the winter blog

Frenzied: How ADHD and Trauma Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo

“What we change inwardly will change outer reality.”


Y’all. My dear friends. My ADHD has gotten the best of me and I have been absent and I am so sorry. So much for my plan to post once a week, huh? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, I suppose.

Let me real with you, I spent the first 2 weeks of last month just feeling really depressed. I was worried, as I probably mentioned in my last blog, that it might be getting out of my control. I was seconds away from getting my meds adjusted and then something happened.



Before I get into the meat of it, I want to talk a little bit about NaNoWriMo. November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo is a competition where the goal is to write 50,000 words for the month. If you hit 50,000, you win. A competition with yourself, basically.

Every year since 2014, I have signed up for NaNo. I have never written more than 6,000 words. One year I wrote 500. Most years I got around to writing a big, fat nothing.

Every year I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn’t a “real” writer. Why did I have all of these great story ideas, this ability to write well, and yet find myself without the wherewithal to actually execute the ideas?

The answer to that is undiagnosed ADHD.

ADHD has held me back in a lot of ways. While I don’t subscribe to “ADHD is a superpower,” but I also don’t do, “ADHD is a curse.” I think ADHD is what it is. I believe that it is intertwined with things like my high levels of empathy, my creativity, my imagination, and my ability to connect with people easily. Not bad at all, right?

Except it is also a disability and it has very much held me back.

Just out of high school, I decided to become a professional wrestler. No, I’m not joking. I did it too! I went out and found a trainer and made connections in the local circuits and starting doing shows. But I could never apply myself to get good enough to go anywhere with it.

Then I decided I wanted to be a movie star. One time a stranger walked up to me when I was in my early 20s and randomly said, “I see your name in lights.” Instead of thinking to myself, “This is a crazy person. Why are they saying this?” I saw the lights too.

I would get headshots, but then never get an agent. I’d get an agent, go to an audition, and then not answer her calls for months. I was going through serious depression at the time as well (also likely a result of undiagnosed ADHD), which made things even harder.

It was all I wanted in the world; to be a successful actress, but I was always one step forward and two steps back. The dream kept me going in my darkest times, but I could never really get myself to work toward it.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. What I’m trying to say is that having a dream with no follow through is kind of my M.O. This blog has been the most consistent thing I’ve done, ever. The fact that I’m still here 18 months later is a little bit astounding to me.

And so it went with NaNoWriMo. For 7 years, I made the commitment to finally write a book. It’s been a dream of mine forever. Alas, every year, November ended and no book.

This year, I decided no more! I wasn’t going to commit to it. No longer would I fool myself into believing I was a fiction writer. No matter how many tweets I saw, no matter how many emails they sent me. I was staying away this year. I write articles, non-fiction, essays. I don’t write books.

Then, on November 1st, I went to therapy. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a condition called Maladaptive Daydreaming. Basically, I have extremely vivid, extremely immersive daydreams. When I say immersive, I mean that (provided I am alone and uninterrupted) I can completely lose myself in them. Its like I’m there; like I have a different world in my head.

I guess I do.

ADHD and Trauma

Maladaptive daydreaming is a trauma response. It’s important to note that it often develops in childhood as a result of sustained trauma. I, indeed, started doing it when I was a child. I would imagine being rescued from my situation by a whole slew of different people.

While I’m always a prolific daydreamer, my maladaptive daydreams usually only happen when life gets too hard for me to handle. If things are scary, stressful, or I feel trapped in a situation, I use these vivid, waking dreams to escape my reality.

Sometimes, life gets so bad and the daydreams become so alluring that I will actually excuse myself from life to go lie down so I can daydream instead of thinking about my real life. It’s not a good look for a 39-year-old woman with a family, a full-time job, and several side hustles I’m trying to get off the ground.

So I went to therapy that day and asked Dr. W what to do. I explained to her how alluring it had become to escape into fantasy. I was losing time over it, spending way too much time in bed.

She said, “I want you to start writing them down. If they are that compelling to you, I believe that they’ll be compelling to other people.” She told me this on November 1st. The first day of NaNoWriMo.

At first, I told myself no. I might write them down, but not for NaNo. I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. Then I thought, I’ll think about it for a couple of days. In true ADHD fashion, 2 weeks went by.

hand, write, pen

Then, on November 14th, hyperfocus arrived at my door. I had a couple of scenes that had been in my head on repeat for a few weeks. I sat down at my computer and I started typing them out, unsure of how I would connect these 3 unrelated scenes and make them into a story.

Once again, ADHD to the rescue. See, people with ADHD don’t always see things the way neurotypicals do. Our unique issues have often seen us using outside of the box thinking to problem solve. We often make connections that other people don’t make; something that I’m particularly good at.

So, I let those scenes stew for a bit and guess what? I got an idea of how to make them a cohesive story. I started writing again, this time starting at the beginning of this new idea. The by the 18th, I had written 10,000 words.

You know what happened? All of the good chemicals flooding into my previously depressed brain. The idea kept going, so I kept writing. Before I knew it was at 20,000 and then 30,000. Even as late as the 28th, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make the deadline.

But…I have an ADHD brain and ADHD brains love to wait until the last minutes of a deadline. It’s when we do our best work, but we need the pressure of the deadline.

You know what? I made it. By lunchtime on 11/30, I had written 51,800+ words. As of this writing, the book is completed except for rewrites and edits. I wrote a 220 page novel in 15 days and I have ADHD and trauma to thank for it. For some of it, at least.

The thing is, I’ve seen a lot of ADHD self-hate on the interwebs lately. People who see ADHD as a curse and see themselves as “less than,” because of it. It makes me really sad. I don’t believe I’m cursed, though ADHD has certainly made my life much harder and much less fulfilled than it would have been otherwise.

This piece is to say that, in the right circumstances, ADHD can be utilized to our benefit. Hyperfocus, creativity, daydreaming, out-of-the-box thinking…it’s all part of my brain. And while ADHD is not my whole brain, it does affect how my whole brain works. Everything that I do, everything that I am…ADHD had a hand in it. Good and bad.

My point is to shed light on the fact that ADHD is not a superpower or a curse. It just is. Its just a fact. It has stolen away my dreams and it has helped others come true. The best we can hope for is that we get in where we fit in and we can use it to our advantage.

Anyway, I wrote a freaking book, y’all! If you like vampires, witches, and love then stay tuned!

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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 

ADHD Beans

Still depressed, anxious, and traumatized. Still an ADHDer. Still kicking ass and taking names when it comes to busting stigma. Changing hearts and minds, one post at a time.

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  1. What an inspiring post, Amber!! Even after having this much of hard time you made it at the end and I’m so so feeling proud to see this. I know it’s not that easy to deal with such situations but you did it so well. Everytime challenging ourselves can be sometimes scary but sometimes worthy enough which leads us not to regret and live the life the way it takes us all the time. Keep up your all the time strength up and go for it. And he’ll yes, Many Many Congratulations for completing the competition!!

    1. Thank you so much, Biren!

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