Harriet Sugarcookie (@hsugarcookie on Twitter) runs a management agency for models and creatives who work in the sex industry. She started posting a while ago on Reddit, began camming, and furthered her career by starting her own blog site that ‘became more than a blog site for a while, which was really interesting’. In this discussion with Dom Smith, she opens up about her recent ADHD diagnosis, and the coping mechanisms she uses to help.
“When did you first get diagnosed and how did that affect you?”
I got diagnosed back in March, it was after a couple of appointments. I was actually seeing therapists, psychologists. COVID has been pretty hard on a lot of people, myself included, and I thought this is time where I should actually go and get some help just to make it through – and it was hard because I had just moved to this other country and things work very differently in America than they do in England, so it was hard to navigate. And after a few sessions, you should look into getting a more expert consultation so I did and that’s when I was given the diagnosis of ADHD, more specifically the inattentive type. I think a lot of people don’t realise that there’s more than one type of ADHD.
“What was that like for you to get that diagnosis?”
There were very complicated feelings, honestly. There were certainly feelings of like aha! that explains this and that, which I think a lot of people who come to have this diagnosis realise that, oh wow, these things that I’ve been living with all my life, you know now there’s a name to it. It seems so obvious but at the time these things were considered failures to me or they were just obstacles in my life that I just thought oh wow life is so hard. But on the other hand, you know, there were also feelings of it’s so frustrating that it took so long. I know, you know, we were speaking about it for some time, and they were saying its more likely that girls will get the inattentive type, and it’s also more likely that girls won’t get diagnosed in their early years, because back then, I’m not sure about now obviously but back then when I was younger, or you know, in primary school age, they were only really looking for that hyperactivity that you mostly see in boys. So, there was the sort of feeling of frustration that we could’ve gotten help earlier, it would’ve helped my family as well as myself. But the field was too, I’m not sure if the word narrow minded is right but they were looking in a very narrow spectrum. So, there were feelings of frustration there. And also, there was this feeling of fear, you know, there was these feelings like oh my God, there really was something wrong with me, you know and as much as it could feel like relief, there is this feeling of oh my God I have an actual defectivity. I’m not sure if that’s the word.
Yeah, you shouldn’t feel like you’re defective, but that’s not to say that that wasn’t an initial thought I had, like a gut reaction of like, oh my god there is something wrong with me. So yeah, there were very complicated feelings.
“I can imagine. We’ve talked a little bit about this before, but public perception wise you’ve come across very confident, and I know you to be that, but in terms of your public persona, people would say you’re confident et cetera, but you know, it must have been quite challenging to reach out, to actually make those first steps, to look at this diagnosis and to seek that. What were the biggest challenges for you to actually go and make contact? Because some people are scared of therapy, some people are scared of even seeking that level of help. Was that difficult for you to do or was it something that you were just, like, this needs to happen, I need to do this?”
I think… I mean, I’ll be honest, my journey with therapy has not been easy and I think a lot of people who don’t understand what therapy is think that you start therapy and then you’ll suddenly get these magic answers, so to speak. That suddenly, like weights will be lifted off and you’ll be happier, and better. And I don’t think that’s true, I think that therapy is a very long journey and I think part of it is just finding someone that is a good match for you. There are so many types of therapists out there, and they have different approaches and different styles and finding one that works with you, finding one that you can even be open and vulnerable with to begin with, is such a huge hard step of the process. And it’s expensive, I think people don’t realise there’s this level of accessibility and privilege that comes with being able to afford to look around. I mean, especially in America where I am, we’re looking at $150 per session. And if you meet someone, and they don’t fit with you, then you’re kind of like okay, that’s $150, then you have to meet another one and start the whole thing, and it’s just more and more money, so that’s really, really difficult. I actually started my journey with online therapy since everything was in pandemic lockdown. And it was a disaster! It was such a disaster. And after a while I had these feelings of like, this isn’t worth it, this isn’t helping me, I’m just wasting money, I’m wasting time, it’s actually, in some ways, more emotionally traumatic, but I just had to remind myself why I reached out in the first place, which was I’m not okay. You know, as much as I can put on a front, as much as I can be publicly saying I’m okay, the one person I don’t want to lie to is myself, you know. So even if it is for work, or you know, for a show of strength, I’m okay with saying to people like, I’m okay, I’ll get through this. But I never want to, if I have to ask myself in the mirror like hey, are you actually good? Like if I want to be able to say to myself like you know what, I’m not okay and I think I need help. So yeah, admitting it to yourself is the most important step. And telling other people that you are looking for help, it’s really none of their business. I think that helps me because I’m a very private person in that way.
“Yeah, I appreciate you taking the time to share that stuff with me. In terms of, you know, you reached out for help and you’ve got your diagnosis and you have that knowledge now. How has that knowledge informed how you treat yourself now? Because you mentioned, ‘now I can understand.’”
I think something that I personally find very fascinating is coping mechanisms that people create. Especially when you go undiagnosed your whole life, you have this obstacle, you have this way that your mind works and you can’t seem to budge it so people make work-arounds for it, and it’s very interesting to see how deeply ingrained my coping mechanisms were, or are. I don’t think they’ll ever change even knowing my diagnosis. As part of my ADHD, I have an extremely hard time following audio and conversations, I find videos really hard, video tutorials on YouTube – I can’t get a grasp on them at all. I know for other people they’re the opposite. For me, I always wondered, even if I’m interested in a subject or fully invested in the person in front of me, when they start talking, I find it really hard to grasp on to the conversation. I constantly feel my mind wondering away, or like I’m straining and I feel like I can hear the words but I can’t listen to the words. And that, my coping mechanism, manifested itself in me being a voracious reader. Like I can understand words if I can read them, if they are down on a page. I spent my whole childhood devouring books and just reading and reading and reading, and then you’ll see the part of my career that was probably the biggest, that was when I was blogging and writing articles, and again that was because like for my work I was spending all this time researching and reading and reading and then writing, because that was the way I could most understand the world.
“Absolutely, and I mean, that focus allowed you to achieve these goals for yourself. In terms of your advice for anybody else, again for people that are maybe afraid. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you today because again, the public persona of what Harriet Sugarcookie is one thing, and you are every bit of that, confident and an ambassador for so many different things, but you know, perception is a lot to a lot of people whether you’re living in Los Angeles or whether you’re living in Manchester. What advice would you give to someone who is worried about what people are going to think, what people are going to say, worried about their perception – family or otherwise. If they go for this diagnosis, if they take this risk as you realised it was time to do that. What advice and tips and tricks have you got for people who are struggling?”
So, like I said, I’m very private about that stuff. I don’t deny it but I don’t post about it a lot on social media, I don’t really bring attention to it. For me, this is because the person I was before the diagnosis and the person I was immediately after the diagnosis was the same person. Having a name given to the experiences I had up until then didn’t fundamentally change who I was as a person, the person that had ADHD and had their life affected by it, that has been and will be me the entire time. I think the thing that the diagnosis really helps with moving forward, is that now there is a name given to that obstacle that’s in your mind, there’s a name to the feelings of frustration, or the walls that you’ve encountered again and again. And this time, because you have that name, you have this power to look for solutions, to reach out. You don’t even have to talk to anyone, you can be like ‘okay, knowing that this is caused by ADHD, I can google what happens with this, how do people deal with that,’ and it’s just having the ability to find better solutions or better work arounds or better coping mechanisms. Just having this vast wealth of knowledge open, because I haven’t fundamentally changed as a person, my ability to tackle challenges in future has opened up because now I have a name to the monster I’m fighting, so to speak.
“That’s a really good analogy, and I think in terms of, if you’re comfortable sharing, what’s a really prominent example that you can give me of when you got the diagnosis and you did your research, because again, it was like a sigh of relief, you were like ‘I understand that now, I feel better, I can cope with that and I can learn from that’.”
One thing that I always really hated about myself was that I always thought I was a really lazy slob. My room would always be a mess and frankly, half the time it still is, just really messy, things thrown about, there’s no rhyme or reason to where I put things and I would constantly be thinking oh where is that thing, I saw it just the other day. If I ever tidied up, I would always think well now I have no idea where anything is, you know, when everything was on the floor I knew exactly where on the floor it might have been. I really thought I’m such a slob, this is disgusting, how can I like with just piles of clothes like this? But reading up on it, it’s very normal, and what I realised was what happens is, tidying up, for one, is boring, and it’s so easy to get distracted. You’re putting something away, you pick up a notepad that had some notes you scribbled on a few weeks ago and you think oh, that was such a good idea, and then you think I should follow up on this. Or you pick up a piece of clothing and you think this was when I went out with so and so, I haven’t spoken to them in a while and you go. All of these things that you’re trying to tidy up are reminders of tasks that you may have started and may have abandoned and then, suddenly, you have this insane desire to continue it. Then you get lost in the mess, I suppose. I was reading up and seeing other people also feel this way, yes, my room is also like this and then people were sharing – how do you become tidier? How do you stay on top of the disorganisation? And there were lots of different ways, I tried a bunch, some didn’t work, and some worked. For me now, it really comes down to just blasting music, and really just focusing on the music and dancing and singing to the music so my job isn’t tidying up. That’s something I’m doing whilst I dance and sing. So, it’s an enjoyable event of, I’m just taking this time to really enjoy some music. Maybe an artist I like has brought out a new album and I really want to listen to it, and whilst I’m listening to it, I’m also pottering around my room and putting things away. The thing that was distracting me the most was when I looked at an item and my mind went to where that item reminded me of, and instead of looking at that item and thinking ’this is when this happened’, I would instead really focus on the music instead, so I was kind of looking through the item, so I could put it away. That’s really helped me and made me realise I’m not a natural slob. I don’t enjoy living in a mess, I’m not dirty like that. I just get so easily distracted so I really need, I guess you could say, the music and the dancing as my anchor to not get distracted whilst I get this job done.
“Out of curiosity, because music has been a huge part of both of our lives, do you have any favourite songs for when you’re trying to focus?”
Honestly, I mix between classic rock like meatloaf, like the ‘Bat Out of Hell II’ album is one of my go-to’s because I really feel like you can blast that one, you can get so into singing the ballads, and I also really like – and this is specifically for tidying up – cheesy 80’s songs. 80’s pop songs. Because more modern songs, they maybe have more interesting beats, you know, I’m really into rap, it’s harder for me to get into it to sing along so I really need music that one, I know like the back of my hand and two, I enjoy singing along to, and then that helps me feel more immersed in it. Which I can’t do with say, the latest hip hop stuff because I can’t rap along and it’s not really the same. I really need songs that fully get me immersed so yeah, a lot of meatloaf, a lot of 80’s, I do Elton John some days, so yeah, anything like that.
“I heard once, somebody said to me, ADHD is a little bit like a curse sometimes but it’s also a bit like a superpower. It can really help you in some ways, in terms of your drive, in terms of analysing different things. It works differently for different people. Has there been a time where you’ve looked at ADHD and you’ve researched it and gone ‘oh, that’s really helped me’? Because obviously, you’ve started businesses, I’ve known you to start businesses, I’ve known you to travel the world, I’ve known you to meet different people from all over the place. I wonder if there is anything that you can kind of go, ‘okay, yeah, my ADHD has helped me with that.”
I don’t know if I would ever put it down and say that it was the ADHD that helped with that, honestly, but I do know that I’m impulsive. A lot of things in my life, a lot of travel I’ve done, a lot of holidays I’ve taken, heck even my partner and how we got together, it’s all been very impulsive. So that might have something to do with it. If I get an idea and I think hey, you know what, this sounds like fun, or this could be good, let’s just do it, like what’s the worst that could happen. I’ve definitely thought that way a lot. The only difference is that you have to be very confident in the consequences. A lot of people, when it comes to impulsiveness, they want to do something because it sounds good, but they’re not particularly ready to take the consequences if it doesn’t work out. I’ve always been very clear to myself, like let’s say I do this impulsive trip to so and so, if things go bad at home or work, I have to do this or that – I’m mentally prepared to face the consequences should they arise before I decide to do it. That’s probably my biggest advice on that one, I don’t know if the ADHD has helped, but it’s definitely made my life more interesting through my impulsiveness. As a person I’ve learned to be very clear with myself as to where impulsiveness leads, and to just be responsible for the consequences. I’m not saying they’re always bad, but I go into it and make the choice knowing that there are risks.
“That’s really interesting, I can relate to that for sure. I think in terms of again advice and support for anybody else, you know, different people are going to be dealing with different things, and you’ve certainly given some good tips as well. In terms of somebody else who, if you could speak to any of your ‘followers’, for anyone that follows Harriet Sugarcookie and takes inspiration from you and can resonate with any of this, what is your advice for them, you know, taking the steps that you took, making that jump into seeking help and getting support?”
You don’t have to tell anyone. I know that sounds like a weird piece of advice to say, but there is this fear from a lot of people, that if people find out that you got diagnosed, or if people find out that you’re looking for therapy or help that you’ll be seen as weak. As much as I can tell those people like, it’s not weak, you’re not weak, that doesn’t always help, so all I can say is that you don’t have to tell anyone. Getting help is for you, for yourself and you never have to disclose that. I would say telling some people like your closest friends and people you truly trust, it felt like a weight had been lifted, it felt like you could get support, I’d recommend it, but you don’t have to if the thing stopping you from getting help is fear of perception of other people. You have to realise that when it comes down to it, this is a deeply personal business between you and yourself, and no one else is owed the knowledge. You don’t owe other people to tell them, so you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But you can and I personally think you should, with like close, close friends. I think that’s it for me, like when I took the steps, I was very private about it. I was very scared, and, you know, I could’ve told my friends, and they would’ve been really supportive, but I really wanted to make the steps myself, and if I didn’t like the results, I could just be like ’no one will ever have to know’, that’s what I was telling myself. If things go badly, it’ll be a thing that happened and no one will know that I messed up and did something silly once. That’s how I got myself to have that courage to go and see.
“Absolutely, I think that’s a good message. Outside of, you know the ADHD is one thing but in terms of what you’ve been able to do with your career, you know you’ve built a following of people that have got behind you. As we finish off now, obviously you have a message for people that might be looking for a diagnosis which we’ve just covered, but in terms of your message for people that have supported you through your work and through your life, and that have supported you or got behind you financially or otherwise, what is your message as we finish off today for those people that have supported you and will continue to support you, as you go forward in your career?”
Thank you for supporting me. I swear to God, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I haven’t for the last ten years, but you’ve been along with me this far so please continue to support me as I continue to have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Because ultimately, at least we’re having fun, right?
“Absolutely, well thank you very much for your time. I can continue on for hours with you, I love catching up with you, it’s been wonderful. Do continue to follow and support Harriet. It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you very much for your time.”
Interview: Dom Smith / Transcription: Maia Barker