Disability pride month — all the things I am proud of being a neurodivergent woman of colour
Who am I? I was diagnosed with ADHD at the end of 2020 and realized that the diagnosis can explain everything I had struggled with such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and inability to focus on one career path. However, I was shocked by the lack of support for women with ADHD and realized that something needed to be done to support more people like me. I started training as an ADHD coach and now I am exploring entrepreneurship to make an impact on my community. I write a lot about neurodiversity and entrepreneurship. Find out more on www.ownyourflair.com
It's disability pride month! Disability pride month is the month where all voices in the disabled community are encouraged to share their stories and voices in the hope it will help to raise awareness about our community and needs.
Personally, I struggle with the word “disability”.
I am neurodiverse and don’t view myself as disabled at all. In fact, I don’t view anyone even with a physical disability as being disabled. We are only disabled by society because society refuses to accommodate our needs.
That is why it is so important to continue to talk about needs, not as a form of charity but rather as a fundamental human right!
I do like that this month allows me to think about the things I am actually proud of being a neurodiverse woman of colour.
Being neurodiverse helped me break free from the expectations of my asian upbringing
I struggled with my upbringing. My parents being Vietnamese refugees, I was brought up to fulfill their wish and desires. I was meant to be the daughter that would achieve everything that they couldn’t. Think going to school, university, and getting a respectable job. I worked very hard at school to fulfill my parent's wishes and suppressed my creative tendencies. I remember specifically being 10 years old and going into my wardrobe and cutting up a dress to make it into a miniskirt and crop top. I was told off for doing so. I remember growing up thinking I would love to be a fashion designer… but suppressed my childhood desires and ended up going to university to study economic history with the hope of getting a job in the city.
For years, I felt trapped in this cycle of trying to please my parents and then suppressing my creative needs. I felt perpetually unhappy working in corporate jobs. Nothing seemed to make me happy, and I was confused. I did everything that I thought would make me happy. Go to university, and get a bachelor's and master's degree. Worked at the best companies in the world. Yet I still felt unhappy. Perhaps because I was finding it difficult to operate in the working world with my undiagnosed ADHD and my dyslexia. I just never felt like I fit in the corporate world.
I finally left the corporate world when I received my ADHD diagnosis. The diagnosis confirmed to me why I found it so hard to work in the corporate world and it gave me the courage to make changes to my environment.
The ADHD diagnosis gave me the courage because by that point, I was suffering from severe depression, terrible anxiety, and heart palpitations. Functioning in my life had become difficult, and the negative impact of lockdown exacerbated this. I realized that this was the lowest I am ever going to allow myself to get and that my parents' expectations did not matter to me anymore. I needed to prioritize my mental health.
Taking risks is an ADHD superpower Leaving my corporate job was scary, and I had no backup plan. All I knew was I needed to do it in order to get better. I needed to allow myself the space to explore and see how I felt not being trapped in the corporate rat race.
I started taking many risks. I spent £5k to train as an ADHD Coach (so so so expensive..) but so worth it because it allowed me the space and time to delve deep into what it means for me to have ADHD. It also made me think about how I can help others with ADHD on my term. This is something I have dedicated my life to. Especially for helping a more marginalised community get help with ADHD. I also enjoy speaking on social media as an Asian ADHD coach. Asia is very behind in talking about neurodiversity and I want to be the voice for my community and encourage many neurodiverse people of colour to embrace their neurodiversity.
The other risk I took is to explore other industries. I always wanted to try the entertainment industry. When I was about 14 years old, I applied to be on a children's program and I actually made it to the auditions but didn’t make it to the program because I was slightly older and more mature compared to the other children there! I also enjoyed performing in all the school plays growing up but didn’t continue with drama because I wanted to focus on other topics that would help me get into university. Now, with my newfound freedom, I took a dive and booked myself into acting classes. I started working on movie sets as a background artist and met so many people with ADHD. For once in my life, I felt like I could connect instantly with the people I was working with. Everyone was so creative, fun-loving people. Being on the movie set also sparked my interest in story-telling and understanding the power of visual art to portray stories and move people. I told myself I would love to get an acting agent and get more involved with performing. I just signed up with an acting agent last month and I’m excited to see where this goes!
All these are risks because I committed to it without knowing what the future outcome is going to be. Being diagnosed with ADHD helps with risk-taking because sometimes you don’t need to know where this will lead you. Sometimes you just need to follow what you are passionate about in the moment and believe that it will all work out. Not every decision in life is a cost-benefit analysis. Live with passion and don’t be afraid to take risks!
My ADHD diagnosis helped me redefine what was important to me in my life
Being diagnosed with ADHD forced me to think about what I prioritised in life. I knew that all the decisions I had made up to my diagnosis were not made with the knowledge that I had ADHD.
Now that I knew I had ADHD, I am very careful with the environments I put myself in. I strongly believe that mental health issues are not necessarily inherent and I think the environment plays an enormous factor in exacerbating risks to mental health issues.
This meant I had to have a hard look at the environments I was putting myself in and decide what environments I am going to put myself in the future. I’ll be honest. I was very money oriented in the past. I wanted a job with a high salary because I wanted to be able to afford things. I grew up in a family where we never had money for any luxuries. I wanted to help my younger brothers and family out with the money that I would earn. But after my diagnosis I realised that me and corporate environments just don’t work. I am so creative and too opinionated. My mind is always thinking about 100 different things. I hate being constrained by a job role or corporate rules. So now my priorities have shifted. I now seek roles where I can have an impact on people and be able to be creative/ share my ideas and inspire people. I don’t know what that looks like at the moment. To be honest, I struggle with paying rent and have to do multiple jobs to pay bills, but at least I feel free. My self-worth is no longer tied to a paycheck.
Some people get trapped in their jobs and never take the time to think about what really really matters to them. I can thank my ADHD diagnosis for helping me let go of all the expectations that my family has put on me. I can finally say that I am truly trying to live with my authentic self. And that is why I have so much pride in being a woman of colour with ADHD.