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What’s it like being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult?

Leadership Academy advocate - Jordan Mason

Some random questions from one colleague to another.

By Jordan Mason and Alexandra Murphy

Global Accessibility Awareness Day falls on the Thursday of Socitm’s Accessibility Week. This week’s webinars have emphasised how accessibility can and should go beyond just websites. For those of us without the lived experience of disability, we have to recognise that we might have assumptions (about using technology) and set them aside. The important of co-design and collaboration is crucial. And this is just as much for us and our colleagues, as is it for our communities.

We haven’t had a specific conversation, yet, about neurodiversity. So I hope that this offers a little bit of that. And how we can go beyond just ticking things off on a checklist. Inclusion and openness offer people and organisations more rewarding ways of working and operating.

Jordan is Socitm’s Finances Officer and a graduate of the Leadership academy‘s Empowering women programme. Her Leadership advocate blog was the first content I uploaded to this site when I joined.

Alexandra Murphy: You’ve received a recent diagnosis of ADHD, what made you explore symptoms and/or behaviours? I’ve seen a number of people I follow on social media share their autism, ADD, ADHD diagnoses, as adults, so I’m wondering how you get to that point.

Jordan Mason: So I had a family member who I had similar behaviour to, be diagnosed with ADHD. When they were telling me about it I am sure they were trying to hint that maybe I should look into it for myself. As I was only just turning 21, I wasn’t really interested in trying to find out. But I went along to a doctor’s appointment out of curiosity. I was having some issues at a previous job, where my lack of concentration was being noticed. So I realised how important it was to figure out if there was something I could do to get better.

Was it a difficult process? Have you been able to get the guidance that you need?

It was a difficult, eye opening and lengthy process of trying to be diagnosed. I had to have many appointments to discuss how I had kind of lived my whole life and I think it ended up being like a therapy session each time. It wasn’t until the last couple of appointments that I really realised what a hold ADHD had on the way I was acting and feeling everyday. The guidance was there for the first stages but once I was given medication I was left to it. So I do a lot of research independently and I find new things out every single day!

Is there anything you or your colleagues/manager adapt day-to-day to accentuate the strengths that ADHD can provide?

Something I try to do is get as much work done as I can in the morning. Everyone is different but I know that even with the right medication my brain will tend to switch off around 2pm. So I like to leave the easier tasks until that time. Since working from home and Socitm being very flexible, it has allowed me to really take control and work when is best for me – instead of stressing myself out everyday in the office.

What things has Socitm got right and wrong?

Even in my first interview I was very honest and said straight away that I had just been diagnosed with ADHD. I wanted them to know me as a person and who they were going to be employing if I was to be successful. It was taken really well. There are always going to things people get wrong, as I don’t think ADHD is spoken about enough. A lot of people think its just young school kids who get angry and don’t want to behave.

I will say that one thing that doesn’t work for me is being micromanaged. I will start to switch off if I feel like someone is constantly ordering me to do things. In the past year/year and a half I have been lucky. I have very much been left to my own devices. I work mainly on my own and although times I do just want to ring a colleague for a chat, I know it works best for me that I am trusted to do my work and make my own decisions.

How has hybrid working had an affect (if any)? Well, I guess one is now home working!

Home working, if I am honest, has completely changed my life. In the first year I hated it. I started living on my own after a few months and it was a really lonely time for me. I had been working in an office with a group of people for around 5 years at that point, so to go from that to being completely on my own it was a struggle.

It only really changed in January 2021, when I moved in to my own apartment with my partner. I had to teach myself new routines that worked best for me. It is really easy to feel down on myself and stay in bed all day, sometimes if I feel like I am going to struggle to get anything done then I will allow myself an off day. It is important to listen to your head and not force yourself to do something you aren’t comfortable doing. Now I just enjoy all the flexibility. I have a great support around me and I have found a structure that works.

You’re doing a lot of study and exams. How has this been? There are sometimes options for students and different ways and places to learn available. So sometimes there could be group learning (when virtual or in a real room) and then assessments and methods of assessments can be tailored to help people do and be their best. Has ADHD changed how you’re studying now? As opposed to school? School can be very inflexible. And not the best environment for everyone.

Studying for my AAT has been a real struggle – I started this way back in 2017 and I am now only 2 exams in to Level 4. I do on-demand learning which relies a lot on your own willpower, which I am known to have none of – however, I had attempted to do the live lessons before and that didn’t work either. I am a bit of a cram it all in at the end kind of person as my ADHD allows me to work a lot better under pressure. Having the option of picking when you want to study, and when you want to do your exams, definitely helps with not loading too much on to my plate at once. It has been a way better experience this time round whilst studying.

What resources or support have you found useful?

I am not ashamed to admit that the greatest support I have found for my ADHD is Tiktok. It is so informative and works perfectly for someone with ADHD as the videos are only really 30 seconds long! As another member of my family has also been diagnosed, my whole family are knowledgeable of the struggles. So I think that helps take the pressure off feeling like your behaviour is going to upset other people.

Is there anything that’s really not helpful?!

I think the worst thing you can do to someone with ADHD is telling them what to do and how to do it, the best thing you can do is to speak through a task and to give flexibility on how it can be done. I find that I will switch off the minute I am just copying the way someone else has done something, I also will notice that doing it like this means I haven’t learned anything, I like to figure out my own way / style of doing things as then it will make it way more interesting for me.

One last thing I will say is, although having ADHD has come with massive challenges in terms of relationships, friendships and my working life. It is also one of my favourite things about myself. My mind works in a completely different way to others and I love it. I can always think outside of the box and if anyone comes to me for ideas I will have 100 things to offer right away. We have to find ways to love the things that society deems to be wrong with us, and that is exactly what I have done. If I didn’t have ADHD I wouldn’t be doing all the things I love right now.

Thank you so much Jordan for answering my questions so honestly and helpfully.

In reading about ADHD I used these sites.

And I really like this graphic I found, by Genius Within on their helpful page, What is neurodiversity?

A series of Venn diagrams circling a simple head, containing the title 'Neurominorities by Genius Within'. It lists different types of neurodiversity and their respective strengths. Autism (concentration, fine detail processing and memory); DCD/Dyspraxia (verbal skills, empathy and intuition); Dyscalculia (innovation thinking and verbal skills); Dyslexia (visual thinking, creativity and 3D mechanical skills); ADHA (creativity, hyper-focus, energy and passion); Tourette Syndrome (observational skills, cognitive control and creativity); Acquired Neurodiversity (adaptability and empathy); Mental health (depth of thinking and expression).