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‘I was director of a £110 million company but inside I felt like a failure’ – Lymington mum Mel Sims on her life before being diagnosed with ADHD

SHE was director of a £110 million advertising company but to many people who knew her she was ‘Mad Mel’ – a slightly manic woman who, despite her tendency to forget meet-ups with friends, birthdays, and other important dates, managed to excel in a hugely demanding career.

“I was massively successful at my job,” says Mel Sims “But I would turn up to important meetings with ladders in my tights, my skirt held together with safety pins and usually with a massive hangover from the night before.

“I would be a bundle of energy all day, creative, firing out ideas, but at night I would collapse exhausted.”

Mel Sims now runs Square Root Coaching in Lymington help others with ADHD
Mel Sims now runs Square Root Coaching in Lymington help others with ADHD

Mel knew there was something wrong, as she recalls: “My mind raced all the time, I was forgetful, distracted, anxious. It was like being a radio that wasn’t tuned properly. But to the outside world I was a woman in control – it was like this shameful secret.”

It was only three years ago she finally discovered why she felt the way she did. At the age of 48 she was diagnosed with ADHD.

Becoming emotional as she recalls that moment, mum-of-one, Mel, from Lymington, said: “I felt like I had been living two parallel lives.

“As I learnt more about ADHD everything made sense. At work I had been doing what is known as ‘masking’. Hiding the way I was really feeling inside which was overwhelmed, convinced I wasn’t good enough – imposter syndrome, anxious while giving the appearance I really had my stuff together.

“I wasn’t ‘Mad Mel’ – I was someone with ADHD. It was a huge relief.”

Mel Sims now helps others who have ADHD
Mel Sims now helps others who have ADHD

Mel chose to speak out for ADHD Awareness Month in the hope that her story will help someone else who may be struggling as she once was.

She said: “All my life I had a history of burnout which is very common with ADHD. Masking all the time is exhausting. It happened at school, university and in my career.

“I grew up knowing I was different, feeling I didn’t fit in, believing people didn’t like me, which is another sign of ADHD called RSD – rejection sensitivity dysphoria.

“But when it comes to ADHD girls and women often go under the radar – while boys externalise, girls internalise their feelings.”

A newspaper article about ADHD led to Mel’s diagnosis. At the time, her hospitality business in Essex was shut during lockdown and she was visiting her mum in Dibden Purlieu where she had grown up.

“I ticked every box,” she says “I asked my doctor to be tested for it but there are huge waiting lists on the NHS, literally years. I could have paid for a private diagnosis which can cost thousands but if you do that you then also have to pay privately for medication which can be hundreds a month.

“But if you are diagnosed under the NHS Right to Choose you can be tested privately for free, then referred back to the NHS for treatment, and the waiting time is a lot less.”

Mel was found to have ‘combined ADHD’ which is a mixture of inattentiveness and hyperactivity. She was prescribed medication which improves attention, concentration and reduces impulsive behaviour.

Her diagnosis has led to a new career, and Mel decided she wanted to help others with the condition. She is now an ICF certified coach and moved to Lymington where she has set up Square Root Coaching.

She said: “I wanted to empower people to deal with their ADHD, with or without a diagnosis. I help them deal with the feelings and traits ADHD can cause such time blindness, distractibility, low self-esteem, procrastination, and RSD.

One of the benefits of her move to Lymington, says Mel, is “that no one has called me ‘Mad Mel’ since!” She said: “I tell people I have ADHD; I am not ashamed anymore.

“I now know I am not a ‘broken’, I have ADHD like 6% of the population.”

Mel offers a 30-minute free ‘discovery’ session. She has also set up an account @theadhdhummingbird on social media and created podcasts about her story.

For more information visit: www.squarerootcoaching.co.uk or email mel@squarerootcoaching.co.uk

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