Woke up this morning with words floating around my head so I made a coffee and wrangled them into this impromptu podcast episode. At the very least I hope you find it entertaining and maybe a bit insightful too ❤️ xo
Hello loves, if you are listening to this it means that I made it to the end of the audio, did a bit of light editing and have published it on Substack. I don't know if this is going to happen. So let's see how we go. I haven't made any notes. I am doing this off the cuff, on the fly, all of those things, spontaneously at quarter past eight in the morning. So let's see how we go.
[I mean, it’s really more of a STOUP]
I made the soup last night. I did it. I did the soup! And I thought this would be a good opportunity to try and explain how my brain works because as some of you probably figured out, it wasn't really about the soup. It's never about the soup. It's not even really about food. It's about how my brain works.
My brain has always worked this way, I just didn't know that it worked differently from other brains in the world, I thought this was everyone's experience and now I know that's not true. I think there's about — I'm sure I read — 20% of people in the world who have a neurodivergent-flavoured brain. That might not be true, I could have misread that or I'm misremembering it, so please don't quote me, but yeah, like 20%, what's that, one in five? Is that how maths works? So it's a lot.
There's no perfect brain and unperfect brain, as I always say, there's no one good brain one shit brain, one good brain, one bad brain. There are just lots and lots of brains. And all the brains are different. And I'm sure I read somewhere also that if you've met one person with ADHD, you've just met one person with it because it's different for all of us.
So let's talk about the soup. The soup I made is one I've made a million times before. It's not exciting. It could have been any of the soups I make. It could have been any of the stews I make. The reason I was able to make it yesterday was somewhere about five o'clock in the late afternoon, I had completed the three things that I'd really wanted to get done yesterday. Lots going on at this time of year. Lots of things that I'm making and preparing to give out to everyone. I am Susannah Claus, I'm in my elf cave. And I managed to get the key things I had to get done done.
And I got it into my head that I'd remembered seeing in the fridge that I had some sweet potatoes. And earlier in the day, I had this little thought of oh, I could roast those and maybe I could put them in some kind of an omelette. So that thought was seeded in my brain. So when my to-do list for the day was done, I thought, oh, I could do that.
And then I thought, oh, I could just make the soup at the same time! And that small thought was enough to get me in the kitchen. I roasted the sweet potatoes and while that was going on, I made the soup. Took about an hour and a half all in which was a bit longer than I would have liked to have been in the kitchen, but I got two things done.
I didn't even eat the soup last night, but I made it and I now have five lunches sorted. And I did roasted sweet potato. I did make it into an omelette thing and it was really nice and I'd never made that before, I made it up. But the spontaneous thought was enough to ignite me, to get me in the kitchen.
This is what I have to do for most things. I either do them spontaneously and immediately, or I have to think about them for a month. There doesn't seem to be anything in the middle. I mean, obviously I'm exaggerating a little bit but not that much.
So with my brain, let's talk about my brain. I have the mixed variety of hyperactive and inattentive. I can't remember what the official term1 was, but I have a mix of both. If we look at the ADHD, so A attention, D deficit, H hyperactivity, D disorder. It's not a disorder, but anyway, that's what they're calling it for now.
I don't have a lack of attention. I don't have a deficit of attention, I have a lack of ability to focus in on just one thing, because I am aware of everything. I'm aware of what's happening inside my body, outside my body, in my environment. In my to-do list, in my family, in every single emotion in the world, what's happening in the world. What's happening down the street. How is my cat? What's happening there? What's this? What's this what's this what's this.
I'm aware of all of it and I don't have a filter where I can just filter it all out and go, okay, I'm just going to focus on this thing here. Because everything is in my awareness. It's like some kind of spidey sense, but for everything. When I become absorbed in something that's really lighting me up I can kind of filter things out.
This is when hyper-focus kicks in. So like with making my new website this year in 2023. I got it in my head, like I did with the sweet potatoes, I thought, Ooh, why don't I just make a new website. I could buy those templates and I could just do it myself.
And so I spent two weeks doing it in some kind of crazed hyper focussed mode. I spent two weeks making my new website from scratch on my own. Well, not from scratch, I had templates, but I edited them. Changed them. Zhuzhed them and made a whole website. So I have the ability to do that, but I tend to do things spontaneously or impulsively.
So you can't really apply that to some things. Some things need a bit of forethought. Some things need to be planned. I'm very good at coming up with the ideas. I'm an ideas person. I'm never short of ideas. The nice thing about a brain that's aware of everything is I make connections really easily. So you could give me, I mean, give me a topic, give me any kind of topic and I will come up with a course or a blog post or, you know, and that's work-related stuff, but I could come up with connections and I'll extrapolate into all of these possibilities.
That's really useful in the work that I do as an online educator, entrepreneurial kind of person. But I also do that with everything else.
So, it’s never about the soup. Let's talk about the soup again. So there are so many micro decisions that have to be made to get me into the kitchen to make the soup or whatever it is. So it's not just, I will get up, walk into the kitchen, make the soup, eat it and it's done. That would be ideal. I imagine that's kind of the neurotypical way of doing things. I must do this thing. I will do this thing. I mean, we all procrastinate, that's a human thing. But typically, get up, do the thing, it's done. I can't do that. Unless I impulsively think of it. There are always lots of caveats.
So for the soup, I'm sitting here at my desk. I'm hungry. I really ought to make the soup because that be a sensible thing to do. I've got the vegetables. Really ought to do that. Yeah, I really ought to. Okay. But — and I'm not consciously thinking about all the next things I'm about to say:
Am I wearing the right clothes, but if I'm wearing these clothes they're going to smell of onion when I'm frying the onion so I can't really wear these, but I need to wear something else, but it's a bit cold no, but maybe it's a bit hot. Oh, I don't know. And then, but then I'd have to be downstairs for an hour and it's going to take 15 hours. It's just going to be in there ever. It's never going to be ending. I've done it a million times before God. I don't really want to do it, and I really ought to do it though. But then that means I have to go downstairs, but I'm not sure I want to do that.
Can you see how overwhelming all of that is? I'm sitting here and I look like I'm doing nothing and all of these thoughts of going and at the same time it’s:
but then the house is going to smell of onion and I don't really want that and then maybe I should, I should put some incense on, but I can't put the incense on because my cat's got upper respiratory, but oh my God, I think she's going to die soon. I'm not ready for that. Oh my God.
And so it goes, and there are a thousand thoughts in my head, probably in a nanosecond, but it stretches out into infinity. That's why I don't make the soup, because I feel so completely overwhelmed by all of that, that I'm not even consciously thinking, it doesn't fire the ignition key in my brain to make me get up and do the thing. Imagine that applied to everything. I have to go out and get a prescription from the chemist: Am I wearing the right clothes. It's going to be, I'm going to get hot ...
So the hyperactive part of my ADHD is very much internalised. I'm not just an overthinker, I'm doing it at like an Olympic level, like a MENSA NASA level of overthinking. And again, it's not even- well I'd say 75% of it is not conscious. 25%
very conscious. But I overthink and that overthinking helps me create new courses and come up with ideas, but it also makes me feel paralysed to just do things, unless I think of it on the spur of the moment and then I build a website.
Do you see how bonkers all of this is? And when I try and explain it- I mean, I'm trying to do it now with my mouth, with my voice, but even writing an article for Substack, I realised that, well I sound like I don't know how to cook. Maybe I sound like I, maybe I haven't got any ideas for what to cook… no no, I know how to cook. I've got loads of recipe books. I mean, I started cooking for myself when I left home at 17, so, you know, 30 odd years of cooking. I know how to do it. I know how to cook. I know how to put food together. I know how to buy food. I know how to buy ready-made soup if I need to.
So it's not about the soup. It's about my lack of working executive function in my brain.
I'm not sure what piece of it is, I always think it's at the front. I always tap my forehead when I think about it. It just doesn't ignite quickly or efficiently. I guess it's called executive dysfunction.
I'm sure that if I was able to medicate my ADHD, that would help but I haven't gone down that path yet because I've had some other health stuff going on. So I am existing with all of this unmedicated and I've been doing okay.
It's definitely gotten worse in the last five years as I have come into perimenopause. I started becoming perimenopausal around the age of 44 and it started getting worse at 45 and then onwards. Even though I take HRT hormonal replacement therapy that hasn't impacted my ADHD. I mean, it's helped with a bit of the brain fog, but it hasn't stopped or changed or improved the actual wiring of my brain, just so you know, but it's definitely, it's definitely worse now. I'm older, I'm tired-er, and it's more noticeable now.
I think before, like in my twenties, I just generally had more energy. I was living with my partner. I had someone else to be accountable to and to also help me with things. Here now at 50, I live on my own — which I love, don't ever want to change that — but I have to do everything on my own or for myself, which is a blessing, but also sometimes it's quite taxing.
Here's an anecdote. When I moved into this house five years ago, I arranged for Royal Mail to redirect any post that I had from my last address. I had redirection set up for like the first three years I lived here. And then at some point I got a letter saying, you can't keep doing this now, come on. You live there now, so you can no longer renew the redirection.
And of course there were quite a few things like I hadn't changed my address in because I just hadn't got around to it. And one of them was for the tax office that we have in the UK. And I thought, oh my God, I've got to do that. That's really important. And then I try to do it online and it wanted to see my passport for proof of who I was to, if I want to change my address, and my passport had expired because I haven't got round to updating that, and it was just this big complicated thing that was making my brain have smoke and just- it was whirring. I couldn't get my brain to do it. I just couldn't do it.
One day, spontaneously, I realised "Oh my god, I've got to do it right now" and I rang a phone number I found for the tax people and I said, I've got to change my address, but I can't because I haven't got my passport and oh my God and it's taken me three years, and the lady on the phone changed my address. It took three minutes. And that was it. It was done.
So it took three years and three minutes to do what turned out to be quite a simple thing, but because I couldn't just sit down and do it, the thought of changing my address on all of those things, when I moved was just beyond me. And it's not because it was boring. It's not because I couldn't focus on it. My brain just dismissed it and said no — but I can sit down and make a new website in two weeks without stopping.
Can you see how this is such a frustrating condition? And I don't like the word condition, actually. I don't like the word disorder. It's just a different, my brain is different. Differently wired, but maybe it is- I am with 20% of the population. Maybe! I need to check that statistic2. But, yeah, but if you came into my house tomorrow and said, Susannah, do you want to go and do this thing? I'd probably say, yeah, okay. Or if you said, Susannah, shall we just sought out that cupboard and I'll be like, okay. Yeah. Great! But I can't do that for myself, but if it's like got a bit of novelty attached, Well, yeah. Okay. Yeah, let's do that. Great.
That makes me sound kind of extroverted in a way, but I'm not, I'm just an impulsive introvert. Which is exhausting. What a lovely combination!
So to finish off, in the year plus that I've had this diagnosis, this official diagnosis from a psychiatrist — what a blessing! I can't say my life has changed, but I have more insight and that's so valuable. I've been trying different things. I had a million hacks that I was already doing anyway for how I work and get things done or don't get things done or eventually get things done or let people down but now I can explain why I let people down!
I have been trying some of the recommendations and tips and hacks like body doubling. Working with a friend on Zoom to get stuff done. That's been really helpful until such time as we got out of the way of doing it and then it was less helpful.
I tried the Pomodoro timer, that doesn't work at all for me because I know it's just a pretend thing. What does work is if I put something in the oven, I set the timer for 30 minutes. I then have 30 minute window to do something because I know when the timer goes off, I have to get up, get the food out of the oven otherwise it will burn. That works very well. I get a lot of stuff done in those 30 minute intervals, because I know when the timer goes off, I have to change something. That works. So I need a real timer, not just a gamified oh, cute, there's a timer on my computer. No, it doesn't work.
So I am trying different things to help and I find they're quite cyclical. I will do it for a while then the effectiveness wears off. Then I have to try something else. And so it goes. And I'm like that with most things. I will journal consistently every day for a month and then I'll get out of the way of it and then I'll come back to it. I will draw tarot cards for a few weeks, then I go to the way of it and it comes and it goes, and it's this ebb and flow of my behaviours and things that I do, things that catch my interest and then it wanes a bit. And then it might come back and that's how I, that's how I am. So that's really handy to know. Nothing is ever gone forever. It will come back in.
Although needle felting… Some of you, if you follow me on Instagram, may remember how obsessed I became with needle felting a couple of years ago. And I did it like it was my job for a month. And I'm not kidding. I would stay up until one in the morning tip tip tapping away on my needle felting and I realised it was stopping me doing anything else because I really did become quite obsessed with it. And hyperfocussed hyper fixated on it. And I had to put it down and never touch it again, because the obsession was too much.
This I see now is one of the downsides of my spicy kaleidoscope brain and hat tip to my friend,for calling the brain the kaleidoscope brain in a text message to me yesterday. The kaleidoscope brain that sees everything, imagines everything, can really get laser-focused on one thing, but then everything else fell away and I couldn't spend my whole life needle felting.
So, yeah, that got dropped. Maybe that will come back. I've still got all the wool because you know that I bought all the wool and all the needles and all the books and I made it my job for one beautiful month of needle felting and then I had to get back to my life.
So, that doesn't happen that often or usually it's a slightly more watered down version. And I'm so lucky to have a job and have created work where I can bring my passions and my obsessions into what I share. My tarot, my journaling, my inner child work, online business, all of these things that I teach are passions and obsessions, but healthy delicious obsessions and I love sharing them. So it kind of works in my favour sometimes, but I can't stay up until 1:00 AM needle felting. Cannot do that so I had to stop and just dropped it like a hot brick and yeah, here we are.
Does that share a bit more insight? Maybe you are suspecting you have some neurodivergence in you. Maybe your child has, maybe a loved one, maybe just a friend (a friend is also a loved one!) Maybe someone in your world you can recognise through what I'm sharing or maybe you just see it in yourself.
I don't intend to be the ADHD neurodivergent blogger but I am at the moment, apparently, because, as I said to friends yesterday, I want to understand myself and also I want to be understood. And no one owes me that at all, but I have this urge to share about these things because it helps me learn, it helps me explain, and I know there are people out there that it will help as well, so, and I don't mind sharing. You guys know me, I don't mind sharing about these things. So I will keep sharing until such time as there are other things to share.
So, it wasn't about the soup you guys but I did make it! And I will be having it for lunch today and feeling very smug about it. It's my smug soup now because I've made it and I made a huge batch of it and it will now last me for the next five days. I have sorted lunch, don't have to think about it. Oh, my goodness, I wish I could just do this every week. And sometimes I do, but mostly I don't. And I love and accept myself. It's okay. But sometimes I get really frustrated and then I write a blog post about it!
So there you go. If I remember, I will take a picture of the soup. And I will share it underneath this audio.
Okay. I love you guys. I'll speak to you soon. Bye xo
It’s called “combined type”