Writing, Writing with ADD

Writing With ADD, Writer’s Block & Hormones

This #WritingWithADD post might come unexpected, but we need to talk about hormones and ADD symptoms, namely, the effect of estrogen (estradiol) on brain function in people who menstruate.

Photo of a surface covered in crumpled up papers and part of a notepad and pen. Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

At the moment I’m going through another forced writing break. I used to call it writer’s block when it happened but I noticed people really didn’t understand what is like for me. Often people think of feeling uninspired or about just needing to push through. Apart from advice to be kind with myself or taking a break, most advice I get is always counterproductive.

Which made me think that writer’s block is different for me. I don’t mean I’m the only one who experiences it like this, but I mean I’m part of a group who does. Doing some digging has lead me to believe it’s got to do with hormone changes during my menstrual cycle and having ADD.

Steroid hormones are not just sex hormones. They play an important role throughout the body and especially in the brain. Estradiol in particular exerts a significant and complex impact on brain chemistry. This hormone has been shown to be neuroprotective and has a substantial influence on memory, cognition and brain plasticity, thus helping the brain perform better and faster. Estradiol does this by increasing vital concentrations of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters significant to healthy brain performance.

The Link Between Estradiol Deficiency and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Learning this, it makes  a lot of sense. The low mood, the struggle to focus, the lack of motivation, the listlessness, they all happen when estrogen (estradiol) levels decrease right before I get my period. Which are also ADD symptoms. Which are exactly at the root of my writer’s block issues.

Writer’s block for me feels more like brain fog, like sensory overload hangover. My brain still overflows with ideas but before I can do anything with them, they teeter away. Forcing myself to continue my writing routines only leads to wasting my time and worsening my mood.

And this has been so affirming for me. To know the reason behind my struggles with writer’s block and the ups and down I’ve experienced. Even without, I knew it wasn’t something to be ashamed of or anything necessarily wrong with me. It’s just… it’s such a weight off my shoulders to know.

It’s been an important lesson for me. One I have been learning in steps over a long period of time. Regardless of how your brain is wired, taking breaks from productivity is necessary, but when you’re neurodivergent, it tends to be more apparent.

Though there’s been more attention to how neurodiversity, disability and mental illness impact writers, there’s still a way to go. There’s still a lot of bad advice making the rounds and people poorly applying said advice. There’s still a lot of –isms within the writing communities and ableism is a huge part of that. Regardless of intentions, this has an impact on disabled writers like me.

You have to understand that yes, we all go through moments where we feel like we’re not writing enough. We all have our struggles. And though many of us do know to counter those thoughts when they occur, the feelings often linger. The thing is, when you’re marginalized, those types of thoughts multiply.

Having ADD, I’ve always struggled to stay on task. I’m horrendous at finishing things. So when I get writer’s block, I don’t only have to counter the thought that I’m not being productive enough, I also have to counter the thought that I’m never going to finish anything. That I won’t be able to pick my project back up again. There’s more thoughts, given I’m marginalized in more ways than just my disabilities, but believe it’s clear what I’m trying to say here.

Writer’s block sucks. It sucks extra when you’re the type of neurodiverse where your concentration comes and goes, changeable like the weather. But most of all, I know I’m not the only one with this type of writer’s block. I know, I’m not alone with these fears and worries. I know I’m not the only one who’s #WritingWithADD or any other kind of condition which influences your executive functions. So I also know that I’m not the only one who needs to hear this:

Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. You’re not alone. And no matter how you come out of this writer’s block, you’re not a failure. You’re just playing life on a higher difficulty level. You might be looking at a “game over” screen right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick that controller back up and try again.

Don’t give up. Next time you might just win 🙂

I think it can be a weight off some of your shoulders as well, whoever you are. I know there are more people out there who experience this, because I’m not naïve enough to think I’m the only writer with ADD who menstruates.

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