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  • Writer's pictureTahirah Yasin Khan

The Unrelenting Problems at University and Work Pointed to One Thing: ADHD

ADHD symptoms at university and the workplace felt like they capsized of my life multiple times. I knew if the environment wasn’t right, working through it would be practically impossible.

So, the cliché: ‘Everybody is a little ADHD.’ Really? That doesn’t help and it infuriates me.

Over the years, I really think there is not enough open talk about ADHD in the workplace or at university — especially those undetected, undiagnosed, with unrelenting symptoms.

Common belief that ADHD only affects children, is not true; it persists through adulthood for many people. Some learn of their ADHD after remaining undiagnosed and untreated throughout childhood.

I speak to people daily who speak of their shock when facing their reality. They realise the unrelenting problems in the workplace was really ADHD. It’s like the epiphany moment when you realise its not me. There is a reason for this.

In my early years and creeping into my 40s: I had the suspicion that I had ADHD, but I didn’t dig any deeper at that time. Though I could list many moments of impulsivity, inappropriateness, and emotional dysregulation, I dismissed them as character flaws. The same went for my knack for losing objects, and my inability to finish a book.

However, being diagnosed with dyslexia at 40, I put it ALL down to having dyslexia.

But I had got by, I found coping mechanisms, I worked through my spelling mistakes, I found ways of not losing things, I managed my anxiety as I didn’t know it was anxiety.

I kept telling myself, just keep going, try harder, you’re not gifted, and exceptional but pure grit and determination means you will succeed. I watched other successful people, modelled, or mirrored their behaviours’. Put them on pedestals and almost lived in awe of their achievements.

So I had worked since age 16. I had a plethora worth of work experience. I was able to find and keep a job. Besides, I thought ADHD was a boy problem. Could a grown woman really have ADHD? That was hard to imagine. Even unthinkable.

ADHD in Women Checklist

No challenge was ever too big for me. A symptom of ADHD is being a “risk-taker,” we can be really brave – or not. Sometimes, “risk-taker” is just another word for “jumping into situations without much thought.” I am constantly putting myself in situations which later I had to question, what is wrong with me?

I am motivated in the beginning. I think I perform well, and I even boast about what I am doing. But the truth is that I always feel like I am lagging my peers.

To make things worse, my teachers or managers would never explain anything to me or provide feedback. I soon started to feel singled-out and isolated. I self-doubt, and start believing that the team would be better off without someone like me.

Failure was a given, I don’t expect to be rewarded, validated or be told that I had done a good job, partly I think where ADHD and trauma overlap so I constantly feel like a failure. Why do things turn out so badly for me?

My organisational skills and other “quirks” were often the point of criticism and mockery. People that didn’t know me, often would comment, just write it down, don’t you use google or can’t you send yourself a reminder?

It took me a while to start looking within. My self-confidence was gone. These instances, along with other stressful events in my personal life, marked the beginning of my downfall until I searched the internet for a virtual assistant, not any assistant BUT, one that understood my brain.

Another epiphany moment, it was not just the Dyslexia, there was Dyspraxia and Now ADD/ADHD.

Constantly, I think I can start over. Maybe if I paid more attention, try harder, be like the rest of my team. I even buy multiple diaries at the beginning of the year, but that didn’t work either.

Looking back, I realise I managed because my ability to interact, I was a good communicator. I was focused when I felt confident and was motivated to do better.

I also realise that I was not the problem. The work environments simply weren’t suitable for me.

Today, I have an amazing and rewarding career in counselling. I’m able to cope with my ADHD symptoms much more easily because I love this engaging and stimulating job. I have even been called professional and well-organized! (The majority of the time).

If you’re an adult with ADHD struggling in the workplace or study place, think long and hard about finding a job that suits your unique way of work. Find and seek the help, Paperaid -, has been phenomenal in helping to organise/juggle and prioritise my work.

Our brains operate differently and trying to adapt to something that doesn’t speak to you will only cause unnecessary pain and stress.

My advice? Find where you thrive – and never look back.

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