There are many complexities to being a musician: multitasking, which often involves managing multiple threads of information and income streams (sometimes at the same time), creative thinking, and being entrepreneurial – which are all things those of us with ADHD excel at in life. In some respects, it’s the perfect career. It’s endlessly challenging, exciting and engaging. Life as a neurodiverse musician is never dull, but as with all gifts come challenges.
I’m an extremely intelligent, well-articulated woman who is consistently told she’s an excellent communicator, but there are times when communication is fraught with difficulties. Times when the words won’t come, the production skills and musical skills I know are in there somewhere won’t manifest when I need them to. I know they’re there; I know what I want to say, but I’m unable to for some reason.
Good days, bad days. All this is exaggerated by exhaustion, an inability to switch off to sleep and perform some of the basic functions such as cooking a meal (too much information that really isn’t interesting).
My mind is constantly churning on the next goal, the next creative idea, and the next thing I have to do, which makes managing the everyday aspects of life difficult. ADHD is not just being addicted to your phone (as some very ill-informed journalists have tried to make out). Being a parent, and trying to manage accounts, all have taken a huge toll on my mental health.
I love my children beyond all measure, but being a mother and working with no support almost pushed me off a cliff edge and is a consistent point where I feel like a failure. Having also hit the criteria for High Functioning Autism my mind craves order, however my house (also a neurodiverse household) is a constant mess, no matter how much clutter we get rid of. Just my studio is pristine (and God help anyone who interferes with anything in there!).
The tip of the contradictory iceburg
ADHD and Autism are strange companions. One demands everything now, the other an attention to detail that means if a pencil is out of line on my desk, I won’t be able to write until that, and everything else is in order. It means I struggle with stability, but I also struggle with change. Most of all, I struggle with executive functions and emotions.
Some days I lose things, forget why I went into a room, read clocks incorrectly, think I have ages with twenty-minutes only to find things take much longer, misread numbers and forget how to spell certain words. Life is certainly never dull.
One of the most debilitating aspects for me as a producer is despite working in arguably ‘noisy’ environments, I cannot tolerate, let alone work, in an environment with random or unsolicited noise. All of this makes me feel totally incompetent in life, can be isolating and it’s the tip of a contradictory iceberg that on paper, I can understand why it causes confusion.
There is no middle ground
There are, however, some areas where being different can be extraordinary. I can perform tasks and think so quickly I put some of my neurotypical peers to shame. This is particularly prominent when something called ‘hyper focus’ kicks in.
Hyperfocus, as it’s known, is an absolute pinpoint precision focus. It’s why we are great in a crisis. This focus means I can write and finish a song in hours, not days. I can zone in and get things exactly right, hear things others can’t and bridge the gap with that chorus that won’t come for others.
This is brilliant when you’re in your 20s, especially in an industry which is also ‘all or nothing’, but for us, it does come with a cost, and that is burnout. Burnout is very real. There is no middle ground, and it is incredibly frustrating. Especially when my body says no, but my mind is still running with several ideas or concerns in a 5D multi-circus. There is no peace. I have too much to say, too much to do, and an inability to know when I’m upset, worried or even when something physically is wrong. It’s bizarre.
I wouldn’t be without it
Having ADHD means you know something isn’t quite right, but you’re not sure what. You feel out of place no matter what you do. Nothing is ever enough. One day you can feel the world is beautiful, the next rejection sensitivities and emotional overload mean the only option is to hide under a weighted blanket with a cup of tea whilst you stare out the window and achieve…nothing. It never ends.
But I wouldn’t be without it. Why? Because I have achieved so much because I have ADHD. I can read a room and work out people’s personalities and contradictions in a few minutes. My gut instincts are razor sharp, not only that I can adapt my behavior to that of the room. It’s very useful as a woman in a man’s world. I cut through the corporate noise and find solutions. I see logic and sense everywhere, except in my own emotions.
People are amazed, sometimes I am. Did that come out of my mouth? If it did, I hope you wrote it down because I won’t remember.