Season 2, Episode 3:
For the best experience I’d recommend listening, but if you prefer to read the automated podcast please see below: this is an automated transcript using Otter so please don’t take the spellings/grammar too seriously!
In this episode, I’m sharing:
-My messy experience growing up with ADHD and the impact it had on me
-The Hunter / Farmer Theory and how neuroscience explains this
-All the blessings that brings and how it’s strongly linked to creativity
Welcome to episode 1 of this season of The Happier Creative podcast. I’m your host Ruth Hoskins, thank you so much for tuning in.
The Happier Creative is a podcast that’s part memoir, part an essay on creative life and part guide to help you upgrade your life through allowing more creativity into it.
I’m here to help you explore how you live and work creatively as we navigate lockdown and beyond. I believe that creativity is a tool to help reduce anxiety and help us live and work better, whether we work full-time as a creative or have a creative business or we want to bring more creativity into our lives for a simpler, more joyful life.
In today’s episode I’m going to share my messy, expansive and well, eye-opening journey with ADHD. Firstly, I’d like to say a MASSIVE thanks to you for listening. I’ve never really talked about this online, being ADHD has so-far been a private exploration, but over the last few years I’ve come to a place of real self-acceptance over it all. Since investing this time in research and reflection and reading all the books, so much has been clearer, my self understanding is deeper and better than ever before, and now, so much fog has cleared, so I wanted to share this as I know so many people working in the creative world or running a creative business will identify with my stories around this.
ADHD is classed as a disorder but the reality is much more complex, multi-layered and linked to the basic ways of humanity. I wanna explore the perks it really has brought into my life as I’ve gone from outsider to be able to show myself some radical self-love.
I can’t go back and offer comfort to the 15 year old me who was struggling to understand the depths of emotions, why conformity was expected, let alone a good thing, or being able to give some explanation for feeling like an outsider. But I can share my story if you’ve ever felt this too you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Back in school – most noticeable in secondary school where it really manifested itself, I found it really hard to pay attention to teachers who had a bland teaching style, but I loved learning with the teachers who were fun and energetic. I remember feeling a deep sense of distrust for the teachers who just weren’t nice people or boring and I learned to rebel. Learning to whistle with my fingers in my mouth to annoy teachers, wrapping my arm in the whole classes watches when I got told not to ask the time, starting trends not aligned with uniform – mis-matched laces was my favourite.
I was made to feel like a wild rebel; when I stood outside the headteachers room yet again for walking out of a class because it was too boring and my impulsion intuitively told me it wasn’t a good setting for my curious and creative brain to learn in. Sitting in a classroom was really hard and not at all natural and I’m still a big believer of this as we’re looking at some alternative ways of secondary schooling for our kids right now.
For me, it would take just a few bitchy words from one of my primary school enemies in an after school cookery club to compel me to empty a bag of flour over her, which sounds excessive and radical, but that was part of who I was as a child. I was excessively kind and compassionate, but if someone wronged me in some way I couldn’t control how I felt. These large-scale emotional meltdowns after someone had treated me unfairly were on the regs, for sure until I learned to better handle my emotions in my late 20s and early 30s.
Even my own mum described me as “the kind of girl who never puts the top on the toothpaste” and my friends have always laughed out and about with me as I struggle to find my keys, purse, debit cards on the daily. I’m that person in the airport who can never find her passport and scrabbles around with my bag to find tickets that I had just a second ago.
But yet, in the simultaneous dichotomy and synchronicity that ADHD lavishes us with, when I get washed over with these super-powered periods of hyper-focused, I’m so clear and organised about what needs doing. It’s a constant question why I can work with such clarity but I find getting out of the house and going to the super-market really complicated.
I dunno about you, but watching films about outsiders really helped me develop a sense of self as a teen; a time when it’s hard to figure out your identity. I watched Heathers – and in fact any Christian Slater movie – on repeat. It took me away from the normality of life to glimpse hope and confidence that develop a belief that I could live a life less ordinary.
I only really found those when I went to study A Levels independently – yep – us ADHD people are often really autodidactic who love to self-learn, not really something that fits with this archaic school system we live in. So when I quit sixth form, got a job in Gap and started doing my A Levels at night school, I finally felt like I was choosing who and what I wanted to learn more about and I can still remember now how liberating that first taste of independence was. I loved it.
Art and film and culture and music were my passions. Going to gigs, reading up on film theories and writing scripts filled me with joy; the joy of expression I guess and I knew the more I indulged those things, well the happier I felt. And in that quest for doing more of what made me happy, rather than what I “should” do compelled me to study film and the arts.
You might already be aware of this, but so many well-known creative people, artists and entrepreneurs are ADHD. Many theories point to Picasso, Van Gogh and Da Vinci all displaying signs. There’s a well-known phrase that “all of Hollywood” is ADHD and there are countless artists
So instead of focusing on the negative, I’ve reframed how I see ADHD. It’s a label that I can wear proudly. It gives me empathy – because when you feel like an outsider, you learn to listen and watch and understand how people feel.
In a recent podcast episode I talked about my 5 principles to live by, and they are: adventure, art, freedom, expression and curiosity, and they’re so relevant in the context of ADHD.
To put this in context, there are two books that I’ve found really useful that you might have heard about: One is a book by Them Hartmann from 1993 called Attention Deficit Disorder – A Different Perception Where he introduces the hunter-farmer theory. Using human evolution as a context he talks about how the world has shifted. Humans have gone from having a hunter mentality to a farmers mentality. If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll link to it in the show notes.
A hunter had to be hyper-focused for short periods, followed by relaxation to top back up. We were highly sensitive to the surrounding environment – aware of dangers, movements and so forth (this goes a long way to explain ADHD anxiety). We’re wired to think in the moment, not days or weeks ahead.
We’re super visual beings, a trait that explains why so many people with ADHD end up being creative.
Support from this can be seen: Kids between 7 and 16 from the Amazon rainforest had higher levels of ADHD traits, and the same within other indigenous tribes.
Today, our landscape has shifted to a farmers world. A place where people can sit still for long periods of time, to work repetitively, to make longer-term goals, to have the focus required to grow crops.
Without regurgitating the book on here – the perks I see are very real. When you start to reframe this “disorder” to being a character it feels different.
Even more appealing in terms of the language to me is that of an explorer versus a settler, as used by Doctor of Psychology Perpetua Neo. I find this really interesting as it partly attributes itself with my need to travel and explore. She says:
“The settlers are those who stay in a place and make it good, and keep the stability, but explorers are those who conquer new land and new opportunities. The world needs both. It’s a variation of human needs.”
The world we live in wants to see it as a disorder, to throw medicine at it, but when you think about it a hunter ate healthily and today’s people eat all kinds of junk food, wrapped in plastic and with artificial flavour. I know as a child my parents controlled the sugar and additives, all known to affect it. I’ve never taken any medication for it, and don’t plan to. ADHD is who I am and I want to celebrate all the perks that it brings into my life and feel good about my brain working in this way.
Firstly, ADHD people are really good at solving problems because they think creatively. Sometimes Tony will just look at me when he’s doing something very logical and I just step in and say “why don’t you just do it like this?” because I don’t have those boundaries.
Secondly when we keep it simple we can achieve anything. This is a real biggie for me. I don’t enjoy having a diary that’s “crammed” for months in advance. The more simple my life is, the more I can create. I just took six weeks off Instagram and it was partly this need to cut the consumption, to release any self-pressure to “show up” and to turn inside and just be. It felt good. And it’s why this lockdown comes quite
Thirdly, Self-soothing comes quite naturally. I can be in the middle of huge and crippling anxiety, but I’ve learned to build a toolbag that works for me pretty quick – soothing sounds especially – my Spotify is full of classical music, meditational stuff and my go-to for sleepless periods are my headphones to put on sleep state waves. Self-soothing comes from exploring my artistic side often – sketching, gardening, watching the birds go about the daily routine outside.
Also, we love to love. And forgive. We love deeply. Showering people withe affection is a trait of ADHD.
We’ve got a head for business
I knew from primary I’d have my own business. I remember vividly saying it in the hall of my primary school to my friend Morag when I was probably 10 or 11. This head for business is an absolute super-power for people who want to run a business. You can take risk, you can spot predators a mile off, you can
Your intuition is off the scale mate!
I hope if you know, or you are, or might be ADHD that it’s possible to live really-well, medicine free by eating well, by leaning into your passions and all these crazy awesome characteristics you have. It’s going to stand you well.
I’ll link to the book I mentioned and also a great podcast called The Drummer and The Great Mountain which has loads of inspiring episodes if you’d like to dive further into exploring this. I’ll be back soon and as ever, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like me to cover anything to do with the pursuit of a happier, more enriched life creatively, please drop me an email on hi@ruthhoskins.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you have please do leave a review, subscribe or rating. Plus, I’m so grateful for any shares. If you’d like to connect with me over on Instagram I’m on @ruthie_hoskins – although I’ve been taking a break from social or read the show notes over on my website ruthhoskins.com. With lots of love and sunbeams from me, Ruth