Lockdown wasn’t the only thing to hit me in 2020, I was also diagnosed with ADHD and joined the esteemed ranks of today’s neurodivergent women. It was a shock at first, but suddenly so much started to make sense and I am thankful that I now have a greater understanding of myself and the difficulties I’ve faced, not only through ADHD but also as a survivor of PTSD.
Not all neurodivergent women are prepared to tell their stories and that is understandable, especially when they have been through trauma as well, however in my experience most are happy to share what they have been through to help others. Today I find it a privilege to share my story, especially since I have been nominated for the Top 50 Neurodivergent Women 2022, a project facilitated by Women Beyond The Box.
For me winning such an accolade is not important for I have discovered that all Neurodivergent Women are winners in their own way. This happens when we fully embrace the healing process and discover our full worth. This is when we and begin to see the differences we have as a gift not a liability.
Despite having PTSD and ADHD I was able to survive working in an academic environment for years. However, I really found my voice as a creative entrepreneur and podcaster. This has given me the ability to help others develop their own unique stories and have the courage to share them. Today I now have over 100 podcasts under my belt and run a podcast studio where I help empower my clients to communicate more effectively with a wider audience.
Despite learning challenges I was able to complete a BA degree at Northumberland University and I recently graduated with an MBA at Newcastle University Business School which is amazing as I was able to do this despite my diagnosis. However, my biggest achievement is really the personal victory of coming to knowing my worth and fighting for it.
Yes, I have PTSD and ADHD, but I have been able to find ways to embrace that, as my own special super power and now my passion is to try and help people who might be in a similar situation.
I work in media and digital marketing and I love podcasting because it enables people even those who feel their voice is unheard, to tell their stories, especially other neurodivergent women.
I’ve always been passionate about people and so I find it easy to talk to them about where they have come from and the journey they are on. My podcast, #NurtureYourZest, challenges listeners to find a theme that ties in with their unique gifting. For example, one of my top values is ‘Zest’ which is why I want to help people to find inspiration through courage, creativity, curiosity to help them find their zest.
While working in the academic world I was often responsible for arranging events including helping to facilitate the Newcastle Freedom City project celebrating Martin Luther King’s 50th Anniversary and his honorary degree at Newcastle Uni. I was also involved with many charitable projects in helping them to build their online following and create a larger audience. This led to me working with diverse women’s groups, hosting National Women’s Day and I started podcasting in 2019 to raise awareness of important social issues like that of Neurodivergent Women.
Since then I have recorded over 100 sessions of #NurtureYourZest, and I found the process so rewarding I decided to create a How to Podcast Course to share my hard-earned expertise. I have also hosted TedX talks and appeared as a guest on other podcasts. In 2021 my husband and I saw a gap to set up a creative space in Ouseburn, the cultural centre of the city, where we now have a podcasting studio with allied services including a design hub to promote clients whether via social media, public relations, blogging etc.
For me, being neurodivergent means having to take a different route, though the outcome is the same. In my own journey my media career got derailed while I was studying studying Journalism at Leeds University. However, I couldn’t complete my first year after a traumatic experience…This resulted in my PTSD which I have spoken openly about on the Staying Alive UK podcast with Michael De Groot.
Thankfully, I was really well looked after by the NHS, but I had to fight for the support I needed. At the end of a really painful two-year process of meetings after meetings waiting to see if I could get any support, I was told I wasn’t eligible. It was the first time that I can think of where I fought for myself instead of others. I said to myself “No. I need this. This will save my life”, so I went out there and I got the counseling support I needed.
I think this is important because it can be tough struggling with mental health issues, and talking about it is so important. I now volunteer my time at local colleges to inspire young people about starting a business despite any challenges they’re going through.
I struggled with ADHD all my life but I didn’t know it until I was diagnosed at 32. It was a huge shock but my chaotic yet creative lifestyle started to make sense. I realised ADHD was the root of my depression and anxiety and I was able to get the right support and start the healing process.
I remember being scolded for being ‘a chatterbox’ at school, “the girl who could never sit still.” Although this stemmed from a lack of concentration, it has certainly positioned me to talk to people of all walks of life with a natural curiosity, creativity and empathy.
Before my diagnosis, my husband Paul would sometimes describe me as “the Ashmanian devil, coming into the house like a huge whirlwind and creating little piles of chaos.” Since then I have been able to start a healing process and tear off the masks I was hiding behind. I was able to get the treatment and support I needed and learn to live to the best of my ability as a neurodivergent woman. I now see ADHD as my secret superpower!
I remember a teacher telling me she would chop my hands off if I didn’t stop fidgeting. That was the only way I could calm myself and I remember feeling so anxious sitting on my hands so I wouldn’t move around. I also knew that I would get in trouble for talking in class. However, I had such a excellent headteacher who created ‘The Chatterbox Club’. It was a place we could go at lunchtime and learn to tell stories, debate, and just channel that chatter into something productive. So I am very grateful to her, she was amazing.
My brothers also have ADHD. My eldest brother was diagnosed at five. Up until recently, I thought that ADHD only affected little boys who were naughty in class, but actually, I had it too as a little girl. Although it presented itself differently. I was a people pleaser. I wanted to be ‘Little Miss Perfect’ all the time. That was my goal. I thought, “If I’m perfect, people will like me. If I’m perfect, my parents will love me”. That was the track running in my head but when you have ADHD, there are so many reasons why you can’t be perfect because you just don’t think the way others do.
For those who are neurodivergent women, I think it’s vital to get into a healing space with the right meds and support that enables you to deal with things much better than on your own. For me, it’s all about learning to be myself, without any masks, so I don’t have to hide anymore. I don’t have to be perfect for anyone I can now share the real me with my family and friends rather than the person I was hiding. It’s been a life-changing learning experience!