Neurodiversity Celebration Week (13 – 19 March 2023) is a worldwide initiative that aims to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyscalculia.
To celebrate the week, staff from mental health provider Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) are sharing their experiences of neurodiversity.
Emma, a peer supporter facilitator for north Cumbria, wasn’t formally diagnosed with ADHD until she was in her thirties.
I was always getting told off and kicked out of the classroom for being disruptive. I really struggled with concentration.
Emma remembers the impact ADHD had on her at school.
She says: “I was always getting told off and kicked out of the classroom for being disruptive. I really struggled with concentration.”
Emma was originally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but never really agreed with her diagnosis as it didn’t fit with what she was experiencing.
After researching ADHD, Emma found that she identified with some of the traits, such as being hyperactive and ‘always on the go’ but dismissed it as she didn’t feel that some of the traits matched her personality or how she was feeling all the time.
“I always thought ‘no it can’t be that’. But over the years it has come back into mind and in the last few years I’ve really started to look into it more.”
Hyperactivity, being talkative and concentration issues are all traits most people might associate with ADHD but Emma’s life is impacted in other ways too.
“Some people don’t understand that ADHD isn’t just about hyperactivity, they don’t know what I’m like behind the scenes and the struggles I have in my home life and at work.”
“Some people don’t realise that ADHD can impact your memory – sometimes I’ll get an email from a colleague or text from a friend and forget to reply for weeks.”
It was working with her line manager Vicky, who has ADHD, that really helped Emma – “Vicky shared her personal story and I just resonated so much with it.”
Emma then visited her GP and was formally diagnosed with ADHD and was also referred for an autism diagnosis.
Emma says: “Being diagnosed and looking into ADHD more has made my life make so much sense and I’ve never felt so content.
“Vicky said she’s noticed a positive change in me since being formally diagnosed. Before, I was worried about saying the wrong thing and offending or upsetting someone.
“Now I feel more confident, I’m able to be more vocal and say what I think without worrying. I can be the real me.”
Being diagnosed and looking into ADHD more has made my life make so much sense and I’ve never felt so content.
Emma’s advice to people with ADHD is: “Find out as much as you can, it really helps to educate yourself and to find what’s out there.
“Go to ADHD help support groups and talk to other people who have ADHD.”
Although marking Neurodiversity Celebration Week is important, Emma says: “it shouldn’t stop there, it should be talked about all of the time and everyone needs to keep this in mind.”
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.