I’ve always wondered
what neurotypical looks like.
Let’s compare brains.
You go first.
Cut off my hair,
peel back my scalp;
what do you see?
Is my brain sectioned
or does Henry VIII waltz
What does it
Are the walls pink-grey
or splattered with glitter?
How does it feel?
Do the folds vibrate?
Or is it my legs
which cannot hold still?
Detach my brain
from its stem.
This doesn’t hurt
you see, I’m
for the reprieve.
Thousands of things
and my brain wants
to know all of them.
Next time you see me
in a restaurant,
lower your voice
or all your secrets
will go home
Cradle my brain
Is it heavy?
It should be.
It’s full of
Hold it to your ear
like a conch shell–
Can you hear the ocean?
Oh, it’s singing a
90s commercial jingle on loop?
Sorry, it does that
Put my brain back.
Stitch me up.
Find me a wig.
Tell me everything!
My brain looks
like a normal brain?
Look once more.
There must be something
I’m getting tired
what were we talking about
I hardly knew ye! Which makes this decision easier.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to be honest with themselves. Today is that day for me. I jumped on the Patreon train way too early–I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t have a large enough following to be asking people to pay money for my writing when I’m still very unknown.
I do feel a little silly for throwing in the towel after only two weeks, but I feel it’s the right thing to do. The logistics of my Internet following aside, I think I was just trying to take on too much at once. Juggling my Twitter account, this website, and Patreon was too much. The work was stressing me out, and the lack of response to that work was discouraging.
It wasn’t a pretty mix. It was affecting my mental health pretty badly. I’ve spent much of the last week or so in a funk and down on myself for, in my mind, being a failure.
Something had to go, and Patreon was the chosen one. For the time being, it’s getting kicked to the curb. I’m not going to delete my account but I will stop promoting it. I’ll go back to it another day, when I feel I’m truly ready.
In its stead, I’m going to be more active here. I planned to post every Friday on Patreon, so I think I’ll adopt that schedule for this site. Expect an influx of poetry and short fiction pieces and maybe even a poetry reading once in a blue moon.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me thus far, in whatever capacity you’ve done so. You cannot know how much a “like” or comment means to me. Each one gives me the strength to carry on when depression tells me to quit.
Other ways to support me:
Not to be a braggart, but as I’ve been out of work since last March, I’ve read a lot of books. Well, a lot more than I’d read in the past, anyway. 2021 is on track to be my best reading year since 2011–I’ve read 36 books so far. In comparison, in 2018, I read only two books the entire year.
I was a whole mess in 2018. Seriously. It wasn’t pretty. Remember when I said I was almost fired for poor attendance twice? Blame 2018 for that.
Since being out of work, I’ve also bought a lot of books. Upwards of at least 50, but probably closer to 100. I’ve always had a problem hoarding books, but it’s been really bad this year. My TBR list is ridiculously long yet I keep adding books to it. I’m running out of shelf space!
Oh, and my husband and I are going on vacation this July, so I should probably save money where I can.
Obviously, I need to rein myself in, and so, I’m putting myself on a strict book buying ban from June 1st until August 31st. I have over 400 books and I’ve only read 47% of what I own. It’s time to read the other 53%…or get a start on it, at least.
There are two exceptions to my ban. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out!
1. I can only buy books from series I already own.
When I was a young girl, my mom started buying me the Little House books. The Martha Years, Charlotte Years, Caroline Years, the original Little House books, and the Rose Years. I loved them so much and read each of them multiple times. Unfortunately, they went out of print before we could collect them all. Over the years, I’ve been acquiring the ones we missed. It’s a slow process. Usually they’re out of stock OR the prices are jacked up to hundreds of dollars. I’ve only got six to go, so if one of them pops up on thriftbooks dot com, I’m buying it, ban or no.
2. Book of the Month picks.
My second exception is to allow myself to enjoy Book of the Month still, but perhaps I will try to limit myself to only one or zero add-ons. It’s so hard to, though! I can get three hardcovers a for the price of one. And they have some really good titles to choose from.
3. Gift cards!
Exception three is pretty self-explanatory. I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, after all. If people give me money to buy books, absolutely, I’m going to spend it!
I kid, of course. Mostly.
Well, wish me luck. This is going to be very hard for me. And you, my readers? Do you need to limit your book spending?
This third post is going to be a little more serious, a little more personal. ADHD doesn’t only affect my creativity, it affects everything. It makes it hard to maintain relationships. I struggle to complete daily household chores and other errands. ADHD even affects my ability to hold down a job (fun fact: I was nearly fired twice from my last job for poor attendance).
Even making a simple phone call feels like a Herculean task some days. If I remember to make it at all.
Here’s another fun fact: I had no idea that ADHD could affect so many aspects of my life until last year. I always thought I was just lazy. Is it silly of me to resent my parents for not getting me support when I was a child? I can’t lie and say it doesn’t sting. Okay, so my dad didn’t want me to be medicated–fine. There were/are other therapies they could have pursued.
But as someone once said to me, I am the quintessential middle child. My older sister is 10.5 years older than I and was wild. My younger sister is autistic. I reckon my parents didn’t have a lot of time for me.
As ADHD is like an invasive species of ivy grasping at everything it can, it’s hard to parse how it’s had the biggest effect on me. I’ve given it a fair bit of thought, though, and I think I’ve come up with the answer.
How familiar are you with Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria? The people over at ADDitude describe it like this: “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations.”
When I first read up on RSD, so much of my life made sense. I often assume I annoy people with just my presence. I often hold a lot of myself back from fear of being rejected or misunderstood. I am very quick to anger if I perceive rejection. And I anticipate rejection everywhere.
All this has culminated into an isolated, lonely life, as I struggle to form and maintain friendships. It’s also meant a lot of false starts and dropped projects–if I’m not immediately successful at something, I ask myself, why bother?
That’s the point I’m at now. I had high hopes of being successful on this blog and my Patreon and being a published writer, but so far things aren’t going as I wanted them to, and I’m struggling with feelings of hopelessness and wanting to give up. It’s taken all my mental energy the last few days to not delete my blogs and social media accounts and slither back into obscurity.
Realistically, I know that would be a silly thing to do. I have had some success: I’ve landed a few editing gigs, I’m gaining traction on this blog, and I’ve had a few of my poems published already with more to come. But it doesn’t feel like enough for my ADHD brain to be satisfied.
I said once I don’t think I’d ever seek treatment because, at my age, I’m set in my ways and resistant to medication. But over the weeks of writing up these posts, I’ve started to think differently. I may seek out treatment, after all. I’m sick of feeling this way.
Writers have to have thick skins. By putting ourselves out there, we risk the possibility of being told no. It’s easy to take such rejection personally–we put so much of ourselves into our writing that any rejection of it feels like a rejection of us.
But it’s not. Receiving a rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It simply means your writing was not meant for that place, but there are hundreds and thousands of other places it may find a home in.
I have been rejected three times now. I won’t lie, it stings a little, but I try to keep in mind my own advice. I allow myself to be sad for five minutes (okay, maybe more like five hours), and then I try again.
And my perseverance has paid off. I am happy to announce I have just been accepted for the third time! My poem A Day in the Life of Henry VIII, which you can preview here, was accepted by The Copperfield Review and will appear in the Summer 2021 July edition.
As this is a poem I am most proud of, indeed, it may be one of the best poems I’ve ever written, I am beyond happy. And to think, I almost backed out of the query!
If you’re struggling, if you feel like your writing will never be published, if you’re considering giving up–this is your sign not to. Keep going. Keep fighting for your writing.
Your time will come.
In the first post of this series, I wrote a little of my history with ADHD and why I chose to write about my experience with it. Today, I’d like to write about how ADHD has affected my creativity.
Of course, ADHD isn’t the only thing to blame for my lack of progress in, well, anything. I also suffer from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, which always seem to be at war with each other. Depression likes to tell me I’m not good enough of a writer to be successful, whereas anxiety is always harping at me that I’m not doing enough.
The “good” thing about mental illnesses is that they are cyclical. Some downs last longer than others, but the wheel always turns over eventually. ADHD, on the other hand, is constant. There are no ups and downs, especially not for people, like me, who are unmedicated. ADHD just is.
I’m in a really great place right now with my mental health, but even so, I’m struggling to remain focused and motivated because I still have to contend with ADHD.
I want to talk a little bit about what ADHD is–for me. ADHD, like most things, is a spectrum and we don’t all experience it the same way. ADHD is also fluid. When I was younger, I embodied the “hyperactivity” aspect of it. As an adult, much of that hyperactivity is gone, but that doesn’t mean my ADHD has gone. The hole hyperactivity left behind was filled with something else.
So often, I see people refer to ADHD as a “superpower.” Of course, this usually comes from neurotypical people who have no clue. Yes, my brain may be moving at the speed of light, but that doesn’t mean it lends itself to creative output. More often than not, it hinders it. My brain isn’t just thinking about art, it’s thinking about all the things, all the time.
This is typically where executive dysfunction kicks in the door like the Kool-Aid man. I have a long laundry list of things I’d like to accomplish every day. Cleaning, writing, errands, reading, phone calls, et cetera. Because of ADHD, I struggle to prioritize things, and because I can’t prioritize things, I can never choose something to focus on. So I wind up doing nothing.
And even when I am able to finally settle on something, ADHD still works against me. I get easily distracted and often lose my train of thought. Prime example: it’s taking me twice as long to write this post as it should because my cat has been noisily licking himself and my brain is choosing to focus on that instead.
Have I mentioned that sensory overload is a big component of ADHD? No? Well, I’m mentioning it now.
I also struggle to keep myself motivated throughout tasks. If my interest-based brain doesn’t see any real value in whatever task I’m doing, it quickly, well, loses interest. Even with writing, one of my greatest passions. The payout for writing seems so far out into the future, I often ask myself why I even bother.
But that could be depression talking again. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference; there tends to be a lot of overlap.
This is something fun I wrote last night. It was meant to be a serious poem but I lost focus halfway through and it became this. I feel it’s a perfect embodiment of ADHD.
Side note: Richard Siken is one of my favorite poets.
Richard Siken speaks often
of cutting off his head;
I think I might too.
Maybe I could trade it
try on new brains
like I try on clothes.
Who do I want to be
Let’s see how neurotypical fits.
What is it like to not
be at war
To be able to hold
mine are as slippery
as a Minnesota winter.
At least on the floor, my
brain can feed the rats; the
only thing it feeds me is
song lyrics on loop while
I forget, again, to call my
dentist, to pay overdue bills,
to take blood pressue meds–
oh, shit, I left the stove on.
In April, I talked about my writing goals. I’m happy to say, I’m doing fairly well on them. I’ve written about 1,000 words of my novel (it may not sound like much, but as I’m a slow writer, I think I’m doing fairly well!), and I’ve written a couple new poems. I’ve also been more active on this website. It wasn’t a goal to be, but it’s an achievement I’m proud of anyway.
It’s been almost a year since I shared the first teaser of my novel, The Forest, which is about a young girl who wishes herself into a fairy tale and gets trapped.
Please enjoy this short preview of my novel.
“There’s magic in the world, Gwen,” Papa said, his one hand gesturing towards the open window.
Gwen rushed to see. She wasn’t sure what she expected, but it certainly wasn’t the same, tired scene: The outhouse hidden between two evergreens; the dilapidated truck with the wheels missing and the front fender dented in; the chickens pecking their way across the grass, heckling each other for food. She turned back to Papa with a disgruntled sigh. “Those are just chickens, Papa.”
He laughed. “Well, of course it’s not going to show itself in broad daylight!” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “It’s afraid.”
Papa patted his knee. “Come here, child.” Gwen took one last look out the window, searching for a quick glimpse of magic hiding in the shadows, or perhaps sitting in her Papa’s old, rusty truck, before running over to climb into Papa’s lap, eager for another of his stories. “Magic is afraid of people.”
“Like you and me and mama?”
Papa pinched her cheek. “Exactly so. When people first came to the world, they were mean to magic. Fairies had their wings cut off. Dragons were put to the sword. So many witches burned at the stake; the sky was black with smoke for an age.”
Gwen felt tears stinging in her eyes. “Why, Papa? Why were people so mean?”
“Because people kill what they can’t understand.”
I was going through my poems and separating things into various folders (I’m stupidly organized in ways that don’t matter), when I came across this gem. I wrote it over a decade ago and still love it. How many writers can say that about their old writing?
A drop falls
and then another.
across the yellow traffic line.
The ripples slowly
the touch of another.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was four years old. Now they typically wait to diagnose children until they’re school age, but in the early ’90s, early diagnoses seemed to be the norm. I definitely had the hyperactivity aspect of it down pat, at least. They were right, though. I’ll turn thirty-one this June and, though I’m not as hyperactive as I used to be, I certainly suffer from many of the other symptoms of ADHD.
- I stim.
- I often daydream.
- I’m anxious about everything and have unexplained mood swings.
- I suffer from rejection sensitive dysphoria.
The list goes on and on.
My parents told me about my diagnosis when I was in middle school. I don’t know why they waited until then. My dad never wanted me to be medicated, so I’ve been flying solo my whole life. Now it’s just something I’ve learned to live with. I do often wonder what life would be like if I had been medicated. What could my life be like now if I hadn’t had to fight against my own brain for so long?
If I wasn’t still fighting against it every day?
I know I could seek medication and therapy if I wanted to, but growing up with my dad’s aversion to medicine has rubbed off on me. I won’t even take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for a headache unless it’s really bad.
I’m an old geezer and I’m stuck in my ways.
As a teenager and young adult, I never paid any attention to my diagnosis. It wasn’t “a big deal.” It’s only been within the last couple years that I’ve been interested in learning more about ADHD, and I’ve started to be move vocal about my neurodivergence.
Growing up, I thought I was just weird, and I never wanted to speak out about some of the things I did or thought or felt–I was afraid of being judged. Now, I’m not so afraid. Hence, this post, and any subsequent ones that come along.
“ADHD & Writing” will be a short series about what I’ve learned about ADHD and how it’s affected my life. It’s had an especially large impact on my motivation, which is probably why I’m pushing thirty-one and only seriously pursuing a career in writing now. I’m only just beginning to realize how much of my life ADHD has stolen from me, and, honestly, I’m a little offended.