My ADHD diagnosis means I join the dots in a different way to most, but the images I create are no less beautiful.
June 23, 2021
Four months ago, Tobias Butler knew little of neurodiversity – the new frontier in Diversity and Inclusion... Until he was diagnosed with AD/HD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Technology Innovation Principal Director, opens up about how his diagnosis helped explain both his difficulties, and successes.
My GP had referred me to a specialist because I was having vivid dreams every night and was constantly tired. On my second visit, the specialist asked me what my mood was like at home. I said, “Mood isn’t the issue. I can’t relax. I put on the TV and three minutes later find myself doing something completely different. Or I’ll work in highly focused, explosive bursts of achievement, only to find myself distracted, chasing down rabbit holes of other interests.”
He asked me if I’d ever been assessed for AD/HD.
I’d always thought of AD/HD in the context of the hyperactive child at the back of a class. But it’s much more. Simply put, like a diabetic who cannot control the levels of insulin in their blood, those that live with AD/HD, can’t control the levels and interactions of the neurotransmitters in their brain.
Being formally diagnosed with AD/HD later in life was both a moment of relief but also one of grief. To suddenly have to reframe your life in the context of a disability… Your past, present and future – it’s emotional. But it also began my journey to the answers I’d been looking for. It revealed why I function so differently is some areas of my life and work than friends, family, and colleagues. It helped explain why I respond the way I do, what drives my successes, as well as what repeatedly trips me up in my relationships, work, and life in general.
Many people are too frightened to tell family members, let alone work colleagues, about their neurodiversity. For me, ‘coming out’ with my AD/HD diagnosis was more frightening than when I came out as gay many years ago. It was the fear of suddenly being considered incapable or incompetent. I worried people might think it was a self-label excuse for my own failings. However, I took the bold approach to tell the world via Facebook. Not because I wanted sympathy, attention, or validation. But because I wanted to share with others what many already knew. I’m different – and here’s the reason why.
One of the things I most connect with at Accenture, is the freedom and encouragement to bring my ‘Truly Human’ and authentic self to work. Which is why I have been very open and transparent with HR, my career counsellor, and line management about my diagnosis. I’m learning to understand myself better and work through the adjustments needed, so I can fully express my unique skills and abilities, but also be more honest about the things I struggle with. Common traits for someone with AD/HD can include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, inattention – or both!
In my case, it’s as if my brain is racing incredibly fast. I jump from activity to activity, searching for the next dopamine hit. Give me an intense project or challenging client, and I’m happy. Give me a report to write, and I can sometimes struggle.
On a not so good day, while my intellectual functions are as good as yours, my executive function and self-regulation might not be. These are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.
However, I believe there are positives to the way I’m wired. Because I think differently, I can see things from other perspectives and gain unique insights. I’m driven by emotive influences, empathy turned up to the max! On a good day, my AD/HD is like rocket fuel that allows me to blitz through what needs to be done.
Neurodiversity challenges us to be Truly Human – to find meaningful ways to understand and connect with those on a spectrum which thankfully, beginning to be illuminated and supported in the corporate world.
For organisations wanting to tap into the rich, neurodiverse talent pool, awareness and understanding is crucial to ensure work cultures are accepting and safe. Initiatives such as in-house coaching can help neurodiverse people better navigate the challenges of daily corporate life, as well as feedback and encouragement to find our own solutions to the challenges we face.
Being neurodiverse mean I ‘join the dots’ in a different way to most. I’ve spent so many years trying to learn how to join those dots to makes the same pictures as everyone else, and trying to BE like everyone else. But being self-kind and self-accepting has taught me that the images I draw, are no less beautiful than those of others.
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