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ADHD and self advocacy
I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me! I’ve been super busy with my day job and also shipping the ADHD flashcards I created - yay me!
Today, I bring to you, ‘ADHD and self-advocacy.
Let’s start with the definition of self-advocacy:
“Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up for yourself and the things that are important to you. Self-advocacy means you are able to ask for what you need and want and tell people about your thoughts and feelings” - disabilityrightsuk
Self-advocacy is hard, scary, and can be very uncomfortable at times.
My self-advocacy journey
I didn’t know it back then, but my self-advocacy work started shortly after my ADHD diagnosis in 2020. You’ve probably all heard the story (sorry) of my post-diagnosis check-ups being canceled because the ADHD clinic temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise! This led to the creation of my newsletter.
An ADHD diagnosis doesn’t come with a manual of what to do next, a list of coping strategies to use, or how to explain ADHD to people in your world.
Yeah, it’s not ideal, init!?
I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my ADHD diagnosis at the time. I was embarrassed, and nervous to tell people I knew that I had ADHD. I thought they would think that I’m less than or broken.
I decided to start this newsletter to document my journey and everything I learned about ADHD along the way. I wanted readers to feel like they had an online friend that was trying to figure out how to navigate life with an ADHD diagnosis, just like they were.
Self-advocacy in real life
Speaking up for yourself can be scary, uncomfortable, and downright daunting.
I’m still developing my confidence, but I can share a few things that have worked for me.
Know that people, including friends and loved ones, will say things to try and invalidate your ADHD.
“That’s not ADHD, you’re just being lazy”
“Stop using ADHD as an excuse”
“ADHD isn’t real, it’s all a money grab by Big Pharma”
A lot of these comments are down to ignorance and ADHD denial. But I hate being made to feel like I’m being put on trial!
In response to people’s ignorance, I usually come up with illustrative examples to explain my ADHD.
Now, this is a hard one. Especially if you haven’t disclosed your ADHD at work.
I disclosed my ADHD to my manager a year after my diagnosis.
I managed to ask for ADHD accommodations without mentioning my ADHD at all.
I would frame suggestions in a way that would help everyone in the team.
Flexible deadlines - I suggested that teams should set soft and hard deadlines, and plan out their projects in a way that provided scope for deadline extensions. This helped me a lot because I tend to underestimate how long it’ll take me to complete things.
Meeting frequency - I suggested that colleagues should consider how we can reduce the number of weekly meetings in our diaries. Everyone was on board and realized that an email would suffice in some cases. I found this super helpful because I struggle with transitioning from meetings to tasks when my workday is full-on.
You can check read the newsletter I wrote about ADHD accommodations here.
Developing confidence to talk about your ADHD
1. Understanding your ADHD brain
I didn’t know how to talk about my ADHD at first. Because I didn’t understand my brain.
I was also working on purging myself of internalized ableism - but that’s another story for another day!
So this made it pretty difficult to know and communicate what I needed. I wanted to change that.
I spent some time recording the traits I struggled with. This involved pinpointing specific circumstances that were impacted by certain traits. Then, I tried to figure out ways to work on it. Such as researching on google, listening to ADHD podcasts, and coming up with my own coping strategies.
For example, I love a good chat! I ramble when I get super excited about a topic and I go on multiple tangents. This isn’t ideal when providing oral updates or delivering a key presentation at work. It’s important that I’m able to get my message across in a clear concise way in my day job. So instead of going into meetings without any notes, I started to write brief bullet points to keep me on track.
Listening to ADHD-related podcasts has helped me to learn about my ADHD. I enjoy listening to interviews with everyday people with ADHD like myself.
The podcasts I listen to often are ADHD for Smart Ass Women, ADHD rewired, and Translating ADHD.
2. ADHD Community
The online ADHD community made me feel seen. I started my journey alone and thought I was the only person that struggled with some things until I met people on Twitter.
Although ADHD presents differently in us all, we can all relate to each other in some way or form.
I wasn’t sure how my ADHD diagnosis was going to affect me in the workplace and the world as a Black woman. Being Black, a woman, and working-class comes with its own set of struggles. Adding a disability on top of that, whewwww! But I’m lucky that I had an amazing manager at the time and we worked so well together! She was super supportive when I eventually disclosed my ADHD diagnosis to her.
Connecting with other Black people online who understood the struggle, and had similar challenges made me feel whole. It helped me get over the shame and embarrassment of having ADHD, enabling me to tell more of my friends about it.
My Twitter account was anonymous for over 1 year. Being anonymous helped me to be open and vulnerable when sharing what it’s like adulting with ADHD.
If you’re not ready for people to know that you have ADHD, but want to connect to a community, you could set up an anon account as I did at first.
3. Do it when you’re ready
Don’t feel pressured to disclose your ADHD to employers, friends, romantic partners, or family members.
Do it when you’re ready.
Know that you’re not broken, lazy, or less than the next person.
Life with ADHD can be tough, lean on helpers, including online ADHD communities if you don’t have a support system in your life.
Always stay true to yourself.
Rach, with ADHD