Hello! My name is Cerys I’ve been at the University for quite a while now, but my current role is the Quality Enhancement Manager in the Quality and Academic Development Team. I work predominantly with staff across many areas of the University. My work areas involve policies, periodic reviews, External Examiners and student handbooks to name a few. I previously studied here as well. I’m not formally diagnosed but am on a lengthy waiting list for Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) after presenting a research pack to my GP!

I’ve always thought there was something untypical about the way I thought and behaved, and I had always chalked it up as “me problems” - as strange Cerys quirks that I couldn’t quite make sense of. Around a year ago, someone I know was referred for ADHD. I resonated with some of their experiences. I did a little bit of research and there were more things that expected which mirrored my own experiences. I later bumped into a friend with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and again their experiences resonated with me. I did a lot more research and voilà! Turns out the signs were there all along and I just didn’t know how to interpret them.

There are so many ways to describe how I felt when I first realised I was neurodiverse– relief and determination being two of the key components. So many areas in my life suddenly made much more sense. I was frustrated with previous experiences I had faced, knowing that if I knew then what I knew now I would have been able to understand myself, plan for my quirks and, perhaps, would have been kinder to myself as a result. My many failed attempts to help myself were seen under a new lens and I finally had a secure foundation from which to work from. It gave me renewed determination to grow and develop.

Prior to coming to the realization, I do think it had an impact on my work here at Essex. I don’t think anyone truly knew how much I struggled. I’ve always been a high performer and I think it can be difficult to see what’s going on under the surface when outwardly things seem fine – or at least fine enough! Since my discovery things have gotten a lot easier, though admittedly there was some challenging turmoil at the start. I now feel like I’m working with myself instead of against myself – most of the time at least! I’m still learning and I’m lucky to have supportive colleagues, but things are getting better, and they will continue that way.

Being neurodivergent can feel like a very lonely and misunderstood experience. Not only is it not well understood but it’s also not often discussed. I know I didn’t realise just how many people shared my quirks and experiences until I started speaking about it - though, not everyone is in a position where they feel comfortable or safe to do that. If you find yourself working with someone who is neurodiverse, my advice would be to open the dialogue, allow time for space and reflection, be compassionate and make accommodations where possible. We all have our own contexts, and nothing is lost by understanding one another a little more.