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  • Writer's pictureThe Advocacy People

Keeping on top of the mountain and swimming through peanut butter

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Amy is an advocate in the Kent team. She has ADHD and her son is autistic.

Here, Amy shares experiences of work and life as an 'ADHDer' for #NeurodiversityCelebrationWeek

Do you come across as very capable whilst you feel like you are swimming through peanut butter? Do you sometimes find yourself saying the wrong thing, when it’s already out of your mouth? Do you regularly spend half an hour looking for your glasses or find your phone in the laundry basket? Have other people asked you if you ‘find life hard’ or questioned why you haven’t reached your ‘full potential’? Can you only attend meetings if you are also simultaneously tapping your feet or spinning in your chair? Are you a perfectionist? Then congratulations, my friend: you may well have ADHD.

I do all of the above, but I do not fit the ADHD stereotype of a hyperactive noisebox. In fact, most women don’t: according to Psychiatry UK, women tend to present as ‘inattentive’, rather than hyperactive. Additionally, boys and men are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls and women (

But how does ADHD affect me at work, I hear you say?

I am generally powered by Duracell. That new case? Sure. You need someone to go on the radio to talk about advocacy? Yes please. Looking for someone to deliver a training session? You got it.

So how is this a bad thing? Well, the flipside of my high energy levels can be some serious lows where I am not only burned out, but I berate myself for volunteering for everything. My all or nothing nature means that I tend to be really lively or completely lethargic, meaning that my mental health can seem to plummet really quickly. I’m terrible at taking medication, I haven’t eaten breakfast before 12 since I was fourteen and my sleep patterns make New York look positively soporific. This can be conducive either to really good work days or really poor work days.

As what goes up must come down, so must I take the occasional mental health day (and Mind report that people with ADHD are more likely to suffer from poor mental health - Yet according to the British Safety Council, 17 million mental health days, in fact, were taken in the working year 2021-2022. Could this be because many employers do not or cannot offer the reasonable adjustments conducive to their employees with mental health issues?

I feel very lucky that The Advocacy People are such a flexible employer, within reason of course. I can work flexibly, with agreement, knowing that I will be supported . I am as lark-like as they come, so will often start work early (disclaimer: no one is asking me to do this, it is my choice), enabling me to take time to do household tasks or exercise in the middle of the day.

Amy finds that running is helpful to maintain balance and good mental health

Working flexibly allows me to stay just about on top of the mountain that is daily life for an ADHDer, it also allows me more ‘mental space’ to remember to eat regularly and drink water. Many people are unaware that there is a strong link between neurodiversity and a poor interoceptive sense, meaning that autistic people or people with ADHD may not recognise hunger, thirst or even pain signals. Add this to the fact that ADHDers tend to bounce around until they’re exhausted, and you have a recipe for mental and physical burnout.

Amy finds that baking and being outdoors are things that alleviate ADHD symptoms and help her to maintain good mental health

Most of the time, however, my mental health is pretty good, although I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer expanse of daily tasks: what do I need to do next? Have I done that job I wrote in my calendar three weeks ago? Have I had lunch? (There’s also been a dismantled IKEA bookcase in my hallway since October, but we won’t worry about that.) What really helps me to manage my chronic state of ‘headswamp’ is managing my own diary: autonomy at work is really important to me.

Furthermore, no longer having to negotiate the distractions of the office and only having to deal with my own has been a real game changer.

Reading this may make you feel that ADHD has little positives, which simply isn’t true. I am an incredibly creative individual, brimming with ideas to improve our work, and I consider myself to have first-class communication skills, an ability which is an absolute must in advocacy. Yes, I lose things all the time (my father’s nickname for me is the Absent Professor); yes, I can be blunt on occasion and have to apologise; yes, I can overcommit and end up frazzled.

But I wouldn’t change myself, and am so thrilled to have found a job where I am not only accepted, but celebrated.
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