It’s eight-thirty on a Friday morning and I’m putting on makeup. I’ve only had two or three hours of sleep and I’ve got huge dark circles under my eyes.
I hadn’t been having fun. My daughter had a health crisis and needed to come from university to our local doctor’s surgery, so I jumped in our new-to-us electric car and began to motor down. I dropped everything and focussed on that one, important thing.
I’m good at that. I’m good at taking decisive action. I’m good at coming up with creative solutions to problems – frighteningly, startlingly good. I’m good at making conceptual leaps. I’m good at doing extraordinary amounts of work to a fairly high standard. I’m good at keeping up varied interests. I’m good at shutting out the entire world while I read a book.
And these strengths have given me an enviable career, as an author and as an academic. I have been able to contribute to society, contribute more than anyone who knew me as a child might ever have thought possible.
But I’m not good at other things. I’ve recently discovered why.
I have ADHD. I’ve had it all my life, and I’ve had all the problems that go along with it. Problems maintaining interest and focus on repetitive tasks. Problems with not speaking when I’m not meant to speak. Problems with breaking off interesting conversations to get back to work. Problems in keeping my house clean, my bank account balanced. Problems in remembering birthdays, appointments, meetings, deadlines, emails that need an answer. Problems with anxiety over all of the above problems.
I’m also dyspraxic, even as an adult, although my trips to A&E (for say, walking through a glass door or dropping a large jar on my head or tumbling into a ditch when out on a run) are, thankfully, over. I’m dyscalculic. I spend a great deal of time checking and rechecking numbers during marking and banking, but this doesn’t help with my administrative and financial skills. When stressed, even simple addition can be a struggle.
The dyscalculia also gives me problems with spatial relationships, making navigation challenging.
Which is why, on Thursday night, I found myself on a remote country lane, trying to follow directions to a car charger. I went up and down the lane, first with the sat nav, then with Google maps, then with Apple maps. I finally tried to just drive to the motorway to get to it, and ran out of juice a quarter of a mile from my goal.
It had been cold and raining and a number of other people’s mistakes meant that I spent seven hours – first on the hard shoulder, then in the doorway of a nearly-shut motorway services. Finally underway, an accident on the M4 added another hour to my journey home.
By that time, my daughter had taken the train, been collected by my husband, and had been in bed for hours.
Now, on Friday morning, I stand with the concealer in my hand. I’ve managed to cover up or excuse my problems fitting into neurotypical life for a great many years. But sometimes, you know, there’s just not enough concealer in all the world.