The night out which ended unexpectedly


Life with a disability can sometimes give rise to unspoken questions and sensitivities, but amid the awkwardness there can be humour. The following is an edited version of a sketch by Fran Aitken who has ADHD, delivered for the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Image source, Sarah Dousse

I have always been a space cadet. Someone whose head is in the clouds, constantly late and covered in bruises from bumping into stuff.

Knowing a space cadet has its advantages. I'm fantastic at picking birthday presents and giving them to you two months late, so it's a nice surprise for both of us. And I'll never be mad if you're running late, because chances are, I'm late too.

It doesn't sound like a disability, but there can be problems.

Secondary school was easy, it's structured, with teachers and family pushing you. But I struggled at university where you have to be self-motivated and disciplined, read what you're given and hand things in on time.

Storytelling Live: Going Out

Fran was one of six people with a disability or mental health problem to perform a story about going out as part of BBC Ouch's storytelling event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - hosted by Lost Voice Guy.

You can watch the show on iPlayer now.

Here are other stories from the event that you might like:

I'm not disciplined at all. I have no control and I couldn't understand how other students managed it.

I missed all my lectures because I'd stay up watching YouTube. I couldn't hand in essays, because I always forgot my password to upload them. I constantly forgot to wash my clothes, and when I did remember, I forgot to dry them.

The university placed me on academic probation and told me to get my act together.

How could I do that? The other students had gravity to anchor them, but gravity didn't work for me - I just floated away from Earth.

My best friend from school, Anna, came to visit. I hadn't seen her in a while and she looked bright and shiny and clever. I looked terrible.

Anna didn't mention my appearance, bless her. She carefully dodged the dirty clothes on the floor and the pile of pizza boxes. She sat on my bed and we got absolutely trashed.

Did I mention I had an essay due the next morning?

Halfway through our third cider, Anna rummaged in her bag and retrieved some white pills.

"They make you crazy," she said. "You feel like you're flying. You want one?"

Let's make this clear - it is illegal to do this and also very dangerous. But I was in a terrible place - what did I have to lose? I just wanted to forget everything. So, I took one.

We walked down to Boogie Nights, a popular disco nightclub in Wellington, New Zealand.

Space cadets do not generally have good memories, so it's testament to the power of this moment that I remember it.

We danced and had fun and then, suddenly, I landed on Earth.

My mind had been lovingly gathered, alphabetised, and given back to me, and I didn't know what to do with it.

I started to notice so many details. The man wearing running shoes, his tie with little kiwi birds on it. The pores of his nose - it really needed a deep clean.

I looked around. I mean, really looked, and saw this place clearly for the first time. Anna and I had been coming here for years, but now I saw the beer on the floor, the broken lights, the fact everyone was at least 20 years older than me.

The disco ball had three tiles missing. The bartender had a silver tooth. The mural on the ceiling had started to peel. The floor was covered in condom wrappers, the light bulbs had black spray-paint on them, Anna had highlights, there was a hole on the knee of my leggings, a TV played an old Western film reflected in the mirror behind the bar.

Image source, Sarah Dousse

I had never noticed so much in my life.

I turned to Anna. "I don't think it's working for me," I said.


"I don't think it's working for me," I shouted.

It sucked. There I was, surrounded by drunk people trying to moonwalk, and all I could think about was how the man across from me had a bit of lamb kebab on the collar of his striped shirt. Who the hell notices something like that in a club?

Time had started to go much slower than usual too. My mind wasn't skipping over minutes like it normally did.

I did the unthinkable and broke the space cadet code. I made a sensible decision - I put Anna in a taxi, then I went home.

With my new eyes, I saw the mess of my room in high definition. I put on a load of washing, I threw away the pizza boxes. Then, as the sun rose in the sky, I started, wrote, and completed my essay.

Now that I was down on Earth, it was easy.

I went back to bed and slept. When I woke up, I Googled the name of the drug Anna had given me.

Ritalin - a prescription drug for ADHD.

What I had experienced in Boogie Nights, for the first time ever, was focus.

I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with type 2 ADHD - that means I'm predominantly inattentive, not hyperactive.

Women are, apparently, under-diagnosed with ADHD, because they appear quiet - often in their own world.

If I'd been diagnosed as a child, university would have been much easier. It's frustrating, but I'm trying to move on from the past.

I'm still a space cadet. I take a pill wrapped in foil once a day - the food of the future - but this time, it's prescription.

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