Neurodiverse Friendships & Communities E40: ADHD
During episode 40 of Women Who Rebrand, we discuss neurodiverse friendships and communities. Sareta and Chioma are joined by ADHD Babes founder and managing director Vivienne Isebor. And Selorm, ADHD Babes member and volunteer, who also has Autism.
ADHD Babes is a community group for Black Women and Non-Binary people with ADHD. They create safer spaces for ADHDers to flourish and live their lives to their fullest potential.
The four talk about the challenges and triumphs Black Women and Non-Binary people with ADHD experience here in the UK. As well as cultural and racial issues that lead to masking and affect the early detection of traits that can also lead to misdiagnoses.
Are Black and Non-Binary people believed when they relay their symptoms to doctors?
It’s a known fact that some practitioners adhere to outdated manuals filled with racial stereotypes. So when they report traits like tiredness, Vivienne reports they’re often asked about sleep hygiene rather than noting it as an ADHD trait.
Can ADHDers have great friendships and relationships outside of neurodiverse communities? Well, communication is key.
Communication styles can add complications or challenges. Selorm and Sareta explain one of their main bugbears, neurotypical not saying what they mean or hidden agendas.
ADHD Babes is run by their community, and for their community, all team members are members of the group. They aim to empower and encourage all members to build peer support networks, share lived experiences and embrace their neurodiversity as a community.
They aim to inspire and empower people with community, tools, learning and healing spaces to redefine and understand ADHD, allowing them to tackle its difficulties and utilise its strengths.
The group aim to create an accessible platform and safer spaces for their members to connect, learn and break down the barriers that restrict our community from gaining an understanding of a diagnosis of ADHD.
ADHD Babes aim to create a society that embraces neurodiversity. They aim to raise awareness and educate people on the truth and reality of how ADHD affects neurodiverse people and how best to support them.
I was diagnosed during the summer of 2022, which opened up many feelings, particularly those of slight regret. Not necessarily negativity about having the diagnosis, but feelings surrounding the “what ifs?” What if I’d been diagnosed during school? What if I’d known what communication challenges ADHDers can struggle with? What if I’d known sooner? Would it matter? These overwhelming questions sprung to my mind when I was diagnosed at age 40.
The education system was sometimes a challenge. I remember stating that I “wasn’t very academic” due to not doing well on tests or remembering chapters read in textbooks and English books. Sometimes, I ended up in bottom sets, only to be questioned by teachers about why I was there. Only to be moved back up a group when they realised I could keep up with my peers. But when it came down to revision, tests, and exams, I struggled to retain the necessary information. I was an excellent reader, had a creative mind and gravitated towards the arts.
However, how academia is set up, my natural abilities needed to incorporate focused subjects, such as Maths and English. Topics that I’d understand up until a certain point. Maths has lots of rules when it comes to working sums out. However, my brain wants to figure things out quickly, easily and in a way that I understand. When grades are based on writing your workings out, I was not going to get those grades!
Reading long books or styling subjects that I had no interest in was painfully dull. I’ve always tried to explain how I feel when bored – it’s a physical experience. My brain wants to shut down and put me to sleep rather than feel the pain. I’m constantly seeking stimulation, excitement or joy.
Unfortunately, I only enjoyed a handful of subjects which were all art or media based, and I couldn’t choose all of them at GCSE level.
I was easily distracted by friends. Getting in trouble for talking too much or being the loud one that was entertained by gossip and humour. Nothing’s changed!
I spoke to everyone, and my friendship groups were broad; however, I needed to make those close connections. Everyone else seemed to have a best friend, and I always felt like the tag-along or acquaintance.
As a first-generation Black British female, I faced many stereotypes. Some teachers deemed me too loud, rude, brash, or overconfident. I’d speak up if teachers seemingly attempted to make an example of me or put me down to a level they thought necessary. Others embraced my quirks and personality, loved me. They saw my creativity and passion and encouraged me to pursue classes where I excelled.
Against all odds, I eventually went to university, but it took time, and I graduated with an HND in Fashion Design & Technology.
The ADHD label seemed to belong to naughty White boys who weren’t faced with the same scrutiny. They fit the box; there were many of those types in school. They were seen and heard in all their glory.
While girls, especially Black girls, weren’t and aren’t permitted to fit into that box. Misogynistic or Misogynistic views play a part in the way they’re seen. Girls should be quiet and conforming. They’re “not as clever as boys” and “not hyperactive”. Black girls face those biases, but also, culturally, many ADHD traits simply aren’t acceptable. We’re not allowed to be disorganised, messy, loud, late, or stand out. We’re meant to “behave” and not draw attention to ourselves. Like our female peers, we must conform or mask, which can create anxiety or stomach issues. Something that I suffered from for many years.
Fast forward to my career, and although I’ve changed direction many times, my jobs have always suited my traits.
My ethos has remained the same, from freelance professional makeup artistry to founding Women Who Rebrand. I’m creative, chatty, authentic, and intelligent. Although 100% me, my personal traits made a lot of sense when I was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year.
Three ADHD Types
Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD presents many “classic” or broadly recognised symptoms that people associate with the condition. Traits like risk-taking, fidgeting, and an inability to sit still. Often, what started as a compulsive need to move your body as a child may turn inward and become an inability to stop your racing thoughts. These thoughts are hard to switch off and can affect your sleep.
As an adult, impulsive behaviour may be the most noticeable aspect. This symptom could present within your spending habits, for instance, buying something you can’t afford, racking up debt, or speaking unprofessionally with a co-worker or manager.
Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is more frequently diagnosed in males than in females. If you have this type of ADHD, you may have difficulty thinking about the consequences of your actions. This can lead to challenges with work, relationships, and other areas of your life. Individuals with this subtype may frequently interrupt others during a conversation, take dangerous risks, and seek stimulation in unhealthy ways, such as self-medicating, excessive alcohol consumption, promiscuous behaviour or thrill-seeking in hazardous activities.
Since hyperactivity tends to be evident in childhood, this subtype of ADHD is often caught early. However, that’s not always the case, especially if the individual has mild ADHD. Signs of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD include:
- Trouble sitting still for long periods; fidgets a lot
- Fast speech; frequently interrupts others
- Doesn’t appear to consider the consequences of their actions
- Acts impulsively, including driving, spending, and relationships
- Chronic impatience; difficulty waiting
- Feelings of restlessness
An individual with inattentive ADHD may have difficulty focusing on a task or conversation, be frequently distracted, and make mistakes due to a lack of attention.
Children with inattentive ADHD often fly under the diagnostic radar since they don’t usually disrupt the classroom.
However, in adulthood, this subtype can manifest in various ways. You may need help completing work duties, meeting deadlines, paying bills, or focusing on individual tasks.
You probably won’t experience much impulsive behaviour or hyperactivity issues, but the condition can create unnecessary stumbling blocks.
Inattentive ADHD used to be referred to as ADD, although the term is no longer used. Primarily inattentive ADHD is thought to be the least common type of ADHD and is slightly more common in females. Signs of inattentive ADHD include:
- Difficulty following instructions and finishing tasks
- Trouble concentrating; forgetfulness
- Gets distracted easily
- Chronic boredom
- Occasional extreme focus (“hyperfocus”) on a stimulating task
- Difficulty following a conversation
- Frequently losing items
ADHD Combined Type
The third and most common type of ADHD is ADHD combined type. As the name suggests, this form of ADHD includes symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive groups.
To be diagnosed with combined ADHD, you need to have a combination of at least five of the symptoms from either category.
You may not display every symptom, but there should be sufficient evidence of both types.
ADHD isn’t all doom and gloom; there’s strength in numbers and community.
ADHD Babes have a fantastic support group, and their community can be found on Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in real life! Membership includes regular meet-ups and events. They’ll soon be offering support services, including outreach, diagnosis support, and so much more.
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