Recently, I watched Robbie William's Netflix Documentary and I won't shut up about it. Not only is it vitally important to demonstrate that Mental Health does not discriminate, but it was also important to get to know the human being behind that entertainer. I have come to admire and understand Robbie as much more than a talented Writer, Creator and Entertainer. He is a beautifully authentic human-being and a valuable Advocate for Mental Health and Neurodiversity. He managed to tell a story in this documentary that other celebrities have died, never being able to. Celebrities such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis and Prince... they all carry this genius energy with opposing forces at war behind the scenes.
The tiger on his back in this documentary was symbolic and weirdly relevant to me at the time, as I recently lost my brother (a massive Robbie Williams fan) to cancer who gave me a jacket with a tiger on... despite this, before this documentary, I was not a big fan. Neither was I a hater. But upon watching, I realised I had some deeply embedded biases about Mr Williams that were not my own beliefs, but ones that had been coded into me by society and the media. All I can say on this, is fuck what you've ever been told to think by the press, that tiger on his back, this is what Robbie's character is all about: tenacity, grit and survival, against all odds. He is a true survivor in every sense of the word.
Robbie has survived the unsurvivable and I applaud him eternally for pulling behind the curtain to share that story, because it is wrought with pain, vulnerability, hardship and some very human mistakes. But what I love most about that, is it will challenge anybody who has preconceptions of him before watching it... you can't put Robbie in a box. He is a layered, beautifully complex and deserved of love, compassion and grace from us all.
I was expecting a few twists and turns throughout this documentary, but I was not expecting to find Robbie's experience so relatable to my own. Sure, I haven't had the same lifestyle as him at all, but I do share an almost identical Mental Health profile, two things that massively impact me are having Adhd and also being a Highly Sensitive Person. The latter is still something that is that not commonly understood or recognised in our society, but it is something that is very real and can present a few extra challenges if it comes along with Adhd. I always described my teen years as "feeling like I had two opposing forces in me at war" and that challenge, sometimes feeling like I'm riding a wild horse can still be very real because I have both these conditions for life and they are two oppposite energies. I discovered my High Sensitivity in my early 20's and it was a pivotal moment in being able to take care of my highly sensitive nervous system... something that Adhders all have, but if you are HSP then that sensitivity is amplified. I meet some Hsp's in my work and none of them so far have been aware they have it. Yet, knowing this information can dramaticaly improve ones life and wellbeing.
So, what is a HSP? Am I a HSP? Can you be both HSP and have Adhd? The former are questions I would come to ask myself as a late diagnosed Adhder.
I discovered my Adhd at 37, at work, while Coaching clients that had it. I realised, I was really good at helping women with Adhd, plus I felt connected to them and the niche of Adhd and so I decided to study it... then I realised: no shit Sherlock, it's because I have Adhd!
Sure, I noticed that I was different to everybody else. In my younger years, this was painful for me at times, but I just assumed it was because I was adopted as a child. Being an adopted kid is so rare, that I have only ever met three other adopted people in my almost-four-decades here! As the years rolled by though and I struggled with things that my friends didn't seem to. Experiencing this frustrating, invisible hardship of being boorn a rectangle ina square world and still expected to be a square, I found it harder to get my shit together and just generally had to work really hard at seemingly simple things, I stumbled across some information that changed my life: Elaine Aron's work on HSP's aka - The Highly Sensitive Person.
Traits of a highly sensitive person according to the homepage:
Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
I answered yes to a lot of these and soon discovered, during my twenties, that I am not only an Empath, but also HSP. It explained a lot. And it helped me to develop the boundaries I need in order to survive better in a world that isn't built for HSP's to flourish. But flourish we still can... through learning about ourselves and honouring our capacity, talents and gifts.
When I discovered I had Adhd over a decade later, I realised that a lot of my "Adhd traits" were infact the same as the HSP ones... could it be that it was just Adhd the whole time? And that I'd found other labels to stick that quelled the hunger in me to know why?
I took a deep dive and discovered, that being an Empath, HSP and having Adhd are not mutually exclusive... they can all coexist. And they do within me.
Here are traits that overlap with HSP's and ADHD:
Strong moral/ sensitive to social justice
Strongly affected by others moods
Feels things very deeply
Withdraws when overwhelmed
Aware of subtleties that others do not notice
Stressed by lots of things to do in short amounts of time
Stressed by multiple requests thrown at them in one go
Often people pleasers and perfectionists
Sensitive to criticism
Deeply attuned and empathic to the feelings of others
Highly sensitive to environment
Traits that are purely Adhd:
Poor short term memory
Short attention span (unless it is area of interest, then hyper focus is possible)
Thrives in new, novel and highly stimulating situations
Restless and hyperactive (sometimes internal, sometimes physical, sometimes both)
Craves high stimulation
Traits that are purely HSP:
Sensitivity to pain
Sensitive to caffeine
Deeply affected by art, taste, music and sensory experience
Tend to just 'know' why people are feeling a certain way when in discomfort
Overwhelmed in busy environments
Avoids violence, morose or bad news late at night (if self aware enough!) because this can dysregulate emotions, to the point they are unable to sleep or get rid of the feeling in their bodies
Doesn't like change
Craves low stimulation
I thought it was strange when I began connecting with a wider Adhd community, only to find that the majority drink caffeine like it's coming back in fashion (notice what I did there?) I can't drink caffeine without feeling like I'm going to have an anxiety attack. This is a HSP trait. I realise, looking deeply into this that Adhd and HSP coexist within me and though they have some overlapping presentations, they also have differences that create some interesting contradictions in me. I have had a few comments on these, asking if perhaps I am Autistic too? But I looked into it and it is actually the HSP traits that are contradicting with my Adhd. Something, that I'm sure many who do not know of HSP's at all, probably get confused with themselves.
Do you have Adhd and HSP? How do you manage the dualities? If you need any help, get in touch to book your free discovery call with me. I'd love to help you.
Wishing you a blessed and abundant week ahead!