I have woken up to a red alert warning for Storm Emma. Niall just got a text saying all schools are closed, I’m on my way back up to bed. Looking out the window the 'Wild Atlantic' is just that. Except the storm is not in full force. The sea looks as if it does not know if it is coming or going. The water is dark grey with brown undertones, sucking sludge up from the sea floor. Short lines of foam struggle at its surface, sprouting randomly as early storm winds clash with the tidal pull. The small waves are vaguely headed towards the land, but they spit and flick uncertainly at the surface not quite sure what direction they should be going in. Simmering with agitation the sea is waiting for this massive storm to travel across the world and hit our corner in Killalabay. It’s restless - all churned up. Like me.
I have just discovered I have ADHD. I feel just like the sea looks. My brain is constantly bubbling over with ideas; my thoughts run in messy packs like a street gang of warring dogs, clashing and colliding with each other. Much of the time, I have little control over what goes on in my brain until suddenly, from the centre of the chaos, an idea will emerge and I am compelled into paying utter attention. At those times, I can hyper focus – have an engaged conversation, watch a TV programme, write a book. However, focussing on everyday ordinary things seems to be beyond me. I have always relied on lists for survival. Recently, the lists have stopped working.
‘You have that’, my husband said when we came out of a meeting having received 8-year old Tom’s ADHD diagnosis a month ago. I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t. Twenty years of following me around with my handbag, cancelling lost credit cards only to find them again, retrieving keys, phones - I once rang him from an airport on the way to a press trip and asked him to find a bit of paper with the word ‘Jamaica’ on it so I would know who I was meeting. Ditto passports. When the ‘amusing’ anecdotes are strung together they amount to a lifetime of worrying chaos. Niall has long believed I wasn’t simply an eejit. For a long time he has suspected that there was something amiss, but, when it comes to the brain, nobody wants to think too hard about what that might be. So he has been putting up and picking up after me.
For me, there was always an excuse. ‘Too much to do!’ ‘The menopause!’ But the truth is - my inability to sit still and my everyday scattiness has been a persistent and disruptive element in my marriage since day one. I can write a book a year - like clockwork. But I can’t be relied upon to remember to pick the kids up from school. Phone alerts ten minutes before an event don’t work. Ten minutes is a lifetime when your brain can’t focus on what life itself needs you to. I focus on work when I'm ‘inspired’ and found a job, writer, when inspiration is at the heart of what I do. I’m lucky my work suits my ‘condition’. For years, we have been working around it. We call it ‘creativity’. Mammy’s brain is ‘elsewhere’. In actual fact, mammy’s brain is all there, it just hasn’t got the chemicals it needs to fire on all cylinders.
The ADHD diagnosis has been a relief. ‘Won’t’ now means ‘can’t’ - and a bit of moral high ground is always nice. But it’s also a shock. I’m having to redefine myself at fifty-three. Who would I be now if I had known at eight, like Tom? I might not have flunked school. Gone to university?
I finish my tea and make my list for the day. Tom needs a list too. He is off school for the storm and every half hour must be accounted for to keep him off the X-box. It feels like a losing battle. I hope I’ll get some writing done, but I won’t. I’ll be wandering around the house, like I always do on days off, starting jobs and not finishing them. In a state of vague panic, mindlessly mainlining snacks. My husband will follow me around turning off the hob, reminding me the toast I had forgotten about has popped.
The tide is fully in. I look out at the seemingly endless, bottomless mass of water and notice the vastness of the horizon. The ‘view’ visitors gasp when they visit our home for the first time. It’s part of the plus side of having a stubborn, ADHD head on me. I made sure I didn’t rest until I found my house on the sea. This is why. The vast Atlantic reminds me that, no matter how overwhelmed I feel, my problems are never that big. I am just a speck on the horizon. I can tackle each problem one small step at a time, one day at a time. In the end - it doesn’t matter. The sea will always be here. I won’t, so there is no point in mourning the past or fearing the future. The sea is an all powerful force but, like me, it still gets agitated when there is a storm coming. For both of us, that’s OK. Tomorrow will come anyway - and the storm will pass. In the meantime, there are lists and tea and a view of the sea.