This year has been a challenging one for all of us. Working from home during the COVID pandemic has thrown a lot of what we value about academic culture into disarray. The camaraderie, structure and mutual support that gets us through the tough days and weeks of research are difficult to replicate online. With that said, I am extremely grateful to the SBS PGR team for their hard work and the excellent support they have provided to PhD students.
I returned to studies in June 2020, following a suspension on health grounds. Three weeks prior, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects many aspects of day-to-day life. Rather than a deficit of attention, those of us with ADHD actually take in excess information from the world around us and have difficulty processing that information efficiently. We have challenges with working memory, emotional regulation, time perception and task management. Contrary to the stereotypical presentation of ADHD as hyperactive and disruptive, many people (particularly women and girls) with ADHD can appear calm and introverted. Consequently, many of us remain undiagnosed until well into adulthood. Without external structure and access to workplace accommodations, those of us with ADHD or similar neurodivergent conditions (e.g. autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia) may struggle to manage our workload and can be prone to burnout.
Realising that other neurodivergent researchers might be dealing with the same issues in lockdown, I decided to start a virtual study group and sent out a general invitation on Twitter. I also connected with two other ADHD adults who were working on similar community projects. We decided to collaborate and in July of this year, adhd-hub.com was born. The site is now a community space for neurodivergent adults, run entirely by volunteers. At last count, our team had grown from three to twenty-three people.
Through the site we've expanded the Study Group. With the help of a team of volunteer facilitators, we run daily, free co-working sessions via Zoom and now support neurodivergent adults across five continents. I’ve met many talented students, postdocs and professionals through the group. This experience has highlighted two things for me: the sheer talent that exists within the neurodivergent community and the importance of peer support and community-building as we get through the next academic year. It has also been a useful reminder that a PhD is an opportunity to develop many skills beyond research and writing. PhD students are project managers, team-builders and leaders. With the right supports in place, we can thrive in a multitude of environments. So, to those of you who might be finding working from home tough right now, my advice would be to reach out to others and build connections. Furthermore, if you see where a change can be made, be that change! The world needs you more than you know.
If you would like further information about the ADHD Study Group, Marie can be contacted via Twitter @Study_ADHD.