"You’re not alone, you’re not broken, stupid, or lazy, and it’s possible to forgive yourself for everything that undiagnosed and untreated ADHD has taken from you..."

An event called ‘Living and Working with ADHD’ takes place in Cork this week. Ahead of the event, one of the speakers, Ailín Kennedy, tells us about her experience of the condition
"You’re not alone, you’re not broken, stupid, or lazy, and it’s possible to forgive yourself for everything that undiagnosed and untreated ADHD has taken from you..."

Ailín Kennedy who will be speaking at the ADHD Ireland event in Cork on May 17.

THE Cork branch of ADHD Ireland is hosting an event in Cork this week which aims to raise awareness of the condition among the adult population.

‘Living and Working with ADHD’ will also promote an understanding of the challenges faced by adults with ADHD in daily living and work. The keynote speaker for the event will be the broadcaster and podcaster Keith Walsh.

Keith was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 49 and he will share his experience of living with the condition, including how he learned to cope with it and, ultimately, succeed because of it.

The well-known presenter will then join a panel discussion with two local professionals with ADHD – coach Ailín Kennedy and journalist Mike McGrath Bryan.

Here Ailín has written about her own experience with ADHD and getting her diagnosis at the age of 32....

If I asked you to imagine someone with ADHD, what would come into your mind? Would it be the stereotype of the naughty, energetic young boy, running rampage in the classroom? This is certainly what came to my mind when, at age 30, my psychiatrist told me that I might have ADHD.

I had spent my twenties dealing with poor mental health and looked for help many times. So why did it take so long to finally hear the letters, A-D-H-D?

After that particular doctor visit, I went home and started to read up about ADHD, and discovered a whole new world that described so much of what I’d struggled with. Poor attention span, always jumping from one thing to the next, a contradiction of immense energy and the inevitable crash that followed.

As a musician, I survived school based on my musical talent, but I always struggled with the academic side, particularly learning things by heart, organisation, and paying attention. I remember sitting in my Junior Cert exams and though I had been in the classes, the topics seemed brand new.

Maths posed as a subject I seemed unable to get a grasp of and brought me overwhelming anxiety. I would learn my times tables but 30 minutes later they would disappear from my brain as if they’d never been there. Even with simple mental arithmetic, I still have trouble with today.

I thought I was stupid, lazy, and unable to do well. But I really wanted to do well. I had a love of learning and I was fascinated by the world. I was smart, bright, and curious, yet I just couldn’t ‘apply myself’ as every school report read.

 Ailín Kennedy who will be speaking at the ADHD Ireland event in Cork on May 17.
 Ailín Kennedy who will be speaking at the ADHD Ireland event in Cork on May 17.

Because I was musical, I held a ‘creative licence’ to be disorganised, late for everything, unprepared and distracted, so it seemed acceptable and normal. It was my lifeline, masking my difficulties with studying, feeling unable to pay attention in class, forgetting things, and not realising we had homework or exam dates.

When I finally got my official ADHD diagnosis in 2020 at the age of 32, several things happened. Firstly, I cried for a week over all of the years I struggled and grieved for the life I “could” have had.

ADHD has explained my lifelong battle with struggling to focus, paying attention, finding and keeping jobs, relationship struggles, being able to stick to anything, impulsivity, forgetfulness, chronic sleep issues, constant cognitive hyperactivity, never being able to truly relax, emotional dysregulation and seemingly immedicable boredom.

But, I also felt an incredible sense of relief, validation, and excitement about a new outlook for my future. I learned that my focus and attention issues were real, explainable, and that dyscalculia is a maths learning difficulty that many ADHD and neurodivergent people have, too.

On Instagram, I had been following ADHD creators and marvelled at their authenticity. In Facebook groups, I felt at home when the stories people shared resonated with things I had felt such shame over and put down to personality flaws.

Because I was so shocked that it took this long to get my diagnosis, I felt inspired to start my own Instagram page to share about ADHD and learn alongside others, and I could never have prepared for the influx of people sharing their own stories with me. People I had known from school, college, and other parts of my life whom I hadn’t spoken to in years messaged and shared with me.

Now that I had more information, I could start to make changes, and stop running a losing race I felt I’d been doing for over 30 years! It’s also reconnected me with old friends, made me new friends, and even carved a career as an ADHD coach and advocate, helping others like me to understand themselves more, and to become proud of who they are.

I have found purpose and meaning by working on myself through my ADHD lens. Among the most impactful changes I’ve made for myself is quitting the party lifestyle, and instead of being hungover on a Sunday morning, now I’m out for a long run!

There is a downside to finding out about your ADHD, though, and that’s the lack of services for assessments and support for afterwards. The waiting lists are lengthy, it’s expensive, and the test itself can be archaic, focusing on one type of ADHD, the “obvious” stereotype of the naughty young boy. I always tell people who are at the start of their ADHD journey to just learn as much as they can about how their ADHD shows up for them, and connect with others if possible. ADHD Ireland are a fantastic charity who work tirelessly for our community, and the upcoming event on May 17 is a great chance to meet others.

Representation is important. You need to know that you’re not alone, you’re not broken, stupid, or lazy, and it’s possible to forgive yourself for everything that undiagnosed and untreated ADHD has taken from you.

The ADHD Ireland awareness event is open to adults with ADHD or who suspect that they may have ADHD and it takes place on Wednesday, May 17th at 7:30pm in St Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork City. Tickets are available for €5 on Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/629090445457 or the Events section of ADHD Ireland’s webpage.

For more information on this event or other ADHD supports, please visit www.adhdireland.ie or email martin@adhdireland.ie

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