Charlotte, aged 25, is a Workforce and OD Officer supporting Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW)’s Central Locality teams. In January 2023, she was formally diagnosed with combined type ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Charlotte is sharing her experience of being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult to celebrate Neurodiversity Celebration Week (13 – 19 March 2023), a worldwide initiative that aims to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences:
At school, I was often referred to as a tomboy and was always on the football pitch with the boys, rather than playing with the girls. I climbed every tree I could find and often got told off for shouting out in class or not staying seated.
I got good grades at school, college and university and I think that may have contributed to me falling through the net with support. There’s no doubt that those with a neurodiversity struggle more in education. I’m a firm believer that’s not an issue with people with a neurodiversity, but rather that our schooling system is built for neurotypical children.
I have always worked extremely hard professionally too so when people learn of my diagnosis, they’re often very surprised. ADHD doesn’t impact my intelligence or my values, it’s just I see the world a little differently.
ADHD doesn’t impact my intelligence or my values, it’s just I see the world a little differently.
As I started to relate to more content about ADHD, I realised, a lot of what I did was years of masking or overcompensating for my brain. I spent hours and hours revising, whilst my classmates and fellow students could retain information quickly. I spent eighteen hours a day in the library in my final year of university every day, for fear of failure. I knew that I was different, but I never knew why or how so I thought if I did nothing else, I couldn’t be distracted. I made myself quite poorly, studying so hard to make sure I did well. In my opinion, I had to work twice as hard, to get grades others got quite easily. This is no different to present day, I have often found myself working additional hours to make sure I don’t fall behind.
If you told me a few years ago, I would be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental condition, I don’t think I would have believed you. I never knew much about ADHD myself and always assumed it was the stereotypically for ‘naughty boys’. I so wish I had educated myself earlier but thankfully, I found people like me on social media accounts during lockdown and started to build a better picture. Social media gets a lot of bad press but in my opinion it’s brilliant for building communities for those who are deemed ‘different’.
My day-to-day symptoms include:
- Fidgeting and often needing to get up and walk around
- Appearing to daydream but actually my mind is going a million miles a minute, like a TV with 300 channels but no remote to click the one you want to watch
- Struggling to relax
- Sometimes forgetful – I use lots of techniques to combat this now
- Easily distracted or often hyperfocus on a task if I’m interested in it
- Often feel overwhelmed
- Sensory issues with food, touch, smell and light
With a lot of learning (or hyperfocusing on my ADHD you could say, ironic really), I realised my ADHD had held me back but also, without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I often joke ADHD is my ‘superpower’. I’m incredibly resilient, abundant in energy and positivity, I can hyperfocus on things I like, which is a lot, and I often have lots of new ideas.
I often joke ADHD is my ‘superpower’. I’m incredibly resilient, abundant in energy and positivity, I can hyperfocus on things I like, which is a lot, and I often have lots of new ideas. My impulsivity doesn’t come out in spending money but rather deciding to climb huge mountains or jump out of planes.
Empathy is often something I feel on a very deep level for others, even if I don’t know them. I can read people’s emotions and infer their feelings. I’ve come to realise, this is a huge strength in my professional and home life as I would do anything for anybody in need but also a weakness, as often my own health and wellbeing take a hit as a result. My diagnosis has certainly helped me rationalise these things, separating what is my role and what I need to detach myself from.
The Trust supported me through my diagnosis, something I’m so grateful for. It was great to be on the other side of things, after supporting a lot of our amazing clinical teams from a HR perspective. I had an assessment then the team then spoke to my mum about symptoms as a child and present day. I then we had a follow up appointment before the MDT discussed me in depth.
My diagnosis has helped me come to terms with my differences and celebrate them. I’m on the waiting list for titration of medication, the process used to find the right dosage of ADHD medication. I’m looking forward to trying this but I’m also at peace with the idea of carrying on as I am. I’ve coped all these years without it, as much as it’s been a struggle at times.
My diagnosis has helped me come to terms with my differences and celebrate them.
Being neurodiverse isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, there are days where I wish my mind would just take a break and be quiet, where I could sit and read a book for hours or switch off and relax. Or if I could remember things without appointments in my phone, to-do lists or post it notes. Or complete one task without starting three others at the same time.
I’m still getting used to telling people I have ADHD, I do think there’s a huge stigma attached to women with a neurodiversity. My condition doesn’t mean I’m lazy, disorganised, or loud – it just means I’m me. It comes with lots of challenges but connecting with others who are neurodiverse has helped me tremendously. It’s supported me to learn more about myself and lots of tips and tricks about how to make the most of my incredible brain.
There is a great Michelle Obama quote I live by when things get tough:
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important you understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”
Some of the most ‘successful’ people in the world are neurodiverse, it’s time we celebrated our differences. Only now are we starting to see neurodiversity awareness and it’s amazing! It takes so much strength to fit into a world, that isn’t built with your needs in mind. Our ability to do this, despite how hard, is something to be so proud of!
Find out more about neurodiversity on the Neurodiversity Celebration Week website.
If you think you might have ADHD, your GP or another health professional can refer you for an assessment by the Adult ADHD Service.