‘I bought a £250k flat on a whim – like Nadia Sawalha I didn’t know I had ADHD’

Earlier this week on ITV’s Loose Women, regular panellist Nadia Sawalha spoke for the first time about her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. The 57 year old former soap star pre-recorded a segment prior to the show in which she told viewers how she had no idea that she had been living with the condition all her life.

Speaking to an ADHD specialist, she described her symptoms – inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – and was diagnosed on camera there and then.

Revealing that she’s unavailable to drive without losing consciousness due to her ADHD, the tearful star said that she is starting medication which she hopes will be a game-changer.

Like Nadia, Reading-based Hester, 44, also spent years unaware that she had the condition and was living life in the fast lane thanks to her go-go-go lifestyle. But when she was diagnosed with ADHD last year, everything suddenly made sense.

Here, the Perfectly Autistic founder shares her story…

“After months of questioning why my children suddenly couldn’t concentrate during homeschooling, I took my daughter India, 12, and 10 year old son Hudson for an ADHD assessment. As we sat on a Zoom call, all eyes suddenly turned to me. “Have you got ADHD?,” the psychiatrist asked.

"At 43 it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’d got a family of my own and had found successes throughout my career, I wasn’t what I thought a person with ADHD ‘looked’ liked. Besides, I’d been diagnosed with scoliosis. Surely my fidgeting and desire to scream when forced to sit still was a result of that?

"Throughout my life, I’ve lived in the fast lane and as a child I was impulsive. At school I struggled with maths and failed my GCSE exam three times. Teachers thought I wasn’t trying, but the reality is I couldn’t have tried harder. I chose a university course that was 100% coursework based and let me study lots of modules, simply to stay focused. Without realising, I’ve always been creating strategies to help me cope.

"After leaving university, I worked in media which was great because contract jobs were the norm. It worked for me because there was always something new around the corner. But when I worked in offices, I found it hard to do things as simple as getting there on time. I suffer from time blindness and either get somewhere hours beforehand or just in time.

"Years ago my husband Kelly and I had gone to Reading for lunch and decided to look at some showrooms just because. Soon enough we saw a flat that had a balcony and was right by the Thames.

"I fell in love straight away and turned to Kelly and went “we need to buy this flat.” He knows that once I have something in my head it’s hard to shake, so he agreed. Minutes later we were at the bank figuring out how we could put a deposit down on a £250,000 flat.

"Fortunately we’d been saving for a house – though 50 miles away in London. We sat in the car afterwards in shock. Our entire lives were based in London. We’d never even been to Reading before that day!

"Despite the spontaneity, the giddiness didn’t subside even after the money had left our bank accounts. I remember arriving at the flat and unwrapping the dishwasher and jumping up and down in the kitchen. From then on, I was always reading the latest interior magazines so I could make the flat perfect.

"But after a few months, I grew tired and was back looking at properties in the area. I realised that if we’d moved five minutes down the road we could’ve bought a house. We stayed in the flat for a year and a half before moving. I think in my adult life I’ve moved homes 17 times but it’s not something I regret.

"It wasn’t until our children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 that everything fell into place. As I went through the list of symptoms for ADHD, I ended up ticking off every single thing – my need to set alarms, my inability to stick to a hobby despite trying every evening class going, my feeling of overwhelm over something as simple as washing my hair. It was all there.

"After talking it through with Kelly, who has also been diagnosed with ADHD, I attended an assessment in 2021. Within eight minutes of the appointment it’d been confirmed. My talkativeness was a give away.

"Getting a diagnosis lifted so much weight off my shoulders. It made me kinder to myself, too. I’m like a Duracell bunny and I’m now aware of when my batteries need to stop. Before my diagnosis I’d keep going until I exhausted myself, which wasn’t good for my health.

"Now I know that I need to rest. On weekends I’ll have a nap or I’ll go to bed earlier during the week if I’m going to be particularly busy. I’m more selective with what I agree to do and I have a line now where I’ll say “that sounds good, I’ll check that date in my diary and get back to you”. That way I’ve got time to think about what’s best for me.

"I’m proud to have ADHD but I never know what reaction I’ll be met with. I remember telling some friends and them saying ‘I feel the same, I get distracted sometimes’. People also dismissed it as being mum brain. Given that my children are 10 and 12, I knew that wasn’t true!

"There’s a stigma with ADHD that people are disruptive or they’re very scatty, but ADHD isn’t a negative thing. People with ADHD have incredible traits, like passion and determination. When you harness these traits to your advantage, it’s such a superpower.

"It’s because of my hyperfocus and passion that I launchedPerfectly Autistic, an online community for families dealing with autism and ADHD. When our children were diagnosed, Kelly and I felt like we’d been handed a two page leaflet and nothing else, so we wanted to stop other families going through a similar thing.

"What started off as a Facebook page has turned into a community with over 1000 members. It’s a place for families to connect and support one another as they go on their journeys and it’s growing every day.”

For more information on Perfectly Autistic, visitwww.perfectlyautistic.co.ukorfind them on Facebook


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