To celebrate National Inclusion week 2018, every morning Tribal has shared one story from a Tribalite talking about their experience as someone who is considered diverse or different, and how this has impacted them. Below, is Ben's story about living with ADHD.

ADHD is a neurobiological disorder which is thought to effect around 4% of the population. It most commonly presents in three ways:

  • Hyperactive
  • Inattentive
  • Combined – most people are combined.

I have what is known as inattentive ADHD. I was diagnosed at 35, but it’s thought that my ADHD was either caused by damage to my brain from a problematic birth, inherited, or a bit of both.

My mother has autism and bipolar disorder, which are common co-morbites (conditions which cluster together) of ADHD, along with depression and anxiety, but not enough is known about the brain to prove that there is a 100% certain link.

Trying to explain ADHD is pretty difficult, as symptoms can wildly vary from person to person (it’s a spectrum disorder) but common symptoms can include:

  • Daydreaming, and becoming easily distracted
  • Misses important details or makes careless mistakes on homework and tests
  • Gets bored quickly and has difficulty staying focused
  • Has trouble getting organised
  • Avoids tasks which require a lot of focus
  • Often loses track of things
  • Is forgetful in day to day activities
  • Has trouble following instructions and often shifts from task to task without finishing anything

Sounds pretty rubbish, doesn’t it? Imagine that being your school report! In fact, seeing this as feedback in your school report is pretty common – according to research, somebody with ADHD experiences up to 20,000 more instances of negative feedback on their performance or behaviour by the age of 12 than a neurotypical person.

It’s amazing how when you research these kind of conditions, all of the language is geared towards telling people – doctors, friends, family – what you CAN’T do, or are bad at.

Reading those bullet points above describing my condition is daunting and can be upsetting. I look at them from time to time and think ‘is that me?’

That’s not me.

But what’s it actually like to have ADHD?

I suppose the best way of trying to get an idea of what living with ADHD without treatment and steps to help living with it is like to live with on a day-to-day basis is by drinking 4 pints of strong Belgian lager, and trying to focus on an annual report or a spreadsheet at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon. Or when you are feeling good, it’s like having an F1 racing car for a brain – the only catch being that race car has BMX brakes.

But it’s not all bad. Not at all.

My diagnosis has allowed me to look at my life leading up to it in a completely different way. I had jobs. I created reports. I turned my preoccupation with social media into a 10+ year career. I day-dreamed my way into writing stories, and creating campaigns and generating ideas in the jobs I’ve had. I’ve already been achieving, before I even knew I had ADHD.

I tried harder at the elements of my life I struggled in, and as a result, when I got my diagnosis and the support I needed (medication and coaching, keeping to-do lists and sticking to helpful routines), I went from struggling to excelling.

But just as it’s not all bad, it’s not entirely good either. I need to take constant care of my brain and my overall health. A bad night’s sleep can have the effect of cancelling out the benefits of the medication I take. So I have to ensure that I am in bed, and up, at the same time every day. I don’t just like to keep fit – I need to keep fit. Running or playing football essentially bathes my brain in dopamine, reducing my anxiety, and providing relief from my symptoms for a spell.

Perversely, a lot of coffee is also very good for me. It stimulates my brain to release more of the dopamine that I need to alleviate my ADHD. But as with most things, balance is pretty vital. Two or three cups in the morning is great. Four pots by 2pm will probably cause a few issues.

If you know a friend or family member with ADHD, the number one thing that I would recommend is being patient with us. We forget things (keys, wallets, birthdays, our own age, we can sometimes go to the supermarket for bleach and come back with Doritos and a bag of discounted meat instead. We struggle with the guilt of not feeling like we are good enough at our jobs, our friendships, and our personal lives every day. So however hard you are on somebody with ADHD, just know that you will never be as hard on them as they are on themselves.

But we manage, and we thrive, and we can be a fantastic addition to any team. Having a brain that works slightly out-of-step with others means that often, people with different abilities can spot new gaps and opportunities.