Why Won’t You Help?

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.”

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      • Helen Poulter
      • July 6, 2020
      Reply

      Ken, you are a wonderful friend, a brilliant nurse and a very kind and brave human being.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      H x

      • Sandra Barnes
      • July 2, 2020
      Reply

      Ken,
      Thank you for your story of your experience with people who do not get what adhd does. When you talked your job and how they treated you after your diagnosis, I had to stop and reread it. I am a sped teacher at a high school. I only have three years until retirement and I just hope I can last that long. The VP over my department based my entire 2nd semester evaluation on the fact some of my paperwork was late. This was also while we were trying to setup for teaching online.
      I am learning as much as I can in order to stop the daily brain fog, but also to be an advocate for my students with adhd who don’t look like someone with a disability, so the must not really have one.

      • Lucesita A. Lombillo
      • June 25, 2020
      Reply

      I wanted to thank you for your inspiring story. You turned a negative situation into a positive one.

      • randy cole
      • June 25, 2020
      Reply

      Ken, thanks for sharing – it’s an inspiring story! It makes me angry whenever I read of discrimination!
      I was diagnosed late in my life and although I was skeptical at first it started to explain why was not successful in relationships and work. I finally got some therapy and found some books that really helped me develop some coping strategies. I too wanted to call people I lost contact with and apologize for not keeping up the friendships!

      • Pheonix Moon
      • June 25, 2020
      Reply

      Hey! Thanks so much for sharing! This gives me hope for I have been suffering for years and now at 48 I have had to fight for getting a proper diagnosis, as well as being treated like dirt all my life because of my looks.
      So I continue to fight for my voice to be heard!

      • Amelie
      • June 25, 2020
      Reply

      Hi Ken,
      Thank you for sharing your story…Did you find help via a combination of medication and therapy?
      I have felt for some time I suffer from ADHD – your story sounds very familiar. I have turned to codeine and alcohol both of which have impacted my life in an extremely negative way.
      Anti depressants have helped in some ways but i know i am not the person i ‘should’ be (I don’t like the word ‘should’ ….but….)
      I know I have so much potential that needs unlocking but i struggle to focus on one task, my mind races….all the symptoms you described.
      Pls let me know any more information you have…I am sorry for your struggle- you sound like a very strong young man and I am so glad you fought and continue to share your story…I think many people hear ADHD and think of loud, obnoxious, young children. Your story, ALL stories like yours begin to peal away the layers of stigma which is, when loss of employment eetc is involved is enormously important.
      What is your situation now? I am thinking of you and hoping your mind is somewhat more serene and your battle against your employer/s continues far beyond this point. Amelie

      • Becky O.
      • June 24, 2020
      Reply

      Ken, I admire your achievements in spite of so many obstacles. Well done! I hope you feel respected and recognized for your capabilities in your present position and in your life in general. You have earned it. Thank goodness for the people who saw and nurtured your potential, and gave you the chance to show just how very capable you are.
      I am a psych nurse (forensics sounds interesting, correctional facility?).
      I earned my RN license in my 30’s, diagnosed with inattentive ADHD in my 40’s, loved patient care but struggled with documentation details, faced difficulties with misunderstandings re ADHD in the workplace…we have some things in common.:-) I do not presume to know all the struggles you have experienced, but I feel a kinship with you regarding your story. I congratulate you on working hard to overcome multiple obstacles, and on finding your niche. I wish you the very best in your career and in your life!!

        • Ken
        • June 29, 2020
        Reply

        Hi Becky,
        Firstly I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this, this is the first time I’ve posted a comment ( I even struggle with Facebook, far too complicated to follow the rules and keep up with it all. )
        I felt like I was reading my life when I read your comment.
        Each day is a struggle, however I try not to beat myself up about my omissions, as long as I’ve caused no harm and the people in care are safe.
        The thing that changed my employment lucy was I attended an interview, before sitting, I announced ‘ I have ADHD, I’m passionate about the work I do, I may miss or forget somethings, but please remind, please don’t leave it too late, when it becomes a problem for you and me. If you think you can work with me, I’ll sit down and start the interview’.
        That was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done!
        We need employers to build support structures (scaffolding) around us, to allow us to grow and strengthen.
        I’d love to talk more.
        Take care and thank you once again for your reply
        Best wishes
        Ken

    1. Reply

      Thank you for sharing your story. I think it might be honest to mention that compounded with psychological discrimination you were also impacted by attitudes of institutional racism and whit supremacy operating in your workplace, which affects all of us.

    2. Reply

      Inspiring – so glad you stood up for yourself (and your ADHD) and emerged in an even better place. Great job and thanks for sharing with all of us!

      • Marie
      • June 24, 2020
      Reply

      Congratulations on getting out of a toxic workplace and finding a place where your unique talents and abilities are appreciated.

        • Aida
        • June 24, 2020
        Reply

        Ken: your story gives me hope and I admire your courage to share it. I am find myself navigating between self-doubt and compassion with hope that things can be better for me. Some days are more difficult than others.

        Again, thank you for sharing, it really helps to be encouraged and to keep on looking for brighter resolutions of problems.

      • Steve Manire
      • June 24, 2020
      Reply

      AMEN!!
      Thank you 🤗

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