Emma Kearns, Solutions Manager at Rangam UK and Ireland, chronicles her epiphanic journey towards ADHD.
My journey is probably reflected in many women who have a similar story to tell.
At 36 I had my first child and immediately after we were plunged into lockdown 1.0 (3 days after to be precise – he clearly hadn’t received the lock own memo and decided that the first clap for carers was his cue to make his arrival!).
At this point, I had already started thinking ‘I wonder if I might have some ADHD tendencies. I use the word ‘tendencies’ here as there was this nagging imposter syndrome at the back of my mind that felt that by saying anything other than ‘tendencies’, I was invalidating other people’s experiences and diagnoses.
Whilst lockdown was horrifically tough, I do have a lot of thanks to give to 2020 as it allowed me the time and space to really work out who I am, why I struggle with the things that other people can do so easily, and why the things I find so easy isn’t something that everyone feels. The arrival of my little William was the catalyst I needed to really figure myself out. How would I be able to raise a well-rounded child if I did not know who I was?
I won’t go into all the details of ALL OF THE THOUGHTS I had during this time, but safe to say I have arrived on “the other side” - of self-awareness, of not mastering how to navigate life, of work, of being a mum, wife, friend, and daughter).
Having the self-awareness that I do actually have ADHD has encouraged me to take on challenges that I have never wanted to do before because I was so scared of failure that it was easier not to try.
I am now learning to drive, something I used to say I wasn’t doing because of the money or because I lived in London and didn’t need to, when actually, I had convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to do it. Now it is not easy and I think I am probably up in the top 10 for number of lessons in an automatic – but I am doing it and getting better at it!
One of the other things I am closer to accepting is my ADHD overwhelm and why after a period of time of doing everything all at once I will hit a wall where I can struggle to do the simplest of life admin tasks. Before, I would try to carry on, push through the wall and hide how I was feeling due to shame that people would think I am lazy or incompetent. This would then lead to extreme anxiety and really impact my mental health. Now when I feel like that, I try to be kind to myself, identify what I need to do to get through the day, and don’t put pressure on myself to show up. By doing this and taking the rest quickly, I know I will be up and running again much more quickly.
ADHD overwhelm is difficult to explain to people that don’t experience it. If you are reading this and haven’t experienced this type of overwhelming for me, it is a little like the dreams you have when you are trying to run away from something and cannot move. Your body is moving but you are not making any progress and the more you try and the bigger the jeopardy becomes which means you need to move to make moving much more difficult and exhausting.
Having said all of this, I do not have a formal diagnosis (something I always feel I need to clarify and something I definitely need to work on). I am not sure I will ever seek a formal diagnosis: for me, it is enough at this point to understand myself, explore strategies and think about needs rather than labels. For some people, a diagnosis can be really important to them and I would encourage everyone to follow a path that works for them.
A diagnosis or realization that you may have ADHD can be overwhelming and cause us to look into our past, feeling angry and upset about our experiences in school, employment and with friends, but I would encourage everyone to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel in all of this. Knowing yourself can be liberating and I am definitely a proud ADHD’er.