Everyone remembers the class clown from their school days. Always shouting out, interrupting the rest of the class, doing silly things, never sitting still, and always in trouble.
That was me. And those traits have never gone away, even in my 30s as a manager in the ambulance service.
I have ADHD. My mother was told I had ADHD when I was very young. At two I’d been sent to a psychologist because of my ‘difficult’ behaviour. For years I’d see various specialists, never really understanding why or what they were doing.
That all stopped before I hit my teens. No help, no medication, nothing. I didn’t think much of it and went off to high school but the problems never went away. Those problems followed me into work-life but instead of shouting out I’d be late, disorganised, inattentive, and eventually lose whatever job I had at the time.
This happened for years, going from job to job until one day I found a job in the ambulance service.
They gave me a job taking emergency calls. I loved it. Every call was different and I never had the chance to get bored. It wasn’t long before I was promoted a few times to a senior dispatcher.
I made split-second decisions that could mean the difference between life and death for others. Yet I was the office clown, a grown-up version of what I’d been like at school.
I played pranks on colleagues, did silly things and was always late. But instead of getting a letter home to my parents or detention, I was risking my career, the career that paid the bills and put food on the table for my four children.
It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that my eldest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of seven. He was good at school and never misbehaved, so I never imagined he could have ADHD. I thought only naughty children had ADHD.
His diagnosis opened my eyes and made me want to help him so I decided to learn more about the condition I lived with but knew barely anything about.
I became more aware of the reasons I did stupid things and I started to understand my adult life. Everything started to make sense. Then I became deeply depressed after realising how different things could have been if only I’d had some support years ago.
The grades I could have achieved, the jobs I could have kept and the financial decisions I could have made differently if I’d had the right support.
I wasn’t happy with my job. I loved the money and had a great team around me but I slowly realised that I did stupid things when I was bored because I was under-stimulated and always restless, itching to do more.
The depression seemed to creep in slowly. I felt stuck. I had no real qualifications and no skills to go and do a great deal else. But I could build websites, I’d done that since learning from a book nearly 20 years ago.
I eventually asked my GP for help. The GP gave me anti-depressants and asked for a mental health team to help with my ADHD. They refused because I’d been diagnosed as a child, so I was on my own again.
I carried on until one day I went too far and my impulsive behaviour got me suspended from work.
As I handed back my I.D card my first thoughts were about how I’d let my family down. I was going to kill myself, I just couldn’t face going back to my other half and telling her.
Eventually, I calmed down and went home to face the music and after weeks of being suspended, we decided it was probably a good thing, the push I needed to leave. I quit my job and decided to go into business alone.
I’d built a few websites over the years and earned some good money, but not enough to replace my full-time income.
Starting out was tough. I realised that the years of constant multi-tasking helped mask my symptoms. I’m unorganised, struggle to concentrate, often procrastinate, and forget to do things. But when I’m excited I’ll spend hours hyper-focusing on something and lose track of time.
I’m still suffering from depression. Some days are worse than others yet I have no idea what triggers it, but I’m determined to keep going.
I document my struggles and try to raise awareness to others in the hope that they get the help they need before it’s too late. Starting a podcast for other entrepreneurs with ADHD has helped me meet so many amazing people and I hope it helps anyone in a similar position.
With the right support, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.