Living with ADHD

In her blog, Helen Allwood reflects on her journey of discovering and embracing her ADHD diagnosis while navigating the challenges and opportunities it presents at work and at home. Through seeking support, gaining insights from coaching, and fostering self-compassion, she shares valuable advice for others on similar journeys within the neurodivergent community.

Having ADHD was something that had never, ever entered my head. So it was a bit of a shocker when a friend pointed out that I had some of the symptoms. We had just started to realise that my daughter had some autistic traits, and this led me (like a lot of parents of neurodivergent kids) to look into my own neurodiversity since these conditions are nearly always inherited.

Once I had got my diagnosis, there was relief and grief, elation and real sadness, and I came away from the whole process with a huge drive to make all of this stuff easier for anyone else that found themselves in a similar situation.
Needless to say, I had to re-evaluate a lot of things, both at work and at home. I was very lucky to have an understanding boss, who I had discussed the diagnostic process with from the start, so there was no ‘big reveal’ of my diagnosis, in terms of having to disclose to work. I appreciate how lucky I was in that regard.
When the question came about reasonable adjustments and what I needed help with, I literally had no idea what to ask for. I had no real notion of what my strengths and challenges were, I’d never stopped for long enough to think about it! What I did though, was to learn as much as I could about ADHD and neurodivergence more broadly. I also started asking for help, which was a very new concept for me. My help came in the form of a few close friends who were also ND, or who had ND kids. And this is my first piece of advice. Find your people, seek them out! There are some great Facebook groups out there if you don’t (think you) know many neurodivergent folks. There is definitely support to be had!

In my case, I knew a couple of the other people who were working in my hospital were ND, so I made a little online ND group, just for us. It’s the most lovely thing to share our experiences and quirks and successes and struggles. It’s very valuable. Somebody once asked me what really helped me when I got my diagnosis and it’s absolutely this. Support from people that ‘get you’ is the bee’s knees!

The next thing that I would recommend is getting yourself a coach. Coaching is useful for a huge range of people but is especially useful (I’d go as far to say essential) for neurodivergent people. It provided me with some profound insights about how I work and enabled me to capitalise on my strengths. It had such a big impact on me that I decided to train as a coach myself and I’m very much enjoying paying that forward by coaching a huge range of neurodivergent and neurotypical veterinary staff.

Coaching helped me to work out that light sensitivity was an issue for me, so I asked to consult in a room with an external window to get some natural light. It turns out that working without a massive migraine can really increase productivity and wellbeing. (I’m being flippant but I genuinely hadn’t thought to address this before my diagnosis.)
Another thing that really helped me focus during admin time was listening to music with my headphones in. So I did, it was a game changer!

My coaching also helped me to learn about prioritisation and time management after I had taken on a hybrid leadership and clinical role and found the transition difficult. It was a big shock going from a very structured day of clinical work to a self-led management day but I learnt ADHD management techniques to navigate it and grow into the role.

But the main gift that my diagnosis gave me was just a little more self-compassion. Accepting my differences, rather than seeing them as deficits, has given me confidence to grow, and play to my strengths, rather than beat myself up for the things I find difficult.

If you’re on a similar journey, my advice is to pause, learn about yourself, and get the help that you need from our fantastic ND veterinary community. Feel free to drop me a line, I love connecting with other neurodivergent people, or talking about neurodiversity to anyone who will listen!

Helen Allwood MRCVS



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