Today, 10th March, is World Mental Health Day and October is ADHD Awareness Month. A few years ago I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to either of these, but now it is different. Why? Because, at the age of 40 after many years of struggling with my mental health, I was shocked to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Even one generation ago, ADHD was not recognised as a chronic, lifelong disorder… in fact, even as I was sitting there receiving my own diagnosis, I was still under the false impression it was a fleeting childhood disorder mainly manifesting in naughty boys who couldn’t sit still in class! That wasn’t me?! They must be mistaken!
Over the last few years I have intentionally sought to make sense of my diagnosis - what it means to me and to those I interact with. As my understanding has expanded, so too has my obligation to educate my community about how ADHD affects those of us who live with it. I would like to help people to learn how they can help to reduce the stigma of this condition, and advocate for those of us who are navigating through this complex world designed for neurotypical people by neurotypical people.
In those early days I wondered how I’d cope, but then I realised the diagnosis didn’t change anything- I’d been living ADHD all my life! I was coping already! It actually explained a lot of things – times when I’d really struggled and couldn’t understand why - which felt liberating. In the end, I realised that so much of succeeding with ADHD is about positive attitudes (your own as well as other people’s) and being in the right environment (i.e. being around people who recognise our strengths and appreciate us for who we are). I acknowledge the things I find challenging but no longer punish myself. I leave everything to the last minute, constantly distracted by new things, I struggle to finish anything, I’m incapable of remembering simple things from one moment to the next, I zone out a lot - especially when I’m not interested in the subject - and I’m not always aware of things that I’m doing that might affect others. I find challenges in anything relating to numbers or charts and I can’t recall instructions even if you tell me 10 times. But the flipsides to my ADHD “weaknesses” are my greatest strengths. Do I seem hyperactive or just otherworldly energetic, distractible or incessantly curious, impulsive or creative? I’ve been working towards a strength-focused understanding of my brilliant, creative, ADHD brain. I believe I’m successful because of my ADHD, not in spite of it. I’m grateful every day to be working in an area that takes advantage of my natural strengths and interests. I’m acutely aware that not all those with ADHD are so lucky… and many, many more live undiagnosed.
Personally speaking, what I’ve learnt is that I don't have a deficit of attention, I have a surplus of attention! I’m interested in SO much! Of course I sometimes need help in determining which of my many interests are the ones that I should be actively pursuing, and my team will attest to this! I know they find it both inspiring and frustrating in equal measures, which is pretty much how living with ADHD feels. Through their compassion, I have been able to succeed BETTER and their generosity of spirit has allowed me to achieve commercially and heal emotionally in a way I never thought possible. If you’re still reading, THANK YOU. For those who have, or love someone who has, ADHD or is dealing with mental health struggles, please show some love and support by commenting with a yellow heart emoji below. You are not alone!
For those who would like to know more about resources for mental health in Hong Kong, please visit www.mind.org.hk who have helped me and thousands of others better understand themselves and those around them. Their mission is to ensure no one has to face a mental health problem alone in Hong Kong.
We are especially pleased to now be selling one of our brand new products (a lovely traditional paper advent calendar, launched on World Mental Health day, in support of Mind Hong Kong. HK$20 from each calendar sold will be donated to the charity).