“I felt so relieved and empowered having the ADHD diagnosis.”

I have two children, my eldest Tom (10) has a diagnosis of ADHD and ASD (has also had ODD), and my second child Piper is  2.5 years younger (currently 7.5) and she has no diagnosis but is neurodivergent.

Q1. Every family has a unique and different story. Tell me a little bit about yours?

I have two children, my eldest Tom (10) has a diagnosis of ADHD and ASD (has also had ODD), and my second child Piper is  2.5 years younger (currently 7.5) and she has no diagnosis but is neurodivergent. We’ve had Piper tested and the results showed that she has extremely high intelligence, but relatively slow processing speed so she has competing factors going on. Piper also has a lot of emotional dysregulation, worry/anxiety and we’re still unsure of what is contributing to this.

My ex-husband and I separated 2 years ago and co-parent amicably. We would both agree that the stress of the early years with the kids did contribute to the separation.

We don’t have any practical help, which also makes things more difficult.

Q2. What prompted the diagnosis of you/your partner?

I got my diagnosis of ADHD 12 months ago. I had often thought about whether I had it ever since my son was diagnosed with ADHD, and it did make me reflect a lot on my early years, the struggles I had at school and socially, as well as depression and anxiety. But at the time that my son was diagnosed I thought; oh well, you know, I’m doing okay, I’ve got a good job and everything is fine.

A couple of years later, I was really noticing how overwhelmed I would get when too many things piled up on me mentally. Then I would notice little things about leaving the tap on, forgetting things, but also what clinched the deal was how hard it was for me to commit to exercise. I wanted to be able to commit to an exercise routine and had never been able to do it my whole life. Because I am getting older, I knew how incredibly important it was to get this right. I spent a lot of time really exploring why I couldn’t get this right and I discovered through my research that actually a lot of people with ADHD have this problem. They call it ‘trouble getting started’. So I thought that if I could treat my ADHD then this could be how I finally get this exercise thing right.  And it has worked… so far (12 months in). I thrive on exercise now. I love it and I have found the things that really give me my dopamine hit. I feel so much better about myself.

Q3. How did this knowledge affect and change how you saw yourself?

I felt so relieved and empowered having the ADHD diagnosis. I felt really empathetic to my younger self, particularly my teenage self – as I often felt very different and was quite depressed. It definitely did make me feel sad. 

I really imagine what it would have been like to have had the recognition or acknowledgement  that having a diagnosis back then would have brought, and I’m envious of the support that kids have today. And that definitely did make me feel sad. But on the flip side it has been so empowering. I love acknowledging my weaknesses or challenges now. I think it is important for women to do this, particularly mums as there is a lot of pressure to tick a lot of boxes. So I feel empowered to say – you know, that box is not my box to tick. I think it’s been one of the best things I’ve done.

Q4. How do you think being neurodivergent changes your approach to parenting?

Being neurodivergent changes my approach to parenting because I think I’m just more deeply able to empathize with what my child or children are experiencing at school, and how, you know, one size doesn’t fit all. I absolutely know that to be true and I don’t want my kids to ever feel that there is something wrong with them because they’re not fitting into that system.

Q5. Our communities, workplaces and society in general are built for neurotypical people. What have been some of your biggest challenges to date and what has helped you navigate them?

I think I’m actually a high performer at work as I hyper focus because I’m interested in the work that I do. But I probably don’t try and fit in to (as some other people do) the whole team culture and corporate environment. I am much more interested in doing my work. That has been a development goal for me –  to make sure I’m selling the work and the achievements that we’re doing, instead of just burrowing away and focusing on only doing the work.

Q6. How do you juggle the demands of adult life and raising a neurodivergent child?

With extreme difficulty. It has gotten easier though. Having a young neurodivergent child with meltdowns, this was really traumatic and very difficult, and it put an enormous strain on me and my marriage.

But it does get easier as Tom has matured and as his medication has settled in.

There’s definitely been periods where you compare your child and the experiences that your friends are having with their children, and you feel sadness – you wish that your child wasn’t so fussy with their food or you wish they would participate in sport or all those sort of normal things. 

At the end of the day it’s about juggling their needs, but also trying to keep pushing them forward a bit, and that’s a really fine balance. How do you empathize and meet their needs for the things that they find too overwhelming, but also stretch them because they are children and you don’t want them to stop growing.

Q7. Do you have books, podcasts or other resource recommendations?

Highly Sensitive Child

Understanding ADHD

The explosive child

Q8. When we care for others it’s important to put on our “oxygen mask” first. How do you look after yourself?

I think it’s important to talk to your kids about what you need. I’m a single mum, and I’m very open about what I need, whether it’s some quiet time or some space. So I think it’s important to just talk about those emotions and needs because obviously it fosters empathy and understanding in your kids. 

Also exercise and anything that gives you endorphins. All the important stuff that you’re supposed to do –  talking to friends, walking, exercise, finding something that you love doing – being creative, any of those things you’ve just got to keep filling your bucket.

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