Today my daughter leaves home.
I wrote a poem about that earlier in the week which I have copied below.
But as I sit here on my yoga mat, in the calm cool of the morning, I am reflecting on why this is such a very difficult day for me.
When I left home, 34 years ago, to fly across the ocean to America, my life fell apart.
I plummeted into depression and an eating disorder which then took me many years to recover from.
I no longer felt safe or in control and the joy disappeared from my life because the world simply didn’t make sense to me.
My brain and emotions couldn’t cope, once I lost the security and routine of the life I had lived up to that point.
I now know that I have ADHD and, of course, had it back then.
I now know that this is very usual for young women who have ADHD to struggle when they leave home.
And I know that there are simple things that can massively help women with ADHD at times of change and transition to help them not fall apart:
– Knowing about ADHD and what it means but also what it means for you, alongside everything else that makes you the individual you are
– Creating a routine and structure in the new place that ensures feelings of safety and grounding
– Keeping in very regular contact with loved ones
– Being honest with new friends, as soon has trust has been established
– Not trying to fit a mould or copy what others without ADHD are doing. Doing and being you
– Sleeping enough and not drinking too much alcohol – yep, hard as a student, maybe, but actually a life-saver.
When I left for university, a year after leaving home, my mum and dad wrote me a list of rules for survival:
Written by wonderful Mum and Dad, Autumn 1988:
Rules for survival at University.
1. Read through these rules at least once a day. Think about them and abide by them. If you feel under pressure at any time, make yourself read through these rules.
2. Spend a period of at least 15 minutes each day relaxing. This means lying or sitting doing nothing but concentrating on yourself. If it helps, do relaxation exercises or listen to music. If this makes you cry don’t worry.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. For you that activity is destructive as you only concentrate on certain aspects of other people but not the whole person. You are you with all your talents and abilities and you will never be anyone else.
4. Try to be honest with people. You will soon make friends. Find those in whom you can confide and then be as honest as you can. Tell them what you really feel rather than what you think you ought to feel. Learn to say no and yes.
5. Don’t worry if you’re not at the centre of things. Find those activities that you’re really good at and enjoy such singing and concentrate on those. Try out new activities like sport but don’t use exercise as a way of slimming or it becomes excessive. Have some fun every day.
6. Learn work patterns which enable you to survive. It is better to leave university with a third than a nervous breakdown. No one bothers about the class of degree once you’ve got it. Set an absolute maximum work time each day (not more than five hours) and stick to it rigidly. Try to work in short concentrated bursts with breaks between. Have a coffee, visit a friend. Set yourself time targets rather than ‘objective’ targets. For example work for an hour rather than finish a chapter. This is essential for you.
7. Remember that nobody at university does all the work set. It is not expected of you and it is impossible. Work out priorities.
8. If you feel under pressure, firstly try to relax. Start by breathing etc. If this doesn’t work, seek help. Talk to a friend, a tutor, or phone home. Remember that the high standards which you set are only determined by you.
9. You have done nothing in your life about which you need to feel guilty.
10. You must have rigid rules about eating which you stick to totally.
11. If you follow the rules you will have total control over your life and survive university.
With hindsight, I can see that they are just what I needed but at the time, because of all that had happened in America, the depression that I was experiencing and the fact that I had undiagnosed ADHD, I couldn’t see that or see that they were genuinely about survival.
There is more about what happened next in the book I wrote a while back, if you want to understand more. This is a free audio version on Spotify.
It needs an update, in light of my ADHD diagnosis, but it has helped a few people who may be struggling to understand what they are going through.
So, to summarise. Today is hard for all the reasons that it is for other parents who are saying goodbye…but for me, it has another layer of difficulty.
Which is ok, now that I understand it and se why, today, there just so MANY emotions!!
Brambles and Blackberries
Last night we picked blackberries
You and I
Growing at the path-side
Where we have walked together so many times
Sometimes in chatter
Sometimes in silence
Sometimes feeling the sharpness of feelings like brambles that have cut our skin
And other times rejoicing in the sheer beauty of it all.
I was taken back to eighteen years ago
And that harvest.
I picked and you grew
A few short weeks away from emerging
Back when I throbbed with anticipation
Desperate to meet you
And little knowing
How much you would transform my life and evoke in me a love, a joy and a pride
As we surveyed the harvest of plump, shiny, bitter-sweet berries
I felt the full weight of what comes next.
We stand on the verge
Of you emerging into the next phase
And me staying
My heart can hardly bear it
And I want to hold you back
Keep you in my arms
And protect you from whatever monsters and ogres may be out there.
But I also know
My beautiful, brave, blackberry baby
Are ready to go
Into that world of infinite possibilities
Where the love of others will keep you safe
While mine waits there on the path
For the next time we walk together.