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Earlier this year, as lockdown became a reality, I was diagnosed with ADHD. As a 41-year-old mother and over twenty years into my career, it’s been quite a journey to get to this life-changing diagnosis.

I always felt like something was a bit different but had never considered ADHD as the reason for my exhausting mental activity, intense drive then burnout, and moments of absolute clarity before forgetting what I’d just said. Having my daughter in my late thirties then returning to full-time work was a tipping point.

It was a documentary that brought adult diagnosis of ADHD onto my radar. As I watched my own experiences play out, I realised the extent of undiagnosed ADHD, particularly in females where symptoms often present very differently to the (completely stereotypical) ‘hyper kid bouncing off the walls’.

My hyperactivity is internal. My reward system is driven by interest, not consequences. Time is now, or never. I can follow many different things, all at the same time. Spot patterns, trends and solutions that others don’t see. Yet I’m often overwhelmed by how to get from A to B. For too long I’d accepted being the weird one, either explaining away my ideas to overcome unnecessary hurdles, or ignoring them altogether.

On average, school-age boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as girls, and it’s widely viewed that between 50% and 75% of females with ADHD go undiagnosed. Add social and health inequalities, difficulty accessing services and ADHD being seen as an excuse or not real, and you can understand the complexity in both symptom recognition and diagnosis. I am one of the lucky ones.

The more colleagues I’ve shared my story with, the more I realise that these pressures are similar for many people, with or without ADHD. Yet as a neurobiological condition, it’s how we’re made - we can’t change that. In becoming absorbed with my own difficulties, I’d overlooked others who can’t change how they’re made either. This year has shown us that inequality runs deep. The marginalised are still expected to adapt to get on. My diagnosis has given me a solution through medication, where for so many there are none.

We speak of not all disabilities being visible, when our environments don’t always give us a platform to be ‘able’. Inclusion is not about treating everybody the same, it’s about understanding that everybody has different barriers. As I resolve my own difficulties against far greater injustices around me, I move forward in the knowledge that I can at least think and act intentionally whilst taking my medication. Some days are better than others as I realise what ‘normal’ is, grieve for what I could have achieved, and celebrate my rediscovered potential.

I finally know my emotions are ‘real’ and my experiences valid. So, I move forward knowing that I can be honest about myself and my limitations and play my part in creating an environment that enables everybody. It’s only now I feel I have the power to stand up, take my place and set my own boundaries of what is good enough. I am unapologetic, though often still late.

Read more about our OPEN employee resource group for anyone impacted by a disability.