ADHD Awareness Month is held every October to raise awareness of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which affects adults and children worldwide. Support organisations for the condition around the world use this opportunity to celebrate the differences found in those affected, while pushing for better support systems and new perceptions.
The theme for this year’s ADHD Awareness Month is ‘Understanding a Shared Experience’. The idea being that the month allows people to come together and talk about their experiences and challenges with regard to ADHD. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people who may have been going through the same thing as you, or have a similar experience.
In support of this, we asked Abbi Kelly, one of our most successful consultants, to share her experience of ADHD.
My ADHD (and dyslexia) was first picked up at college, where I was studying Law. I’d read the title of an assignment incorrectly and subsequently produced an essay on an entirely different subject!
I was referred to Havant College’s Support Worker and underwent some writing and shape-based tests, which indicated ADHD and dyslexia. This explained a lot of things for me about my academic life to date. I did ok in the subjects I was less interested in but only by putting in a huge amount of effort. However, Law, which fascinated me, was a subject I was flying in.
I found lots of support available for me at college and this continued into my university education as both places had an allocated budget for resources. I continued with Law at Portsmouth University, and the hyperfocus side of my condition actually helped me in obtaining an LLB 1st Class!
The support I received included counselling, having extra time in exams and taking them in a separate room, but I had to learn to be self-disciplined as well. I would record lectures and watch them back several times to ensure that the information went in, and send myself off to the library to ensure I wasn’t distracted by others and that they weren’t distracted by me. I acknowledge my condition means that I can be disruptive.
With regard to reading material – imagine getting to the end of a chapter and having no clue what you just read! Now imagine doing that over and over again, with every single book you read! It’s exhausting and time-consuming, which is why people with ADHD appear to give up or lose interest in something after not much effort, but that is a misconception. They’ve already tried twice as hard as everybody else and now their brains need something else to keep them occupied.
I started my career with a law firm in Portsmouth, training to be a solicitor, but I quickly lost interest in the role. After the intensive, fast-paced nature of academia, I wasn’t stimulated enough and didn’t have much responsibility. It just wasn’t enough for my hyper-functioning brain to keep occupied.
I saw the position advertised with STR and their new brand, urban, so I thought I’d give recruitment a chance. Recruitment is more fast-paced. It’s structured and yet at the same time, anything can happen!
When I joined STR I spoke to my manager, Mark, who did his research and then came back to talk to me about what we could do to play to my strengths and mitigate anything I might find challenging. He started by adjusting the seating plan, providing noise-cancelling headphones, and ensuring I knew I had a quiet space available where I could get my head down, without distractions.
The main challenges I face on a daily basis include just not taking things in, having to re-read everything and not completing tasks in a logical order – whatever catches my attention next is what gets done! Plus, once I start something, I need to finish it. Therefore, I find I can get overwhelmed very easily if I know I have more than one thing on in that day. It helps me if I write everything down and then gradually tick-off items as I get through them.
According to new research, sometimes ADHD affects hearing and sinuses due to over-stimulation and this is definitely something I’ve experienced. I can be over-sensitive to multiple and loud noises and then just shut down.
Also, with ADHD, I’ll often start thinking about my response before people finish speaking because I want to get what I say right, this means I might miss the end of what they’ve said and have a slight panic that I’m responding correctly. Or I accidentally interrupt people, which may make me seem rude. It can be a vicious circle! In my interactions with people, I can appear abrupt or even as if I’m ignoring them completely, but through my work as a recruiter where you are always dealing with people and spend much of your time on the phone, I’ve learned to listen and interact more effectively with people.
When there’s a task I need to do with an approaching deadline that needs my absolute concentration, I’ll often lock myself away in one of our small Zoom rooms so that I can focus properly, otherwise, for my day-to-day job, I find the noise-cancelling headphones invaluable.
Since starting with urban, I’ve progressed from a Level 1 Recruitment Consultant to a Level 5 Associate in just 2.5 years! Which I’m really proud of, but I’m nowhere near done! I’ve just applied to join the STR Group’s Leadership Academy. With this under my belt, my sights will be firmly on taking the leap to Operations Director. I can’t wait to get started!
Abbi has the following advice for anyone one else with ADHD, no matter what age. Whilst she believes that self-discipline is key, you need to find whatever feels right for you.