Balancing Act: Navigating ADHD and mindfulness as an entertainer in comedy. A lifetime of ‘work in progress’.

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I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and RSD and as a mindfulness teacher and comic performer it has changed my life forever, in the best way possible!

I absolutely leapt at the chance when I was given the opportunity to write this article, and focus it on me and my mindfulness business, purely because of my recent diagnoses. I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria). Officially. So right here seemed like a great chance to talk honestly about it for the very first time.

“I actively want to embrace my new found status. I want to share and educate and wave a big, colourful, neurodiverse flag with pride, in hopes it might just help someone else.”

My diagnoses actually came as no surprise to me or any of my close friends and family. It was as expected as the sun rising. However I was not prepared for the immense feeling of relief I felt when the doctor told me our suspicions were true. That night, myself and my husband laughed at the fact I can finally have a proper excuse for being untidy, a hoarder, making impulsive decisions, overspending, oversharing, new weekly hobbies that don’t see the end of the week and always forgetting to pay bills. The list goes on…  However for me it made a lot of serious sense. Starting with underachieving at school and college but knowing I wasn’t useless. Now I know all I needed was a little more time than others. I passed my driving test on the 10th, 11th (I forget) time knowing that I was a good driver, but just suffered with a high level of anxiety causing silly mistakes. Throughout my career I’ve experienced meltdowns and floods of tears at the smallest rejection or disappointment. As well as repetitive thoughts and obsessive traits. 

“Finally after all these years it’s all slotted into place. I have a reason. A great, big sticky label has been stuck to me and, you know what, I welcome it.”

 I’m determined to share and create open conversations to try and help those like me. But also help others to understand. The more we as a society talk about this honestly, the better understanding everyone could have. For me, my ADHD isn’t about a long list of negative traits; it’s more about different levels of operating. In a situation where a day’s plans may be cancelled, a neurotypical person may be slightly annoyed, I, however, would be the opposite. I might start hyper-focusing on sorting a solution and becoming overwhelmed in the process. You can see how a simple situation can set a brain like mine off on a journey compared to a neurotypical brain. Some people can see this happening within me. Some have no idea. This is where my mindfulness toolkit comes in very handy.

People love to “un-diagnose” you, saying “Oh well I do that.” Or “That’s what we all do. We are all on a spectrum.” Or “That’s just you being sensitive, that’s all.” etc etc…  I’ve been told it all many times now since my diagnosis. I didn’t think it would annoy me but it does. It cuts deep. A full punch to the gut.  A feeling that someone is undermining everything you are, everything you’ve been through and are totally unaware of the mask you have had to wear your entire life to feel normal. To try and fit in.

Don’t get me wrong, We can all be loose with our words, judgement, and opinions. Myself included. I’ve put my foot in it many times and overshared thoughts and feelings at times when it was probably best to say nothing. But that is now one of the reasons why I love mindfulness. Being honest and putting all our good and bad, positive and negative, triumphs and winnings, faults and mistakes on the same shelf and seeing them all lined up together, is when we can really help ourselves with compassion FOR ourselves and others. 

“I cannot stress enough that if anyone tells you about their neurodiverse diagnosis just bear in mind it’s bigger, deeper and more complex than you can ever imagine.” 

My favourite moment so far was explaining to someone my OCD traits of ADHD. Of course they did the usual: “Oh I do that. Why would you bother getting tested? We’ve all got a bit of ADHD blah blah…” To which I then went on to explain a bizarre little counting thing I do when anxious. Once whilst driving down a country lane on my way to a gig and driving past some hay bales in a farmer’s field, I felt the need to count them. I then felt something was going to go horribly wrong so turned the car around, and drove back up the lane to recount them… 6 times… I’ve no idea why! It’s safe to say the person I was talking to agreed it was probably best I got tested and got help. We laughed. A lot! You see, even though with things like ADHD and OCD it seems like “everyone is being diagnosed now,” it is due to a lack of understanding and being undiagnosed in the past that it feels like more people now. We just didn’t know enough in the past. But times are changing. Help is out there and I for one am jumping for joy and am so grateful to be a part of the bigger picture. I finally have an understanding for my “Am I going mad or is this actually something else?” feelings.

“After my diagnosis I was very aware of processing a version of the grief cycle towards my ADHD.” 

I experienced all five points of the cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I started to look back over my entire life. We all know it was a different time. The science and the research weren’t there. But how different my childhood could have been nowadays. I even look at my time at drama school. I dropped out of certain classes or situations because it was just “too much.” Working on cruise ships, and even recently in the pantomime rehearsal room, I’ve struggled with elements that go along with the typical demands of these situations. Recently though, so much has started to make sense for me. These feelings of being misunderstood, and being let down and letting myself down. Masking feelings or not wanting to admit struggles because others simply didn’t have them and would judge me.

Bizarrely though, during the anger stage of this cycle, I never felt sorry for myself. The complete opposite. I know I’m extremely lucky to feel this way. Since I can remember I’ve been lucky to have had this backbone of steel. An inner feeling of resilience. And just a knowing that worrying and stressing about it wouldn’t do me any good in the long run.

It’s as if when I was 12 years old I knew my time would be better spent procrastinating and learning the lyrics to 80’s pop band Five Star, was of greater importance. Why? Because one day the dream may come true and the lead singer of said band, Deniece Pearson would be my Fairy in pantomime for 8 weeks over Christmas. Young Martin would have imploded if only he knew this was to come true 30 years later. Or maybe on some level he did! Those Five Star lyrics have come in much more useful later in life than learning the temperatures of a Bunsen Burner ever did! 

I see ADHD as a hotel. Lots of rooms full of symptoms of varying sizes. My RSD is the penthouse apartment. Hence why I honestly thrive when I receive therapy for it. However, in my case, no medication or coaching is specifically recommended for my ADHD. I was actually told that mindfulness would be my best help. The good news: I’m a mindfulness coach and have been self-coaching through mindfulness for years! This is how powerful mindfulness and meditation can be. What is it they say? Things like this find you when you most need them, without even realising sometimes?

It must be a talent! In fact us ADHD-ers also have some truly wonderful talents to be proud of. Our superpowers such as the energy, time, commitment and attention we can channel when hyperfocusing on a hobby, project or work is bar none. Sometimes our creativity is at a bursting point. I myself have started and helped others with many new businesses, theatre projects and shows etc. I love it!

Within my mindfulness business – Upgrade Your Day® – for a few years now I have been running 8 week mindfulness and self compassion courses; walk-and-talk country rambles and woodland meditation sessions. I love a good hug of a tree. It’s been a joy to share my love of mindfulness and help as many people as possible along the way. And it’s been helping me too! My main aim has always been to show that mediation isn’t just about sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat for an hour a day. It’s about small moments. Making it work for you. Wherever and whoever you are. 

“The greatest help I have created for myself is a method called the 3 Minute Upgrade®. It’s based on my originally formulated 30 minute meditation of gratitude, self compassion, breath work, the 5 senses, a body scan and grounding, in order to help with stress reduction. Over time I have turned this into a short and manageable 3 minute meditation.

Finally, after time and practice, for myself I’ve actually turned this into a single breath practice. This has proved invaluable when doing my other job…

As well as a trained & certified mindfulness teacher with the esteemed Mindfulness UK (Foundation Degree Level 4 Certificate) and with an accredited Qualification with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB), in my day job I’m also a comedy entertainer! 

I trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and have been in the industry for over 25 years. I perform as my alter-ego, Kevin Cruise. A regular on the UK comedy, cabaret & holiday circuit for Butlins, Haven Holidays, Pontins, Park Dean Resorts, Tui… you name a holiday park somewhere in the UK, I’ve worked it! Several times!

I’m also lucky enough to be the trusted side-kick of national treasure and British TV legend: Basil Brush. This will be my 8th year performing in the Basil Brush Kids Show and the show for grown ups only: Basil Brush Live & Unleashed. We perform all over the world every year, at festivals such as Glastonbury, as well as touring theatres, art centres and several weeks a year performing aboard P&O Cruises! 

This year also marks over 1000 pantomime performances as I go into my 15th year of Panto at Theatre Royal Windsor for Bill Kenwright Ltd.  Because of my performing career I naturally love to bring humour to my mindfulness work. After all, it’s certainly an interesting career choice for someone with ADHD and RSD. However we are discovering a lot of people within the arts are neurodivergent. Performing at venues, like holiday parks, where people haven’t necessarily paid to see you can be tough and very daunting. The anxiety of wanting to win over the crowd and do a good job is often at boiling point for me. I think this is why I decided to start my new project, and I’ve called it Performance Peace.

“I aim to help fellow performers and people in my industry overcome these feelings and experiences, and find more joy and less stress and worry in their amazing and vital careers.”

Stage nerves and performance anxiety can be crippling. So can meeting new people and having to “perform” on as well as off stage. Things like press nights, opening nights, auditions, self tapes, public speaking etc. 

In my Performance Peace coaching sessions I offer crucial insights gained over 25 years in the entertainment industry and during my mindfulness teacher training. They marry together perfectly! I get to provide practical techniques and proven methods to help performers conquer their fears and thrive under the spotlight. The secret being my trademark method mentioned earlier – the 3 Minute Upgrade®. And if I can do it, anyone can! 

Whatever someone’s job role may be within the arts, Performance Peace sessions are able to equip them with the tools and mindset needed to navigate the demands of the entertainment industry with poise and confidence.

As I like to say: “Goodbye to stage nerves and hello to the best performances yet!” 

And at the end of the day I think I can safely say, I know a thing or two about performance, anxiety and how many bales of hay you may encounter along the UK’s motorways and A roads…

Martin Cabble-Reid 

For more info head to: www.upgradeyourday.co.uk/performancepeace

And find out how I coach theatrical companies, drama groups and performers on a 1:1 basis.

Get in touch and mail me at [email protected]

or drop me a message or voice note if that works best for you WhatsApp 07440766430

The post Balancing Act: Navigating ADHD and mindfulness as an entertainer in comedy. A lifetime of ‘work in progress’. appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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