It’s Neurodiversity celebration week and, with it being estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodiverse, we chatted with two Cumbrian’s about what it’s like living with neurodiversity in the county.
What does neurodiversity mean?
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people think about things differently, have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
Examples of this include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), both dyslexia and hyperlexia, dyscalculia, Epilepsy and Tourettes and Tic disorder.
Most people in society are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects.
Neurotypical: The brain functions and processes information in the way society expects.
Neurodiversity: refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people think about things differently, have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
Lucy embracing the calm of one of Cumbria’s many woodlands,
Johnny Wood in Borrowdale. Photo credit: Lucy Lawernce
Lucy Lawernce Bell, pronouns; She/They/Her/Them, is a 25-year-old environmentalist based in the South Lakes. Lucy shares their story of what it’s like having ADHD and Autism.
What was your experience of being diagnosed with ADHD and Autism?
Lucy is currently going through the diagnostic process for both ADHD and Autism and was referred for an assessment by what Lucy remarked as a helpful and respectful GP back in May 2022. However things haven’t been plain sailing since and Lucy hasn’t received any correspondence regarding her ADHD referral which admittedly is frustrating for them. Some studies suggest that women find it more difficult to get a diagnosis for ADHD.
Psychiatry UK only has a 6 month waiting list so this will see Lucy get assessed by at least the end of the summer and for Autism it’s only 18 weeks.
Lucy chose this pathway as waiting times for assessment of adult ADHD and Autism in Cumbria are multiple years long. Lucy finds it incredibly frustrating to think it could be years before receiving confirmation of what she says is her lived experience.
Were you offered any support for diagnoses in Cumbria and do you think there’s enough support in place in Cumbria for someone like yourself?
Lucy enjoying the freedom and calm and scenery of the outdoors
at Alcock Tarn. Photo credit: Lucy Lawernce
Despite Lucy’s wait to be assessed, they are seeking support for their current mental health and have been attending The NHS Talking Therapies for anxiety and depression programme, formerly known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies.
When Lucy raised their concerns about an assessment for ADHD and Autism to their therapist they were met with conflict: “My therapist was wholly unsupportive, telling me I was just an anxious person. He was so dismissive and didn’t even hear me out.”
Lucy believes this attitude comes from misconceptions regarding neurodivergence: “Most research participants for neurodivergence studies are primarily white middle class boys.”
The lack of diversity in research only makes things more difficult and in Lucy’s view:
“These harmful stereotypes in research findings premate some mental health professional beliefs on how neurodivergence presents, which results in a lack of meaningful support for neurodivergence in traditional therapy.”
Does living in a place like Cumbria alleviate symptoms of your ADHD and Autism?
Lucy used to live and work in Manchester city centre and was constantly overstimulated by the noise, smells, lights and general busyness of the city.
Hypersensitivity to busy environments in Autism can result in what is called sensory overload which can lead to Autistic people stimming, having meltdowns or shutting down to manage and cope with overstimulating environments: “I was always very uncomfortable at social events, and I never went clubbing the entire two years I lived there, which if you know me, isn't a surprise!”
The five lanes of traffic outside of Lucy’s old flat in Manchester made managing sensory overload very difficult
Lucy made the move to Cumbria before she fully understood her ADHD and Autism but one of the reasons for moving aligned with wanting to alleviate her symptoms:
“I used to long to get into nature and at the weekends me and my partner would drive out of Manchester to access green space.”
The calm, clean air and reduced noise and light pollution in Cumbria in comparison to the sounds of horns and sirens every morning meant Cumbria was helpful to both Lucy’s ADHD and Autism.
The access to nature for Lucy is super beneficial to her mental health:
“Immersing myself in nature, and giving myself a few hours to breathe and become.. You see part of the natural world, as opposed to part of the capitalist system, slows my hyperactive thoughts a bit.”
What would you like people to understand about ADHD and Autism and how can they offer support to yourself and others?
Clearly nature offers up a safety net for people like Lucy in alleviating and supporting ADHD and autism but what can neurotypical people do on an individual level to support someone with both Autism and ADHD?
Lucy believes that more compassion, patience and kindness is needed towards people who are neurodiverse: “It’s a case of recognising that everyone has a different way of looking at the world. And when a person is neurodivergent, their viewpoint might be totally different from a neurotypical view point, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.”
“Listen to neurodivergent people when they assert their needs and ask for adjustments.”
Lucy concluded that using the right language is key to people developing a stronger understanding of neurodiverse people: “Be mindful of language and don't use tropes like everyone's a bit ADHD or everyone's a bit Autistic.”
Lucy’s account of what it’s like living with ADHD and Autism is revealing of the drastic situation the NHS is in regarding waiting times for people who are neurodiverse in Cumbria.
It also reveals the desperate need for attitudes within ADHD and autism research to become inclusive all of types of people and how on an individual level just listening and accommodating for ADHD and Autistic people can make their lives a little bit easier.
We thank Lucy for sharing her story on our platform and we hope you’ve learnt a little something that you didn’t know before reading this.
We encourage you as the reader to go and do your own research on neurodiversity to end the stigma and support those with neurodiversity.
Lucy is an activist and environmentalist and you can find them on instagram @theadhdenvironmentalist where they do fantastic activism for LGBTQ+ community, anti-racism and Neurodiversity.