Day in My Life as a Student Graphic Designer in Lockdown

It has been a while and I realise I’ve not actually shown off any of my creative work, which is a pretty big misstep on my part! While pondering how exactly I can do this as I’m at that stage of my degree where all my best stuff is half finished and more work just keeps piling on, I thought, what about an average day in my life? Lockdown version, of course. Now you have the privilege of witnessing how unproductive I really am (deep sigh).

I start my morning around 8.30 am after snoozing my alarm until it no longer allows me to. You’d think I’d just set it later, but there is some sort of satisfaction in telling my phone, ‘no. You don’t decide when I wake up. I do’. I always begin with breakfast as I tend to drink far too much coffee which is an appetite suppressant for me, so it feels best to get something down before the caffeine cycle begins. My first coffee is always the best one of the day, it can’t be beat. Once this ritual is complete, I will wash and dress as sitting around in pyjamas can kill any ounce of motivation, so it is best avoided altogether. At this point I’ll either scout around for some sort of cleaning to procrastinate work or just get on with it depending on what side of the bed I woke up on.

My desk

The way I begin work is quite particular. My desk must be perfect, a bottle of water filled and a coffee or tea at my side. I have some shelves attached to my desk where I keep all my pens and materials that I use frequently. This helps me to reduce the time spent scrambling around acquiring everything, which can squash my want to start. Starting is always the hardest part. But when the flow begins that is when the fun starts. Most of the time anyway. (If CV writing is involved, every second that passes is pain).

Audiobook sketchbook ideas

What I’ll be working on completely depends on my current projects, ideas and deadlines. To give an idea, currently I am creating a fake audiobook identity where I get to design visuals for a fantasy novel.

Above – greeting card collection sketches, Below – Penguin book cover submission final draft

When I am not working on this, my attention is on a book cover redesign for Penguin and a greetings card, wrapping paper and gift bag collection where my chosen theme is foraged British plants and their textures. Sounds fun and varied right? It is, although hard work, as my perfectionism can allow me to sink hours into tweaking the same design over and over sometimes to its benefit and sometimes to ruin. My brain often operates as a scramble of good ideas and thoughts that are difficult to piece together and organise so whilst I work on the creative stuff I try and log everything I do, although this is something I might forget occasionally (often).

Lunch I like to put off for as long as possible to squeeze the most out of the flow, but I’ll stop between 12 and 3 to grab something. This can be the point where I struggle to go back to work if I am in the clouds that day. So, a long break until evening is a good call. When my energy levels come back, I’ll continue or work on a different project until the late evening where I pack in for the night and do something fun until bed, usually a video game, a show or messing around with some personal creative work.

I hope this was interesting. Probably not, but it was just an excuse to squeeze in some project photos so I hope that was fun to look at least!

Tips for deciding on a creative project and avoiding decision paralysis

Deciding on a creative project to get started with is one of the biggest problems I have. The combination of ADHD indecision and insecurity surrounding the quality and frequency of my creative output, can leave me feeling paralysed and unable to start anything despite the sea of fragmented ideas floating around in my brain. I am sure this is a feeling that many of us can relate to and sometimes for me, the best way to decide what exactly to work on is to take a more spontaneous route rather than overthink it. My perfectionism likes to point out the real possibility that whatever it is I knuckle down with may not be the best idea, or the final piece could be shoddy, but the reality of this thinking means that instead of producing a less than ideal piece, nothing is created at all and those ideas remain in my head.

Some of the ways I escalate an idea spontaneously is to use methods that get cogs going in the moment and work on either the first or second idea that sparks. I will not allow myself to ponder what could be for any longer than necessary to avoid the dreaded decision paralysis.

Music

Music is a great way to think up something quick and get to work. The best part of this method is that you can actively keep using it as you work to spark new developments on the fly and really elevate your spontaneous creative project. This process for me would be putting on a song or an album that fits my mood of the day. I’ll either choose something to focus on such as the lyrics, the melody or just let my brain go wherever it pleases and then record my idea as this happens. I’ll continue playing the music while I sketch, which often leads to interesting additions and pathways.

Pinterest

Pinterest does not always work for me; it is sometimes an overwhelming experience of content that can be hard to digest. The way I use Pinterest to develop an idea when it does work, is that I will search for one image that sparks inspiration. I will then use similar posts to build up an idea on paper, taking small elements of things that interest me such as the colour palette, a medium, a subject etc. This is a quick method to build something from the ground up.

An Unrelated Subject

My last tip for discovering a quick idea is to read about something completely unrelated to art or design at all. Perhaps in a non-fiction book or a Wikipedia page, find something such as a folklore story for example, or a Victorian recipe and figure out how to use this prompt as a concept for a piece of creative work. This can lead to something quite unique and unexpected, which can sometimes be the most inspiring work.

Decision paralysis is real but accepting the value of imperfection is key to making better work. Not every piece is going to be amazing, but with each piece completed is a lesson learned regardless of the outcome, that makes starting a touch easier every time.

Second Semester, Lockdown and Taking a New Direction

This week begins the second semester of my undergraduate Graphic Design degree. Strange would be an understatement of how I feel regarding the execution of my work through a lockdown. I would be a liar if I did not mention how severely my motivation to do the work has been affected, yet as the year begins, we must press on.

I will be taking my blog in a more academic and personal brand development route, but I want to note that I will continue to comment on my experiences as an ADHD individual and student navigating through this strange world. I believe in the importance of being open and raising awareness, showing the highs and lows of living as a neurodivergent and how this reflects in my day-to-day life. I do not see the merit in hiding these things and the more normalised we make the struggle; the more people can get help for their own and develop acceptance for what society shames.

Over the past few days, I have been briefed on my upcoming project schedule and what to expect. I anticipate a great challenge; the workload being more than I have ever taken on at once, and under the restrictions of lockdown the regular opportunities to gain inspiration and drive have been taken away, so it is up to me to get creative. I cannot say I am grateful for this extra hurdle, but it is what it is. One day I will look back on this time of my life and respect my past self for pushing through and achieving what seems like the impossible now.

Over the next half of the year, I will be posting about the various competitions, group projects, client work etc. that I will be taking on. I plan to display my thought processes, draft work, final pieces, and my feelings around it all with as much honesty as I can muster. I do plan to provide content that is considered helpful or at-least relatable so please stick around for that.

This past year has taught me that life is full of surprises and we cannot predict what is around the corner. All I can do is take it day by day and enjoy the process along the way.

Productivity tips and apps for ADHD brains

I’m still here! I figured the sporadic posting frequency for my blog is on brand for my ADHD. I never intended to make this blog heavily focused in this area, but it seems to be something I have a lot to say on so why not? It is always nice to find a mutual struggle so I hope that these badly written blocks of text help someone out there, that is all I could ask for from this project.

Anyway, today I want to talk about some of my techniques on how I manage productivity and getting things done with ADHD! Not everything I have to say is negative and I have been feeling particularly chirpy lately despite a thousand things to do weighing on my shoulders at every moment of the day.

As I have mentioned previously on the blog I am now on medication for my ADHD which at this point in time (three months in) has helped TREMENDOUSLY and I have done more to further my goals than I have done in years. Of course, medication is not for everyone but if you suffer and are privileged enough to have access to this course of treatment, I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a go.

Now on to my tips and techniques. I will start with a list of apps that I literally can’t live without and what each one does for me. This blog is not sponsored (I wish), so every recommendation is 100% genuine and coming from a self-described app nerd.

Forest

Forest is an app that you can use to block distractions from your phone or your desktop using different plants and tree illustrations as motivators, that grow with the timer you set. You unlock coins the more you use the app that you can buy more trees and plants with, as-well as a limited number of real trees that are planted for you!

I am very motivated by statistics and Forest has plenty of that to keep me using it. Due to the nature of my university course, I can often multi-task whilst getting work done so Forest has the option to turn the feature off that kills your tree if you use your phone for anything else, as I find that the timer and statistics is motivating enough for me. The interface is cute and simple to navigate, which is a bonus.

Todoist

To-do lists I believe are a necessity for the ADHD brain. We are forgetful folks, as-well as chronically scattered so keeping hold of everything that needs to be done is not so easy. I mean, it probably isn’t easy for anyone. I use a to-do list every single day that I often write the night before ready for the next day occasionally writing in the morning.

What drew me to Todoist above other To-do apps is its clean interface and simple to understand features. As-well as its labels function that I find makes it very simple to categorise tasks depending on your preference. It is a paid service to utilise its extra features and I find it to be worth it, however I used the free version for a long time with no problems.

Google Calendar

Maybe a calendar is a no brainer or maybe not. But this one is essential. I need to know where I need to be and when in a uniform system that I do not have to think about. Plus, a calendar is great for not missing those subscription cancellation dates and social promises.

Google calendar is free and aesthetically pleasing with its colour coded system. You can implement multiple calendars, pre-made or ones made by you and toggle them as you see fit.

Trello

For day to day life, I would say you can skip this one. But if you are a student, or someone who has a lot of projects to manage Trello is a godsend.

I found that I had a desperate need to separate my project to-dos from my regular ones, as it was messy and crowded. Trello uses a board-based system where you can see what you need to do, what you are currently doing and what has already been done. This makes large quantities of work a lot easier to visualise and takes away some of the pressure.

Evernote

Evernote is my personal favourite note taking app. It uses notebooks and ‘notebook stacks’ to organise scribbles and has an auto save feature that makes it incredibly easy to just write whatever is on your mind. I use Evernote for many things including random lists and thoughts.

Now to some other pointers that help me with my day to day routines.

Eating

I consistently eat throughout the day. Sounds obvious right? Not so much, as many medications can strip you of your appetite. I am incredibly lucky that mine came back rather quickly but even when this was the case, I forced myself regardless. I have found that small frequents meals and snacks can be a good option if a large meal is too daunting. When I become distracted and irritated, eating 90% of the time sorts this out and I am back to normal.

Consistent sleep

This is harder said than done and do not sweat it if you have a bad night every now and again. I have run on 2 hours some days when things didn’t go to plan as I’d like, we are only human after all. But have a consistent 6-8 hours minimum for me is a must to keep me going from morning till night, although the minimum is different for everyone. Find yours.

Movement

Rarely I will have a day where I don’t at least go for a walk somewhere. I am not much of a person for traditional exercise routines and rarely do them, but I walk everywhere I can and cycle long distances. I try to get up and stretch and do some chores if I am in the house all day, but this helps a bunch and keeps you sleeping soundly at night.

Keeping a tidy space

Super hard for a lot of people with ADHD I know. But regular small chores help a space stay clean for a lot less effort than having to dedicate hours to it, which is a lot more daunting at that point. This may not be the case for everyone, but I find if my surroundings are comfortable, I can focus much easier.

Deleting Social Media apps

I guess this could be seen as drastic, but once I got rid of Facebook and Twitter off my phone, I had a lot more time to play with and felt better about my accomplishments when I stopped comparing myself all day or getting sucked into pointless arguments. I still use these platforms on my desktop, but it is a much more conscious effort now.

I have a ton more bits of advice to give, but I am going to leave it for today as this post is already quite a read! I hope this helps some of you struggling.

ADHD medication and my experience so far

So, it’s been a while. The last month or so has been a rollercoaster for me. Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding posting here; I try not to fill up my brain with too many duties as I end up just sucking the fun right out of whatever I enjoy doing. I have to do things on my own terms which of course makes it hard to form any sort of consistency, but I’ve just accepted that is the way I am. A sudden spurt of motivation to post hit me today so I thought I would update on what exactly I’ve been doing.

I began my ADHD medication three and a half weeks ago. So many changes have happened since. This year in general has been transformative, but especially so now. I am going to cycle through these weeks and describe my experience for anyone out there who may be considering it themselves or would like someone to relate to.

The first week was the hardest. I stupidly came off caffeine cold turkey without thinking it through, as-well as starting my period and developing panic attacks for the first time. It certainly was the most unlike myself I had ever felt. The medication felt noticeable – I would wake up in the morning in agony from aches caused by my lack of caffeine and once I forced down a breakfast, which the medication made incredibly hard, I could feel it kick in after about an hour or so and my brain would jolt into action. Despite how rubbish I felt, the positives were immediate. My emotions felt controlled, I could concentrate on my work without wanting to get up every five minutes and my anxiety and constant feeling of impending doom was no longer present. I wanted to get things done. It came in waves. By lunchtime I would have to lay down before getting another burst of energy after lunch and then in the evening I had a couple of crashes throughout the week that triggered some bad depression and anxiety. I’ll admit, I worried that this would be a permanent effect and I would never be able to function beyond 4pm again. One thing that surprised me, I could sleep. I have always had trouble sleeping and as a teenager would stay up till the early morning frustrated until I eventually passed out. My coping mechanisms for lulling myself to sleep were not so healthy but getting 7-8 hours a night and not feeling like a zombie the next day was, and is still, so important to me. The medication helped to calm the constant stream of thoughts spinning around in my brain and let me drift off naturally as if I were a regular person with a regular sleeping schedule.

After the first week, things really levelled out. I can no longer feel the medication anymore but the sheer amount I get done in comparison to before cannot be understated. I am still distracted, procrastinate, and don’t always feel motivation for the things I need to do, but who is consistently like this? Especially during a pandemic. It is hardly the most inspiring of times. One of the best things I’ve learned to do is to cut myself some slack. Accept that I cannot do everything perfectly, not everyday goes as I had planned it and sometimes, I’m going to feel like garbage. And that is perfectly fine. I still struggle to sleep some nights, tossing and turning till 3am but its not consistent and I have ways to deal with it. Plus, when I wake up after a bad sleep I can still function. Before medication, that would be unheard of, unless I had a surge of adrenaline on a fun holiday or something. I’m no longer waiting for the next thing to entertain me; I can sit and just be – and it feels pretty sweet. My appetite came back after the first week, and I snack less on rubbish. I still enjoy treats but they are exactly that. A treat. Everyday I can get a little something accomplished. Some days that is all day, others I get less done – but I still get something done. Being medicated has opened doors for me I could never have imagined. Knowing this, makes me feel so sad and angry for the system in the UK and how it denies treatment to people struggling. Treats them like liars and criminals. ADHD is wildly misunderstood and this needs to change. I urge you to ask for help if you feel like ADHD may be getting in the way of your life. Go to your doctor armed with your symptoms and how they impact you. Do not back down. Know your rights. We who are suffering need to change the game for us all.

ADHD: Good days & bad days

Those of us who suffer with ADHD know, that the ability to do something productive can be fleeting. Some days, we feel invincible, almost like we do not have a disability and I know that for me, this leads to doubts about whether I am struggling at all.

 I mean, how can I multitask and get all these chores done, this space organised, these meals cooked, if I am impaired by cognitive issues? No, no, no. I must be exaggerating. I am just lazy, that is it!

I know this kind of talk, for me at-least, is incredibly familiar. Even before I knew I had ADHD, I would use these moments of perceived success to beat myself down further and discredit the difficulties I overcome to achieve what I have to do. In defence of my past self, I truly did not realise I thought differently to everyone else. I knew I was unusual and had a tough time keeping up with tasks that seemed to come so easily to others yet the regular diagnosis’ of mental illness never resonated with how I felt.

You must be depressed! Nope. I mean…maybe? I wouldn’t be if I could keep everything in my darn pencil case for longer than a week! Or not lose every school letter handed to me, remember to do the most basic things, and not rush my chores – to the dismay of my over worked mother.

Is it anxiety? Yes! Well, it doesn’t come from nowhere. I am anxious because I can never say the right thing or hold back a thought. I am anxious because I have all of this revision yet I know it takes me hours to get just one piece of information stuck in my head (unless it is, for some unknown reason, wildly interesting to me). I am anxious because, well, I have built up so many defence and coping mechanisms to fight something I had no idea I had, and when one of those walls comes down, they all do and I am back to square one. That is why I feel anxious, doctor.

But of course, this is never how it went. I have drifted through my whole life up until my 23rd year, with no clue that I was anything but disappointing.

I have always experienced these moments. The moments that showed me I was capable of more. That I had so much in me that was bursting to get out, yet half of the time I felt incapable to let it show. As I failed my academics, I would further retreat into my shell, beating myself up harder for what I lacked – because I knew deep down it wasn’t the full story.

Today is one of those days. I wake up with some of the brain fog lifted and feel like I can begin to tackle some of the day without too much emotional turmoil. I mean, I’m writing this blog post aren’t I? I am trying to know better. No more beating myself up because I can’t beat ADHD. It lives inside of me. What I can do though is recognise it for what it is and work along side it. I can utilise these productive days to set myself up for the worst, because now I expect them. I can use to-dos, reminders and calendars to give my life that little bit of structure that brings comfort when my brain is so heavy with shit that I can’t even begin to start sifting through the static to find an ounce of functionality. And I must let myself accept those days happen and they will never go away. And that is okay, because in despite of the ADHD, there is a whole person who has so much more to offer, whether that be a bouncy personality or an empathetic ear – sometimes being ‘productive’ is less about how many blog posts you get out during the week or how much admin you force yourself to do in the morning – it is about the whole person and how each building block works together to create someone who is of infinite value whether they are laid in bed all day unable to function or they are getting 100 tasks ticked off at once.

Those of us with ADHD are all too familiar with the guilt and the shame that comes with those days where the fog clears up and we can easily carry out what we seem to find impossible on other days. We must remember that we cannot measure ourselves to the standards that a society built for neurotypicals measures us against. We are so much more than that. Our loved ones know this. We must start believing it too.

Romanticising the mundane and living in the present.

I wonder if anyone can relate…I feel a deep urge to sit down and write a blog post with a steaming hot cup of tea every time the weather outside is wet and gloomy. I live beside a wood, so my bedroom window is a meditative view of tall trees and the occasional dog walker strolling passed and enjoying the nature. One of my favourite aspects of this, is the sounds that the rain makes when it hits the leaves; it is enough to send me into a trance.

These moments, these small details of life, is what I want to talk about today. I cannot understate how the quality of my everyday improved once I took a step back and started allowing myself to enjoy the present. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t always practiced – especially as someone with a neurodivergence, it is especially hard to remember to zone back in sometimes and get out of my own head. When I spend too much time there, I begin to feel disconnected with my surroundings, and ultimately begin to feel unhappier. When my brain allows me to remember, I try to take everything in around me and pay close attention to things that would otherwise be viewed as insignificant and mundane.

Mundane. What many people believe to be utterly boring factors of the everyday are the things I actively seek out. Curling up my toes into a puddle in the garden, the feeling of sliding into bed after a long day and wrapping my duvet to create a new form of me, the form of peak comfort. I love the sound of bath water when it drips from my fingers, the bliss of closing my eyes and sipping the first coffee of the day. When out and about, I like to observe other humans, appreciate their carefully or uncarefully selected outfits, the way they interact with their loved ones. I sometimes walk just to admire gardens big and small; I have a fascination with the way humans arrange the things they love to create a space that feels like home for them. I have always been that person who actually wants to see my friend’s dinners on social media and savour those passages in fiction where the characters are simply living their daily lives in-between the excitement.

I see a lot of value in considering yourself as the narrator of a fictional book. Strolling along and tuning into each sense. What does the air smell like after a storm? The differences between the texture of leaves and flowers? These are the moments I believe happiness builds upon. I don’t mean the kind of exhilarating happy emotion we all strive to feel by reaching our goals and milestones, but instead, that level of contentment and gratitude that settles deep in the pit of your stomach when you give in to trying to take control, and just enjoy life for what it is. For what you do have instead of what you don’t, for the gift of feeling emotions whether they are good or bad and having the privilege to learn lessons, to gather knowledge of all kinds and to experience tiny moments of the present that all add up to mean more than getting a bigger house, car, pay-check ever could.

Romanticising life changed the quality of mine. I stopped letting life pass me by as much. I now take the time out of my day just to draw, write, stare at the ceiling, pet my cats, smell the flowers, just for the pure bliss of doing these things. Sometimes the news and social media can overtake our lives and I know it is true for me at-least, but consuming these constant feeds of negativity day in day out can exacerbate my symptoms and anxieties and pull me out of the real world. The world is chaotic, but it does not mean our brains have to constantly be filled with the chaos that the media and the powerful want us to be filled with. Fear breeds hate, yet if more people took time to just step away for a moment, to pet a dog or talk to a stranger, they would realise that things are not as scary as they seem.

A Reflection on gratitude, inequality and why reading makes you a better person

It is one of those mornings where the rain is beating against the window and the skies are a smooth pale grey. The weather promises nothing but comfort for the rest of the day. I have a warm mug of coffee to my left and soft clothes that fill me with a sense of safety and gratitude.

Moments like these, I feel an immense wave of appreciation for the snapshot of life I am currently living. It is hard to see clearly amidst the chaos of the day to day. I often find myself feeling this way once I have finished a really good book about the trials and tribulations of some other person’s world, whether it be real or a fictional character. I strongly believe that reading causes you to develop a deeper understanding of the human experience and allows you to take a less judgemental stance and treat others with a bit more consideration.

I am guilty of occasionally falling into the ‘main character complex’ and often don’t stop for a moment to count my blessings. I have been making a conscious effort to read about as many experiences as possible to pull myself away from my own problems and frustrations, so that I can learn a thing or two from others.

My most recently finished book, ‘Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns’ by Kerry Hudson, has had such an effect on me. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it. Throughout the book Kerry Hudson recalls back to her difficult childhood and the reality of growing up poor in Britain. The book accounts her difficult experiences and how often those who are unlucky enough to be born in some of the more deprived areas of the country, end up staying there, stuck in a cycle of corruption that they have no control over. Society beats these communities down and strips away anything that will help to end this cycle.

I am not a stranger to the difficulties of growing up in Britain. I will never not acknowledge just how lucky I am to have such a strong-willed mother who fought with all she had to keep me and my sister happy, fed, and loved. That doesn’t take from the reality of how much we struggled at times; how my mum would juggle multiple jobs just to keep food on the table, despite being a hardworking, highly intelligent and resourceful member of society, it was still like we were always fighting this enemy spawned in the forms of bills, inflation, private rent and snobs. If it was this difficult for us, imagine having a disability, a mental illness, living with trauma – anything that makes you less than a perfect candidate for the worker bee system we live in. Society isn’t built for those people. The evidence is all around us yet a select (effective) number of folk in the UK believe that we live in a meritocracy, that hard work rewards, that those who are born into poverty can just pull up their bootstraps and dig their way out. These are all lies, and Kerry Hudson proves this in her wonderful memoir.

Kerry ends the book with optimism. Despite all of the shit she faced, the way society trampled all over her young promising self, judging her based on her income level, we can still intertwine ourselves into these stories, learn to care about the experiences of others and start making small steps to build a better world. As Kerry points out, it can all feel pointless. Through decades of time passing and deprived areas not improving, in-fact they are getting worse – it can feel pointless to break away from our own comforts to give a shit about the corrupt system we live in and the troubles of the people far removed from our own lives that many of us will never try. But trying is relative. Trying can simply mean to listen. To open your heart to other humans and their perspectives, to develop a level of empathy and understanding. I think this is something that can be started with a book. I want to thank Kerry Hudson, despite how difficult it was for her to re-visit these moments in her timeline, for recording her experience and adding to those small efforts that give people like me the strength to strive for change.

ADHD, Journaling and creating systems – my thoughts.

Journaling. This is a habit I have always wanted to nail. I imagine myself to be the type of person to fill notebook after notebook with aesthetically pleasing handwriting, cute stickers in spontaneous compositions and cut outs of romanticised magazine imagery. It has never come that easily. I am forever switching between digital spaces and physical, trying to strike a balance and really hammer in that habit, without letting the perfectionist inside sabotage my efforts.

ADHD makes it difficult to form new habits; some days I will wake up and feel like my memory from the previous day(s) has been zapped. Occasionally I question whether I may have been abducted and this is the fault of mysterious extra-terrestrial beings that are messing with me. I have a million reminders, apps, post-it notes to help me get through the day. Unfortunately, the catch-22 is that along with my ADHD making perfection impossible, it is what I naturally strive for.

To acquire the ideal journaling system, means that I must let go of my inner perfectionist.  To not beat myself over missed days, weeks, months without recording my inner thoughts. Because every-time I try to re-do the system, I fail by expecting myself to work against my own wiring.

One of the biggest issues I have with ADHD is the loss of novelty. Novelty is a driving force in getting things done. My phone is always filled with shiny new apps meant to nudge me to do my never-ending daily tasks. For journaling, I have tried apps that are simplified down, that are highly customisable and complicated, I have tried desktop only apps and cross-platform. I have started shiny new notebooks dedicated to write everyday (ha-ha), yet I always fail.

As I learn to live with my neurodivergence, I learn to accept that which cannot be changed. In fact, my long-term goal is to work with my wiring and hack it in my benefit. I am not going to journal every-day. I am not going to want to create artistic spreads on a frequent basis; some days I will want to scribble down my thoughts in a style that is basically unreadable, because I have to keep up with the sheer speed of my thoughts. Sometimes, digital works best for these days.

So, I have come up with a loose system. Once the novelty of a digital app wears off, I simply get a new one. The cycle repeats. But to keep the enjoyment of having something continuous, I also use a physical journal. With my physical journal, I apply no rules. I write what I want and whenever I want and if I feel like decorating, I do, if I don’t, I don’t. With these lax rules I have managed to keep up with my journaling habit, however scattered it may be and I am finally managing to see the benefits of keeping this as a regular thing in my life. The key is for us with ADHD is that we need to avoid making something into yet another chore or obligation. Once my brain decides that this is the reason for the task’s existence, suddenly, I don’t want to do it anymore. I am sure some of you can relate.

My system may not work perfectly, or even forever, but it works for me. I can read every self help book in the world, every organisational video, but only I know deep down what I am realistically able to stick to, and it is about listening to myself and accepting my brain for what it is.

University, COVID and ADHD anxiety

Spilling my thoughts into a blog post is usually the last thing on my mind during a state of heightened emotion. But as many with ADHD will know, we can be overcome with feelings that make even those regular days of disfunction look like a walk in the park. Right now, I am, without exaggeration, overcome with overwhelming waves of despair.

Next month I begin the first semester of my second year of university, and I couldn’t be dreading it more. With the disappointment of an ADHD appointment at least two years down the line and the prospect of an incredibly disrupted academic year, the future feels bleak. I am not a stranger to academic failure due to being undiagnosed and being unable to voice my concerns correctly. I feel myself falling into the same pattern before it has even begun. The ride of the high of my first taste of academic success within the first half of last year, I feel myself crashing hard and that high is falling further from my reach. My brain only wants to conjure up image after image of the worst possible outcomes, my brain only wants to read about the desperate situation of the student experience and wallow in the despair. Why must I be like this? Why can’t I see the positives or just wait to see what happens like most people can? Times like these even with the knowledge of ADHD, I still am inclined to blame myself.

There is nothing scarier to me than knowing that no matter how hard I try, I cannot beat ADHD. Despite every coping mechanism I put in place, I have to do so with the awareness that I can wake up the next day without the ability to achieve what I did the day before. Some days I trick myself into believing that maybe I am not neurodivergent and I can be productive, function and concentrate. Usually this backfires, I wake up without the desire to finish that project, finesse that assignment or attend that event. I feel the opposite of the day before and often go through my days forgetting, snapping at my loved ones, and sensationalising everything, annoying everyone. Perhaps that last part is not true, but it can certainly feel that way.

Without the environment, the structure and the excitement of university, I fear what is in store for my academic life without support for my mental health needs. How do I learn to motivate myself at home to do triple the amount of work I am not prepared for, without the very things that allowed me to do well in the first place? It may seem silly to those of you who do not have ADHD, but I know myself well and I know that I am unpredictable and cannot keep a self-motivated schedule once the novelty wears off. I fear so deeply for my future.