Chances are if you’re a woman with ADHD – diagnosed or otherwise – you’ve been ‘masking’ your whole life. Trying to squeeze your lostness, your lateness, your ‘too-much-ness’ (and your brilliance?) into an ‘NT’ shaped mould for so long that you’re probably pretty exhausted by now.
All because society hasn’t cottoned on to the ways in which ADHD manifests in women, and that it’s not just a little boys club. It presents differently in everyone, so I can only describe my own perspective. I mean, I once lost a burrito while I was eating it. Not every Neurodivergent can claim that accolade.
COMPUTER SAYS NO
I’ve been masking for as long as I can remember. I’d love to see this change for the next generation. But here’s the really crazy thing: As I write this, the word ‘Neurodiversity’ is still being underlined with a squiggly red line, like it’s not even a thing.
How are we going to push for more understanding if people think we’re a typo?! Sure, society is slowly becoming more inclusive of divergent brain types, but when Google, Apple and Microsoft don’t recognise the word itself, we clearly still have a way to go.
Take it from me: ADHD is real AF. And it’s funny AF. It’s as close as you can get to everyday clowning without a Gaulier diploma. Leaving the house takes 5 re-entries, minimum.
You lock up. You forget something. You go in to get what you forgot, put something down. Lock up, remember you’ve left that thing. This goes on and on, ad infinitum. (See our sketch ‘Filling’). I truly believe there should be a bell that rings out every time an ADHD-er manages to finally leave the house and start their day.
THE STRUGGLE IS CLINICAL
So ADHD is funny. But having ADHD is also f*cking horrific, and f*cking hard. It affects the brain’s executive functioning and your ability to ‘adult’… in a multitude of amusing yet tragic ways.
Imagine you had a SatNav and you’d programmed where you were going, but it turns out the SatNav is possessed and keeps changing its mind… also the driver is an orangutan on acid and keeps turning the wheel and veering off into B roads. That’s what it feels like to have ADHD all of the time.
Like you’ve gone into a room and forgotten why you went in there.
Like you just cut a huge chunk of text but forgot to paste it and now it’s lost in the sky forever.
Like you’re fighting not to interrupt someone but you know if you wait your turn, the thing you want to say will have melted like a Dali clock.
Like your brain has no air traffic control centre so all the thought-aeroplanes keep crashing into one another.
Like when you have an idea, there’s another four inside it, nesting like matryoshka thought-bubbles which could burst at any time if you don’t act on them that second… so much so that I actually now live in a state of suspended terror of having new ideas.
It’s like you’re writing a blog about ADHD and keep jumping metaphors, or switching medium half way through. This, what you’re reading now, is trying to be an article, but it has been all of the things. A TV show, a book, a live show, a Whatsapp group, an interpretive dance… a poem, a song, a podcast… an award-winning web-series…truly, it can be exhausting.
FORGIVE US – WE DON’T HAVE A BOUNCER 🙂
So if you know anyone that’s always losing things or always late but you’ve never understood why they can be so selfish – spare a thought today for what their brain is doing to them that day: I promise you inside they’re crying inside and feeling shame for letting you down. They love you really but their brains just work differently. Their brains are rapier-sharp, and lightning fast, but in all different directions at once. They are constantly seeing connections between things, instead of the things themselves. They’re trying desperately to go straight ahead but they can’t because someone else keeps grabbing the wheel.
BUT WE ALL LOSE THINGS A LOT, AND GET DISTRACTED EASILY!
Of course. Of course! The confusing thing about ADHD is that the symptoms seem normal. Lots of people struggle to get out of bed, run late, or struggle to find their train ticket…
But here’s the thing: to live with ADHD is to have the symptoms of inattentiveness that neurotypicals (NT)s identify with occasionally… but dialled up to the power of clusterf*ck , ALL DAY, EVERY DAY to the point where your brain is on fire and you’re curled up on the floor of a supermarket aisle with indecision paralysis. That’s when you’re not just ‘a bit scatty’, you need to seek help.
“You Can’t Have ADHD. You’ve had books published.”
The biggest challenge of ADHD is its invisibility. The second biggest is getting diagnosed in this country as a female: a ten-year Crystal Maze ‘Admin’ zone for people who clinically can’t do admin. ADHD is still dangerously misdiagnosed, among female-identifying people in particular. Far from being just a thing noisy little boys have, it’s a condition that affects approximately 4 % of UK adults, of all genders.
Like many women, I don’t have the ‘H’, and I’ve also been a relative high-achiever, which is why it took me 37 years to get properly diagnosed. I was told I couldn’t have it because I got a First at university and because I’ve published books. Because of this stereotype and misunderstanding of the condition, many girls have ‘lost’ half their lives – being written off as having anxiety or depression. What’s closer to the truth: they’ve probably LEARNED anxiety after 20 years of masking, and trying to live with a square-peg brain in a round-hole world.
Send in the Clowns
Luckily for some of us, the ability to laugh at our folly, or turn it into comedy has been a lifeline, and it’s got me out of some very dark places. That’s why I wanted to write this today – to give a bit of background. After being made covid-redundant with only one month of furlough, from what was allegedly one of the most ‘inclusive’ ad agencies in the UK, I found myself living in lockdown with my multi-talented best friend from childhood Lauren Taylor, also ADHD but the inattentive type. She’s also ACTUALLY a professional clown among other things.
See Fig A. – taken around the time we both suspected we might have ADHD and began the 10 year process of getting diagnosed. Living with Lauren again in 2021 after Covid hit, she persuaded me to take a year off to focus on comedy… and we started work on this… a whole nesting doll of comedy content from a neurodiverse universe – about what it is to feel like a square peg girl in a round hole world.
‘Life in ADHD’ was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever made, simply because – in the strictly pre-Zuckerberg sense of the word – the ‘META’ ness of it became unmanageable. The attempt to put into words & film the chaos of what the ADHD brain feels like – to make the viewer and reader feel a little of what it’s like – but on film – while also trying to write a book about it (side note must finish that) – well, it turns out that trying to convey the chaos of an ADHD brain on screen, while being in the chaos of that ADHD brain, is a recipe for absolute insanity.
So the actual editing process quickly became so endlessly brain-smashing that Lauren & I nearly drove ourselves utterly crazy, and we had to sound the Meta Alarm. See Fig. B
ADHD + ASD = Organised Chaos
So it couldn’t have been done without the brilliance of Tristan Alice Nieto – who stepped in a year later – around May 2021 when I’d begun to utterly unravel in the edit. Editor & graphic artist Tristan Alice took my swirling pit of creative matryoshka dolls and mixed metaphors and made sense of it all… and shaped it into something a neurotypical viewer can actually process. Truly her ASD superpowers saved the day. I couldn’t be more grateful to her, to Lauren, and everyone else that’s helped along the way. If you know anyone wanting an editor, graphic artist or story-finder, hit up Tristan Alice Nieto; she’s your gal.
The end result – despite being another no-budget venture – is something I’m really proud of. Not least because it was made only with a neurodiverse team – even the beautiful soundtrack by singer-songwriter/angel-voiced ADHD-er Fiona Fey. It was a joy to co-write the lyrics with her – a last-minute scramble of Whatsapp voice-note demos kind of joy – but a joy nonetheless. Hear the track here in the trailer above, which we released 3 months after the film release (obv).
Here’s why I think you should watch the show – if you’re ADHD or not:
I’ve been blown away by the many heart-warming messages and comments from people all over the world that have loved it … that they feel ‘seen’ and it’s ‘every day of their life explained’. Even actual doctors and lecturers in Germany saying they’re going to teach their students with it! And some lovely tweets from Rory Bremner who called it ‘🤣 So true’ and said he has ‘a degree in Filling’.
I’m relieved there’s been only positive comments from the ADHD world and NTs alike… and that some of the sketches have blown up on Tik Tok, Facebook & Youtube already. We also had over 100 new subscribers in a few days which is a lot for us! We also gained full support from the ADHD Foundation & Neurodiversity Charity among others. All this with no budget.
‘K, but what IS ACTUALLY IN THE SHOW ?
Life in ADHD is a mixed-media omnishambles designed to mimic the scattered feeling of the Dopamine-deficient mind. It’s a sketch/character comedy show that goes under the hood of the ADHD brain… exploring its hilarity and horror. It tells the story of a dreamer Lola Mildew trying to do adulting in spite of her executive dysfunction, while her alter ego Prof. Penny, PhDADhD, guides us through WTAF ADHD even is. Truly, the struggle is real.
Much like an ADHD brain, the pilot episode breaks off into little nesting pieces – so you can consume it as inattentive bitesize pieces here as ‘modules’, or watch the whole Cluster-f*ck Matryoshka 25” edit which they slot into here – along with many other bonus scenes.
It’s also a tiny bit educational about why we get tangled up like Lola (we don’t have a fully operation pre-frontal cortex – more of a pre-frontal vortex!). As well as standalone observational sketches there are educational modules like The Science Bit (ish), the ADHDictionary and ‘ADD FML’ (F*CK MY LIFE) – confessions from real life ADHD-ers.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but do check it out and take it in the spirit it’s meant: to find a way to laugh at the challenges of neurodiversity, and also to celebrate its power too.
Masters of the Neurodiverse
Because that’s the other thing: As much as it can be a disability, when ADHD is treated and understood, it is also a super-power. Some of history’s greatest thinkers had/have it – from (apparently) Albert Einstein to Richard Branson to Ant McPartlin.
As Rory Bremner put it in his BBC documentary, ‘People living with ADHD are the shark bait, the ones that go the extra mile and warn others of danger… We’re the ones who take the risks… show others where the possibilities are…. that’s great. We’ll have that.”
There you have it. We are trailblazers, not typos
So if you’ve made it this far without someone else grabbing the wheel then thank you, and I hope you enjoy watching the pilot or snacking on the modules… If they resonate or you know someone that they might help, please help share them on any of the socials (we’re talking to TV channels and producers, so all that stuff helps a lot!)
It goes without saying that this has been a no-budget production, so if you enjoy it then please consider donating to our Patreon so we can eat (not that we remember half the time).