For Women's History Month the SU's resident Representation and Democracy Coordinator, Aran Pascual Quiros, has written about her experience growing up as a woman with hyperactive ADHD.
For Women's History Month the SU's resident Representation and Democracy Coordinator, Aran Pascual Quiros, has written about her experience growing up as a woman with hyperactive ADHD. From dealing with the pressure to conform to learning how to embrace her qualities and apply them to her working life, read through Aran's reflection on life as a woman with ADHD.
As a young woman, I have always grown up with pressure to fit in, be quiet and sit still. This pressure came not from my family, but from school, teachers, and those who met me for the first time. They were shocked to see so much energy coming from a small girl who was constantly running around, even when she was ill. I used to carry an IV bag around the hospital with me when I had constant bronchitis as a toddler, having to go up the slide to detangle it every time I played; I learnt to escape my pram before I could walk, and yes – I was a leash child for a couple of years.
As I grew up I stopped expressing this energy physically; I was told this was not something a girl should do. I remember always getting in much more trouble than my male classmates when I needed to go and do a few laps around the playground before I could pay attention in class. The energy became internal, as it still is, and my hyperactive ADHD went undiagnosed for 22 years (even then I’m still on the waiting list for a diagnosis). I learned tricks to hide how I couldn’t sit still, tried my hardest to not interrupt, to keep quiet and be softly spoken. I am still trying to unlearn a lot of this as a young adult who struggles unmasking.
Recently, there has been a lot of discourse on the double standards for women, and I realised that the words that had been used to describe me in the past would have been very different had I been a boy. I was the loud, annoying, ultra-energetic, chaotic girl; while my male counterparts were passionate, driven, creative, and thought outside of the box. It became clear that my presence could ruffle feathers, especially as a young woman who often got confused as a secretary or assistant when I was leading on work. So, in the best possible interest, I looked for work that intended to ruffle feathers. I was elected part-time Women’s Officer at University of Reading’s SU in my last year and gathered a group of passionate and outspoken (not loud) student leaders to talk about their own interest topics that related to women’s representation. For International Women’s Day we organised panels and talks about all sorts of topics, including Black Women who shaped British history, the misdiagnosis of Autism and ADHD in women, intersectionality in feminism, street harassment and sexual violence, sexual education learning as a woman, the role of trans women in feminism and so much more.
That was the day that shifted my view of myself; it encouraged me to reassess how I described myself and defended the descriptions of the women around me. We were not loud, we were outspoken. We were not annoying, we were passionate. As hard as that was to take in, as most young women get taught to ultra-scrutinise our behaviour in a negative light, it was very needed for a lot of people in the room. Now, I apply this to all the work I do. I know I’m energetic, this also means I can do a lot of different things at once and give my 110% every time. I know I’m passionate, and that means that everything I bring to the table will have a personal significance to me. I’ve learned to translate my chaos to those around me, and overall this has been my proudest achievement. My brain tends to be a loud place, but once you understand it (which I’m still working on), it can be a cool experience, even if some bits don’t make complete sense to the outside world!
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