Jo Hodson is a full-time Vanlifer, designer and writer with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She shares her experience here talking about "doing things differently" moving whenever and wherever she wants, and living with ADHD.
ADHD is a mental health condition that can cause unusual levels of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviours. People with ADHD may also have trouble focusing their attention on a single task or sitting still for long periods of time. However, every case and every person is different.
"I have found since being in my van it is a living representation of ‘doing things differently’ and living by the beat of my own drum. It’s also wonderful to have the option to move whenever I want to and I think that is particular suited to ADHD and the need for stimulus and creativity yet also solitude. I have met so many people in the Vanlife community with ADHD, and I would guess if there was a survey, the proportion would be much higher than in a regular cross section of the UK".
There is a lot of stereotypes around people with ADHD, therefore I wanted to know whether Jo encountered some of them. She says "The stereotypes of ADHD are typically ‘naughty school boy’ but in the last few years I have seen this begun to shift and women with ADHD who’s symptoms manifest much differently are slowly starting to become more seen and heard and thus represented."
"I initially went to my doctor who referred me to the NHS mental health team for diagnosis however I had a very disappointing experience with them. I wasn’t listened too and was largely dismissed as being too smart. A couple of year later I pursued a private diagnosis which was a much more helpful experience all round. It’s frustrating that was the case and that I had to fund it myself, but I'm glad I did as it has helped me better understand myself now that I know what I am dealing with."
Jo describes how ADHD affects her by dealing with years of lack in confidence. "Sometimes I'm feeling like a ‘rubbish person’ which was always the voice of my inner critic when I couldn’t do the seemingly simple things that other people could due to challenges with executive functioning. I don’t think in a linear way which is the way that society is typically built around."
Jo talks about her feelings in regards to what people should take into account about anybody with disability. She says "
The way you experience a certain disability is simple the way you experience that disability. There is no one size fits all. It’s very easy to make assumptions based on how ‘your brother’ or ‘your friend’ manifests symptoms but that doesn’t mean someones else’s experience will be the same."
Talking from her own experience in the United Kingdom, Jo also has some ideas what could be changed to improve life of others dealing with this condition in that specific country. "I have an ADHD coach who had both helped with my executive functioning issues and also helped rebuild my confidence in areas it deeply lacked growing up. This coach was funded through Access To Work, something I researched and found for myself, but awareness of this support should be made much more readily available to all from the outset. I also think that emphasis is out on ADHD medication which whilst maybe the best solution for some, but many people need support with managing their condition is other ways through mindset and strategy - there needs to be the more support for this. I have little context on how the UK compares with other countries, however, I do think the UK NHS mental health process has a lot of shortcomings both in timeframes, awareness and resources available."
ADHD is often confused with anxiety. I've asked Jo what does she think will help recognising that somebody might have ADHD? "Anxiety and ADHD do often run together, I know they do for me. ADHD will always have been apparent from childhood, so if someone suspects they have it as an adult it is worth reflecting back to childhood experiences at home and school, to see what struggles showed up - even if subtle (women are good at masking from a young age!) as that will hold a lot of tell tale signs."
Jo shares that "ADHD as a disability in the broadest sense does not typically have many of the same struggles as other disabilities especially when it comes to physical or visible challenges in the world at large. I am very grateful for that but equally being an ‘invisible’ disability it can be challenge to access the right support and for me the the biggest challenge has been self-compassion, it’s an ongoing work in progress."