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Mikaela’s story of getting diagnosed with ADHD

Learn how we helped Mikaela get a diagnosis of ADHD.

“Three months in, I noticed that I was really struggling to engage with my work. I felt sleepy and lethargic all the time, I couldn’t concentrate on anything and my attention was all over the place.”

Hi, I’m Mikaela, and I’m an engineering student at the University of Kent.

I’ve always been a keen learner, and growing up I taught myself how to code, but I wanted to push myself further in this area by exploring computer hardware. So, after finishing my A Levels, I decided to study a Computer Systems Engineering degree at university, to see where this interest would take me.

Despite having to contend with the impact of COVID restrictions during the start of my degree, my studies got off to a fantastic start. I was excelling in my assignments, and according to my mentor, I was on course to achieve a high final grade.

Starting my placement year

“However, my problems started when I began a placement role for my Year in Industry so I could put my learning into practice. It was a big leap for me, and it wasn’t long before my performance started to slip.”

I found it difficult to start new tasks and would find myself staring at a blank page for several days at a time, unable to put words to paper.

But the more this kept happening, the more it got out of hand. Things were spiralling out of my control – even the easiest of tasks became near impossible, and I ended up feeling paralysed, unable to do anything about it.

I’ve always been a very capable person and had thrived at school without much effort, so this really wasn’t like me and I couldn’t understand why it was happening. I thought it was a moral failure, even though I desperately wanted to do the work. Worse still, I couldn’t imagine having to give up on a career in engineering before I’d even had the chance to get started.

I started to panic – if I couldn’t pass my internship, then I would fail my degree!

Getting a diagnosis

Whilst I was trying to figure out why I might be struggling so much on my placement and why I was feeling like this, I came across a post online about someone’s personal experiences regarding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Reading through the list of symptoms, it felt as though a lightbulb had switched on in my head. ‘That sounds a lot like me!’ I thought.

“I decided to see if I could get a free assessment for ADHD through the NHS, but the waiting list was months long, and I needed answers quickly if I was going to pass my placement – and my degree!”

Luckily, I had automatically become a member of the IET upon starting my studies, and because of this I received emails from them which often included information about Foothold’s services. Feeling completely overwhelmed by this point and with seemingly nowhere else to turn to, I reached out to the charity – and I’m so glad I did.

Foothold provided me with the financial support I needed to get a private ADHD assessment and three follow-up appointments with a psychiatrist when I received my positive diagnosis.

I felt so relieved when the diagnosis came through. What I was experiencing actually had a name, so I might finally have some answers!

This was my chance to learn why I was having trouble settling into my placement and understand what I could do to help me flourish in a work environment, as I had all my life in an academic setting. I was prescribed medication to bring me back into balance and I’m now able to concentrate properly once again. The feelings of stress and anxiety are easing, and thanks to the support of my university as well, I’m back on track with my work and studies.

And it wouldn’t have happened had I not taken the time to learn about Foothold and understand about how they could help me. I’m so grateful to them for their support, and I’m now finding ways to give something back.

Helping other people like me

Since I received this support, I’ve been doing my best to help raise awareness and spread the word about the charity, as the more people like me who learn about their services, the more people they can support.

I’m also doing my bit to advocate for inclusivity in my workplace, having recently given a presentation to my colleagues to better inform them of the needs of people with neurodiverse conditions. It’s so important that we reframe the way we view neurodiversity – it can give people a unique perspective and should be embraced and celebrated, not regarded as a disability.

“I remember feeling so surprised and quite excited when Foothold confirmed that they could support me, as I’d assumed I wouldn’t be eligible for support with what seemed like such a ‘niche’ issue. But how wrong I was!”

As someone who’s always been passionate about learning new things and uncovering fresh ideas and viewpoints, I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself when I’m struggling with a new experience. Now, I can put steps in place to ensure I can cope with whatever life throws at me.

To anyone who’s in a similar situation, I urge you to get in touch with Foothold. It can feel really difficult to reach out for help, but it’s so important to try, as you never know how it might change your life!

 


 

Start #EngineeringYourWay today

If you’re struggling with ADHD or ADHD symptoms and it’s affecting your day-to-day life, we might be able to help. To find out more about our Engineering Neurodiverse Futures support programme, join our Differently Wired Hub for free today.

 


Michael Hargreaves, author of How Foothold’s new Engineering Neurodiverse Futures programme can support you to achieve your career goals

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