Whether you are someone with a neurodiverse condition, an advocate or an ally, Neurodiversity Celebration Week really is time to celebrate. Our CEO Sandi Wassmer explains why.
Until I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 47, I spent a heck of a lot of time feeling stupid, inadequate and pretending to “get things” that I clearly didn’t and being too afraid to ask people to reframe or explain things in a different way. This spanned my entire life, at home, in my social life, in education and at work.
Describing this now sounds completely absurd, but without a diagnosis or an understanding of why I was the way I was, why I felt so at odds with the world and why I never felt I belonged, I soldiered on pretending to be the person that the world wanted me to be and feeling an inner conflict that contributed to quite poor mental health. Unchecked and unsupported, the typical symptoms of ADHD—impulsivity, difficulty regulating emotions and inability to focus on things that didn’t interest me—lead to a lot of risk-taking behaviour and challenges in both my personal and working life.
Roll forward to today, and I firmly believe that my ADHD is a superpower. It allows me to uber focus and work faster than most human beings I know. I am now at one with my ADHD, but I certainly didn’t get here alone. I have an understanding of how the ADHD affects my life, and a plethora of tools and supports to keep me steady, balanced and happy, but this all relies on my ability to own it and the people around me understanding what that looks like.
I road tested it in my personal life first, being absolutely clear with those around me when I didn’t understand stuff and when I felt I was becoming overwhelmed. Mindfulness meditation practice has definitely provided the space for extreme self-awareness, in my head, in my heart and in my body, so I know in most instances when I’m becoming overwhelmed before it happens.
The big shift work-wise happened here at enei, working with the marvelous Michelle Davies, our Service Design & Operations Director, who offered a safe space for us to explore the way my ADHD manifests at work and, importantly, how it affects those around me. She has held me with her unbounded compassion and helped me find my voice and my way of expressing my ADHD safely.
I can now be found in meetings everywhere saying things like, “I’m not understanding what you’re saying. Would you please reframe that?“ and “I am finding it challenging to process what you’re saying and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Can we find another way? “. These are things that not three years ago I would have never, ever said in the workplace. The way that the whole enei team are now with me and my ADHD is allyship on steroids. It is precisely how people need to come together to find solutions that work for all. I know that it has made my working life much richer and as near as one can have to stress free, and I also know that those around me are learning and growing with me.
So, in this Neurodiversity Celebration Week, I’m urging everyone to do just that—celebrate! Whether you are someone with a neurodiverse condition, an advocate or an ally, let’s all just get on with celebrating all of the rich and diverse things that make us human.
Sandi Wassmer participated in the panel on ‘The Benefits of Neurodiversity in the Workplace‘ which took place on Wednesday, 15 March 2023 from 2.30pm – 4pm. The event was part of an online series taking place to celebrate Neurodiversity Celebration Week which ran from 13 – 19 March 2023.