By Ken Vernon
Like many adults with Inattentive type ADHD, I was diagnosed later in life, when I was 47. My life was a string of relationship failures, a mountain of debt and chaos all around me.
I struggled throughout my education, never quite reaching my potential, full of self-doubt and self-loathing. I eventually found and settled in employment, working with adults with learning disabilities and later in mental health care.
I worked as an assistant carer, for many years. I was approached by my hospital manager who funded my study at university to train as a registered Nurse when I was 34. I struggled with the course and assignments, but I was determined, and I graduated in 2008. I now work as a Senior Forensic Mental Health Nurse.
I’ve wanted to tell my story because I have experienced discrimination from my National Health Service employer. Prior to diagnosis, I struggled with certain aspects of the role. My patient care was never questioned. There were no clinical errors. But completing long written tasks took longer than my other colleagues. I would compensate by working extra to make up for not being very productive.
I decided to see my GP to question why I struggled in certain areas of my life. I wanted to know why I felt anxious when I didn’t consider myself an anxious person. Why did I feel low but couldn’t identify a reason why?
I refused another course of antidepressants, insisting that I wasn’t depressed. I thought I might have ADHD, but that was dismissed by my doctor. I was surprised later when my doctor called me back and suggested I be assessed for ADHD.
Once I was assessed, it answered so many questions about how I behaved in the past. I wanted to contact all the people I had lost friendships with to apologize and explain why I couldn’t keep up my part of the friendship, remember birthdays, show up on time to group activities, etc.
I returned to my employer and asked for some support to help me perform better at work. Sadly, I wasn’t offered support. But this did begin a four-year process of trying to terminate my employment! I could not understand why the health service suddenly thought I was no longer a valued employee. I was downgraded in my role. I was supervised at work ‘in case I made a mistake’ and generally undermined. Soon I was also depressed.
Fast forward to today. As a health care professional, with a new job and working for a new employer, I shout loudly and proudly, “I have ADHD. I can do my job and I’m looking out for all of you who have been misdiagnosed, mistreated and misunderstood.”