EDINBURGH in August is a marvel not to be taken for granted. There are few days out more enjoyable than a day at the Fringe and a walk down the Royal Mile, packed with tourists and artists from across the world who come to enjoy our city with us at its very best. I indulged in such a day on Saturday, and went to see a pretty life-changing show.

It was called Why Am I Like This? – Nicole Nadler’s one-woman comedy about her journey to being diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 30. She spoke soulfully about the challenges that she faced as a young girl, growing up undiagnosed with ADHD, and the spiral of shame that it induced in her early adulthood.

As I sat listening to her, me being a fellow late-diagnosed ADHDer (with a main dish of autism and a side of dyspraxia for good measure), I felt like someone had somehow opened up my brain and pulled my exact experience out of it. And not only that, but articulated it so exquisitely that I felt tears rising in my chest with each anecdote that passed. I quickly suppressed them – I didn’t want to be THAT girl crying in the front row of a comedy show, I was already the token ginormous-noise-cancelling-headphones-wearing neurodivergent.

But hearing my experience detailed in such a forgiving and gentle way was deeply healing for my past, undiagnosed, shame-spiralling self.

Studies have shown that children with ADHD receive more than 20,000 more negative comments throughout their childhood than their neurotypical peers. Twenty-thousand. When children with ADHD are growing up, and our brains are in the critical stages of development, we are hammered with can’ts, won’ts, don’ts. Being told we’re too much and somehow simultaneously not enough. As Nadler beautifully captured in her show, we quickly grow into adults who simply, cannot.

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Can’t hold down a job. Can’t remember to eat. Can’t be on time. Can’t be quiet. Can’t manage money.

As the old saying goes: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking that it is stupid.”

There are few more relatable life lessons recognised by undiagnosed ADHDers, consistently held to neurotypical standards that we just can’t – no matter how hard we try – embody.

ADHD is typically associated with young boys, owing to a lack of research. And the research that does exist is laser-focused on young, white, boys. A bit like my older brother, who throughout childhood was as typically ADHD as you can possibly be. Larger than life, hyper, hilarious – but sensitive and faultlessly caring. My mum once took him to Irish dancing as a child. He spent the entire class running up and down the hall with his arm outstretched pretending to be Michael Flatley and the teacher asked him not to come back.

It always enraged me when people were mean to him – he was my favourite person in the world. I couldn’t imagine another human being with a light brighter or more unique than his, and yet I watched as he was repeatedly torn down by structures that we would later discover weren’t designed for him.

Despite all of the evidence, he went undiagnosed until he was 27, when he sought a private diagnosis himself. Following that diagnosis, he’s flourished in ways that exceeded even my high expectations for him.

And then there was me. The ADHD in my brain was present in a much quieter, yet still obvious, way. I burst into the world in ’97 practically in confetti – having always had a flair for the dramatics – and I spent my childhood testing and trying every hobby under the sun. Bend It Like Beckham turned me into a professional football player and Ice Princess had me training for the Winter Olympics. For three to five working days on average, before the dopamine stopped hitting and I found the next hyper-fixation.

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I have the fondest of memories of my childhood. The barriers that would later come to define my existence were not quite visible yet, and without the shackles of responsibility that I soon learned to be incompatible with my neurology, I was free to hopscotch my way around those different passions. My brother, similarly, free to do backflips off the sofa like a performing monkey. Our childhood was full of fun, laughter and the unfiltered joy that comes with being neurodivergent.

1997 was also a breakthrough year for women and girls with ADHD – the first paper ever written on the subject was published. It wasn’t until 2000 that ADHD became a recognised diagnosis, and it would be 2008 before Adult ADHD followed suit. So, the diagnosis that I would later receive only existed for seven years before I myself was an adult. It becomes easier to digest the lateness of my diagnosis when I consider it as objectively as this.

How can I expect anyone to have known when the underdiagnosis of women and girls wasn’t even recognised until 2018, the year I celebrated my 21st birthday?

When it did eventually come, the diagnosis changed everything. Overnight I went from a person who cannot, to a person who absolutely can. And can do it well, albeit differently.

It changed my entire outlook on life – and most importantly, gave me the permission to eject myself from the shame spiral that I was living in. I was far from unscathed, I faced a multitude of losses before the moment came, but in an instant – none of it mattered.

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I finally understood why I found it physically painful to do the menial everyday tasks that everyone else could do seamlessly. I understood why my emotions were so intense and all-consuming. I understood that I wasn’t late or lazy or unorganised or any of the other negative adjectives I’d spent my life being tarnished with, I was just me.

And for the first time in my life, I understood what that truly meant.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Adults with ADHD are in crisis all over Britain, faced with increasingly long waiting lists that they can’t afford to sit on, having already served a life sentence of being the misunderstood elephant in the room. The NHS is unequipped and too chronically underfunded to provide the answers they need. In fact, many of them are roaming around unaware that they even have it – battling their way through life, accepting it as normality, when all that exists between them and the freedom to live authentically is the basic understanding of who they are.

Waiting lists in some parts of the UK exceed six years, and for those that turn to private clinics, the collapse in shared-care agreements with the NHS means they can’t access their medication for free. Another class barrier in an exceedingly unfair and cruel Britain.

For the ADHDers in your life – and I promise you, you know some – take yourself to the Fringe to see Nicole Nadler’s Why Am I Like This? before it ends. In under 45 minutes, she will transform your perception of ADHD and how it presents to the world, in a way that you are unlikely to forget.