You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink
How a diagnosis of ADHD and a passion for sewing helped me finally break free from the saying that haunted my childhood.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This saying seemed to haunt me growing up. It followed me from school to school and teacher to teacher. I was seen as a perpetual case of unfulfilled potential. My mind was a chaotic combination of a strong will to succeed and a complete lack of motivation. I always knew there were things I wanted to achieve but when it came down to it, I was unable to put in the necessary hours or effort to do so. As a result, I left in my wake a sea of unfinished projects and uninspiring grades. That was until my life was altered by an ADHD diagnosis at the age of 19.
Armed with both medication and the knowledge that my messy mind was not a result of some character failure but instead a medical disorder, I suddenly felt capable of achieving. Comparing my pre- and post-diagnosis university grades looks as though someone had swapped in a body double to take my place. When I started a project, I could finish it. There was no intense struggle with focusing, nor with a mind that couldn’t help but wander. Instead, I decided what I wanted to do and I did it.
I had learnt to sew as a kid and always loved it. But after leaving school and moving away for university it seemed to join the pile of the rest of my discarded childhood hobbies. In March 2020, however, I was sent home from university due to Covid-19. I had finished my studies for the term and knew I wanted to start sewing again, hoping to find just as much joy in it as I used to. It didn’t disappoint. I thread up my machine as if I were on autopilot and got to work making some summer clothes. I wasn’t a fan of commercial sewing patterns, as I found them both confusing and dated, and so I decided to start making my own. I taught myself how to draft basic blocks and how to cut and tape them to create my desired silhouettes. I found that not only did I love sewing just as much as I used to, but I loved making patterns too. Not long after, I decided I could share these patterns with others allowing me to make a little income over the summer holidays. These ideas were met by many with the same reactions that all my previous passion projects had ignited; support tempered with questions of the longevity or sustainability of such interests.
Ignoring any of the doubts of both those around me and some quieter voices in my head, I listed them on Etsy and nervously awaited my first sale. By the end of my first week, I had made 10 sales and was ecstatic. By the end of my second, I had made 100. Now, it has been about 10 months since I opened my Etsy shop and I have made over 5000 sales to over 60 countries. I am still a full-time student and so try to split my time between sewing and studying, both of which are things I never could have dreamt of before my diagnosis. Maintaining consistency in one area of my life used to bring with it such difficulty, that the thought of upholding both a sustainable business and good grades seemed farfetched, to say the least. However, now I make new clothes every week and love sewing just as much today as I did when I was 10. Cutting out the fabric, pinning the pieces, sewing them together and watching something come from nothing never ceases to bring me joy. Though I have experienced many changes since I was 10, sewing feels like a constant in my life. Even when I barely used my machine there was something comforting about knowing it was there and waiting to be picked up as soon as I felt ready to do so. I’m not sure what this means for the saying that haunted my childhood. Perhaps the horse, and by extension, I, just wasn’t thirsty, perhaps it was the wrong water or perhaps it was being led by the wrong person. But, either way, I think the horse is drinking now and enjoying it more than ever.