Our children with ADHD are incredible. Yes incredible. I know. My son brings equal measures of joy and chaos into our lives. He is funny, smart, late, creative, late, witty, observant and did I mention late?
But what is it actually like to have an ADHD brain and to be battling with constant thoughts, sensory experiences and a strong sense of justice? What’s it like to have explosions of creativity whilst looking for your keys?
I had heard about Em Gosling from a number of people and was desperate to meet her. She is a talented artist and runs brilliant art sessions for children at Artful Goose ‘Bringing a love for art and play together‘. I am always on the lookout for people who can help our ADHD community.
Em has been diagnosed with ADHD and this is how she describes living with an ADHD brain:
Living with ADHD has its up days and down days and finding that balance is often hard. The people and environments an ADHDer surrounds themselves with, will make a massive different to how the day pans out.
Em and I agreed to meet at a local coffee shop.
The following are descriptions of that meeting from our different perspectives.
An ADHD brain v neuro-typical brain (I think). See if you can spot which is which…
Em: I had been waiting for a free day to meet with Soli for what feels like forever and thanks to an ADHD crash the previous day and my recognising I needed to talk, I took her up on the offer for coffee.
Soli: I had tried a few times to get Em to meet me for a coffee but we couldn’t co-ordinate our diaries. It took a troubled post on Facebook for me to reach out and get her to commit to meet me.
Em: Our get together started with a lost app to pay for our drinks, a spilled cup of coffee due to a wobbly table and coordination issues trying to balance the table and not make more of a mess with drink plus cold air hitting the side of my face from the air con unit above. I could feel the start of my stimming take place and I knew if we didn’t move it would take over my focus. I think Soli could tell I was getting twitchy.
Soli: I waited in our designated place and, as I expected, Em was late. I wasn’t bothered as it gave me time to stop, breathe and relax. Em offered to pay but couldn’t find the app on her phone and had no change. That was okay with me. We settled at a table and began to chat, but I could tell Em was uncomfortable. She suddenly rushed off and came back with a wad of serviettes to mop up a spilled cup of coffee. She felt some cold air and was irritated by a wobbly table, so we moved. No worries it was nice to be by the window instead.
Em: Once we moved I felt more relaxed, I sat opposite her changing the flow of the conversation about 40 times, all the while I had noticed an artist sitting in the corner of the room, it would not have surprised me if he could feel my eyes burning a hole in his drawing as I stared occasionally over Soli’s shoulder.
Soli: Em began telling me her history, interspersed with tales of her holiday, then back to the history, then a story about a job and her being a champion code breaker, then a tale about her big emotions, then back to her history. Em then started telling me the story about how she started her art + play sessions. Phew! Our conversation was like a game of very fast Olympic style ping-pong.
Em was constantly flitting her eyes around. She noticed everything. She commented on a man and his dog walking by the window, a green light that was turning her coffee a lovely shade of slime, the heat of the café and she was particularly taken with an artist working behind me.
All the while, she was paying attention to what I was saying and nodding and smiling in all the right places.
Em: Despite the change of conversation and what might look like distractions to others around me, I was still fully engaged in what Soli was telling me; the name, age and career of her son, funny stories and those that brought a tear to my eyes. The name of her daughter and her new venture, where Soli trained and how she came to be an ADHD mentor, her monthly meet-ups and more.
Soli was ever so patient with me as I jumped from one story to another, clicked my fingers and wiggled in my chair trying to find the right position. I do stim I’m fully aware of this, I have hypermobility so when I’m sat too long my body starts to ache, this can be really uncomfortable. Yet I can sit for hours at a time creating and drawing alone or when teaching, also known as hyper focusing.
Soli: Em was also constantly flicking her fingers. Glasses off. Glasses on. Book open. Book closed. Chair forward. Chair back. It was really fine with me as our conversation was so interesting and Em is so gorgeous and lovely that it made no difference to me. At one point the conversation became overwhelming and I could see Em welling up. I was okay with this as I think it’s healthy to express and show emotions.
Em: At one stage she made me giggle by asking where I was going as I stood up to put my coat on, sitting back down, we laughed and got our diaries out for our next get together…
Soli: So I then said let’s put a date in our diary so we can meet up again. With that she just jumped up and put her coat on. I thought she was ready to scarper! We had a giggle. I left her talking to the artist and wandered down the road realising that we never got to the end of her story……….
Em: It was a wonderful get together with Soli, amongst what sounds like chaos, it was a really good to talk, somewhat fast at times, but certainly insightful, full of laughter, smiles and a few tears, but all in all definitely worth the wait.
… I’m still not sure I even finished what I had wanted to say and I finally found the app.
Soli: I am so delighted that I have now met the inspiring, energetic, creative whirlwind that is Em Gosling. It was definitely worth the wait.
A little post script…..About an hour after I left Em, she messaged me to say she was still in the coffee shop talking to her new artist friend and that she’d lost track of time and forgot that she needed to buy dinner.
So my conclusion….
The meeting could have panned out differently.
I could have been annoyed she was late. Frustrated that she didn’t have money to pay. Aggravated that we had to move tables. Found it rude that she seemed to not be paying attention. I could have left with a headache that I had to concentrate hard to keep the conversation on track. I may have thought that Em is too much.
But I felt none of that. I understand the struggles a person with an ADHD brain experiences.
So instead, I left with the feeling I found a new friend.
The way we react and respond to our children makes all the difference to their world.
And to yours.
Have a lovely weekend