I needed a firm, medical diagnosis if I was going to feel comfortable with my new ADD identity. I wasn’t going to get it, but I could search out corroborating evidence for myself:
- I can’t concentrate on tasks for more than about 10 minutes. Then I have to do a burst of something different. This has been exaggerated by anorexia, because I can’t simply change activity, I need to leap up and burn off calories.
- When I am at my computer, I’ll have 3 separate documents open and will flick between them, often mid-sentence, often to add a single phrase that’s occurred to me while doing something completely different. I do this both at work and when writing at home, on this blog, for example.
- Half way through any book, no matter how light and enjoyable, I start thinking, “Oh god! Please can it end, now!” It’s not because it’s boring, but some force pushes me away. I crave a neat conclusion, a goal achieved, which is why I don’t like books that just entertain. They’ve got to be illuminating, instructive, profound.
- This isn’t helped by my inability to concentrate. Any distraction at all is instantly taken up as the main topic for thought, lightly dusted by the book’s words. I read and read and read the same words over and over again, until they are nothing but gibbering sounds.
- When I am particularly relishing an author’s writing, I have to break off, before I get bored, before that whole sustaining illusion of edifying meaning is punctured and deflates into pointlessness. Then I can savour it, enjoy its after-glow, for a while.
- I’m always reading 3 or 4 books at the same time, usually a novel, a non-fiction book, a history book, a literary theory/ analysis book, a poetry book. I’ll read a couple of pages or a couple of paragraphs and then switch to another.
- I can’t watch a whole film in one go, either, even if it’s brilliant and illuminating. I’m driven away from it after about 20 minutes by the urge to “Do something useful” Going to the cinema is purgatory: manacled to my seat I moan and mumble to myself like some wasted old man in rags, with a beard to his feet, who’s been locked in a dungeon for 40 years.
- As with books, I always have at least 6 Netflix or BBC documentaries on the go simultaneously. I flick between them every twenty minutes or so, which means I have to watch them on my own.
- I’ve seen great plays and thrilled at their immediacy and inventiveness, while simultaneously just wishing they were over. If Jo pins me down for a twenty minute “Family time” episode of Derry Girls or Father Ted, a game of cards, a family film, I squirm with the need to escape.
- I hate box sets and series where the story goes on and on and on without ever reaching the promised resolution, the comfort of a narrative structure. It feels like waiting for a bus that never comes, my idea of Hell – I think I might eat myself with the screaming, suffocating frustration of it.
- I can no longer watch Dr Who or the new Star Wars movies, both of which I used to love, because there is now too much material to get my head around. It’s formless.
- I loathe soap operas for the same reason, but also because they commit such violence on character. They’re always turning mild, henpecked husbands into monstrous crack-addicts, just to serve their clumsy attempts at melodrama. I find that existentially threatening. It gives them the quality of nightmares, where things can morph horrifyingly into other things.
Is this desire for structure, control and order a response to anxiety? Is it normal behaviour? I know all such conditions exist on the ends of spectrums (spectra?), but am I pathologising something completely ordinary to excuse my pathetic self-pitying fuckwittery?
 No doubt, if you challenged the script team, they’d tell you, wisely, that humans are inconsistent, to which you could reply, “Yes, but fiction is supposed to rescue us from that, you bastards! Fiction gives reassuring meaning and structure to the world!”