybe having a random snack or beverage, or writing/producing different types of content. Somehow, I have to find ways to switch things up in a different way. I often have to scare myself or risk embarrassment in order to properly motivate myself. And somehow, I need to have fun with it.
Sometimes, like now, every word is a challenge, and with every challenge comes guilt. I am trying to build something real for myself even as my heart is breaking. I want to do the kind of writing that feeds my soul. That is what sustained me for so long, in childhood and even while I was raising my own children and I lived with undiagnosed ADHD, along with anxiety and depression.
When I wrote some part of me could feel normal, sort of. I could reach a few that got it, or at least part of it. But now, I am pulling olive branches off tree after tree only to see each incinerated. My eyes burn from the smoke. My limbs and heart ache from exhaustion. And still it is hard to turn around and throw up my hands. If I let my knees buckle, I will flop to the floor, boneless. I will try to reach up and find nothing stable to lift me. So I have to stand. Walk. One word in front of another.
Confession, I’m Kind of in Crisis Mode
I have not been independent. I’ve taken care of personal bills, sort of, with writing, but I have been living in my mother’s house with my daughter and her son. I had been helping a lot with caretaking, and there has been one other room mate. First, a friend of my daughter’s from college, now my grandson’s father.
They will be moving out soon, and even under the same roof my daughter and I are becoming more estranged. I will not provide detail, but my grandson’s father and I clash, a lot. I think he is one of those people that doesn’t “believe” in ADHD, or thinks a person should outgrow it or will themselves better.
It is the best for everyone that I don’t keep living with them, I know, even if I am not ready. It is hard to get ready while they are here. The air is harsh and negative and painful and I can hardly bear it. I want my freedom even while I have little idea of how to sustain it.
My daughter deserves freedom too. She seems to think that leaving me will help her find it. Chances are, it will help, but I worry it will not be enough.
ADHD is Real, Even in Women
Traditionally, boys get diagnosed with neurodivergent conditions, like ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) more often than girls, but more and more experts are noticing a more even spread, and an vast failure to diagnose many girls and women. In a patriarchal society, girls and women are expected to adjust and alter who they are to fit in in a “man’s world.” Thankfully, girls and women of all abilities are beginning to defend their rights to be themselves.
Right now, my daughter and her ex-husband do not want to understand or care about my struggles. To her credit, she has done a lot for me, especially when my productivity level was even lower than it is now. I also made more than a few financial and emotional sacrifices for her.
It’s an Uphill Battle
I am fifty, and have been out of the traditional workforce for a decade. My freelance progress has largely eroded because of my sacrifices, my physical and mental health issues. My confidence has dwindled, but it is trying to come back.
One benefit of age is the ability to know yourself, to look inward honestly. I know for my work to work, I have to feel legitimate. I have to feel real. I have to feel worthy. They want to believe that with age there is supposed to be increased knowledge and competence, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, I will say the wrong thing, fully believing it is right. Sometimes, I will try something different, and fall on my face. Sometimes, I will be okay.
Hormones Matter, Whether We Want to Admit it or Not
With women increased hormonal activity during pivotal times can aggravate neurodiversity and mental health issues. Girls have been diagnosed with ADHD less often than their male peers, in part because outward hyper activity is not present, or at least limited. Inside a female ADHD brain, however, there is a pinball machine caught in a tornado. You may not be bouncing off walls, but it is just as unsettling to be bouncing around your own mind.
Girls often bear this burden quietly, but start having more noticeable symptoms of ADHD at the crack of puberty. Many are diagnosed in their early teens, but it is also very common for no diagnosis to come at all until adulthood. I was diagnosed at 42.
Pregnancy may heighten ADHD symptoms too, and so can “the change” or the perimenopause or menopause stage. While I haven’t had official medical confirmation that hormones played a role in reduced ability to concentrate, I do believe that there is evidence strongly suggesting it.
What Do I Need?
I wish that I had specific answers to this question, my life would be so much easier if I did.
Money for survival is up near the top. I need to present enough skills to earn money to survive, and my best bet is to achieve this in a nontraditional way. Not only am outside the box, but I am not even sure where I would look for the box.
The pandemic complicates my options too. I had a medical condition a few years back that made breathing difficult. Mask wearing brings on a lot of anxiety and I can barely manage for a quick shopping trip. I don’t know how I could wear one throughout a workday.
I sometimes don’t even feel like I have the “good parts” of ADHD anymore, like the hyperfocus. I do, though, it just presents itself in less user-friendly ways, like being obsessed with getting to a certain level on a game, or watching a show, even if I have more important things to do. Unimportant things feel important in the moment, and then I find myself regretting not doing what I was supposed to.
I remember in high school being able to sit on a bench in a crowded lunchroom and write like no one was there. In 7th grade, I finished all my workbook assignments for the year in less than three weeks, so I could spend the time writing a screenplay instead. When I worked full time downtown, I would write on the bus, tuning out the noise around me. I could make the most of small snippets of time. I could produce things I was proud of. Now there is too much fear ricocheting. Too much uncertainty. Too many broken pieces. Not enough glue.
Lately I have heard mantras that I want to believe. The creativity is there, the words are there, you need to be patient. You need to give them a chance. And the popular, “it’s okay to not be okay,” but that is hard to swallow when not okay might turn into something even worse.
Quite honestly, I don’t have to be wonderful, but I need to be okay. I need support. I need to know that I am not alone, and to use my power to let others know who are in similar predicaments that they are not alone either. I need to take advantage of whatever tiny little rewards I can manufacture in my life, whether it’s treating myself to a few M&Ms after I accomplish some small task, or I feel my little dog’s soft fur under my chin during a panic attack. Or when she seems to just know when the anxiety is rising and sending a chill deep through me, and she lays against the small of my back so I know that there is at least one thing warm in the world.