Hello and welcome to what was Runaway Brain, now ADHD Lighthouse
Let me explain why, and what will be changing. It is the same, but different.
Hello from ADHD Lighthouse and welcome back to Runaway Brain subscribers!
It’s Niamh here, from what was the ADHD newsletter Runaway Brain. It is still an ADHD newsletter, it’s just now it is called ADHD Lighthouse, and I will explain why.
As a means of reintroducing myself, I am a writer and I have ADHD. I was diagnosed in my 40s after a lifetime of struggle, and as I have learned to understand the full gamut of what that means for me, I have been sharing that with you.
The archive of the Runaway Brain newsletter is still available online with ADHD Lighthouse posts if you want to explore those and read about my diagnosis story and get a good overview on what exactly ADHD is beyond the misinformation and the stigma (I have included some links at the end of the newsletter).
You can listen to ADHD Lighthouse if you prefer audio
I am delighted to let you know that you can choose to listen to ADHD Lighthouse if you prefer it to reading, as many of us do. Neurodiverse brains have different strengths, and on different days for me. Some days reading is good, but more often than not, especially in the last few years I have chosen audio. Which was very conflicting for a writer at first. Then I realised that the audio adds another layer and is quite intimate in a way. I really enjoy it and I hope you do too.
I am recording it myself at home in London so please bear with me if there is background noise. I used to have a food podcast so I have a good microphone, but as an impatient ADHDer with dyspraxia in the mix, I broke the microphone stand. I will replace it and things will improve as I do more of these.
You can listen here. Audio versions of the newsletters will be posted as a podcast here on Substack.
Where have I been?
It has been a while, I know. I took a break to figure out exactly what I wanted to do here, instead of just rambling about whatever came into my mind. As much as I and my ADHD brain love doing that, I wanted this newsletter to be useful, intentional and directional.
I want what is now ADHD Lighthouse (and I will explain the change in a bit) to serve a need that I could see and feel. I want it to flow through relevant topics and to cover as much as I can.
I wanted it to be relevant, engaging and to occupy a gap where I am comfortable. A space somewhere between the joy and pleasure of storytelling and the practicality of science. A place rich with humanity, as we are. This is not an unusual space to occupy for an Irish person with a background in science. I want to embrace it fully.
Why the change from Runaway Brain?
Runaway Brain was a great term for where I was. I still love it in many ways. It perfectly describes the at times feverishly busy (and sometimes very tired and burned out) lump of flesh that rests behind my eyes and between my ears. It’s an important lump of flesh, and here I am being reductive again (brain: I LOVE YOU!). But, I started to ask myself if Runaway Brain was a good term for here?
It really started to bother me and so I paid attention to that.
I started Runaway Brain in the first year of my diagnosis. I was still deep in self-deprecating appreciation of who I now know myself officially to be. I thought I was comfortable with all of it, even delighted to know that what I always thought were character flaws were simply my ADHD deficit. (Simply! I know now there is no simply about it).
A little about the deficit, as I realise it might be jargon for some new to the ADHD space. The deficit is the dark side of having ADHD, which is a direct result of our particular and unique ADHD traits. There are many. For me: time blindness, domestic chaos at home, disorganisation, difficulty with prioritisation and constant distraction. Just off the top of my head!
I started to realise that I, and therefore we, don’t need to find our way alone, that we are community
Other ADHDers that I met once I was diagnosed were instrumental in me getting to grips with understanding who I was and helping me work through it in the first crucial year. (You know who you are, and thank you).
I realised that what I wanted to create was not just a newsletter from me to you. Yes, it is still that, but I could see that it could be so much richer. I want this space to be vibrant, and so I would like to encourage you to comment, and engage as many of you have already.
As the comments and the emails started to arrive, and the myriad social media connections, I also realised that I did not want this to be a space where I was shouting from a pulpit, delivering my missives. The world has enough of that, and it is destroying us. I want this space, right here where you and I are now, to be about community and shared experience.
I want us all to chat to each other, to never be afraid to ask any question, to embrace the full breadth of what it means to have ADHD in this sometimes inhospitable world.
ADHD Lighthouse is a virtual home for you and me
This newsletter will be inclusive as with everything that I do, and packed with accessible information about who we are. A place to reassure and encourage self-acceptance through self-knowledge.
A place where you can feel at home, express yourself freely and where you could be very happy, even delighted, to be you.
A place where I am free to be fully me. Which not every place is for us, right? Sometime we have to don the mask. I hope to reach a point where I never have to and I want that for you too.
ADHD is many things, and it needs to be taken seriously
I started to worry that I was making me, and by extension us, the butt of yet another joke. A joke about the core of who we are.
ADHD is something to be curious about, and to learn about, sure. It is absolutely something to embrace, and not enough of us do that. But, ADHD is not anything to be made a joke of (even if ADHD people are the funniest people I know, never failing to make me laugh).
Far too many of us use(d) humour to survive in a way that hasn’t always helped us - and my sense of humour and my wit are two of my most prized possessions - however, here, we will not be the butt of the joke.
We can tell as many jokes as we like though. Humour is always welcome and we can of course laugh at ourselves and the scrapes we get ourselves into. Speaking of which, don’t miss the new section at the end of the newsletter, ADHD Meme of the week.
So, Runaway Brain, a name that I started to worry was somehow derogatory even if completely true, was no longer a fit for here. I will still use it elsewhere, just not in a defining way for this newsletter.
Why the name ADHD Lighthouse?
The more I read about ADHD, and the more that I understood myself through a more accurate lens, the more I realised that while the ADHD deficit is undeniably difficult in a world that not only can’t bear it, but judges us harshly for it, all of my best qualities are linked to my ADHD also.
I realised quickly that many of us have a very negative view of ourselves because we absorb an external story of who we are, which is often based in stigma and misinformation. As I started to notice that I was describing myself primarily by my deficit, where my friends would describe me by my ADHD strengths, I realised I had gotten something really wrong.
As I understood how I worked better, and how I could start dismantling my harshest critic (myself!), life started to open up in a way that I couldn’t even imagine in the rough years leading up to my diagnosis.
I hadn’t lost hope, but I was very close to it.
I see ADHD people
I started to notice - it was fairly impossible not to - that every time I was out I met at least one person who was in the process of realising that they had ADHD / were on a waiting list for diagnosis / had just been diagnosed / had a child that had just been diagnosed. We would spend hours chatting about it.
Now, this could be just me, as I seem to have a special talent for bumping into people no matter where I am. But I do see ADHD people! I started to joke to friends that I was an ADHD lighthouse. Then I started to realise that this is a great thing to be, and that I wanted to embrace it.
I mainly meet people at that early disjointed phase of realisation where you are starting to accept that you have ADHD. Yet because of stigma you feel broken, and you often feel ashamed.
At least to begin with. I’ve been there.
I occasionally catch myself still very much in that space, even now. It’s a lot to dismantle the wiring from a life full of shame and negative messaging. It doesn’t happen overnight and we shouldn’t expect it to.
ADHD Lighthouse is a safe space that shines a light on us, and the truth of who we are
Here, ADHD lighthouse, is a safe space to be all that you are, and for me to be all that I am. I am not going to tell you how you can adapt to fit into a neurotypical society. That might surprise you. Maybe it is what you were expecting? We need to see that we have always been doing that. It’s called masking, and it harms us.
We need to work towards being fully and unapologetically who we are, and using the energy that we currently use to mask for much better things. When we are masking regularly we put ourselves on the fast track to burnout, depression, anxiety and despair. We lose sight of who we are. We fracture ourselves internally.
I know because I have done exactly this. I know we can find our feet again and recover who we are.
We are happier when we lean into our strengths
This also helps us enormously with managing the deficit. Once I realised that the deficit is a part of who I am and that that will never change. That I needed to accept it, and learn to work with it. That I needed to abandon perfectionism and accept that I, like every other human being, am flawed, the release was extraordinary.
Expect yourself to make mistakes, allow them, apologise sincerely where necessary and learn from it. We must be kinder to ourselves and accept that this is all part of who we are. When you can accept and forgive yourself, it is much easier to accept and enjoy everyone else also. Otherwise we run the risk of holding people to impossible standards which is a burden to ourselves and the people in our lives. That is harmful.
So I am going to work on helping all of us to lean hard into our ADHD smarts, to not be afraid to stand apart and be who we are, and to teach all of us, including me, how best to manage the deficit in a way that makes sense for us. That will help us to thrive, and not just survive. It is time to thrive for all of us.
It is time for us to shine, and to light our path
I am here to tell you that you are absolutely not broken, that you are just different, in a way that is so full of joy if you could only see it. I want to help you to see yourself for who you truly are, and I want to encourage you to embrace all of it.
We are the centre here, in the way that we have always been the misunderstood fringe everywhere else. The nucleus, not the electrons; the sun, not the planets. Here, we shine, as we should, and as we will continue to, reinforced by knowledge, self-acceptance and community.
You can now support my work here with a paid subscription
ADHD Lighthouse will always have a free component and there is now paid content also. Essentially the free component is what I was doing before, and will be weekly. The paid content is new content, that I am adding, and will be weekly also. Paid subscribers will get access to everything and the full archive.
There are two subscription options: you can be a Paid Subscriber or a Founding Member. As I am based in the UK these are in pounds, but will be converted to your local currency wherever you are. I have kept the cost low. Not much more than the price of a takeaway coffee for a months worth of content. You can subscribe from anywhere in the world, and I hope that you do!
Why introduce paid subscriptions?
I want to be able to commit a lot of time to this. To the writing, to the editing, to the audio, but also to the research that it will involve, and the time that it will take to develop tools and worksheets etc. I want it to grow and I want to be able to expand it. I want this to be a really useful space. Each newsletter takes a long time, to write and to edit, as does recording and editing the audio. I want to be able to devote lots of time to chat to you too.
As you know, time is not unlimited. To do this, I need to take time from what is my regular paid writing (and other) work, or else this just isn’t sustainable. Paid subscriptions allow me to free up time. It’s simple. So I am asking that those of you that can afford to subscribe and support my work here do so, so that we can grow ADHD Lighthouse together, and learn and grow as we do.
Writing about ADHD is very meaningful and important to me
I am going to do my very best to make this a bright and lively space full of hope and joy and optimism. And yes, it is ok to share pain, I am not looking to silence any part of the ADHD experience. I will, and you are absolutely welcome to too.
This is a place to be a whole round ADHD or ADHD curious human with everything that brings. Because, it is not just important that ADHDers understand who we are, we need the wider society to also. Everyone is welcome here.
Here is how ADHD Lighthouse will work
There will be a free newsletter every week (don’t forget to subscribe if you have yet to!). You can get a 7 day free subscription to see if you would like to subscribe also.
A paid subscription is £3.50 a month, or £35 a year. There will be a paid newsletter every week, which will evolve as this whole space will, and should. It will start as a deeper dive into the free content, with tools that I have been developing to help us ride this ADHD wave of ours. This kind of thing I love doing, and I think it will be really empowering for all of us. I am excited to share it.
A founding membership is £110 a year. Founding Members will get all of the perks that paid subscribers get, along with donating 2 annual memberships for those that otherwise cannot afford it. As we all know, finances can be very tricky for ADHDers. Many of us have lost jobs as a direct result of our ADHD, are faced with constant fines and late payment fees (the infamous ADHD tax), or have been unable to work because of burnout and mental health struggles. You will help me to support them, and I will also be offering a number of free memberships to people who are struggling myself. Please email me if you are unemployed or on a low income to arrange this. Please, do not feel any shame. I have been there, and while you are there now, you won’t always be.
I will also be adding other Founding Member benefits, as I think of them and they come up (it’s an ADHD newsletter after all!).
Finally: ADHD is a Gift vs ADHD Lighthouse
Perhaps controversially, I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that ADHD is a gift in this society. Yes, my favourite bits about me are all part of my ADHD, but so are the things that make my life painful and difficult, and at times hard to bear.
Life is intersectional, and where we sit in society affects how we experience having ADHD. There are so many ways that our society actively makes our lives harder. Your comorbids (like autism, dyslexia, OCD etc.), skin colour, gender, sexuality, gender identity, your social class and socioeconomic status and any disability will affect how hard it is for you to live in this society with your ADHD.
This needs to be acknowledged, and those of us with privilege, whatever that is, need to do what we can to make the path easier for those without. It isn’t helpful that people with a lot of support and privilege don’t acknowledge it and declare their ADHD a gift and a bounty. People listen to this, and judge the rest of us by it. We listen to it, and think we must be doing something very wrong.
Memes of the Week
There is a lot of brilliant and fun ADHD content on the internet that makes me howl with laughter. So, every week I will share at least one meme of the week with you. I am going to start with THREE!
Follow me on Social Media
I also tweet about ADHD a lot on my regular account where I am more present: follow me on twitter @eatlikeagirl
Thank you and please help me spread the word
Thanks so much for joining me! I really appreciate it and I would be so grateful if you could help me by sharing ADHD Lighthouse on your socials, and by forwarding it to people who you think would be interested in it.
See you very soon, but not too often! Every newsletter will have a point and be worth it. There will be no spam here.