Being 'brutally honest' - Jannine's story (part one)
Diagnosed with ADHD herself, she understands the unique challenges faced by people with the condition and she now uses this knowledge and experience to help others. In 2019 , Jannine left her teaching job to set up ADHD Wise UK, supporting clients to optimize their lives through coaching, professional parent training and workshops. In her own words, Jannine is “brutally honest and open about her life with ADHD” and in this feature she shares her own story of living with ADHD.
How it all started
I was diagnosed at 41 - that's 5 years ago now. I was working as a high-level teaching assistant and wanted to become a qualified teacher (PGCE), but I was too scared. At that point in my life, I've had a lot of successes in my life, but also a lot of failures. Training to become a teacher; that whole process - I was just afraid to it because I was afraid to fail. I had a conversation with our headteacher and talked about my barriers to start the training. She was very supportive and said to me that I should get assessed for ADHD, “because it could make the difference for you getting through your PGCE...”.
So, I did - I went and asked for an assessment for ASD and ADHD. I went to my GP and burst into tears because I didn't expect them to take me seriously. He sat and listened, and then he said, “I don't think that you have these conditions, however, your boss would know better than I would, and so would you”. They were very keen to help me, and I was tested for and diagnosed within four months.
An eye-opening experience
My husband was with me during the diagnostic process and was quite staggered when I was going through various psychometric tests, testing things like my executive function. He even said that, for a clever person, it was amazing that I was struggling so much. It was very eye-opening for him, and I too gained insights about myself.
While I was at university, studying for my PGCE, I spoke to my tutor about my differences and she was amazing. We talked through a few possibilities: I had permission to leave the classroom if I needed to, I could have access to extensions without having to go through the lengthy process of explaining why, and I had extra time available to spend with her. Funnily enough, I didn't need any of those things because it was the first time in my life, academically speaking, where I wasn't living on extensions. I had a master’s degree already at this point and I think it was then where extra support could have helped.
The turning point
I think the fact that this time I'd been given permission to not have to worry about these things, meant that I was getting to grips with what was happening. I stopped lying to myself that I would remember everything, so became diligent in the way I would write things down. I'd be making notes of due dates for assignments and became a slave to my planner - simply because I realized I had to. The reality was that I was never going to be able to store this information in my head - before I just assumed that if I tried hard, I would be able to do it. This was a massive turning point for me. I was top of the class the first time in my whole life.
The most challenging thing about ADHD…
Being consistently inconsistent.
I'm very capable and when I'm on top form, I can do great things and I've achieved great things. Because of that, people have that expectation of you, and I can't maintain that because I have ADHD – by nature I am dysregulated. I give my all and then I've got nothing, so I crash and get fatigued. Once I've achieved something, it is hard to keep the interest levels up as well. That's hard for employers and anybody for that matter, because people value consistency, whereas I'm peaks and troughs. That's a huge challenge for me. I manage it much better because I know what's going on.
Plus, having a very clear ‘why?’ is really important for me. I have an interest-based nervous system, not an urgent and important one. If things are urgent and important, I can force myself to do it - but it is a struggle. When I question myself - why am I doing this even though I hate it, or this just seems pointless - well I'm doing it because I need to get myself to a particular point, and in order to get there I've got to do this, this and this. Having a clear why will get you through those tough times. Read part two here.
Jannine runs ADHD Wise UK, a company dedicated to ADHD coaching and support. Learn more about ADHD Wise UK here.
See Jannine featured on BBC News and Channel 5:
Women searching for an explanation for their symptoms often face misperceptions or professionals’ lack of understanding about women’s experiences with ADHD....
Having lived experience of ADHD and working as a teacher for many years, Jannine Harris knows what she’s talking about when it comes to neurodiversity. With ...
Now, on her third master’s degree, Jannine understands what it takes to create the right environment for success for those with ADHD. In this feature we learn...