A couple of months ago, I got a diagnosis of adult ADHD. If you don’t know what ADHD is, read more here. But in summary, it is a brain difference which causes issues with attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity and emotional regulation. It’s all about ‘Executive Functions’ which are brain functions essential for successful planning, organisation, memory, etc. It is estimated that 3-4% of the UK adult population has ADHD and that most of them are undiagnosed.
There is a phenomenon in the ADHD world called ‘the tipping point’, where people no longer can continue with their difficulties. Ironically, mine has been self-employment … not so much the bit that is my ‘calling’, but all the important stuff around it, things that don’t come naturally to me, tasks I am not interested in (of which there are a lot – it’s not all prancing around breathing and facilitating orgasms!) That is why I sought a diagnosis and treatment.
People talk a lot, especially these days, of the famous, successful people who have ADHD, and of its associated ‘super-powers’. It’s important to hold the two realities – ADHD causes huge challenges and problems in all areas of life, and often comes in a hand in hand relationship with other problems like eating disorders, anxiety, depression and addiction. And it also comes with great strengths.
So, I was thinking about 10 ways that my ADHD totally works for me in sex coaching, Somatic Sex Ed and Sexological Bodywork… here goes!
1. I may not even be doing this work in the first place without my particular brain.
ADHD appears a lot in the self-employed and entrepreneur population. I would take a guess that a high percentage of us doing edgy, and in various ways, risky work in sexuality have interesting neurology! A recent consultation:
Psychiatrist: I do not see any evidence of clinical or psychiatric illness. I mean, you are an ‘interesting’ person…
Me: (laughing) Interesting?!
Psychiatrist: Yes, rather ‘eccentric’. Wouldn’t you agree?
I wonder if I was still a Social Worker whether he would have said this? The sexual content of my work is certainly something that takes a certain kind of person to launch out into the world and do, taking a risk in publicly working with sex and pleasure in our cultural and social environment.
2. I can hyperfocus on what I am interested in (your sex life!)
The ‘inattentive’ or ‘attention deficit’ past of the disorder’s name is not really very accurate. People with ADHD can focus on things that they are interested in; we have an ‘Interest-based nervous system’. It is more helpful to think of variable attention, and problems being under or over-aroused/stimulated, or that there is a struggle to direct attention where it needs to be.
A neuro-divergent friend described sex as my ‘special interest’. The good news is that yes, I have been interested in sex (and intimacy and relationships) all of my life, and it shows. I have thought, read, enquired and studied sex. I have of course carried out my own ‘field research’ in different sexual practices and kink and in different scenes, including in my Certified Sexological Bodywork training.
If you come and have a conversation with me about sex, I will be focussed, interested, engaged and much rich material will be available. It is this lively interest that motivates me to attend training, read new books that come out about it, and to write blogs like these. If you need to make changes and start to focus on your sex and pleasure, and you choose to work with a professional, you are better off with someone who is super-interested in it, and who has a breadth of knowledge and is a ‘specialist’. It is the hyper-focus that drives me to send you links and helpful commentary after our sessions together. That is what adds up to a ‘calling’, or to ‘making your hobby your job’.
3. I apply the above-mentioned hyperfocus powers hard to the issues of trauma, safety and consent.
People with ADHD can have a whole lot of tendencies and behaviours that are really not helpful to the role of Sex Coach and Sexological Bodyworker. Perhaps, if I am honest, a bit unsettling. Impulsivity, for example, is the last thing you want when you are working with a client and offering intimate touch. The work needs to be slow, careful and with a strong presence of mind from the practitioner. It is vital that any touch is done in the interests of the client and for their benefit, never for the bodyworker, and never mindlessly. Ensuring that this happens takes attention, self-regulation, self-awareness and slowness; all skills that EVERY practitioner (even neurotypical ones) have to develop and practice.
I suspect I have to work harder than some other practitioners at this, but the good news is that I am extremely interested in consent and safety and in my clients’ empowerment and healing. So, I am extremely well focussed and consistent about these matters; it will be a huge priority to me My workshops often elicit comments emphasising how safely the space is held. My one to one clients say how crystal clear I am about ‘who the touch is for’ and how perhaps for the first time they experienced real embodied consent. I did the Betty Martin ‘Like a Pro’ training and my interest in the model and what it can teach us permeates through all my work.
4. Your Sex Coach is familiar with the realities of a neuro-diverse brain, and so can understand yours!
Lots of my clients and potential clients have neurological features and quirks that influence how they learn, what activities will click for them, how they communicate and how their nervous system works in our sessions. In particular, a large number of my queer and trans clients will also be neurodivergent (the cluster of differences such as autism, sensory processing issues, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, etc). A lot of the practices and activities that come under the banner of Somatic Sex Education will be experienced in different ways by people with different brains, and in some cases will be challenging or impossible. I found some aspects of my training very challenging. For example, long, quiet mindfulness practices feel incredibly uncomfortable (almost painful) for people with ADHD and can lead to feeling frustrated, angry and inadequate.
If people feel too much like this, they might ‘spit out the medicine’. So, with these clients, I might suggest moving meditations or mindfulness practices that involve focussing ON something. Or simply, do a little burst of focussing, and then keep it moving, and mostly be curious and non-judgemental about how they experienced it, and being welcoming of everything.
In my workshops, I focus strongly on ‘invitations’ to do things and I offer alternatives. (see LINK to safety in workshops) For example, I am very light on the breathwork I share, being aware of how many people feel anxious and dysregulated by a focus on their breath. My philosophy is that I am here with various tools and techniques but I am not an expert in your body and brain and my role is to help you find what works for you.
5. When I get it together to hold an event or workshop, it’s really f**king good!
People with ADHD have huge strengths in the areas of ideas, innovation and creativity. However, our battles with executive function (planning, prioritising and organising) can sometimes defeat the best and most creative ideas! I have dreamt up way more events, talks and collaborations than I can remember, and only a small percentage survived the hard journey through the perilous forest of procrastination, perfectionism and overwhelm.
However, I am immensely proud of the events I have facilitated and the community spaces and festivals I have held workshops at, as do many of the people who were there. I really appreciate when I run into someone or when they email me telling me how useful they found my workshop and ‘when’s the next one?’ In hindsight, with this new diagnosis, I feel I have more reason to celebrate, because I not only showcased some really good, ground-breaking and important work, in creative and engaging ways, but I did this despite of my ADHD!
But yes, when I do something, it’s fabulous and brings together all the ADHD superpowers I am alluding to here! And ADHD people can be great in a crisis, and their brains function well on adrenalin. Seeing as I am pretty terrified of public speaking, this explains the Zen-like calm and clear, sharp focus which comes over me as an opening circle forms and everyone hushes and turns to me, waiting.
6. I make use of the ‘tools’ of Somatic Sex Education in a living, breathing demonstration, and at other times choose to let ‘me’ hang out!
In workshops, you will see me take audible deep breaths and I will also do this in my one to one sessions (sometimes raising and dropping my arms in sync with my breath). I will encourage us all to take breaks to ‘feel into’ what we need and encourage people to respond to these needs. As a practitioner, I am explicit about the importance of giving my body what it needs as well. This is an equaliser; I model to you how I am dealing with my human challenges and realities. I am using breath, somatic awareness, and deliberate intention all the time to regulate my emotions, modulate my nervous system and direct and focus my attention. These are all skills for life and for sex!
In a workshop or a two-hour session, you will see moments where I use these tools far more; key moments where the stakes are higher and deeper presence is appropriate. At other moments, you will experience a seemingly less regulated and slightly more flamboyant, fizzy side of me, where my natural humour, excited chatter and intense moments of emotion is allowed to show. Do not be fooled though! I am regulating all the time, using that hyperfocus and interest to motivate me to be the best I can be for you and the other participants in the moment.
This is ‘work’, for all of us, regulating ourselves to be able to be something to someone or to fulfil a task how it is expected. When I am at work at a Quintimacy event, the success of the day and me as a facilitator depends on the entire creation and ideology of the thing, and my ability to carefully manage my (ADHD) self through the event, responsive to the unfolding events in the room, and to my own thoughts, distractions and impulses (e.g to lie down in the pile of queers at the end when I am utterly exhausted! My hyperfocus on boundaries, safety and consent kicks in then and I take care of my own inner world for the benefit of the group).
7. I grapple with the management of my brain, so you get the good bits and not the bad (mostly).
Once, a client turned up at my door and I answered in my running gear with bed hair. A quick scrabble for my diary confirmed that yes, our appointment is at 12, not 12.30, and I had lost this bit of information. The client is very understanding, and I try to have compassion for my mistake, but it can feel pretty stressful and not be great for self-esteem. I have strategies in place to prevent this becoming my way of life (cancelling supervision, forgetting to reply to collaborators, or being so overwhelmed with packing that I nearly cancel attending my favourite sexuality festival.)
You won’t hear about how I have to outsource much of my tax return to an accountant so that I can concentrate on you, my client or workshop participants. I will be loyal to my exercise routine because this is proven to help, and will heartily exercise my own mindfulness ‘muscle’ throughout all our interactions. And I will breathe through an impulse to interrupt you because I have just thought of a fantastic Orgasmic Yoga practice that would just be perfect for you!
8. I might pick up on pieces of information that others might not (aka intuition)
The ADHD brain typically has less of a filtering mechanism for information and stimulus in the environment, so we notice a lot of things (unless we are hyper-focusing and then, it has been said, we might not notice the house was burning down until the firefighters came in to rescue us). So, aspects of communication or events that other people miss that an ADHD person might notice, or get a sense of. This is the basis for some claims that ADHD people are more intuitive and sensitive to subtle bits of data and signs. Whilst offering touch and bodywork, I might say ‘I wonder if you would like this…’ or ‘something told me you had enough of that, am I right?’ I use explicit verbal communication to check out these ‘intuitions’, not relying on them alone for touch, but I am not sure what I would do without them, along with ‘gut feeling’!
Busy ADHD minds often make quick connections between concepts and ideas which can yield important therapeutic information or lines of enquiry. Perhaps we are at times perceiving a more whole, holistic and connected picture of a situation.
I offer my services to ‘Anybody with a Body’ and any kind of Brain.
This blog represents a few hours of yes, hyperfocus on ADHD and managing, treating (with Nootropics supplements, not pharmaceuticals for now) and getting some specialist ADHD coaching. So that I can be the best version of myself and that my super-power strengths can shine, and my clients can get the best possible experience.
I would love to hear from you if you relate and if you would to explore the services I offer to support people with embodiment, becoming more somatically aware and the areas of sex, sexuality and pleasure, you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org.