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My Recent Media Diet (February, 2019)

· 489 words · 3 min read

Here’s a bunch of television I’ve been enjoying recently.

Russian Doll: This was the highlight of recent times: 8 episodes of pure fun, with a proper ending. It’s best watched not knowing anything about it but here are the first five minutes: Nadia leaves her birthday party, and on the way home gets hit by a taxi, and dies. The next moment Nadia is back where the episode started, alive and well, on her own birthday party. It’s up on Netflix.

Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2): I’ve only seen three episodes of the new season so far but all of them have been great and I very much like this new take on Star Trek. The fact that it’s a prequel to The Original Series bothers me, though, because they could have had a lot more creative freedom and do less retconning if it would be set in another universe. It’s also up on Netflix or CBS All Access if you’re in the US.

Hanna (pilot): This is based on the excellent movie of the same name. Hanna is raised in the forest by his father in isolation, training her to be self-sufficient and strong, because someone in the CIA is hunting them for Reasons we don’t know yet. The pilot shows a lot of promise, but we’ll have to wait until March to see the rest. It’s up on Amazon Prime Video.

Strike Back (Season 5): A big, dumb action series about Section 20, a black ops group of MI6, saving the world, or at least parts of it. The writers’ contract mandated at least two machine-gun fights per episode. It’s… okay at best, I won’t be watching Season 6.

Counterpart (Season 2): Just before the end of the Cold War, scientists in East Germany discovered a parallel universe, a clone of theirs. In present day, Howard is working as a low-level bureucrat at the UN, overseeing the connection between those worlds, too low on the food chain to know what his actual work is about. Until one day, his “other” shows up, demanding to speak with him…
Season 2 has one episode left but so far the series shows no signs of getting boring or tired. Highly recommended.

The Good Place (Season 3): This has been quite a ride, huh? The first part of the season is a bit disorganized but it gets better as they go along and boy did they put on hell of a season finale. Can’t wait for Season 4. If you haven’t seen this series, check it out and don’t read anything about it, because spoilers can ruin at least half the fun. Should be up on Netflix in Europe.

The Punisher (Season 2): I loved the first season, but I quit this season after four episodes. The antagonist of Season 2 is just really, really bad. If you can get past that, it’s on Netflix.

What have you been watching lately?

On Yoga

· 476 words · 3 min read

I’ve written about my relationship with exercise, but I left out a significant bit: yoga.

Growing up fundamentalist, you learn that yoga (and most martial arts) are Bad. It’s by the devil; you’re worshiping other Gods, and so on. Even though I’ve been working hard to get rid of these parts of my faith, it’s a slow and arduous process.

So I never even thought of trying it for a long time. Then a former coworker and friend got into it; time to time she’d say “You should really give yoga a try,” and I would be like yeah, maybe, someday. Putting aside old and harmful beliefs, it also looked just… boring.

In late 2014 I broke my leg. Recovery was slow and painful, even though I did a decent amount of physical therapy. One day I stumbled upon a mass yoga event on Facebook and for whatever reason, I thought “eh, okay, why not?” So I went. It was awkward, unusual and weird, but I distinctly remember that afterwards the pain from my leg just disappeared for two days, like a miracle.

Even that was not enough at the time to start a regular practice, but in the spring of 2016, I finally pulled the trigger. I didn’t even know how to breathe right on the first class (hint: use only your nose), but it felt amazing, especially after the class. So I kept going back, as much as I could, though I was traveling a lot during that time.

Yoga made me at least a bit more flexible, but more importantly, it helped me to slow down, and it gave me space to process things. My mind would often wander during class, and while that’s somewhat discouraged, it was exactly what I needed at that time. And more often than not I would leave calmer and feeling more at peace with myself, something I desperately needed.

I was spoiled by having a great class filled with other expats and my awesome teacher, Lavinia. For her regular drop-in classes I’ve visited, she has her own style, a mix of existing ones, that has evolved over the recent years.

Lavinia and I
Me and my teacher

I haven’t done much yoga since I left Sweden. I’ve searched and tried, but I haven’t found a good class/teacher that I was happy with long-term—like I said, I was really spoiled, and it set the bar high. And maybe it’s not what I need right now.

To this day though, whenever I visit Gothenburg, I make it a point to go to at least one of her classes, and they never fail to disappoint me. In an ideal world, I would be able to teleport to Sweden once a week for a 90-minute class.

I can only tell you what my friend kept telling me: you should really give yoga a try.

On Exercise

· 1390 words · 7 min read


Let’s start with a few facts. I’m fat. I’m 174 (5’7”) and I weight about 125 kilos (275 pounds). I’ve had high blood pressure for the last 15 years or so, though the causes of that are complex. My cholesterol is officially considered high as of a few months ago, and if I don’t do something about it, I’ll have to start taking meds for it.

A huge part of it is likely genetics; men on my father’s side are historically overweight. But my terrible eating schedule (or the lack of thereof) and compulsive snacking does not help either.

I won’t go into my diet too much, because that’s material for another post; in any case, it’s a fact that exercise is something I definitely need.


I have a messy relationship with working out and exercise in general. I was a chubby kid who was bullied growing up and I sucked at gym class. Having shitty teachers didn’t help either. So what I quickly learned is to just give up. Had to run laps for a few minutes, and I’m out of breath after 20 seconds? Just walk the rest of the way. The teacher will yell at you, classmates will make fun of you, but whatever. It’s the least bad option.

In high school, I got lucky and got transferred to the special gym class, for kids with mild disabilities, motor issues and such. It was easier: only two classes a week, and one of them was swimming. Which I am not great at, but not the worst either. Even there, I mostly just gave up on things quickly, but there was a lot less bullying and judging going around.


After I was finished with school, I more or less stopped thinking of or worrying about exercise and didn’t do much for almost ten years. There were times when I’d go swimming for a couple times before I would get bored with it (I still do). There were short periods when I was biking instead of taking the public transport, but they never lasted. When I broke my leg in 2014, I did do a decent amount of physical therapy, but I half-assed even that somewhat. To this day, my right leg, the one that was broken is still a bit weaker. I would go to the gym irregularly after that, mostly doing 20-30 minutes on the elliptical machine. I kind of wanted to exercise, but a huge part of me was fighting against it mentally.

Then one day, about three years ago, while being stuck in a nasty loop of self-pity, a friend of mine miraculously got me to (somewhat) snap out of it by getting me to sign up for a military boot camp-style workout program. We made a deal: I would go 10 times, and I can stop after that if I wanted to.

I ended up going only six times, and I hated most of it, except for one part: running.


One of the reasons I never considered running before was that it felt like the most boring thing ever; about as dull as swimming, if not more. That, and all the bad experiences in gym class growing up. But I had this strange urge to do it anyway.

When I started it was still very much winter, so I went to a sports store, got a bunch of warm running clothes, downloaded Runkeeper on my phone and then I just… ran.

I quickly realized that the only way I can do this is running intervals; that is, running a while, then walking a while, then running a while and so on. Runkeeper has a nifty feature where you can set up custom intervals; most of the time I tried to stick to 90 seconds of running and 60 seconds of walking.

I never had much of a running schedule. I would have phases; I would go for a run three times in one week, then skip the next two weeks. As I’ve mentioned it earlier, it was a constant fight with myself. Part of me felt this urge to go for a run almost every day, but another part of me was actively fighting against it. I know this is a common experience; it’s one that didn’t really change over the years, though.

Mostly eschewing “real” races, I was racing myself, trying to improve my pace. My dream was running a 5K in 30 minutes, which is a 6:00 pace average (the best I ever did was about 4K with 6:46 on a treadmill). I ran both outside and inside; each has pros and cons. Being outside gives you variety and makes things less boring; however, on a treadmill I can set a pace and push myself more.

I did find one race that I kept going back to called Sziget Run a monthly timed 5K at Margaret’s Island in Budapest, a popular running place. There is a bit of a community around it, and the organizers are great. It became this fixed thing in my life: once a month I would get up early, and do a 5K with a bunch of people. Most of the time I would finish dead last, but everyone was always a good sport about it, cheering me on.

One thing on my bucket list was doing a complete lap around Central Park, which I was fortunate enough to do when I went for a trip to NY in late 2016. It was literally one of the first things I did there. My pace was terrible, and I felt like I was dying towards the end but I did it, and I’m still proud of it. The next day I would run an even longer distance around Williamsburg.

The longest run I did was last summer: it was a 12K race I signed up for. I first signed up for the 6K, then changed my mind in the last minute, thinking 6K is not much of a challenge, but I never did 12K, so why not? I finished last and my body was not happy with me afterwards, but I’m glad I did it.

I very seldom got what people call “runner’s high”, but for a long time, I did feel much better after a good run. It was a challenge to get started, hell, it was a challenge to keep going but in the end, I would be rewarded with those sweet, sweet endorphins. Until I wasn’t.

Around 2018 I was going through a time when I was pretty depressed, and running slowly started being less and less enjoyable. One could make the argument that exercise is not about enjoying it, but I digress; you need to get at least some form of satisfaction from it to keep going. And what kept happening was that I would go for a run, and come away feeling just as bad or even worse after it.

Last fall, when I was at XOXO 2018 I co-organized two morning runs that were quite popular. I’m happy that I did that; at the same time, it was the last time I would go for a run, at least for a while.

This story is not over

I was going through some old diary entries late last year and I noticed a pattern: every 3 months or so, I would make myself a note: get a personal trainer. For years. So last month, after not doing any form of exercise since September or so, I did just that, with the goal of working out thrice a week.

I’ve only been 6 times so far, because I had to skip almost 2 weeks as I got sick, but so far, so good. We mostly do weights and some cardio, though yesterday we did a session with mostly HIIT. I have mixed feelings about it, we’ll see how it works out in the long run.

My personal trainer and I talked about going running once the weather gets better, so who knows, I might pick it up again. For now, my goal is to do a solid hour of workout and hope that I feel at least somewhat better after. I’m not there yet, but I don’t hate it either, so the jury’s still out.

In any case, I’ll keep going.

On Photography

· 921 words · 5 min read

My father is a semi-amateur photographer; I got my affinity towards photography from him. I grew up watching him taking pictures. After high school, I got a job and soon I had disposable income, so I got my first digital camera: the Olympus E-1.

That was in 2008, and by then, it was already outdated. Released in 2003, it had a first-generation micro 43 sensor, 5 megapixels and ISO 800 was barely usable. That didn’t stop me; it was a camera I was familiar with because my father had one for years. I frequently borrowed my dad’s excellent 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 which is still one of the best glasses ever made. The combination of the lens and the camera took good pictures, ones that look great even in 2019.

In those early days I photographed a lot of things, but after a while I kind realized that I mostly like shooting people and that’s where my passion’s at. Portraits, parties, events, families and so on.

The first phone I owned that could take pictures was the Blackberry 9000 (I still miss that keyboard…). The image quality was pretty bad by today’s standards, but it was a start. After that, I had two Android phones; they were a bit better, but still not great. The first phone with a decent camera arrived to me in 2013 in the form of an iPhone 4S, and I was a convert. I took a lot of photos in the next few years with it and the other iPhones I eventually upgraded to (a 5S, then a 6+ then back to the 5S). People were still my focus, but I also took a lot of random pictures for social media. The 5S was surprisingly capable of capturing a good sunset.

I started playing with film photography around 2010, borrowing my dad’s Contax SLR collecting dust. I bought a roll of black and white film for it and started shooting with a Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 lens. Later on, I’d get a Canonet QL19 rangefinder, and shot a few rolls with that. I gave that one away to a friend, something I kind of regret. Then again, getting a new one wouldn’t cost too much. I took some of my best photos to this day on film and I almost always shot black and white, there was just something to it.

Shooting with an analog SLR spoils you with that big, beautiful viewfinder. I became obsessed with getting a full-frame DSLR, which were not quite affordable until Canon released the 6D and Nikon the D600 around 2012. It took me a couple of years, but at the end of 2013 I was finally able to afford one. I got the 6D and eventually two lenses for it: the 40mm f/2.8 pancake and the 85mm f/1.8, the latter being my favorite lens to this day: it’s razor-sharp and takes the best portraits. I got a flash for it as well, and it sort of became my “work” camera. I got into party photography and became really good at dancing with a heavy DSLR in one hand. I even got paid for it sometimes.

From the earliest days, I shot in RAW and used Lightroom Classic (née Lightroom). By now my brain is hardwired for it. I have a good workflow, and I can edit the 800 pictures I took on a party down to about 60 good ones in 2-3 hours.

In the middle of 2015 and I was about to leave for a couple of months of work and travel in Southern Europe. I didn’t want to lug my heavy 6D around, but I felt that having only a phone was not enough. It was a perfect excuse for me to finally buy a Fuji X-E1. By then I was already infected with a fascination with Fuji’s mirrorless cameras because one of my former best friends was really into them. I got two lenses for it, the 35mm f/1.4 and the 18-55 f/2.8-4. The autofocus and the EVF sucks, but it makes the most beautiful black and white JPEGs. They have a certain kind of magic to them.

I used it with an Eye-Fi card I got a few months prior, an SD card with built-in WiFi that sends all the pictures you take to your phone. Combining that with my instant printers (Fuji Instax Share SP-2, Paperang P1), I could take DSLR-quality portraits of people and hand it to them printed out two minutes later. It never fails to amaze.

By 2018 my enthusiasm for photography has started to dwindle. I was still talking random snapshots with my aging 5S, but I stopped carrying my Fuji with me in my backpack. I also stopped going to the kind of parties where I’d take pictures. I got myself a Pixel 2 to finally upgrade my phone, which briefly got me interested in photography again, and later on, I switched to an iPhone X, which I used for a series of portraits (and instant pictures) on XOXO 2018.

Nowadays most of my equipment is collecting dust. My creativity gets channeled into other things: drawing and writing. I think part of the reason I stopped doing photography is that it can create a distance between you and whatever you’re taking pictures. Without my camera, I am often more present.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually I’d start taking more pictures again.

You can find some of my photos on my Facebook page.

On Living Alone, Living With Flatmates and Having the Best Apartment

· 396 words · 2 min read

I signed the new contract for my apartment a couple days ago. There has been a change: my youngest sister is moving in with her boyfriend, so one of my friends is taking her place.

I’ll miss my sister. We get along well and enjoy each other’s company. In practice, she’s been gone for more, than six months now: spending the majority of her time at her boyfriend’s place and coming home for only a couple days a month. I’m happy for her, but I still miss her. So I’ve been living alone for a while now.

I’ve lived alone on and off during the last decade or so. I’ve been privileged enough to be able to pick my flatmates. I have an aversion of living with strangers, so I always picked people I know, friends or at least acquaintances.

Of course, just because you know the person moving in with you, does not mean you know how it’s like to actually live with them. I got lucky with that as well so far; all my flatmates were great, and we got along well. I’m hoping for the same with my new one.

I could have looked for another place to live when I got the news from my sister, but this is one of the best apartments I’ve had so far. It’s the right size, it has a big kitchen with a gas stove and a lot of working area, there’s a decent amount of natural light and most importantly, it has AC — something that’s rare in Hungary — for the humid 35°C (95°F) summers we have in Budapest. There are two big, separate rooms, perfect for two people. It would be nice to have an additional living room, but still, I really can’t complain. And it’s affordable, especially for the area it’s in: the rent is 440€, with the total being around 490-520€ per month, the latter including utilities and Internet. All of that gets divided between two people, of course.

The location is excellent, well-connected, with major metro and tram lines closeby. It’s not quite in the heart of Budapest, but everything is still pretty close.

(I feel like I’m writing an ad for the apartment here, but no, you can’t have it.)

It’s gonna take me a while to adjust to living with someone again, but I’m hoping for the best.

On Board Games

· 1149 words · 6 min read

I got sucked into “real” board games about a decade ago. Some of my newfound friends from Twitter were into them, so we got together one night and started playing Catan, the gateway drug to the board game world.

Catan isn’t bad, per se; it’s just there are so many games that are much better than it, so we moved on to other games. After my move to Sweden, for a couple of years, I didn’t have too many friends to play with. In my last year there I’ve found a board gaming group and played regularly with them for a while, discovering many new games and making new friends. Since I moved back to Hungary, I haven’t played much but I want to change that this year.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of games I enjoyed over the years and still enjoy many of them:

  • Race for the Galaxy (and its expansions): A card game, in which you’re each building your own galactic civilization, with different planets, goods, capabilities and so on. It took years of regular play to finally get bored with it; it’s that good. The mechanics are not complicated, but it does have a learning curve. We tried teaching it to a lot of people over the years, and it was interesting to see how fast some people learned, while others kept struggling with it and never really got a hang of it. While luck does play a role in it, the better you get at it, the less it matters. The base game doesn’t have much interaction between the players — whoever had the most points at the end of the game, wins — but the expansions do add some.
  • Bang: A spaghetti western in a card game. Each player takes one of the four distinct roles: Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw or Renegade. The Sheriff and their Deputies want the Outlaws and the Renegade dead, the Outlaws want to kill the Sheriff and the Renegade wants to be the last person standing. Only the Sheriff’s role is known, it’s up to you to guess who’s playing who. Spoilers: everyone will keep insisting they’re the Deputy.
    You shoot at each other, dodge bullets, hide behind barrels, drink beer to get back life points… It has quite a bit of luck in it, but that never gets in the way of having fun, and you can play it with up to 8 people.
  • Agricola: You’re a farmer with a spouse, and you’re building your own farm, through 14 distinct rounds. You sow and reap crops, build fences, buy animals, expand your house and your family throughout the game. Like Race for the Galaxy, it’s kind of a multiplayer solitaire, but it’s a lot of fun. The only downside of it is that it takes about 15 minutes or so to set it up and even more to pack things away.
  • Love Letter: Best played with 4 players, this game consists of only 16 cards and a bunch of heart tokens. You’re a young lover, trying to win the affection of the princess. There are 8 different kinds of cards in the small deck and the game is mostly about being able to correctly guess who has which cards. It has quick, 5-10 minute rounds, so you usually play a bunch of them.
  • Codenames: This is the best party game, hands down. Two teams are working on finding their picks on a 5x5 grid of words. Each side has one Codemaster, who knows which words belong to their group and wants them to guess right: the only thing they can say is a one-word clue and a number. So if the table has “Athens,” “Berlin” and “France,” and all those cards belong to their team, they can say “Europe, 3”. It’s that simple, and yet this was an easy and unlikely example; more often than not you’re lucky if you can connect two words. Best played with 6-10 people. It’s been translated to a bazillion languages there’s even one where you have drawing instead of words.
  • Someone Has Died: I played this game at XOXO 2018 and fell in love with it within minutes. It’s an improvisation storytelling card game: one person takes the role of the Estate Keeper, who the rest of the players will have to convince that they deserve all that money the recently deceased had. Everyone gets a role, a relationship to the deceased and two story cards. In the first round, you proceed with your introduction, weaving your cards into the your story. It has four distinct rounds, and the winner is the person who is deemed to have been the most convincing by the Estate Keeper. If storytelling games are your thing, you’re gonna have loads of fun with this one.
  • Sushi Go!: This is a draft-and pass game: you deal a certain amount of cards, pick one and pass your hand to the next person until they’re all on the table. It’s fast, and it’s fun: each card has a type of sushi and a given amount of points; many of them only give you points when you have more than one of them, or combine them in a particular order. Best of all, the graphics are really cute. There’s a new version, called Sushi Go Party! with even more cards and support for up to 8 players (the original only goes up to 5).
  • Kingdom Builder: One of the most versatile board games I’ve ever played. You have a board, made of hexagons, which you build out of four randomly picked tiles. Your primary objective is to build settlements and build your kingdom. However, the three ways of getting points are drawn from a deck and therefore each game requires wildly different strategies.
  • Pandemic: A co-op eurogame in which you work together with everyone against the game itself, to stop a global pandemic killing humanity. Each player gets role with distinct powers. It’s fun and it can be quite challenging as well; the game lets you pick the difficulty.
    You can’t talk about Pandemic without mentioning Pandemic Legacy, a version of the game in which you play 12 to 24 games total, while the game changes in permanent ways. You name viruses, you tear up cards and so on. This requires you to have a regular, dedicated group of friends, but if you have those, it’s heaps of fun, I’ve been told. There are even two seasons of it out by now.
  • Fury of Dracula: Scotland Yard on steroids. One player takes the role of Dracula, moving around in Europe invisibly and building up an army of vampires, while everyone else is hunting him. Working against the clock, you have to be wise and try to find and defeat him. It’s a bit long (about 2-3 hours), but don’t let that deter you.

What are your favorite board (or card) games?

Flow (on Remote Work and Cafés)

· 380 words · 2 min read

I’m a freelancer; I don’t have an office. I can’t work from home; the silence is deafening, I need the background noise, and I need to be among people. The place I work from every day is a café about 25 minutes from my home; it’s called Flow. I am a person of habit: I wake up, I get dressed, I go to Flow and start working.

Flow is one of the many, many specialty cafés in Budapest. Don’t ask me about their coffee: I mostly eschew caffeine — my ADHD meds mostly replace caffeine — so my regular drink is an iced decaf latte with oat milk. It’s one of the most pointless drinks ever, but I like it.

So I don’t go to Flow for their coffee, but for everything else. It’s big; ceilings about 5 meters high and plenty of space, unlike most cafés. They have fresh pastries delivered every morning; if I get there early enough, I can nab one of my favorite chocolate rolls. And I kinda know some of the people running the place. They used to have great wifi as well, until the people responsible for it installed a network filter on it, blocking random sites and making work impossible. Thank God for unlimited 4G and tethering. They’re vegan, and I’m a carnivore, but they do have delicious tapioca pudding desserts. That, and plenty of power outlets.

Before Flow, I had another café as my base; before that place, another. I tried coworking spaces, and I was even part of one for about 6 months before the community around it started to dwindle.

On weekends or where I’m traveling, I go to a Starbucks. They usually have decent wifi, and their decaf is the same everywhere. They’re ubiquitous; you can find many of them in most major western cities these days (except for Sweden; there, I’ll go to an Espresso House instead).

Working from cafés is in many ways is not ideal, but it’s the thing that works for me. What would be ideal is a proper office, with coworkers — but I can’t give up freelancing for so many reasons. And it’s not like I’m alone here; I get to hang out with other friends who work remotely.

So cafés it is.

On Drawing

· 457 words · 3 min read

I started University last fall, and I used that as an excuse to get a 2018 iPad and an Apple Pencil. I had to take notes, after all, and why not do it digitally? The university thing didn’t last, but something else happened after a month or so: I started drawing.

I wasn’t that into drawing as a kid. Sure, I doodled just like everyone else, especially at a young age, and I do remember doing at least one pastel drawing, but that was about it. Hell, I was not much into visual arts either, or so it feels like, with the notable exception of photography. So it surprised even myself when one day, on a whim, I paid $10 for Procreate and promptly spent the next few days glued to my iPad and drawing every waking minute of the day.

A few months before that, I did a series of portraits at XOXO 2018 and they felt like a natural starting point. I started tracing these photos; open them in Procreate, set the opacity to around 50% or so, create a new layer, pick up my virtual graphite pencil and start drawing over them. I think I did about a dozen of these; you can find some of them on my Instagram. Looking at them months later, I think they don’t look too bad for a newbie.

Tracing felt like cheating — even though I know it’s not — and the next step was to find something or someone to draw. I was already aware of a place in Budapest called Painters Palace, a great art community that has weekly figure drawing classes. It’s full of amazing people, and they have a fantastic space.

I fell in love with figure drawing the very first time I did it. Drawing the naked human body is may not be the easiest thing, but it’s loads of fun. It didn’t take me long before I started modeling as well; I did it twice so far, and I plan to do it more in the future. My Instagram has a few early drawings posted, and I started posting my huge backlog to my art account.

Another thing I started doing was drawing hands from reference images. I have a couple of these published so far with at least one more to come.

There is some irony in the fact that even though I do almost all my drawing digitally, I use pencil and charcoal and I’m consciously trying to make them look like analog drawings. That being said, I don’t have much desire to use “real” pencil and paper, at least not right now.

All in all, it’s a great outlet for creativity and I’m very happy I discovered it.

I Am Not Sponsored by Grammarly but at This Point I Really Should Be

· 361 words · 2 min read

I was going to finally get back to work on my latest series before I distracted myself with other things, like tweaking my blog (word counts! reading time! endlessly tweaking the CSS!) as well as continuing to cross-post some of my writings from here. One thing I noticed is how my writing has improved over the last month (at least in my opinion). I was also mildly horrified how bad my spelling and grammar was before I started using Grammarly. Through this process, I fixed many early mistakes in those posts, though I don’t think I will edit them much beyond that.

A few days ago I bit the bullet and subscribed to Grammarly Premium, which fixes commas, sometimes tenses and other things one might mess up. It’s not a magic bullet, and I often disagree with its recommendations, but overall it’s definitely worth the money for me. If you want to save 40% on your subscription, register a new account and simply wait a few days. They will email you a discount on your first year.

I also took the opportunity to edit my series about ADHD into one big longread. It made me realize that breaking things down into smaller chunks really helps with writing, but at the same time editing them into one long article is not an easy process and I still suck at it. This is something I want to get better at as I want to write more long-form articles.

About ten years ago, before social media really blew up and blogs were all the rage, I hated when people metablogged. A lot has changed, of course, but I can’t help but see the irony that right now I’m doing pretty much the same thing: writing about writing, for me a form of progressive procrastination and a way to hit that 300-word mark and keep my streak.

In 2019 I feel like it’s allright, as long as it’s not overdone. I better find something else to write about for tomorrow, though.

This post was not sponsored by Grammarly, even though I’ve written about them plenty of times now, so they should really consider doing that.

RE: Take Your Pills — My Story of ADHD

· 4426 words · 21 min read

Owen wrote about his journey with AD(H)D and I figured I could tell my story as well, especially since no two AD(H)D stories are the same.

A note on terminology: I use ADHD, the DSM-IV and up uses ADHD as well, with a note that not everyone is “H.” Instead, it has subtypes: ADHD-PI, ADHD-PH and ADHD-C, but even these names have alternatives. Naming things is difficult, y’all.

In the beginning…

I was what they call a “problem child”. From kindergarten, I had poor social skills: I would get bullied a lot, and I didn’t have a lot of friends either. The first 8 years I attended a grand total of 5 different schools, which didn’t help either, neither did the fact that I was fired from the penultimate one for said lack of social skills and my old school did not take me back for the same reason. I’ve spent most of the last 3 years homeschooled, and by homeschooled I mean being home mostly by myself, learning the material on my own and having tests at the end of each semester to get grades. I was a smart kid as well, and while I’d like to think I wasn’t too obnoxious about it, I’m sure that didn’t help, either.

(the homeschooling thing is a whole ‘nother story which I’ll not go into it here, but let me just say, it was, in some ways, genuinely helpful for me)

My parents were not great at handling all this. They saw something was wrong early on, but couldn’t for the life of them figure out what exactly, and how to fix it, so in many ways, they just made things worse. I was raised in a fairly strict fundamentalist Christian household, so they’d mostly respond with various forms of punishment, and yes that included corporal.

We have to take a small detour here: besides my ADHD, I’ve had undiagnosed anxiety issues and OCD as well. When most people hear OCD, they think of the shit you see in the movies: people closing the door precisely six times, obsessively cleaning things, etc. While there are cases that are like that, a lot, I repeat, a lot of people live with OCD where it mostly happens in their head. For me, that manifested in a lot of crazy irrational fears going around in my head on loop 247 and a sense of helplessness of me not being able to counter them. My OCD wouldn’t get diagnosed until well into adulthood; I might write more on it later.

Getting diagnosed

This detour is crucial because ultimately my OCD was what lead to a huge meltdown I had when I was 12. I was out of it for days, full of crazy fears (another story for another day) and my parents did not handle that too well either. After a few days, they took me to an inpatient psychiatric clinic, which was a pretty traumatic experience (once again, another story for another day) but they did finally diagnose me with ADHD and gave me medication for it (Ritalin IR 10mg, once or twice a day, can’t quite remember). After this, I became homeschooled for the rest of elementary school (see above). My parents say I improved with medication.

I went back to attending school in grade 9 for four years of high school. The first year was hell; I still had no social skills and still got bullied a lot. But something started to change in the second year, and by the end of that I had a group of friends, reasonable social skills, wasn’t bullied too much anymore, and the last two years of high school is something I genuinely enjoyed.

Around the age of 16 or so, to the recommendation of my psychiatrist, my parents stopped giving me medication. My parents claim they switched to placebo and didn’t notice a difference; to be fair, neither did I at the time. They said I “grew out of it,” which was a popular notion at the time. You also have to keep in mind that ADHD medication, research and pretty much everything usually lags at least 10-15 years behind the US in Hungary (and to a certain degree, in Europe). We know better, nowadays, that a lot of ADHD kids don’t “grow out of it” and struggle through adulthood.

I worked as a journalist through high school and started freelancing with a translation agency as well, who hired me full-time after my graduation.

Things went mostly well for the first few years; everything was new, and novelty is a huge motivational factor for ADHD. Working in the same office together with people is helpful too, not to mention deadlines. They did let me be a generalist and work at my own pace when client work was not involved. This was both a blessing and a curse; I didn’t feel any unnecessary pressure, but in hindsight, I procrastinated a lot and beat myself up for it (I still do). I don’t subscribe to the cult and fetishization of productivity, but that’s a fact. A bit of nudge from someone goes a long way. I was suffering in a lot of different ways as well; I’ll get back to these things later in this article.

Getting rediagnosed

I was 21 when somehow, I genuinely don’t remember how, I stumbled upon a book that’d change my life: You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. I read it, and I immediately knew, I still had ADHD.

I went through a long and arduous process of being rediagnosed, not unlike the one Owen describes, so I’ll skip the description of the process. For me it took weeks, and it kinda sucked, but in the end, I got my diagnosis and started medication once again. Ritalin IR, 10mg, twice a day.

Let’s take a break here and talk more about ADHD itself and how it feels for me. Strap in; this might take a while.

Talking about ADHD and what is it anyway?

Let me start by saying that it’s hard to talk to people about your ADHD and its symptoms. A lot of people will brush it or its symptoms off with things like “oh yeah I procrastinate too,” “yeah sometimes I forget where my keys are” or “yeah I can’t motivate myself to do boring things.” I could go on.

ADHD is not about whether you procrastinate, forget your keys, or have a hard time doing boring things, among other things. To get a diagnosis, you have to meet a certain set of criteria, and they have to do with a lot of different things and more importantly, the severity of them. That is what most people don’t realize when they say things like the ones I listed above. You can find DSM-V’s fairly good criteria listed here.

I will explicitly not go into the “is ADHD being overdiagnosed/are our kids being overmedicated” debate — that’d be an entire post in itself.

ADHD is the utter, extremely frustrating inability to focus on something that you consciously wants to. Your brain, through a variety of factors, decides what to focus on by itself and you have very limited say in that. This is one of the reasons Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a terrible name: I don’t have a deficit of attention, I just can’t focus it like neurotypical people do.

Biologically, people with ADHD have the prefrontal cortex of their brain all messed up. That’s the part regulating thoughts, feelings, impulses. The linked article gives a really good overview on that as well.

The other big biological factor is not having enough dopamine in your brain, which is where most stimulant medication help. This ADDitude magazine article has a good overview on them.

A large part of ADHD is what they call Executive Dysfunction (ED). This article has a good overview of it; the parts that I find affecting me are issues with inhibition, working memory, emotional self-regulation, self-motivation and to a certain degree, planning. Let me extend on these.

How ADHD feels like and looks like to me

Issues with emotional self-regulation manifest in me with a sense of being constantly bombarded by and feeling helpless against overwhelming emotions, especially the negative ones. I am particularly extremely sensitive to rejection.

My long-term memory is pretty great, however my short-term (working) memory is absolutely terrible. With my attention frequently being as bad as a butterfly — insert “look, squirrel!” joke here — it’s very easy to get lost in my thoughts and forget things.

There are things that help with this. Medication helps. Writing todo lists help. Breaking things down into subtasks help. Sticking to said todo-lists is eternally work-in-progress.

“Oh I don’t need to write this down, I will remember it” is the biggest lie I keep telling myself, and I still fall for it. If I know I need something done and/or remembered, I’ll 1. add it to my calendar 2. add it to my weekly todo list 3. make a reminder for it 4. if it’s more important, make 2 or 3 reminders for it, because sometimes I just ignore the first reminder and forget about the whole thing.

Problems around inhibition and impulsivity are abound. A lot of times, particularly with people, I either just close myself up completely or end up at the other extreme: blurt things out without thinking or start oversharing (people who know me and are reading this are heavily nodding at this point). For me, this applies to anger as well. I am the kind of person who suffers a lot silently in a relationship and then one day just blows up. I won’t attribute this entirely to ADHD, and this is something I did and do work on in therapy.

I’m impulsive in many things, but it’s not all black and white. Being impulsive is not bad in itself; but what you’re being impulsive with determines a lot. I used to be very impulsive with money for example; if I’d have money left after my day-to-day expenses, I’d spend it on some electronics. A few years after I started earning money I discovered YNAB and budgeting — since then I’m like 50% less bad with money.

Up until very recently, I had a hard time saving money, though that’s also wrapped in anxieties you inherit when you grow up poor. Most of my working life, and especially in recent years I’ve been fairly privileged in earning a good chunk of money, though.

This brings me to my next topic, which explains many things, like the issue with saving money: I have a very myopic sense of time, not unlike one of a young child. It’s hard for me to think long-term in general: for me, there is now and not-now. Now is what needs my immediate attention. Not-now is something I can worry about later. Sure I could save up, but that’s not-now, and that simply doesn’t exist.

Being a freelancer means having to manage my money and deal with sometimes irregular finances. Last year I got my first real long-term client, and that helped a lot. I could plan for things, and I have stumbled upon a stupid easy technique (besides budgeting) to stop myself from spending money that would be better saved for later: putting almost all my spare cash into deposits. It’s still available, and it’s only a few clicks away from being able to access it again, but those few clicks goes a long way to stop myself doing it. (They also earn an insultingly small amount of interest.)

Regarding motivation, one of the things that drive me most is a sense of novelty, which becomes my downfall as well. The dopamine hit it gives me is addictive. I find and start a new thing, I get immersed in it and I do it almost obsessively. Then the novelty wears off and I just stop doing it. I have a bazillion failed pet projects and abandoned hobbies.

This addiction to novelty generates what I call “ADHD boredom”, though I’m sure there is a proper term for it. Let’s say it’s the weekend, and I got nothing scheduled, which is really, really bad. Now, I lie to myself, great! A free weekend! I can do anything! I can just rest. This is a trap. Having free time is a trap.

I can’t “just rest”. I am not capable of that and yet, even now I keep lying to myself that I can. I need to do things. And, while I could do about 10 different things — work on pet projects! draw! write! cook! etc. — oftentimes I can not bring myself to do anything. My brain, being the dopamine-junkie it is and frequently understimulated, wants something new (see also the section about spending money on shiny electronics above), and it just decided that. This is where we, once again, come back to the fact that I have a serious issue consciously focusing my attention on something.

And this is why I’ll frequently end up on the couch, mindlessly watching TV series or movies, and not even enjoying them, it’s really just to pass the time. It’s anything but living. I want to do so many things and it really sucks that I just can’t oftentimes.

I used to be really disorganized, although that has improved a lot over the years, with the todo lists and other techniques I’ve mentioned above. Don’t get me started about all the shame I picked up in school from teachers criticizing me for having a messy desk or my parent’s constant frustration of the mess in my room. Decluttering often makes things worse; nowadays I strive towards organized chaos.

Structure and habits is an issue; it is a constant fight between being very rigid with my schedule/life/habits or just winging everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really good at improvising things, but it gets exhausting. On the other hand, starting a habit and sticking to habit is capital-h Hard, and so far I’ve found that for it to work long-term, it needs to be somewhat flexible, or I’ll just stop it after a few months if I get that far. That applies to writing as well; I don’t know how long I can keep up the 300 words a day thing. For now, it works, but I know there will come a point where it’ll feel like a prison (hey Owen can we have that vacation days feature sooner rather than later?).

Deciding things can be really hard, excruciatingly hard. So far the only solution I’ve found is to, wait for it, just pick something. I know this is not helpful at all, but that’s where I’m at.

All of this makes getting things done difficult, especially the mundane and monotonous. The techniques I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs help. Deadlines help. I still procrastinate a lot, and to a certain degree I’ve accepted it, and I am working extremely hard not to beat myself up because of it. And oftentimes it’s productive procrastination; I do something useful and needed while avoiding something else. Like, writing this article.

If you want to know more about what ADHD feels like, read this because I feel like I’m just repeating things from this article. I am legit scared to open it now before I publish this because that’d make this post about twice as long.

Being on meds and also, ADHD is not alone

Taking stimulant medication the first time in my adult life was life-changing. It’s not a magic bullet, but as I’ve mentioned above, it helps a lot in many things. It brings me to a baseline, just a tiny bit closer to neurotypical people, in terms of being able to get things done, especially the mundane, tedious things of life. It removes a certain amount of “fog” I feel in my brain without them.

It’s important to note that ADHD does not exist in a vacuum. It can be and more often not is comorbid with a lot of other mental health issues. Anxiety, Depression, OCD and so on — you can find a good article and list here. Everything I’ve just described can mostly be explained through the lens of ADHD, but definitely not exclusively.

The rest of my story

Last time we saw our protagonist — about two dozen paragraphs ago — he got rediagnosed and started taking stimulant medication again. What could have possibly gone wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out. A couple of months after starting my meds again, my lifelong untreated anxiety issues reached a breaking point, and I started having panic attacks. It forced me to seek help finally and so I did: I started a medication that helped me a lot, but I also had to take another break from Ritalin, one that would last a bit more, than a year. During that time, my anxiety issues improved, I moved to Sweden in January 2013, and I also started going to therapy.

Through a stroke of luck, I got to a government-funded psychiatrist pretty quickly in Sweden. What seems unreal looking back is that I literally walked into his office, told him my history over the next 90 minutes, discussed what medications I need and he simply prescribed them. I would later learn that this is almost an exception and a lot of places in the world want some sort of proof in writing, and they won’t just take your word for it.

And so I was back on Ritalin once again, and it certainly helped things.

It’s 2019 now, and a lot has changed. I’ve done therapy for almost six years. Right now I’m taking a break, one that’s necessary given that I finished up two relationships with two therapists within two months at the end of 2018 (long story).

I cannot stress enough how much therapy — once you found the right therapist! — helps, not just with ADHD, but with just about… everything? Nothing can replace doing the hard work of sifting through all your past issues and traumas that shaped you, especially in your childhood. It’s been life-changing for me, and I highly recommend it to literally everyone, if you can afford it and/or your insurance covers it. Once my break is over I will very likely continue the work.

There are also ADHD coaches, which I don’t have much experience with, but they are a thing, and many people find them helpful, though costly. Leave a comment if you’ve ever had one! I’d love to know more about those experiences.

The ADHD medications I take has changed a bunch of times during those years, and right now I’m on a lowish dosage of Elvanse (Vyvanse) combined with some Guanfacine. I really wish instant-release Adderall would be available in Europe because based on my experience with all other past meds, I have a hunch that it’s the thing that would work for me the best, but until then I’ll work with what’s available.

Elvanse has a very different effect on me compared to Ritalin (I tried both IR, then XR, then a combination of both). The latter was effective, but it did raise my already high anxiety levels, and we could never quite compensate for that. There’s also the fact that high anxiety gives constant issues with my stomach acid. Ritalin had what my psychiatrist calls the “throat to the knife” effect; it helped me to get things done partly by giving me a specific kind of anxiety, not unlike to a strict parent standing over my shoulder threateningly. It does kinda work, but it is also not quite right. Oh yeah, and it also made me increasingly depressed and miserable.

Switching to Elvanse was a revelation. I no longer have a knife to my throat, and my anxiety and depressiveness improved a lot. I’m also a lot less miserable and much happier in general; one of the things I noticed is that I’m laughing a lot more again. The downside of it is that many of my ADHD symptoms are a lot worse, especially my working memory and forgetfulness. I feel downright stupid sometimes. But for now, for me, it’s definitely worth the tradeoff.

Let me finish this section with the important disclosure that while I share these experiences with the hope it helps others, it is a very well known fact among psychiatrists that people react to stimulant medication in wildly different ways. What works for me may not work for you. A good psychiatrist can help you find the right medication and the correct dosage.

I did not list all the meds I take here, and stimulant medications are not the only medications for ADHD. Again, find a good psychiatrist.

I would love to geek out more about ADHD medication with others and trade stories in private; find me on social media, I’m KTamas just about everywhere (except on Instagram).

ADHD: a success story?

I am really good at solving problems and I have no issues whatsoever boasting about that. The other thing I am also really good at is learning new things, and learning them fast. If something interests me, I can jump on them, study them obsessively and get productive, fast. That’s literally at least half of why people hire me, even though “I don’t know X but trust me I will learn it in a week, several people can attest to that” is a hard sell sometimes. But I make it work.

I’m a freelancer, and half of my work comes by word-of-mouth: I work with people and then they recommend me to other people. I’m pretty damn good at selling myself because I have no shame or impostor syndrome when talking with prospective clients (I reserve those feelings to the rest of my time on earth). I’m also somewhat extraverted and good at networking. Going to conferences and networking the shit out of them is the other way I get jobs. That’s my “secret” for having a successful freelancing business for three years and counting.

That, and the fact that — by far and large — I do good work, or so my clients tell me.

Many of the traits and skills I described are frequently attributed to ADHD, which would bring me to my next point: ADHD doesn’t get to define me. It is a diagnosis and a label. Used wisely, it’s an explanation but never an excuse.

I struggle with some other mental health issues with as well, and none of them are isolated; as I’ve mentioned before, comorbidity plays a significant role. Indeed, before saying goodbye to my last therapist, he told me that in the grand scheme of things, the issues I attribute to ADHD are the minority of my actual problems in my life right now. And I’m pretty sure he is right.

Closing remarks

There are a lot of things I have not touched upon these articles, but I hope it will at least get you thinking. It’s still something that in some ways is still underdiagnosed.

ADHD is not a life sentence; having a diagnosis, a good psychiatrist, a good therapist, a good coach (ideally, all of them) can improve things tremendously.

The origins of ADHD is something that’s still unclear, with many theories going around and consensus on it. It seems that in some way it’s hereditary, but the jury is still very much out on how much of it is nature and how much of it may be nurture. It does run in my family; several family members and some of my siblings have it. I’d be lying if I’d say I’m not worried that some of my kids may grow up with it, too. One of the books I’m recommending below has an interesting theory that very much fits my life story; however that doesn’t mean it’s the definitive answer.

A very important caveat to everything I wrote about, and especially the part on how ADHD feels like to me is heavily colored by the fact that I’m a guy. ADHD for women can and does look very different oftentimes; ADDitude magazine has an article to get you started reading up on it.

I’d be remiss if I wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that, depending on where you live and what your financial situation is, all of the above can be very expensive and a lot of people simply can’t afford that. I know I am in a very privileged position to do so, and it sucks that I don’t have a solution for those who don’t.

I hope you found these posts informative; I’m happy to answer questions in the comments, social media or in private.

Epilogue: a reading list

A while ago, I compiled a list of books that helped me learn about ADHD. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder
It is the classic self-help book and an excellent first read to get you into the topic.

Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
This is an excellent book to follow up the first with if you are not overwhelmed already. It is technically the second book in a series (the first one being Driven to Distraction) but stands on its own.

Your Life Can Be Better: using strategies for Adult ADD/ADHD This is excellent and practical, structured into concise chapters. After you get your dose of theory (and strategies) from the first two books, this gives you a whole lot more that are helpful.

Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It
I believe this is one of the most important books I’ve read about ADHD. It has changed my view on it profoundly, and I consider it a must-read. It has sections on both childhood, and adult ADHD and his two chapters about nurturing your inner child are something I re-read every couple of months.

The book poses the theory that ADHD is a combination of being born with an above-average sensitivity to outside impulses and early childhood trauma, primarily the lack of proper attachment/attunement to the caregiver parent (typically the mother). Again, this fits me; but it may not fit you, and it’s not that mainstream. Then again, mainstream is still pretty scattered — pun not intended — on the origins of ADHD.