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Rory Bremner: ADHD And Me

May 23, 2011

Comedian Rory Bremner has found success in his ability to switch between impersonating many different people.

But behind this comic persona is a man who struggles to focus, loses the thread and takes on too many tasks that can leave his personal and professional life in disarray.

Bremner had always put his chaotic lifestyle down to his personality.

However, after a young relation was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, a few years ago, Bremner decided to investigate if he too could have the condition.

In a BBC Radio 4 documentary, ADHD and Me, he says: “When I think back to my childhood it’s with a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. I was always forgetting things.

“My mum called me scatty because I could never sit still. But there was no sense I was suffering from a medical condition as such.”

In a support group for adults with ADHD, at St Catherine’s Hospital in Merseyside, Bremner met Gary, who was diagnosed in later life when his son was told he had ADHD.

But his problems started much earlier, at just 18 months old, when he was found trying to get into cars in his street. ADHD has had an overwhelming impact on Gary’s life.

School misbehaviour

ADHD expert Professor Eric Taylor, from King’s College London, says organising and planning ahead can be difficult for someone suffering from the condition, as is the tendency to act without thinking about, or understanding, a situation.

Bremner is quick to see the similarities with his own struggles to concentrate and his lack of common sense.

“It frustrates me when my mind wanders and when I end up reading the same words again and again.”

Rhys Sinclair, from East Lothian, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was six years old – but only after his mother, Avril, had convinced their GP to consider the disorder.

He had been regularly misbehaving at school and was often a nightmare to deal with at home.

After trying different approaches, Rhys’s family settled on treating him with medication which helped him focus more.

Bremner says he now understands more about his own ADHD tendencies, what it is like to live with the disorder and how society’s attitudes to it should change.

And finally he realises why he is constantly making lists and setting his watch five minutes fast.

Rory Bremner presents ADHD and Me on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 23 May at 2000 BST.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Saskia permalink
    May 23, 2011 2:34 pm

    Really pleased to hear someone like Rory Bremner talking about this. Unfortunately too many Drs seem to think that if you are an intelligent, reasonably able person who isn’t bouncing off the walls then you couldn’t possibly have ADHD and you just need to “learn to live with it” (my GP’s words when I last tried to seek help!!). If it was as easy as that I’d be fine right now – I’ve been trying my hardest to “learn to live with it” for my whole life, and have tried everything I can think of to help myself, but my life still seems to consist of me making one stupid mistake after another. I’ve tried to get a diagnosis 3 times now over the past 8 years (different GPs each time) and it was clear that none of them knew anything at all about adult ADHD – the first time they just seemed slightly bewildered, like I’d found the most obscure condition possible to ask them about, the second time I was told there was no-one I could be referred on to (the only ADHD help available in the whole NHS area was only for children), and there were no other options, and the third time I was told “we all have little things about us that we don’t like, and we just have to learn to live with them”, and was then given a referral for CBT (despite me making very clear that this was definitely a cognitive problem, i.e. working memory & attention problems, not an emotional one – I very clearly stated that I knew for certain I was not depressed, and that the only thing that was keeping me going was my natural optimism!!). I realise CBT is sometimes offered as a treatment for people with ADHD, but clearly without even having any kind of diagnosis I can’t see how it could have helped! It seemed to me that CBT was offered to as a kind of sticking plaster to help me “learn to live with it”, and that they hadn’t really listened to what I was saying, otherwise they would have realised I’d been doing a pretty good job of coping emotionally with it, but the actual practical, day-to-day reality of having a mind that just won’t behave itself despite your best efforts, and which sometimes seems almost intentionally self-sabotaging, is enough to drive even the most positive & optimistic person to tears.

    • paula permalink
      May 29, 2011 2:01 pm

      You don’t have to live with it. Go and see a homeopath. The symptoms you have are not that uncommon but each individual has a different combination and is treated on a totally individual basis. At the same time the symptoms are indicative of certain homeopathic symptoms which are totally non toxic. Among the “deluded fools” who used homeopathy in the past, or present are yehudi Mehunin, Martina Navratiolva, Boris Becker, David Beckham, Royal Family, 7 Popes, 11 US Presidents, Dizzy Gillespie, Mahatma Gandhi. I could go on. The reason pharmaceutical companies don’t like it is homeopathy cures many things that then don’t required years of expensive (profitable) medicines. It is not placebo. What have you got to lose? Check your symptoms out on homeopathic site. Get referral from your doctor as it is available on NHS and around world 500 million people use it so we can ‘t all be that deluded about our health.

  2. Karenna permalink
    May 23, 2011 3:24 pm

    I’m looking forward to listening to this programme. I too have experienced similar responses to Saskia and am grateful for Rory Bremner helping to shed some light on this insidious condition. All my life I’d thought there was just a problem with me not being good enough and after a physical health problem made everything else fall apart, in desperation I eventually Googled all the things I struggled with and came up with page after page of hits for ADD/ADHD. At first I was completely disbelieving but when I started to read about it, it all made sense. Dr Edward Hallowell and Dr John Ratey have written a good book about it: Not only are they both doctors, but they both have ADHD and also specialise in treating other sufferers. I’ve read several books on the subject but this was the most helpful. Dr Gabor Mate’s book, Scattered, also looks like it might be a good one but I have yet to read it.

  3. May 23, 2011 9:19 pm

    Just listened Rory’s programme and it was excellent. Clear, engaging, non-sensational and I hope educational for many adults who may now be realising they too are ADHD. It should be available as a podcast shortly. Great, thanks Rory.

    ADHD Coach

  4. heather permalink
    May 23, 2011 9:57 pm

    I only caught a snatch of this programme but wanted to listen to it and found it unavailable on i-player. I have been going to see psychiatrists for years but do not feel that anyone yet has really understood. I can describe how I think and that it is a conscious muddle but I keep being told that I am normal but have things in my sub conscious. I have been told I have nothing genetically wrong with me but I think I have. I wonder if I have ADHD. I have felt different than everyone else since I was about six and can be disorganised and impulsive or routine and bored. I am in my 50s now and grew up in a time when such things were not recognised. My cousin;s son has a diagnosis of ADHD. If it is this what can I do about it?

    • paula permalink
      May 28, 2011 6:18 pm

      It makes me sad that people continue to ignore homeopathy. All the symptoms that are being discussed are to be found in any good Homeopathic Materia MedicaRemedies. Allopathic doctors are now asking about family background and a variety of other symptoms. Homeopaths always did. Banging head on floor or wall, inability to concentrate, a desire to escape, preference for open air, poetic and artistic types, these and lots more of symptoms will be found as part of an overall picture which matches the influence of a tubercular family history and can be treated by a range of remedies which once taken do not require consumption of pharmaceuticals for the rest of your life!! Don’t have to believe me just look up the Homeopathic Repertory and Materia Medica and you will see what homeopaths have known for more than 200 years. Check out Dana Ullman’s book which lists some of the most brilliant people in their fields who like 500 million ordinary folk globally use it. What exactly have you got to lose?

    • Karenna permalink
      May 28, 2011 8:43 pm

      Heather, maybe you looked before the BBC put it up, because it’s on iPlayer now! See here:

  5. Oldgold permalink
    May 24, 2011 8:56 am

    Saskia’s post has got me a little worried now. I truely hope I don’t endure the same problems in my quest to seek help. I have lived my life always wondering why I always seemed confused and behind the crowd. I missplace almost everying, am very forgetfull of mulitple things like names, memories, losing things, making plans and much more. I am horrible at organizing whether its an event or just personal belongings. I become bored easily, struggle to stay focused whether its reading, working, studying, or even in conversations. I have alot of “nervous movements” and or twiches while being seated, when in fact i am not nervous at all. When i am they get worse. I am very impulsive with many differnt things. Purchases, decisions, emotions, and you can always count on me to inturpt you during conversation. I have always looked for justification for all of this. I notice when I inturpt someone, and i feel bad for doing it, but I fear that if I dont say whats on my mind right then, I wont remember what it was. Its feels like my thoughts are flying through my head at 100 mph. And i have to reach up and just grab the first thing i can catch, and if I dont get it out, then it will get away. I am also very clumsy and sometimes unaware of my suroundings. I have never been diagnosed with ADHD, and in fact never even thought that all this could be a disorder. I droped out of college, after all i needed for the associates degree was to retake a physics class i failed. I then decided to join the Military when i was 22. The structure, organization, fast paced environment, and phyical strains invovled with being a soldier made me excell. So i thought. Then after 8 years of military service i find myself having very little rank, (E-4) and much fewer medals then the other people around me. I again couldn’t figure out why i worked so hard, and did so well, but when nowhere. I just left the Military in December 2010, and then lost my seven year marriage in March 2011. My ex wife complained how i would always forget things, tasks, information, and so on. That I didn’t have enouph self-motivation, and had too many self-esteem problems. I am currently 30 years old, coping with trying to remember how to be a civilian again, getting over my ex-wife who ran off with my ex-good buddy, and dealing with a new job, a civilian management job. I have been very overwhelemed lately and have found myself dabiling into some substance abuse. I have been a smoker since i was 16, but i never drank excessivly. So i was hanging out with some guys, and i was offered some “speed”. For whatever reason i took some pills from the guy. At work a few days later i was getting tired, and losing motivation and i rememberd i had the pills. I was told it was perscription medication that was basically speed. Called Adderall. I took one pill, got back into work and could not believe the results. We had extra work to get done with no extra time, and being that i was feeling bored and tired, i was really dreading the outcome of the day. But after taking the meds, i was super focused, attentive, and was mulitasking with ease. We got everything done, all the extra work, with time to spare. As soon as i got home i deceded to check out what this Adderall stuff really was. I was absolutly shocked to see that it was for treating ADHD. For the past week i have been reading and researching ADHD, and am finding a new realization about myself. Its all a bit overwhelming, but when i read about ADHD, I am reading about myself. Looking back over my life, i have come to the conclusion that i am ADHD-C type. I seem to be mostly inattentive, but i think i would have been way more hyperactive as a child. I talked to my parents and was shocked to find out that when i was in 2nd grade, my teacher was complaining about some of my behaviors, and i was tested for ADD. They said i was a normal kid, and so i always thought that was the case. Like i said this has all been so overwhelming, I just want to seek medical help. But having that i have a new job, i must wait till this fall before i can get on the medical insurance. But knowing all of this stuff now, my impulsiveness wants to get help right now! Going to be driving me crazy all summer…

  6. Karenna permalink
    May 28, 2011 8:41 pm

    You’d have thought that some bright spark at the BBC would have realised that ADHD types would be likely to get distracted and miss the programme (like I did!!) and therefore offer it on iPlayer. Perhaps we can get Rory Bremner to persuade them otherwise…

  7. Douglas Kearney permalink
    July 6, 2011 1:12 pm

    As a primary school teacher who is continually in trouble at work for being disorganised and unable to cope with the everchanging paperwork involved with the job, Rory’s programme came as a revelation to me. I have listened to it several times as I stuggled to grasp how many of the behaviours associated with the disorder fitted my profile.
    Throughout my life I feel that I have never achieved my potential. Secondary school was easy until age 16 and everything was left to the last possible moment from then on. cramming by continual repitition, occasionally I turned out outstanding pieces of work which proved to others that I was an intelligent individual. Sadly my overall performance in terms of academic grades could only be described at best as mediocre. I would not have managed to complete my university and subsequent teacher training had it not been for friends who supported me and encouraged me to complete the required tasks, in particular the lady who became my long suffering wife who made me complete my teacher training and who has steadfastly insisted that I have an underlying problem. She is the only reason I have remained in teaching for so long. This was helped by her premature retiral from teaching due to ill health ten years ago which allowed my problems to become more evident.To others my lack of focus and inability to concentrate comes over as laziness and my line managers consider that I have a cavalier attitude to protocol, rules and regulations and that simply I just dont care.
    I have always been a popular teacher who has maintained contact with former pupils. I am well known for being a mine of information who can talk at length on a wide variety of topics (that are perhaps not part of the prescribed syllabus !) and I know that my children leave me at the end of each session with a much broader outlook on life than they would otherwise have had with more conventional teachers.
    None the less, I am currently off work long- term with stress and am deperately trying to find somewhere that I can be assessed for adult ADHT which I hope will allow me to find adequate coping strategies for work and that which will provide others with evidence of my difficulties, leading hopefully to a better understanding of why I am the way I am.

    • Douglas Kearney permalink
      June 20, 2015 2:16 pm

      How did you get on Oldgold?
      My wife and I separated and things got to a horrific level which even yet seems unbelievable.
      I returned to work in 2012 where I struggled to cope without success and eventually resigned from my permanent post in March of this year.
      I have lost virtually everything .


  1. Rory Bremner: ADHD And Me « Same Difference | About ADHD and ADD

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