A few years ago I had one of those: ‘My God, what have I done?’ moments. My husband, Dr. Michael Mosley, and I were staying at friends’ houses and I volunteered to prepare a chicken tagine dinner as a thank you for their hospitality.
It was a beautiful summer day, so we decided to go for a drink before dinner. In an attempt to get organized, I took over their new open kitchen, made the preparations and set out the rice beforehand.
We were only gone for about an hour, but upon our return I felt a wave of absolute panic. Menacing clouds of white smoke rose from the ground floor windows. The rice casserole! He had not put out the gas fire.
We ran inside, the smell of burning hitting our nostrils. The blackened frying pan was quietly carried out to the back garden while we opened all the windows and doors we could. Then we started throwing towels in all directions to chase away the smoke.
Afterwards we sat in the garden, had another drink and they never mentioned it again. But I was mortified and the next day I filled the place with diffusers to try to mask the horrible smell. I shudder to think what might have happened if we had stayed away longer.
There are approximately 2.6 million people in the UK diagnosed with ADHD, of which 700,000 are children and 1.9 million are adults.
Dr. Clare Bailey has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which means she is more easily distracted.
Sheridan Smith, 42, says her ADHD diagnosis “has helped her understand a lot of things”
Given my career as a GP, you may be surprised by my apparent oversight. Especially when cooking at someone else’s house.
But is there an underlying reason for this accident? I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which means I get distracted more easily. Like actress Sheridan Smith, who revealed this week that she too has ADHD, I didn’t realize she had it until I hit middle age.
Smith, 42, made her ADHD revelation during an interview with Vogue, saying it had “helped her make sense of a lot of things.” Comedian Johnny Vegas said something similar last year about his diagnosis at age 52. Others who have joined the dots in adulthood include Sue Perkins, Rory Bremner, Ant McPartlin and model Erin O’Connor.
One of the signs of ADHD is that attention is easily diverted elsewhere; That’s why, on more than one occasion, I left the kitchen, immersed myself in something, and completely forgot about the casserole in the oven.
Another is that one tends to quickly look at something and gather most of the evidence, but not necessarily all of it. So, at our friends house, I just took a quick look at the stove before leaving, not realizing the flame was still on.
Many cases of ADHD are diagnosed in children between three and seven years old, but late diagnoses are becoming more common.
There are approximately 2.6 million people in the UK diagnosed with ADHD, of which 700,000 are children and 1.9 million are adults. Since 2020, there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of adults contacting the ADHD Foundation to arrange an evaluation.
People with this condition often feel restless, may have trouble concentrating, and may act impulsively. The exact cause is unknown, but it has been shown to be hereditary.
Research also suggests that there are differences in the brains of people with ADHD compared to those without. Interestingly, these brain abnormalities have been found to return to normal with medication.
The first time I realized I had some symptoms of ADHD was about ten years ago. While, as Sheridan Smith suggests, there is relief when everything falls into place (oh, that’s why at school I was always punished for being late and had to re-sit my A-levels), for many people with ADHD , the emotional problem The consequences of a largely misunderstood childhood can extend into adulthood.
The teachers always wrote in my reports: “Clare could do better if she would just stick her finger out.” If only she were that easy! Another comment was that she should “keep my high partisan spirit out of the classroom.” But no one ever connected the dots.
I was always the last one to get my pencils out and rarely listened to instructions. If a topic interested me, I could demonstrate laser-like focus, but then I would be too busy to listen to the homework instructions at the end of the lesson.
According to experts, ADHD is greatly underdiagnosed in girls. The stereotypical image of ADHD is a child jumping around a classroom, but that’s not the whole picture. Girls do not tend to be as hyperactive as boys and suffer largely in silence. Without a diagnosis, they are left without the understanding and treatment that could change their lives.
When I was a child, teachers did not understand this disorder. Looking back, my mother, herself a child psychiatrist, probably suffered from it too. Not that we’ve discussed this in her lifetime. She was either very active or very relaxed and she had a reputation for being late. To the point that her friends would invite her an hour ahead of schedule and my father, also a doctor, was always sitting waiting, tapping his foot.
So-called “time blindness” is common in ADHD. It’s not that he didn’t mind keeping people waiting, but he was trying to accomplish other tasks along the way, not seeming to realize that this would make us late.
It was my high school year when my undiagnosed ADHD threatened to derail me. Having difficulty concentrating academically, my attention turned to my social life. I ended up with mediocre science A levels, including a couple of Ds.
Unsurprisingly, I had to retake my A levels to get into medical school. At that time, one of my professors suggested that instead of repeatedly reading textbooks, which failed to interest me, I should answer questions against the clock. This transition from passive learning to more active learning sparked my concentration in a new way.
What is often misunderstood is that a brain with ADHD is understimulated rather than overstimulated. You enter the zone only when you confront it. That’s why people like me are drawn to careers like medicine, law, and journalism: looming deadlines force us to step up. Without the stimulus of being under pressure, you are prone to procrastinate.
It was at the Royal Free Hospital in London that I met Michael, where we were both studying medicine. Looking back, my ADHD didn’t exactly help the course of true love. At first, my tardiness was not well received. For one of our first dates, I arrived an hour and a half late and discovered he was long gone. I wasn’t exactly mad, but I took note!
From then on, Michael would simply get up and leave after waiting what he considered an adequate amount of time, prompting me to do everything I could to be at least almost on time.
Fortunately, Michael is good-natured.
Aside from burnt dinners and tardiness, she has endured many late cups of tea and the fact that I always lose my bag or keys at home.
I also had a David Cameron moment when I left our youngest son, then just a few months old, on the sidewalk outside our house in a car seat (easy to do with four kids). Only when I sat down did I realize that he had forgotten something.
On the other hand, however, ADHD meant I could empathize with a child’s fascination with small, everyday things. Novelty attracts the ADHD brain. When something piques our interest, we dive in. On one occasion, the children and I were so enthralled with some newly emerged butterflies that we were 20 minutes late for school.
Now that I’m 62, I’ve learned to notice when my impulsivity threatens to take over, but I can still behave eccentrically.
I once saw a colorful chair in a store window, hit the brakes and hurriedly parked so I could go take a look. It was only when I was crossing the street that I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ I walked back to the car, feeling kind of stupid.
When I announced that I had ADHD, none of my friends or family were surprised. At that time, the disorder was much better known and I think everyone had suspected it.
Although adults may be prescribed stimulant medications, I have not felt the need to take anything. I’ve found it easier to handle as I’ve gotten older. And to be honest, I appreciate the creativity, fun, and curiosity that comes with ADHD. Let’s just say there’s never a dull moment.
If you would like to find out more about ADHD, and in particular if you have a child who might have it or who has difficulty adjusting and concentrating, visit parentingmatters.co.uk/blogs/dpp-page.