Authored by: Poppy Ellis Logan on June 29, 2017
Hi, I’m Poppy Ellis Logan and I was diagnosed with ADHD at the early age of 8. I wanted to share my experiences of living with the condition with you.
I am delighted to be a part of the #BorntoBeADHD campaign, which aims to unify the community in taking action to address the stigma and misconceptions that continue to surround ADHD in the UK. The BornToBeADHD website isn’t another website for getting information about the condition – it’s much more about inspiring people who have ADHD (or think they may have it) to reach their potential.
Why I’m proud that I’m #BornToBeADHD
Having ADHD is a huge part of who I am. For everyone, some aspects of life are shaped by things that are out of their control, like your gender, where you’re born, and how you’re brought up. For me, having ADHD has had just as much (if not more) of an impact on my experiences than any of those things.
I was fortunate to receive my ADHD diagnosis early in life, at around the age of 8, alongside my older brother at the Maudsley Hospital in London. That meant that my parents understood and I got support. In fact, I got the best support out there, and there’s no doubt it will have helped more than I’ll ever know with some of the problems that we faced. But I never fully understood how ADHD affected me until I started receiving effective medical treatment that helped me gain control of my ADHD at age 16.
Even as early as seven years old, I’d hated myself. That was the only way I ever felt about myself until I’d been able to experience fully effective treatment a few months before turning 17, and got an insight into what parts of me were ‘me’, and what parts were ADHD. I saw myself as lazy, useless, ungrateful, someone who just causes problems, costs people money, gets into trouble, and a general waste of space. I thought the world, and definitely my family, would probably have been better off if I’d never existed. People kept telling me that I had the intelligence and talent to achieve a lot, that I had “a lot of potential if I just put a bit of work in”, and asking me things like “don’t you care?” – which made me feel even worse for clearly not caring enough. Nobody realised that I was never going to achieve anything, that they’d misjudged the situation, that I was never going to pull my finger out and put some work in.
One day my mum was speaking to my brother about my troubles with getting things done, and how she just didn’t understand them, and he said it sounded like the kind of thing that ADHD medication had really helped him with. I had tried a few medications at relatively low doses, but after my dose was increased it was a huge turning point in my life. For the first time ever, I felt normal. I didn’t feel like a total weirdo all the time. I didn’t feel like I had to try as hard as possible to act normal and cover up my real identity, just to ‘fit in’ around my peers any more. For the first time I was able to get myself to do (most of) the things I wanted to do. For example, I started doing a lot better at my new school, because I was suddenly able to get myself to actively study and learn about the things I was interested in. I made more friends my own age and gradually cut off the damaging relationships I’d been caught up in before because I hadn’t known I deserved better.
I hadn’t been planning to go to University – I’d hoped to go to a music school, but the enjoyment and satisfaction I got from learning and being in an intellectually stimulating environment caused me to rethink. Although my school tried to stop me (my previous exam results made it seem unlikely that I’d get an offer), I applied to one university – the University of Cambridge, as I was planning to take a year out to focus on music and you never know, I might even get in. I had four interviews, missed the A*AA conditional offer I’d been given, and even got a ‘C’ in the written paper of the very subject I’d applied for – but they took me anyway. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the experiences of students with ADHD at the University and founded a support group for these students and later I went on to speak about these experiences at the United Kingdom Adult ADHD Network conference in July 2016. I graduated with a 2.1 and got the College award for ‘outstanding contribution’, and ever since I’ve been doing everything I can to help other people with ADHD to understand, recognise, and achieve, all of their potential.
Life with ADHD is still hard, and it still causes me enormous problems every single day. ADHD still holds me back just as much as any disability would. However, ADHD has also made me who I am, and I am very happy and proud to be that person. With support, I’ve achieved a lot, and I’m determined to keep advocating and spread the truth about ADHD until every girl and woman in the UK who might have ADHD is guaranteed to recognise ALL the signs and symptoms, and to know that having ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back. I am only 22 and in my second year of employment, but there’s no way I would have done half as much as I have over the last few years if it wasn’t for having ADHD, which has given me courage, determination, resilience… and a propensity to take on millions of projects. So far I’ve been able to continue my work for people with ADHD both inside and outside my formal employment: I was elected by the student body to take a sabbatical role Welfare & Rights Officer on the Cambridge University Students’ Union, and during my year in office (2015-2016) I wrote a business case lobbying for a dedicated diagnostic and support service for students with ADHD, which is now ready for establishment should the local NHS service become overloaded as it was then. I worked closely with the University’s disability team to improve the support available for students with ADHD, developing an array of ADHD-specific resources that might be used in all sorts of scenarios, and engagement strategies that don’t involve emails, letters, or anything else that’d make engaging a faff. This has become a basic model that I’ve since been able to build on in consultation with Imperial College London and other universities wishing to improve the support available to their students with ADHD. I am a lay member of the NICE Guideline Committee for ADHD, and I work on the referrals team for Mind in the City, Hackney & Waltham Forest’s Wellbeing Network and a social prescription service for residents with mental health problems. I have written a funding proposal to expand this service to include ongoing non-pharmaceutical support services for people with ADHD to be delivered in Hackney, and am working with the CEO to launch this and raise awareness of the lack of adult ADHD provision in Hackney as well as the UK in general. I have drafted a paper using the data collected for my undergraduate dissertation which I hope to submit for the Journal of Attention Disorders, which, if published, might help me to successfully apply to do a part-time PhD looking further into adult ADHD in the future. I have continued my campaigning work, recently launching the #AttentionUK campaign on ADHD stigma and provision in the UK, and am developing an app, called Cognitive, that enables users to track how their behaviours impact their day-to-day mental health and expression of symptoms.
I’m proud of all my skills and abilities, and I’m determined not to let ADHD stigma prevent me from achieving all that I can.