Why Am I Like This?
Aug 4-12, 14-19 - theSpace @ Surgeons Hall
Do you misplace your glasses so often that you now have six pairs so you aren't trapped inside and half-blind? How often do you have the brilliant idea to paint your nails five minutes before leaving the house? How frequently do you shame spiral into oblivion while asking yourself, yet again, Why Am I Like This? Follow Nicole on her 30-year journey as she discovers the four-letter diagnosis that answers the biggest question in her life, and what that will mean for the next 30. Spoiler alert – she has ADHD.
It feels impossible to review Why Am I Like This? in a bubble because the message and importance of the play extend beyond the excellence of this 40 minutes one-woman show from Fringe debutant Nicole Nadler.
Nicole shares her personal experience of how she came to discover she had ADHD in her early 30s and to explain the challenges a condition like this can present but equally the historical and societal barriers it brings especially for women.
This play arrives within a period of history where our understanding and awareness of neurodivergent conditions like ADHD has never been higher thanks to individuals like Nicole sharing their story and with many taking to social media to talk about their own experiences. However, on the other side, it brings out ignorant voices online, in the media and within family circles implying the significant uptick in people with ADHD is due to social media, being wildly misdiagnosed or wanting to be part of the latest trend.
Nicole’s play is about how she could live her life for thirty years and not be picked up in school or society having ADHD is something that so many out there with a diagnosis, who have to self-diagnose, struggle in silence can relate to but for others watching they might be completely unaware that a label and community is waiting for them because they simply don’t know they have ADHD or aware of the traits.
Nicole cleverly goes beyond just the personal story and comes with the receipts about how society is letting down people when it comes to diagnosing in particular women, growing waiting lists for support within NHS, the price of a private diagnosis and how even when a diagnosis arrives the system continues to fail people with extremely high costs of medication or underfunded support.
There has been a massive injustice when it comes to autism and ADHD in particular for women in the medical world as history has looked at this condition through unsurprisingly the lens of boys and men resulting in a lack of recognition of how the traits appeared in girls and women. The statistic of 3-1 male to female for ADHD diagnoses in the UK is damning as so many women go unseen, unsupported or are forced to mask in schools, workplace and society which has a hugely damaging impact on their mental health.
Nicole shows sexism within the medical world because she didn’t showcase the traits that were associated with boys with ADHD such as hyperactive and impulsive behaviours which went unnoticed. Nicole breaks those myths that many will have allowed themselves to be told are universal truths about how ADHD presents by explaining how it shows in women as she takes us through examples from her life where she had inattention, disorganisation, and emotional dysregulation, which to others would be mistaken for anxiety or mental health issues and not the signs of ADHD. This has led to generations of women facing delays in diagnosis, support and treatment which has contributed to experiencing barriers and challenges in education, work, and relationships.
Nicole joins a range of plays looking at neurodivergent conditions this year and this trend can only be viewed as a positive for those who think it is bandwagon jumping in their ignorance one only needs to look at why we are seeing this rise in talent sharing their stories this year especially women like Nicole. For Nicole’s generation did they ever stand a chance of being diagnosed in the 1990s or even early 2000s? Not likely!
Research on ADHD began in the 1960s and 1970s when more substantial research on ADHD started to emerge. During this period, researchers began to focus on the behavioural and cognitive aspects of the condition. During the 80s ADHD as a term was adopted and while the studies at the time looked at boys and girls, the symptomatology in boys was often more pronounced and more likely to be identified. As a result, boys were diagnosed with ADHD at a higher rate than girls, leading to a skewed perception that has lasted decades.
For older generations and millennial women like Nicole research into ADHD in women didn’t even gain more serious attention and recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It would take until the 1990s for researchers to recognise that ADHD symptoms could present differently in women. One of the key moments that Nicole highlights is in 2002 when the National Institutes of Health organised a landmark conference on "ADHD Across the Lifespan," which aimed to explore the gender differences in ADHD. The conference highlighted the importance of recognising ADHD in females and addressing the gender-specific challenges they face. Since then, there has been a gradual increase in research focusing on ADHD in women, leading to a better understanding of how the disorder manifests in different genders and the need for tailored approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
With 15% of the UK population having a neurodivergent condition which is 1 in 7 then it is highly likely that you will have a family member, co-worker, or friend or be part of a community where someone is neurodivergent and that is just those with a diagnosis and not taking into account that the reality will be higher with so many on waiting lists or not having been picked up. If you don’t already then you need to improve your awareness and understanding to best understand, communicate and support those around you and shows like this are essential.
This makes shows like Nicole’s highly important with the perfect mix of personal stories and myth-busting. During our show what at first might have seemed like a heckler was someone who was connecting with Nicole’s messages and the importance of this show by sharing her lived experience and feeling seen by this and recognising their challenges in life too and lived experience is always the best way to learn.
This is a show for everyone. For those who society hasn’t seen or failed, for those who want to see themselves represented on the festival line up but essentially for those too with their ignorance who will leave hopefully being able to put their hands on how wrong they have got things.
It’s not just research and awareness that are necessary to ensure that women receive the diagnoses, support and resources they need to thrive but shows like this too.
Book tickets or access online performances here > Why Am I Like This? | Theatre | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com)