Celebrating Neurodiversity Week
To mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Lucy, our founder, shares her personal experience of ADHD and how it has shaped her life.
When someone is neurodiverse, it means their brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Neurodiverse conditions include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, tourette syndrome and complex tic disorders. These conditions are very common and it’s estimated that 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent (more than 15% in the UK).
Here at Aspiga, we believe in sharing information about mental health and neurodiverse conditions to encourage discussion. It’s Neurodiversity Week this month and Lucy, our founder, shares her story with ADHD, to help raise awareness.
‘My earliest memories of struggling to concentrate were as a child when my mother would help me read. She had to cover the picture as otherwise, I would just look at the image and make up a story, which seemed much more fun and interesting than trying to work out how to learn to read.
At school, I ran around a lot and disturbed others as I wanted to play or do anything apart from my homework. When it came to exams, I read the questions too quickly, panicked when I realised I couldn’t answer them, and then sat and fidgeted, or looked out the window for the rest of the exam. Sometimes, I simply just made up an answer that I thought might work or that I enjoyed writing about.
The teachers always said I was perfectly capable - I just needed to apply myself (which I simply couldn’t do) and they wouldn’t let me do less than 10 O-levels.
I managed to scrape through, passing almost half of them, but my parents and I realised I still wasn’t going to apply myself to do A-levels, so I was sent off to secretarial college. Once again everything seemed more exciting than studying.
When I got a secretarial job (down to my zest for life and can-do attitude) I somehow settled down, worked hard and was quickly promoted. Then I heard about a job at the charity Business in the Community which sounded fantastic and that’s how my career started.
In my second role working for the charity, I was lucky that for the whole 15 years I worked there, they saw my potential and gave me the freedom to think for myself rather than micro-manage me – which is challenging for people with ADHD.
Last year I was finally diagnosed with the condition, (I feel it would have made a big difference to me had I known this at an earlier stage of my life). I have now discovered that people with ADHD are five times more likely not to get married or to get divorced (I am not married, despite some lovely offers, as I always thought the grass was greener and was afraid of being bored), we love excitement in life!! We are apparently more likely to crash our cars or clock up speeding points and again I fit the bill rather too well!
I am truly grateful for the support of a loving family of entrepreneurs who gave me a great start in life because had I been brought up in a deprived community, I am sure I would have ended up in prison or on the street. 25% of adults in prison have ADHD compared to 2.5% of the general adult population, perhaps because having ADHD can mean we are not good at conforming and we crave excitement.
We are also likely to be addicts and can struggle with depression. I feel blessed that neither of these have been an issue for me and are about the only symptoms I do not appear to have.!
Other challenges for me include simple things like trying to focus on an important zoom call (and not doing emails at the same time) and allowing enough time when I have hard deadlines (like getting to the airport). This is particularly difficult for me as there are never enough hours in the day to do what I want to do. I also have to remember to look after myself. I get so hungry and impatient, I can often eat rubbish as I don’t want to spend time making something healthy.
Medication and Supplements
I tried medication last year but it made me dizzy, feel sick and I didn’t sleep very well. My approach at present is to now manage my ADHD by understanding the things I find difficult and talking about it with the people I work with, as well as my friends.
I take Fish oil, Magnesium and often CBD oil or Rhodiola Rosea extract to help to calm me. I also realise that exercise is hugely important to help me to relax.
It's not all bad news
On the plus side, my ADHD means I am excited about life and it’s never boring. I am constantly running around (perhaps doing too much!!). I love travelling as there is
always so much I want to do. With Aspiga, I am lucky because I have the drive and energy to push ideas forward and I can make decisions quickly from my gut. I also seem to be able to find some amazing and patient people who can work alongside me and take on areas I find difficult or tedious. I can’t thank all past and present employees enough, as I know at times, I have driven them all mad.
The biggest thing for me now is understanding the different ways ADHD presents itself and rather than seeing it as a negative, to appreciate all the benefits having the condition brings - I can get up at 3 am and keeping going until 10pm or even 4 am if I need to - and climb a mountain in between. I don’t do this often, but I have the energy if I need to. I’ve never had a day in bed ill as there is just too much to
get done (thankfully I must have good genes and don’t seem to get very ill).
I am learning to try to be gentle with myself for the things I dislike about myself. I feel it is easier to live on my own currently as no one else has to try to keep up with my pace or my traits, but I recognise I may need help to let someone in my life.
We will all have our own stories, and ADHD manifests itself in different ways. My message is to please try to understand anyone who you think may have the condition. People are now rightly much more aware of and sympathetic to depression and other mental health issues, but it seems to me that ADHD is still less understood.’
Resources Lucy recommends:
CHADD—Children and Adults with ADHD
ADDA—Attention Deficit Disorder Association
ADHD to A to Z by Leanne Maskell https://leannemaskell.com/adhdworks
Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russel Barkley
1000 Best Tips for ADHD: Expert Answers and Bright Advice to Help You and Your Child by Susan Ashley Ph.D
ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know by Stephen P. Hinshaw and Katherine Ellison
You Mean I'm Not Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo
@dandelionwellbring - Amber Macintosh
@adhdworks - Leanne Maskell