ADHD, Autism and Working as a Support Worker – an interview

Bryan shared his experiences with getting an ADHD diagnosis and, also, finding a suitable job. He lives in the north-west of England and we communicated by text.

Seeking diagnosis

The diagnosis for adhd was such a pain in the arse. I was diagnosed when I was 4 but that isn’t good enough for being medicated when you’re an adult so I went through a 5 year process of waiting lists and being told I ‘should have grown out of if by now’ by one GP. Nightmare.

I’m comfortable with the way I am and it has indeed helped me gain insights – I am not very good at reading social situations when I’m in them if people aren’t being straight forward but I’m surprisingly good at reading them for other people.

The challenges I face for the most part are battling with my wish to avoid people and the outside world because when I do that I get massively depressed which could be fixed if I went outside but makes me incapable so it is a bizarre magic roundabout of contradiction haha!

That and when I’m at work and too many people talk at once. I cannot focus on them. Luckily I’ve been there a while now and they know and accept my quirks.

Have you considered getting a diagnosis? Even if you didn’t want meds, it’s nice to feel validated. One of the biggest parts of it for me is the imposter syndrome, feeling like I don’t have adhd and I’m just a rubbish person

I feel comfortable being me but I don’t always like it – I just know that I would hate having to try to be anybody else, haha!

The five years was mostly due to me not understanding the system, we could get that down to less than a year for you now I know the process!

It is very hard indeed to speak up, and sometimes, it feels like you’re talking to an argumentative brick wall. I’ve given up a lot of times.

So the going out thing, I feel best when I’m outdoors in nature but when I have, a burnout, I find it impossible to go outside unless I absolutely have to (work or something) so that exacerbates the situation cos I need outside to feel better but my brain won’t let me! It’s stupid and I hate that part.

Finding suitable work

I am a support worker and literally everyone I work with in our tiny team has some sort of mental health issue so it’s a safe place to be and my client has complex needs and learning disabilities so he’s cool with all of us. I mean he’s a bit of a dick but he can’t help it haha!

I’ve had so many jobs, this is the longest I’ve kept one, coming up to five years now in this company – longest I’d kept one prior was two years and that was a big deal to me.

You have to find your safe place and stick with it unless it stops being safe. That’s always my rule. I refuse to be somewhere 12 hours a day if I don’t feel safe there.

Work environments can be so taxing though and if I had the money, I wouldn’t work. I’d work for myself though.

Customer care roles have always taken more out of me than I have to give – retail is a no go for me now, it’s a drain on my ‘social batteries’ so to speak. I imagine a library might be different but I’ve never had the opportunity. Support work is good, it can be full on but you’re working with people who have mental issues and to me, that’s relatable so I can do it without using up too much of my energy. It is physically tiring sometimes but it’s sort of worth it when you make a difference in someone’s life on a near daily basis.

Sincerely, it was the best thing I’ve done. I spent a lot of time wondering why I was, being rubbish in certain jobs and I just didn’t feel safe so I couldn’t do my best which in turn felt really shit. You must be yourself and be somewhere that doesn’t have to change much. Have you heard of masking? It’s something neuro diverse people (us with adhd / autism or both do it a lot) do to fit in and appear ‘normal’ but it takes, a LOT of energy and can lead to burnout or worse. I don’t have to do it much where I work now, and it frees up a lot of energy.

Having adhd and autism is a very conflicting thing. One side wants structure, and loves patterns and the other side can’t start tasks without a melt down haha! I found a funny meme that explained it actually, I’ll see if I have it

Support work

I found the job online when I’d grown so fed up of my current (at the time) kitchen job that I had to look into something new. I got the job offer the same day then had to give notice and await the DBS and all that stuff.

The team make it a safe environment for me by being a really understanding bunch and allowing me to do what I need to get by on a daily basis.

Some challenges would be on days when I’m feeling particularly insular and I have to deal with a lot of people and/or phone calls – that is very draining. Or when there’s a lot of noise and I have to stick it up and deal with it. It can be a very sensory-taxing environment.

There is a great deal of responsibility in the role of support worker and it’s also not a very respected role by many (especially the government, the funding for social health care is shockingly inadequate, as is our pay) This means that there are two camps of people who take this kind of work (I am massively generalising here)

1) People who genuinely wish to make a difference and make people’s lives better and

2) young people who just want to make a little bit of ‘easy money’ (It’s really easy work if you don’t mind doing a shit job but it’s a really hard job if you want to do it well) for the weekend.

I have two roles within my company, one is support worker: I help the person I support to live his best possible life by cooking, cleaning, taking him to appointments, administering medication, dealing with his finances for him, planning fun activities he’s able to engage in, anything to make his life good, safe and fun!

I actually quite like the 24 hour shifts because I tend to sleep here better than at home because it’s nice and cool in the staff sleep room haha! It can be hard when I just miss home though but I’m very used to it – I’ve done the lion’s share of the 24 hour shifts for 2 years now!

Oh, the second role is a health and wellbeing advocate – I do this job two days per week and it’s funded by the government to get people doing stuff after covid

It’s a pilot scheme and honestly, I have no idea how it’s going at the moment. It’s a bit overwhelming and I’m not sure why I was put forward for this job by my manager. I feel like, I shouldn’t have done the interview, sometimes

The communication skills needed within the team are quite extreme, hand-overs are totally essential at the start and end of every shift so documenting absolutely everything is an absolute must because ‘If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen’ as my old manager used to say.

I actually took to the new skill set surprisingly well and it’s taught me a lot about how I do and/or should interact with people and especially now that I have been nominated for the health and wellbeing advocate role which is a pilot scheme until November unless the funding gets continued and is specifically to help identify what makes the people we support and our colleagues feel healthy and happy, I’ve began to gain a lot of insight into how much inequality there really is within the world of healthcare and the links between poverty and poor health and even the north-south divide (The north has higher mortality rates compared to the south, I did not know this until recently.)

The difficulties in kitchen work was primarily other people’s attitudes towards people lower in the pecking order and thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to shout at people when they make a mistake, which obviously it isn’t. I left a good number of kitchen jobs with no notice due to poor manners and rudeness. I’ve never been able to handle being treated as lesser than someone just because they contain a little more knowledge in an area or two than I do because I’d never do that. Also, the industry itself is so superficial. People are out there dying in wars and customers at the golf club I used to work in were concerned about their scone being a few minutes later than they’d have liked so long story short, I stopped caring about it which really reflected in my attitude – I was late to work every day and I was never sorry if something was late and I stopped taking pride in my work. That was when I knew it was time to get a new job.

I think I’ve always been better at communicating than I used to give myself credit for so it was just adapting the type of communication I needed to fit the role and in my role I meet many people with completely different needs. Some are mute, some blind, deaf, profound learning disabilities, all sorts. It took me some time to realise that you have to take a holistic approach to interacting with anyone at all but especially those who have trouble expressing themselves.

As far as my team are involved, we’ve been together for a while now so we can often communicate without words, what needs to be done and in that respect, I think kitchens taught me quite well.

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Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website: https://samuelaliblog.wordpress.com/

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