How Adrian Chiles Changed My Life

News Personal Experience
Johnny Lee Mar 29, 2023
How Adrian Chiles Changed My Life
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“What on earth did I come in here for?” is heard daily in our household. A few shakes of the head before I walk back out, completely unaware of why I’d walked downstairs from the office and into the kitchen. And of course, by the time I’ve remembered what I went into the kitchen for I’ve already gone back up two flights of stairs.

Or trying to leave the house three times, each time realizing I’d forgotten something else that we needed for the day, like the dogs’ leads when going on a dog walk.

All proper facepalm moments. All part of the persona I’d built for myself as being a bit forgetful, not quite able to finish some tasks, or putting things off. These are just the minor “funny” things, the other stuff isn’t quite so minor.

Going back to dog walks, I can’t go on long walks with the boys without headphones on, either listening to music or podcasts. The James O’Brien “Full Disclosure” podcast was one that I was working my way through from September 2022, and in October I listened to one with the excellent Adrian Chiles. He started talking about his relationship with alcohol, and how he attended an AA meeting with a friend to give them moral support. After listening to a number of people, he reframed his relationship with alcohol to be “How many of these drinks do I actually enjoy, how many are due to boredom, or because there’s a bottle of wine to finish”. So he created a coping mechanism for himself which was basically to just have one drink because that achieves the change in his emotional state.

He was chasing that elusive dopamine hit. He talked about this being one of a list of symptoms of Adult ADHD, which he was diagnosed with when he was around 50, and how he ticked pretty much every item on that list.

This all rang true to me; things started to make a bit more sense, but I’m wary of hyperfocus and getting excited about A SHINY NEW THING, so I spent a fair bit of time reading more about Adult ADHD and taking a few online tests. It was a complete revelation, everything I read and all the lists of symptoms in the tests I was completing were setting off lightbulbs in my head. After a few weeks, I built up the courage to talk to my wife, and she was incredibly supportive so I booked an appointment with my GP who was also great. I’m now on the NHS-funded Psychiatry UK’s waiting list and I’m expecting an assessment in August.

I have been speaking to the wonderful Parul Singh, our Neurodiversity Advocate, who speaks and posts about her own journey coping mechanisms, and this chat inspired me to keep educating myself about ADHD and what a positive diagnosis might mean for me. The Neurodiversity-Community Slack channel has been a very welcoming, safe place where I can read about how others handle being neurodivergent and where I feel I can speak freely. It’s also encouraged me to talk to some of my friends about it, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Most of all, “what’s next” is about identifying coping mechanisms I’ve developed over a lifetime of not knowing I had ADHD. These coping mechanisms affect myself and the people around me; so I need to work out which ones are helpful and which ones aren’t.

I can’t speak highly enough about the ADHD Adults podcast. Alex and James talk about different topics on a weekly basis, about how they’re personally affected, as well as tips and advice on how to handle their disorder. As they often say “I’m still fat, lazy and useless, but I’m fat, lazy and useless because I’ve got ADHD” and that’s possibly the weirdest statement that I can take comfort from, but I do. It’s encouraged me to assess and accept who I am, and to identify and adapt the behaviors which are typical traits of ADHD.

Simple little things like:

  • They talk about “ADHD Tax” on one episode of the podcast. Times when their ADHD has cost them money. A classic is signing up for a free trial of something, and then forgetting to cancel before the end of the trial. I’ve done that more times than I care to remember, like the 12 months of Apple TV I paid for after taking a 1-month free trial to watch Ted Lasso.

  • My new little adaptation is to create a pot on my Monzo app called “ADHD Tax”. The idea is that every time I catch myself doing something lazy, impulsive or simply forgetful, I work out what I’ve saved by doing it and put that money into the pot. Hopefully, seeing just how much money I waste due to all these traits will be just the thing I need to help keep me focused. Simple, and silly, case in point earlier this week. I forgot to iron Isaac’s school trousers on Sunday night and in typical fashion, he reminded me 5 minutes before the school bus was due, so I ended up having to give him and his sister a lift to school. “I CAN GET A GREGGS SAUSAGE AND OMELETTE BUN” screamed my dopamine-seeking, compulsive-eating brain, as there’s a Greggs near the school. My newly focused coping mechanism thought “no mate, have a bowl of All Bran and don’t waste all that almond milk from the carton you opened yesterday”. £4.80 into the ADHD Tax pot, because I’d have bought Clare - my wife - one too, and there we have it, the pot was up and running.

I’d like to leave this pot untouched for a few months and see just how much I’m needlessly spending. However, this requires:

a) me not forgetting about the concept of the ADHD Tax pot

b) me not doing the things that usually lead to an ADHD Tax

c) me not thinking “ooooh, there’s something shiny and I’ve got £200 in the ADHD Tax pot to spend on it”

As you can imagine, the chance of these three things all not happening is slim!

It’s a strange time at the moment - I can’t yet say that I have ADHD, because I’ve yet to have my formal assessment, but the more I look into it the more I start to learn about neurodivergence and the more I start to learn about myself. I feel like things have already changed for the better and being able to talk to my wife about all of this, as well as the awesomeness she’s shown me by reading up on ADHD herself, gives me a lot of hope for the future.

As someone in that wonderful Slack channel said, with tongue firmly placed in cheek, “I take some drugs, and I’m no longer ADHD” so I’m coming at this with the knowledge that an assessment and positive diagnosis is just one part of a long journey of discovery, a journey I’m looking forward to with excitement and no small amount of trepidation.