Pain⤴

from @ lenabellina

Your face looks pained today

You say

And so I reply

I’ve a thing in my eye

My throat is quite sore

There’s a muscle I tore

It’s my hormones again

I’ll feel better when…..

And yet none of these tell

Of the pain I know well

Of the sadness inside

Of the tears still uncried

That nought can explain

Neither sunshine nor rain

Not hunger, not thirst

Being last, being first

Well slept or awake

Somehow nothing can shake

This feeling

This feeling

I feel.

And so all I can do

Is to take leave from you

So the pain doesn’t spread

Or seep out of my head

To make you feel bad

Or angry or sad

This pain is all mine and not yours.

In my head

In my heart

In my pores.

River love⤴

from @ lenabellina

Today I paddled my canoe

Upon the Orb but without you.

Unlike the time we travelled far

Along the Yukon’s flow.

Our partnership is not the same

As backs and knees will not play game

But even when I’m on my own

There’s one thing that I know.

You’re always there and have my back

And though I often feel a lack

Of company when you’re not there

It’s magic that we share.

The orioles⤴

from @ lenabellina

This week we have been in our family happy place in France. It is a place of warmth, friendship, wine and golden orioles.

Once, many years ago, we saw an oriole flying as we were out driving but since then, we have only ever heard their beautiful gurgling song from the treetops further down the village.

Last year I wrote a poem about this elusive, beautiful bird and after returning home, had a tattoo done by a hugely talented local artist.

Today was a day when the magic of the oriole returned. Out for a walk this morning and not just one but two showed up….

This morning as I ventured forth

To take some some air and free my limbs

I crossed the bridge above the Orb

To tune into the sacred hymns

Of orioles gurgling out their news

I wondered if they would refuse

Again to show themselves to me

And coyly hide atop the trees.

And so I paused and focused in

And hoped and prayed and urged

Until a pair swooped down across

The water with a surge

That mirrored one of awe and glee

Deep down inside the soul of me.

As if by chance this afternoon

I met a man who all to soon

I had to take leave from once again

For he told tales of times back when

He called the eagles from the sky

With just the power of his sharp eye.

The magic’s there for us to feel

If for a while we leave the wheel

That keeps us, hamster-like, entrapped

Our voices mute, our life-force sapped.

And stay instead with courage there

To fly beside the birds.

Misunderstood: ADHD through the eyes of a 17-year-old⤴

from @ @robin_macp

This is an anonymous guest blog. It was a coursework essay by a school pupil who was 17 years old at the time, and it was shared with me by their parent who is also a good friend. This parent is aware of the work I have done in partnership with the ADHD Foundation on their Umbrella Project in Aberdeen, and wanted me to read this piece. I asked if I could share it via my website, and both the author and the parent gave me permission to do so. I have published exactly as it was shared, with no edits. As you are about to experience, it is a profoundly moving piece that I feel every teacher should read, as well as every parent and child who live with ADHD. I also want to make special mention here of Lena Carter (a perpetual source of inspiration and who was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult), Dr Tony Lloyd of the ADHD Foundation, and Rory Bremner, the renowned comedian and satirist who once described ADHD to me as being “my best friend and worst enemy.” I can only say that I wish I had these conversations much earlier in my career; I share this piece as someone who is trying to learn more and to be better equipped to help, much as we all are.

Misunderstood

The violent slam of the door echoed down the empty corridor, I leaned back against the brick wall and the hot feeling of shame engulfed me as I felt like I was sinking into a hole. A shadow of regret stood over me as I frantically tried to work out what I had done this time. As I’m standing in the corridor, the muffled voices from inside the classroom reinforced the fact I had been thrown out of the classroom. Again. 

Without warning the door swung open, “YOU’RE STILL FIDGETING” screeched the French teacher…Was I? Probably. I had stood up now and I was rocking back and forth, unsettled and lost to what I had done to get thrown out. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? GET BACK IN. APOLOGISE TO THE CLASSROOM, SIT DOWN AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE – SIT STILL”. The teacher’s blaring voice drilled into my ears and right down to the pit of my stomach. 

Now I realise that the teacher was just a mirror image of how I was feeling, tense, confused, and aggravated – as if she was ready to explode. I can now understand her complete bewilderment. Without a word, I did as I was asked, walked back in the class, apologised… for being me. And took my seat again, but…despite best attempts, could not sit still. What is wrong with me? What exactly is wrong with me? I couldn’t answer that question but for sure it spun around my head at such a velocity my entire body would join in with the spiral. Tapping, swinging on my chair, knees shaking, building up inside of me like a tsunami. Before I would predictably shout something out, impulsively catapult an object or at times, myself across the class. 

The day had started like any other. I slept in, found my crumpled uniform in various parts of the dishevelled room, and eventually found my shoes in opposite ends of the house. I shoved some breakfast down my gob, leaving a trail of destruction through the kitchen. I got distracted by something on the TV, finally legged it from the house, realised I had forgotten something. I ran back home to pick up what had been forgotten, but couldn’t find it. Headed back to school. Was Late. Captain chaos had arrived… 

No matter how many times you are kicked out of class, given disappointed stares, shouted at and reprimanded, the stab of failure, the blanket of shame that gets thrown over you and a deep-rooted sense of not being good enough is something you never get used to. Within six weeks of being at secondary school I had already earned a reputation of being impulsive, unreliable, lazy, and badly behaved. On the exterior I was the class clown but the interior painted a very different picture and as my behaviour worsened, so did my confidence. 

After six months, I had my first appointment with my psychiatrist. The white walls at the clinic were stark and cold but the psychiatrist was kind and warm. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and, at the age of 12, for the first time, I felt seen and I felt understood. I learned that there was nothing wrong with me – my brain was wired slightly differently from most people and that I wasn’t alone. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, having little to no sense of danger, acting without thinking and having difficulty organising tasks. Other aspects include being hyper sensitive, highly empathetic and more likely to suffer from anxiety. Boom! 90% , this was the best score I’d had on any test. Yes, I pretty much checked all of the boxes. As I began to really understand my diagnosis, I felt like I had finally found the instructions to a puzzle I had never been able to solve. Everything made sense. 

ADHD is not something that can be cured. The instructions do not always work out and despite the label and my new understanding, it would quickly become obvious that unlike most barriers to learning, ADHD carries a crippling stigma; that bites. Despite medical evidence, some people still do not believe that it is a real condition and that it is the result of poor discipline, at its very best it is an ‘excuse’ for bad behaviour. The ridicule and comments cut deep. The loneliness and anxiety are very real. This is all because of a lack of education about ADHD and misunderstandings. The very fact that ADHD symptoms appear to “switch on and off to the untrained eye” only feeds the doubters. 

On the rugby pitch, I function on a completely different level. My thoughts are crystal clear, my senses are sharp, I am determined, focussed and feel alive. Similarly, when mountain biking, my attention to detail and confidence allows me to negotiate even the most treacherous of trails. These activities, along with surfing have been and are my lifeline, I can release built up energy and daily exercise is key to mental health. The sensation of the sea and riding waves calm my thought train right down. When I am doing these activities there are no barriers to following instructions and progress. So why can’t I function like this in class? Why can’t I pull myself together? 

ADHD impacts every aspect of my day-to-day life in various ways from basic organisation, and concentration to regretting things I say or do, or worse. Simple things require so much more hard work for those that have ADHD than neurotypical people. School has never been something that came easy to me, keeping up with homework, staying on task, and organising tasks that are set in the classroom. I somehow always find myself catching up and this can put me in a stressful situation. 

ADHD can also have an impact on my relationships with other people. It’s an often occurrence to feel like I’m annoying people with the things that I do, for example tapping my feet or fidgeting with a variety of things. This used to make me feel like I didn’t belong, but now that I’ve got friends that are very similar to me I feel a lot more composed. Surrounding myself with the right type of friends has made my life considerably easier. Lockdown felt like a prison. It put a strain on my academic performance. I ended up failing all of my classes during that year. I am playing catch up like usual, but I’m back in a classroom where I’m surrounded by people learning as well, I’m getting on much better. 

First and foremost, exercise is the best way to help me cope with ADHD, but over the long haul, I have tried various methods from medication to breathwork and meditation. Medication wasn’t my first choice as my first year on medication wasn’t great. I had the side effects of loss of appetite and feeling down, because of this it put me off medication for a year or two. But after trying it again and getting the medication right and managing what I do with my time I am doing a lot better. The most important thing is to keep trying different things and not to give up. 

It’s been a long time since a door has been slammed at my back, and if I could speak to that little boy sinking into the hole outside of his classroom, I would tell him that he will be understood and that things will get better. I would tell him about his strengths in sport, his ability to think outside of the box, and that his hyperfocus and racing thoughts will transform into something significant. Most importantly I would tell him that with perseverance and a willingness to learn and grow, it is possible to live a fulfilling life with ADHD. 

Glimmers⤴

from @ lenabellina

On the days that you don’t feel it…. When everything aches, including your mind and soul…. When the bleak stories seem to crowd in…..When you can’t see the good….. look more intensely…… breathe more deeply….stretch more fully….and find the good. It is always there.

The smell of honeysuckle

Catching you a-chuckle

An open passion flower

A warm refreshing shower

The raindrops on the leaves

The black dog as she breathes

These moments glimmer through

From where the sky is blue.

Moving on.⤴

from @ lenabellina

This week on holiday I have been reading the fabulous book “How To ADHD” by Jessica McCabe.

It is a book that gives us permission. To be who we are. To do what we need. And not to do, with respect but without guilt, what doesn’t serve us.

A poem.

I try so hard

To meet deadlines

Give feedback

Show up.

Maybe because I need

Others

To meet deadlines

Give feedback

Show up.

And when they don’t

I feel

As if I don’t

Exist.

Except that

I do.

So my feedback

To me

Is that

I can

I am

I’ve passed

And

Moved

On.

Change⤴

from @ lenabellina

Today feels like a good day. As a teacher and head teacher, I am aware of the need to offer balanced political views to the children I serve. I am also unable, however, to stay silent in the face of political actions that fail to promote the best interests of the children and other most vulnerable members of society.

The very fact that we now have a UK Prime Minister who was previously a human rights lawyer makes me feel that perhaps, here on our island at the top of the European continent, something exciting is about to happen.

A long term plan. Trust. A proven track record in serving others.

Of course, there is the rhetoric which will need to be backed up with reality. Of course, Sir Keir has a mountain to climb. But I am definitely sensing that there is a rainbow hanging over that mountain and that the downpour is abating.

A poem:

The change begins now

He says, with a vow

To heal things through actions and calm.

For too long our land

Has not had a hand

To guide us and lead us from harm.

But now there’s a chance

That rather than dance

To a tune that’s just discordant noise

We’ll all sing along

To a peaceful new song

Where all of us serve with one voice.