We are pleased to bring you more good news from The ADHD Advocate. In addition to our ADHD Kids Coach, Ben Isaacson, and Parent Coach, Eleni Sfiroudis, recently joining the team, we are now delighted to let you know that another talented and very knowledgeable ADHD Coach (and published author!) has just joined our ranks.
Introducing our new ADHD Coach: Leanne Maskell
Leanne comes to us with a wealth of personal and professional experience in:
i. ADHD (she has ADHD herself, is the author of "ADHD: An A-Z" and delivers ADHD training to organisations like Microsoft)
ii. the Law (Leanne comes to us from the Law Society where she spent the last 2 years)
iii. Body Image/Social Media issues (Leanne was an international fashion model from the age of 13 and actually wrote "The Model Manifesto" as a result of her experiences in the industry); and
iv. Health and Wellness (Leanne is also a Yoga teacher and has run mental health groups in the workplace)
Leanne is perfectly positioned to coach ADHDers around issues that she has faced (and overcome) including bullying at school, studying at university, eating disorders, "vices" such as drugs and alcohol, phone addiction, relationship difficulties and workplace related struggles.
We are truly blessed to have Leanne on the team, helping us educate and inspire ADHDers to tell a more positive, empowering story about their ADHD.
This is Leanne's story:
THE WEIRD "TROUBLED" GIRL AT THE BACK OF THE CLASS
When I got straight A’s in my exams, my teacher asked the rest of the class if I cheated. I was known for being the weird, ‘troubled’ girl who sat at the back of the class daydreaming, who never did her homework and skipped P.E every week. I’d often fall asleep in class, which can happen with ADHD from being so bored that your nervous system simply shuts down! I didn’t cheat, but I still knew nothing. I’d just figured out a way to stress myself out so much that I was able to hyper-focus and temporarily memorise entire subjects in a few days.
I wrote as fast as I could in the exams, forgetting everything immediately afterwards. All that seems to matter in education are end results, but there’s an assumption that these mean you’re ‘clever’. I felt like a stupid fraud, and still feel like I have cheated somehow, just by being myself and hacking the system – even graduating with a 2:1 degree in law.
It also doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Perfect exam results can mean nothing if you have the 30% developmental delay in executive functioning skills that accompanies ADHD. I found myself paralyzed by trying to choose a career path, overwhelmed by even trying to create a CV, as my brain searched desperately for distractions, from getting black-out drunk to spontaneously moving across the world.
TORNADOS OF RUMINATION
Very quickly, I became scared of myself. I found out what I was thinking, planning, or doing at the same time as the people around me, and had no idea what life-changing decision I’d make by the end of the day. I was addicted to chaos and self-sabotage, resulting in me becoming suicidal on a near-constant basis.
I even managed to beat myself up for this, thinking I wasn’t ‘really’ suicidal. It was small things, such as choosing what to do on the weekend, that spiralled these tornados of rumination, whipping up my brain faster than I could realise. Obsessing over how to switch my brain off became my new distraction from using my executive functioning skills.
I genuinely believed I would be sectioned in a mental health hospital if anyone really knew how ridiculous my brain was but was powerless to control it. I’d wake up in the morning to emotional journal pages and awkwardly rip them up, feeling like a completely different person.
THE EXTREME EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY OF REJECTION SENSITIVE DYSPHORIA
‘Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria’ is a symptom uniquely associated with ADHD: the ability to become suicidal because you think you’re being rejected, part of the very significant emotional dysregulation accompanying ADHD that is so rarely discussed. The extreme emotional sensitivity and pain can cause extreme and sudden short-term reactions. I told someone about this recently and they looked at me as though I was speaking some kind of ‘woke’ foreign language, like my ‘needs’ were for me to never be exposed to the possibility of rejection in any setting. Of course, this wasn’t what I was trying to say at all. Rejection is a normal and necessary part of life: reacting to it like this is not – that’s the issue.
HOW LEARNING ABOUT ADHD HAS HELPED ME
I understand the confusion completely, though. I didn’t think it was real either when I finally paid hundreds of pounds to see a private psychiatrist who diagnosed me with ‘terrible’ ADHD and pondered how I’d managed to survive until age 25.
All I know to be true is that I no longer feel like this. I can think rationally, slowly, consider all the options. I managed to get and keep a job. I am in a healthy, stable relationship. I still notice my impulsive tendencies, but I get to choose whether I act upon them. I’ve even discovered the ‘holding’ part of my brain that thinks before it speaks!
Learning about ADHD has helped me piece together the broken shards of myself and my life into a picture that finally makes sense. Quite literally, in that I wrote a book about ADHD with a chapter for each letter of the alphabet.
Things don’t magically change when you’re diagnosed or take medication – I actually lost 15kg and became far worse, at first. A great analogy is:
“Imagine you always wanted to sew, but you’ve never been able to, and have always felt rather embarrassed about it. One day, your optician discovers your eyesight problems that don’t allow you to see small details, such as the holes in fabric. It’s not curable, but you can take daily medication for it, allowing you to see the holes.
You feel much better knowing that it wasn’t your ‘fault’, but you still don’t know how to sew. This is where coaching comes in: teaching you the practical skills, supporting you until you’re able to sew.”
HOW ADHD COACHING CHANGED MY LIFE
Being coached by the ADHD Advocate changed my life. It helped me publish the book that had sat on my laptop for months and supported me in learning the practical skills of how to manage my own brain. Having someone who understands your brain, after years of feeling like there’s something wrong with you, is indescribable.
Even more so if that person seems like a functional human being, like they’ve managed to learn how to have a moderately stable job, relationship and do their clothes washing regularly. It gives you hope, understanding, and compassion.
Coaching has changed my life so completely that I’ve now become one myself, putting the endless strategies of trying to ‘fix’ myself into empowering other people to realise there’s nothing to fix: only opportunities to grow.