MY SH!T CV
CREATING ADHD AWARENESS CREATIVELY
By the end of October, 2018 I very much hope to have curated an Art exhibition to help raise ADHD awareness (from a female perspective) and trample all over existing myths and stereotypes which help to fuel the alarming amount of discrimination the ADHD community has to face. If the initial exhibition is successful, I would hope for it to be toured nationally, even internationally, who knows.
Following the success of my exhibition last year at the Institute of Psychology, Kings College London, the very reputable, Mernier Gallery, in London, have provisionally booked my proposed exhibition for two weeks. Naturally, this is all subject to Arts Council funding.
I am confident this exhibition will take place as my idea is current, original and most importantly, necessary to raise awareness for a very much ignored sector of the population. In the main, girls with ADHD present their 'symptoms' very differently to boys and as a result often are left undiagnosed. The impact of having untreated ADHD can be disastrous. Worst case scenarios include drug and/or alcohol addiction, imprisonment, prostitution, unwanted pregnancies, comorbid mental and physical health conditions, etc., etc.
Why ‘My Sh!T C.V’?
It wasn't until I was 42 years old, that I was finally diagnosed with ADHD and that helped to explain my rather arduously complicated C.V. ‘My Sh!t C.V’ is probably the reason I am now self employed. I can’t bare the thought of completing an application form and having to explain the odd juxtaposition of bad qualifications with a first class honours degree in Fine Art. My career jumps can only be explained by a chronic fear of boredom which no employer really wants to hear about. I have had so many jobs I have lost count, although I will endeavour to retrace my steps to help viewers get a taste of the chaotic journey I have taken thus far. Sadly, through the wonder of social networking support networks, I have come to realise my complicated C.V isn’t at all unusual within the ADHD community.
My story isn’t unique, just an exemplary example of what can happen when a girl slips through the net. I was lucky, my life has been chaotic in no uncertain terms but it could have been much worse. I have a supportive family who have somehow managed to support me through my ill informed poor decisions, many ADHDers do not have this safety net to fall back on.
The biggest misconception I wish to grapple with is that we were not all disruptive at school. I, on the contrary, was extremely quiet. I tried to be invisible so no one would find out that all I was hearing was ‘blah, blah, blah’ most of the time. My high IQ confused the situation and myself even further. If only my story was an isolated one, maybe then I could sit back and paint landscapes for a living.
It is only now, 8 years after diagnosis, that I am finally beginning to find my feet and feeling grounded for the first time...EVER. I still fight my ADHD on a daily basis using a combination of exercise, a protein rich diet, hypnosis and medication to keep the 'symptoms' at bay. I am also under no illusion that my creativity is my saving grace and a valued therapeutic tool. It wasn't until I was 25 I began to study Art and my C.V took another turn, for a change, in the right direction. It only takes one packet of sweets, or a large glass of wine to knock my mental health out kilter and return to my old friend, 'chaos'. Everyone can relate to this notion of finding balance, but for ADHDers the balance is far more difficult to achieve and maintain.
I have already secured a £1000 donation from the national charity, ADHD Foundation. The Mernier Gallery have kindly offered a charity discount for renting the premises for the duration of the exhibition. All this will help to secure the grant needed to make the exhibition a viable option.
I will be asking the ADHD community to help publicise this exhibition via social networks and get our campaign out there. I have already selected a group of volunteers (all women diagnosed with ADHD) to help me brainstorm the best way forward to express our concerns and explain how we feel in a creative way.
It is my vision that the exhibition will include not just my efforts, but also work by others who will transcend our ideas into a multitude of media (installation/ 3d/ technology/ sound, etc.), in keeping with the concept of neurodiversity and how we all receive information differently. Meanwhile, I will be concentrating on my part of the exhibition which I see as the main thread which will weave through all the other exhibits: Entitled ‘My Sh!t C.V’, I wish to revisit everywhere I have studied and worked since I was a child to present day. I daren’t type it out as it would be too painful, but somehow photographing and illustrating my journey visually seems plausible, oddly.
I will be asking women and girls diagnosed with ADHD to get creative too. Part of the exhibition will be devoted to the most successful creative submissions in response to a a variety of ADHD related themes. These themes should be announced around November if all goes to plan.*
In its infancy, its very difficult to visualise the final exhibition. The best description I can give at this juncture, is of a vastly expansive mixed media spider diagram. This will set out to explore what it feels like to have ADHD as a woman in today’s society. By calling it ‘My Sh!T C.V’ we are appealling to a sector of the population who wouldn’t necessarily come to see an exhibition. I want all attendees to leave the exhibition feeling like they have had a taste of ADHD and have experienced it rather than had information thrown at them. If they leave saying ‘That’s not art’ …that’s fine as long as they have a better understanding of ADHD and are starting the recognise the plight of the undiagnosed 'dolly daydreamer' in the classroom.
*Please follow my 'Heartwork' Facebook page and I will try and keep you updated whenever I come up for air. If you have trouble finding it, please use www.facebook.com/heartworkADHD/. I would urge you to actively share my posts to get the information out there. Your support is as important as the artwork. Thank you.
The more people that understand ADHD, the less stigma and misconceptions, culminating in less ADHD discrimination.
Year 9s doin’ time
by Jacki Cairns (on her soapbox)
My latest art project entitled 'Year 9s doin' time' is currently gracing the shop window of Art in the Heart, Bridge St., Peterborough. A little independent Art Gallery/Gift shop which is providing one of the few local platforms for contemporary artists like myself trying to do something slightly off the wall and less run of the mill.
It is already attracting lots of attention, and although maybe some people will not relate to it, I imagine the vast majority will. Even if it was decades ago, it’s hard to forget the agonizing torture of sitting in classrooms day after day bored out of your skull, counting the days, months and years until its over. To all the kids going through it now, I apologise on the government’s behalf (as they won’t) for the lack of improvement in the situation. Even now, in 2016, with technology and increased awareness of neurodiversity the education system, frankly, still stinks.
I am not here to bash teachers, for I was one myself. I have stood on both sides of the fence, and have found both excruciatingly painful for different reasons. Granted, there are some excellent teachers out there working under the most horrendous conditions. The problem is the system appears to be moving back towards traditional teaching methods that clearly did not work, because if they did, why did they decide to change them in the first place?
Anyway, my point is (actually I have several), the education system’s reluctance to encourage creativity and imagination in the Arts is because people with little imagination design the system themselves…. These are the box ticking Academics who got 12 straight ‘A’s and skipped off the Oxbridge. Why else would the education system be moving backwards?. This surely then capitlises on how important creativity and out of the box thinking is…Instead, the government is trying to squeeze Art out of the curriculum, maybe because they can’t handle it’s lack of rigidity. Art will always be a tricky subject for academics as it challenges logic in a way no other subject can.
I entered teaching to try and inspire creativity, as I believe it is as essential to our health and wellbeing as exercise and diet. Unfortunately, after 10 years I threw the towel in totally disgusted with how the subject is being taught. The emphasis on technical drawing skills is the reason so many people are turned off the subject in the first place. Art isn’t just about drawing and painting, but thanks to the ‘system’ this is how it is perceived. Art should be all encompassing, allowing the individual the space to be themselves and the freedom to ignore those boxes for a change. I often had to ‘fail’ wildly creative students for not following the art curriculum in robotic fashion and this for me was heartbreaking. Some of the best fledging artists I encountered left with a failed GCSE in Art because they had already become totally demoralized by the system. They left school thinking they were rubbish in a subject which was actually their calling. Instead the ‘A*’s often went to academic pupils with little imagination but great technical skill. I guess a lot of those children became doctors and can draw a great cardiovascular system. I am not bashing academics here either, there is a place for everyone. Of course we need doctors, solicitors, accountants and the like. These people are lucky, they are successful because they fit the mould. I dream of the day when the mould is less fixed and there is room for all of us.
To all those bored kids, stressed out teachers, the outsiders, the free spirits and those of us who are brave enough to be outspoken and stick their necks out; I salute you. Last but by no means least, to all those pupils I gave detentions to, I am truly sorry….I was forced to do it, by the ‘system’.
(The exhibition that coincided with this blog occurred in January 2016, at Art in the Heart, Peterborough. This show inspired my latest venture 'My Sh!T CV' which is my biggest and most ambitious project to date. I am ever grateful to Dawn Birch-James for giving me the platform to showcase my ideas when commerciality is not, and never has been, my forte.)
The best thing about having ADD (the inattentive unhyperactive variant of ADHD) is that I never suffer from creative block and I am extremely resilient..... The largest negative is that I can't accept that some of my ideas (creative and otherwise) will never reach fruition as there simply isn't enough time, this feeling alone causes so much 'overwhelm' it is akin to being paralysed. This part of ADD is the part no one sees, accept those closest to me. Unfortunately, I find way too much of my time is spent in this state of paralysis. It is a constant battle to keep the symptoms of 'overwhelm' at bay.
The most annoying thing someone can say to me about having ADHD, is "We all get like that!" This is said to me about twice a week, which adds to the annoyance. When it is the same person repeating the same statement it becomes so annoying that it becomes difficult to remain polite. (Those of you with ADHD will no doubt feel my pain in this respect).
It has taken years to come up with a line which gets the point across succinctly...."What ADHD sufferers have is chronic, our lives are chaotic not out of choice." The best comparison I can come up with is, imagine having mild alzheimers but with times of total clarity which adds to the confusion and the lack of understanding from NTs (neuro typicals/normal people).
If I eat very very healthily, get the right amount of sleep (trying to work this out is interesting task in itself), exercise loads, plan ahead, take medication, etc., I can reduce the 'ADD symptoms' and think more clearly. This is achieved briefly every now and again until the ADD mind gets restless and impulsiveness gets the better of me. This is when I will eat rubbish/not excercise/drink wine etc....I know someone reading this is saying to themselves..."Well yeah, I'm like that."...That means you are either having a bad day or you do indeed have ADHD as well. Just because you're not diagnosed doesn't mean you haven't got it. Chances are you're just having a bad day, but those of us who know how disabling this condition can actually be, need to get our stories out there to raise awareness and stop the "We're all like that" brigade in their tracks.
Some people with ADHD have a life style to suit their condition. For example, Justin Timberlake....He has a career he loves (very important if you have ADHD), he has loads of money (can afford to pay people to do the stuff for him that he finds boring)....Unfortunately, we can't all be A list celebrities and we try to muddle on regardless.
My artwork is a reminder that those of us with ADHD have strengths and we need to discover those and use them to make our lives that bit easier. Those with ADHD who are not lucky enough to find where their talents/interests lie will be those who end up on the streets/drugs/in prison.....Having ADHD can be a living hell. Anyone reading this who has been guilty of saying 'We're all like that."...Please take heed and bite your tongue next time. Don't judge, try to understand and then educate. The myths and stereotypes that surround ADHD are still rife, get talking and get the FACTS out there.
If you are an adult living in the Peterborough area with ADHD (diagnosed or not), please join the Peterborough ADHD Adult Group on Facebook. Its a new group and we will be meeting regularly from April 2015.
Rant over. I wonder if anyone will read this....
If you liked this blog please 'like' it, share it, tweet it, pin it, etc to raise ADHD awareness ...you will need to click the 'Pros and Cons...' title to do this. Thank you