Imagine Blue Monday. You wake up and you just feel a bit achy, and a bit mhe, and you really struggle to force you and yourself out of bed. It’s a grey day and the rain hits you horizontally as you leave the house. There is so much water in the lid of your take away coffee that you ingest more rain water than coffee. And you begin to muse about being a plant, luckily hitting Google is out of question as the screen is wet and you cannot even get your voice recognition started. Besides—a sudden self awareness hits you—people would probably think you are a nutter if you say: “Hey Google; what is it like to be a plant?” You finally manage to hang your dripping garments up and start your office computer. As usual it takes about 20 minutes to boot up. You often go and get your first reward of the day at the local bakery during this time, but really cannot be bothered with the weather and besides there is healthy food in your bag. You even remembered to pack it. So there you go. The darn clock that is in every office sledge hammers its monotone ticking into your head, and someone wears a perfume that immediately causes a hit of nausea. Great. While you wait for Outlook to load, and you try to breathe away the nausea, you are contemplating to use this time to sort your private email account which currently sits at 17.000 unread emails. You always, always tick the box ‘do not send me special offers or communications’—they do anyway. You decide to abandon this account and use it as junk account for shopping and just let the digital waste live in the ether.
Finally, Outlook is open and that colleague who always writes a Russian novel has send you an email. The clock is still hammering, people are talking, there is a bird that hops along the window sill, and now the smell of coffee is added to the … wait a moment. You realise you have read through three of the paragraphs (no there is no summary on top of the email indicating the important points, it’s an Easter Egg hunt as usual) and not taken anything in. Okay start again, someone in the building greets each other loudly and laugh, the bl***y clock is relentless at least the nausea has stopped and the weird smell gone. But the rain now comes through the window. Not again! You made it to paragraph four this time, there is a vague idea it’s about organising teaching, but you still have not figured out what the main information is. Okay, you look up, you are still alone in the office, so you run your finger line by line and read out loud (once there are people here this will be hopeless, also you cannot talk out loud to process thinking, and there will be more smells, noises, presences… your skin begins to burn in anticipation and the weird chair presses it’s lumbar support against the nerve damage in your spine and neuralgia flares up. Oh the joy!). At least now you have found the important part of the information, it was buried in paragraph five, you still are not entirely sure what all the other stuff was about it’s all obvious things. Why to people always say all the obvious things?
Hello welcome back to the blog! Wake up and smell the coffee. Now close your eyes for a moment and visualise the amount of energy you have to invest to overcome the scenario above: to get motivated, started, focussed. Now imagine this is not just One Blue Monday. This is every single day. Every task that The Brain considers ‘unattractive’. This is the energy I have to muster every single day for every single task The Brain considers mundane—basically tasks that do not fire up my synapses. No; I am not lazy. Have a look at my CV. The way I cope is basically having several projects on the go at any given time, so I can productively procrastinate from the ‘unattractive’ stuff. The problem here is: finding the right balance and staying in the optimal zone. Taking on too much will lead to overload shut down. Taking on too little, will put me virtually in stasis.
Working from home has been a blessing, I can control noise, smell, light, presences here. I don’t have to mask: this by the way was a new word for me. I only really begun to understand what masking is over the last couple of months. If I don’t mask: I can talk out loud to process thinking and white noise, I can pace up and down (which of course drives the people I share office with bananas), or do micro HIIT exercises or yoga stretches while thinking or planning an email response. I don’t have to sit on a chair. I have always preferred sitting on the floor. Social convention is really bad about this, everyone has to sit on chairs. This alone tends to be a significant distraction—the chair. All these things sap my energy. All these things make the Blue Monday feeling stronger and increase the white noise in The Brain. Yet, somehow, sooner or later I manage to push through the sound barrier and do the ‘unattractive thing’.
What helps is that I love my profession, colleagues, students. That there are always things that need fixing, developing, problem solving. That The Brain gets joy from teaching, learning, helping, being with colleagues and students (online, with occasional “real life in 3D and colour” moments–the perfect mix). All of this helps to convince The Brain to engage with the ‘mundane’ things because all of the above is the reward.
Why am I telling you this? Basically if you have a Blue Monday every day: you are not alone.
If you ‘just’ have a Blue Monday–it could be worse.
And I wanted to share how it feels like for me as everyone experiences ADHD differently
If you get upset with me because I forgot to answer the second half of your email: I literally and virtually did not see (process) it was there, but give me half an hour or so, something in the back of my head will poke me that there was something I forgot.
A more cheery version
A Bad ADHD Day
I hickle-dee-pickled my way through the day
Bumping my toes exclaiming: ‘Au weh!’
Loosing my coffee somewhere in the house
Making a new one to douse my fresh blouse
I rush to a meeting on–Zoom have you guessed?
Before I continue my lost coffee quest
I remember a deadline and curse beep beep bip
Before hyperfocus has me in its very tight grip
After hours in a high productivity zone
My stomach develops a life on her own
And shouts very loudly: ‘You’ve forgotten to eat.’
And drags the rest of my body up on her feet
On my new quest for munchies to stop hunger’s stitch
Guess what? I found my coffee cup on top of the fridge
My phone alarm shouts at me out of the blue
What did I set this for? I haven’t a clue!
Nothing to be done to remember that now
A lunchtime walk will make things better I vow
Just my luck today seems a bit bad
I now look like a duly drowned rat
I sit in my next meeting hair still dripping
The conversations are also less than ripping
That could have been an email
I silently wail
Which I would forget to answer without much fail
At least working from home makes a lot of things better
I don’t have to pretend that noises don’t matter
The office clocks ticking, pens clicking
In general all the people’s noise emitting
An email pings, my emotions cow
‘Oh no, what have I done wrong now?’
Or forgotten, lost, broken, maybe misplaced
Oh check this out! Someone is sending me praise!
I cry for a little
Yes, I can be that brittle
Taking a sip from the cup I hold
Yerch that coffee is now really cold