Page published on 7th November 2022
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In this post IP Ability committee member Sophia Karim shares her personal reflections following ADHD Awareness Month in October. This is part i of a three-part article, in which Sophia explains the importance of raising awareness and understanding, and why her generation finds itself better empowered to do that. Keep an eye out for the next two parts on our News and Features page soon.
When I heard it was ADHD Awareness Month, I knew I had to find the right platform to voice my piece – in the legal world, the perpetual concept of “awareness” is unavoidable. It can be tiresome to be subjected to what may seem like far-removed issues that aren’t relevant to you, your clients or anyone you know. Besides, there are social justice warriors out there fighting those socio-political battles for us. So why must we do more than we already do?
As far as awareness goes, a commitment to diversity “principles” and a donation to a few minority foundations here and there will suffice, surely. Indeed, beyond the abstract sense, the term “awareness” denotes involvement in heavy social issues in order to contribute toward some sort of “global impact”. As lawyers, we are not equipped to solve these issues ourselves. Time is money, and time spent becoming “aware” about the issues faced by a certain group of individuals, who to the best of your knowledge, neither you nor your clients pertain to, seems pointless.
But actually, what if I told you that your team could bill three times as much as you do now, just by implementing practical changes by way of “awareness” within your firm?
Because ADHD is so heavily underdiagnosed in girls, most women don’t get their ADHD diagnosis until later on in adulthood. Often, a diagnosis of ADHD during adulthood can come out of seeking answers in periods of constant exhaustion due to being in a constant state of chaos, where everything seems out of control – for many people, like me, this catalyst was the pandemic.
Whilst you, reader, may be raising eyebrows at the fact that nearly everyone may have experienced this during the pandemic, the only plausible conclusion must therefore mean that everyone has ADHD then? You may even have preconceived ideas of ADHD as “just an excuse to be lazy” rather than the wholly invisible, intrinsically contradictory and entirely genetic condition that is so widely misunderstood.
Snowflakes speaking up
Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 21. I am grateful to belong to a generation that is not afraid to be unashamedly outspoken or fear the consequences of being silenced for speaking up about issues that matter to us. We are proud to possess the courage to confidently and publicly provide our perspectives to those who speculate about what our experiences are like: having grown up in an era that saw so much socio-political change, mass devastation and more global events in the cusp of the millennium alone, than one would expect to see in an entire lifetime. Whilst we appreciate other generations faced hardships too, it is important to acknowledge the nuances between them in order for us to articulate to those people that are now in positions of leadership and power, exactly how active participation and collaborative efforts can help us overcome the societal obstacles of unconscious bias.
As I enter the working world with this perspective, I intend to shed light on the condition, which is in fact so common amongst lawyers, and female lawyers in particular. Women are much more equipped to perform the subconscious act of “masking” – the ability to hide ADHD symptoms. Masking is something many women do unknowingly their entire lives.
By disclosing my diagnosis, I wondered whether I had finally been free and unmasked, or actually, was I more alone than ever and trapped into a box with a label that would hinder any professional development due to widespread unconscious biases?
Awareness is not just for performative marketing words or for compliance to tick boxes. Practically speaking, awareness can actually improve workplace efficiency, and enhance interpersonal and professional relationships to enable all to feel comfortable in their skin and most importantly, not be afraid to take the “mask” off to show who they are through fear of being silenced or punished by way of hindering their professional careers.
We are proud to be “snowflakes”, who will spread awareness of the ins and outs of the condition that is so commonly misunderstood by those we work with and work for – and it is therefore vital to dispel incorrect notions perpetuated by those misinformed about genetic neurological conditions, in order to create a more efficient workplace and safe environment for all. Practical change must happen, and performative activism is not enough.
Echo chambers and extremities
In the modern world, we are entrenched by way of social media algorithms in our own virtual echo chambers of extremities of “wokeness” in the plight to be politically correct, or, to stand out from the rest by taking an opposing angle to the masses. This constant hyper-connectivity in the palms of our hands can leave many exhausted. However, there is a certain underrated value that exists as a result of our continuous consumption of “unsolicited” information: through trends that spread virally to reach every corner of the earth, awareness can be achieved on a global scale.
Last year, social media made it seem like everyone is getting diagnosed with ADHD left, right and centre – through social media, I was force-fed information based on the algorithms’ perceptions of me. Every second more I spent perusing an Instagram post entitled “ADHD Signs to look out for in Girls” and tweets posting threads of “things that only make sense to ADHD people”, the algorithm was learning about me. Though after a while, this information that was being force-fed to me started hitting home, and the jokes and memes were getting a bit too relatable to “LOL” at. Obviously, a seventeen year old high-schooler on TikTok pointing at virtual text boxes of common symptoms in the air, and assigning them to neurological conditions, over a seven second dance video to the background of a Justin Bieber song, was not sufficient to validate my concerns. And so, I began my journey to seek proper medical advice, and eventually, diagnosis for the condition I would never have suspected I had, if it wasn’t for social media.