You can’t tell if someone has ADHD just by looking at them – it’s invisible.Ellie, Police Constable
I’ve been in the organisation for eight years now, three of those as a police community support officer (PCSO) and five as a police officer.
Previously I worked with children, and as much as I loved it, the routine became the same and I wanted a new adventure. I found that I had a lot of transferable skills that would put me in good stead in taking on a policing a role – a cool head, empathy, and passion to name a few. Once I joined Avon and Somerset as a PCSO, I noticed I was having a few challenges with certain aspects of the job, such as the writing side of things.
I had struggled with reading and writing for years, and I was diagnosed with dyslexia during the first few months of my policing career. However, I noticed there were other things I was finding difficult as well. My sleep patterns were never good, and yet I sometimes felt I had too much energy. Sitting down for long periods of time, especially when you were expected to in important meetings, was hard. It was also hard to regulate my emotions and I would get stressed very quickly – I didn’t have any good coping mechanisms to solve this, so I ended up working in rooms on my own. I felt the need to isolate myself from my colleagues so I wouldn’t disturb them and be able to deal with my feelings. This obviously wasn’t healthy, so I started to try and solve what was causing these symptoms.
I spoke to my doctor, and initially they tried to bat it off and said, “it’s just anxiety”, as I was going through a rough patch at that time. I had to reinforce that this had been going on pretty much my whole life, and now that I’m more mature and experiencing things in my daily job, there’s something more going on. My friend, who is a psychotherapist, suggested to me to get tested for ADHD, but I ignored it, as I didn’t think I fitted the mould. The doctor eventually gave me some questions to answer and submitted me for an assessment. I was very fortunate to be supported by our organisation’s HR department, and then in February of this year, I received my diagnosis: I have ADHD.
I could finally stop masking, which I had unknowingly been doing my whole life. There was finally a reason as to why I behaved in certain ways, and I felt I could truly be myself around people outside of my immediate family. Medication has really helped, but even so I don’t tend to take it when working from home – blended working really suits me and allows me to work at my best, although I do prefer to be in the office so I can have the transition travel period.
I’m now working as part of the Professional Development Unit as an assessor and trainer. I applied for this role to challenge myself within the work environment and to help gain a better understanding of how I work at my best, the challenges I face daily and how I can overcome them. Now, I feel like I’ve got a safe space if I need to talk to someone about anything. My sergeant is understanding, which is a massive help to me, she is involved in my personal journey and is always supportive. I have coaching sessions with an ADHD coach which helps with coping strategies. The thing I love about my role is that I can still go out and about with colleagues when I go out with student officers to assess them. It feels like I’ve found a good balance.
If we have students that come onto our tutoring courses and they have the same diagnosis as me, I can offer them support – but some people don’t always want to talk about it straight away, and that’s completely fine. It’s invisible – you can’t tell if someone has ADHD just by looking at them. However, if they do tell us, we can provide that additional support – my new role is based in understanding people.
Working with people who are neurodiverse takes empathy and understanding. For example, for most people writing out a statement is a simple task. For me, it might take an extra 10 to 15 minutes because I need to make sure everything is spelt correctly. I’ve always found it annoying that society thinks that people with ADHD or dyslexia are lazy – we’re not, it just takes us a little longer to do things. The world is very fast paced, especially policing, but just by having a little more patience, it benefits everyone.
I’ve always been a firm believer in taking accountability for my own neurodiversity and not being afraid to explain to people that my brain works differently to theirs. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD at such a late stage in my life, I’ve already found different ways of working to suit me and masked a lot in social situations. Overall, this has helped me, but also hindered me in some respects. I’m understanding myself more and my quirks are just a part of me, rather than being the ‘weird one’ in a friendship group.
As an organisation, we’re working towards understanding neurodiversity and the world is becoming more accepting. We still have a long way to go, and this will only get better as time goes on.