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Unapologetically living YOUR life and mapping the way forward

By Olivia Rae

Former professional women's cricket player

Autistic, ADHD

You can’t follow a map if you do not know where you are to start with. You can try, but you will inevitably keep getting lost.

As I share parts of my journey with you, I will explain how I have come to understand that discovering where you’re going in life comes from finding WHO you are...

The story I’m about to tell you is not a typical success story, but I’ve won something recently that’s taken 35 years of commitment, perseverance, and strength. When thinking of winning, the mind often pictures images of trophies, gold medals, and shattered records. But, to me, this win means so much more.

The real wins are LIFE WINS.

Since my diagnosis of Autism and ADHD in 2022, I’m going through phases. I want to share these with you and to highlight my recent success. My pre diagnosis phase was almost 35 years long, so to summarise it is hard and does not do it justice. What I will say is that this was the part of my journey where I played the most sport. As a kid I played every sport I could, and at 18 I settled on cricket as the sport to prioritise. Although sport gave me some of my greatest lows, sport also gave me a better life, particularly when I was in inclusive environments that meant I could JUST PLAY.

Now, I want to focus on the post diagnosis journey, which also coincides with a break in playing cricket, as I believe it will raise important awareness around the challenging and empowering sides of discovering you are Neurodivergent.

The diagnosis was like being given a map to follow, but I had no idea how to read it or where I was starting from.

A diagnosis gave me validation, a reason as to why I'd felt different all my life; as to why I clashed with societal expectations and why I struggled to do things the way I was being asked to. It made me feel positive and equipped with an explanation - a reason - for why I felt the way I did. I never questioned disclosing the diagnosis. I owned it, and was very eager to continue my journey.

As I was navigating the world with a diagnosis, I was still trying to do the same things in the same way, without anything different in place other than disclosure. People still had the same expectations of me but also, I still had the same expectations of myself. Again, I suffered further mental struggle and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. I had little hope for the future, and I couldn’t see myself going anywhere in life.

If you become lost, you ask someone where you are so you can navigate and get back on track.

I did not realise how lost I was, and how much I didn’t know WHO I really was, until I was able to access the right support. 2024 has been game changing for me as I’ve come off of the NHS waiting lists and begun to discover what Autism and ADHD mean for me. I’ve been helped to see how my sensitivities play out and how my brain processes information. Through guided introspection, I understand that I’ve been measuring my experience of the world against a neurotype that I did not fit into.

I was helped to see that I had been looking at the world through the wrong lens. ADHD medication helped me see what controlled concentration felt like, and suddenly tasks that felt impossible before, suddenly became possible. I found out where I was on my journey; I was at the beginning of a new path with a different working brain to the one I thought I had.

I was given the point of where I am on a map, information of which terrain to avoid, what equipment I need to navigate certain areas and who to ask for support along the way.

A huge mindset shift for me was realising it’s not what has happened to you that shapes you, but understanding why those things have happened, and why you responded in the ways you did. Learning how your brain functions is a huge part of understanding why things have played out the way they have, and gives a deeper sense of knowing what your point of reference is in the world.

I now know that my conditions were limiting me because of the way I was trying to approach things, but if I work with my Neurodiversity, and not against it, then more becomes possible. I am now more positive that I will get to a point of thriving and not surviving, as I continuously learn how to manage my conditions and increase my awareness of what is helpful and not helpful to me. But also, I have experienced the positive outcomes of environments that set themselves up in a way that accepts and accommodates Neurodiversity, where more people can access opportunities and reach their full potential.

Mapping the way forward realising that life is not a destination, it’s a feeling.

Having that feeling I had in sport where I could JUST PLAY, is the journey that I am now mapping out. This involves figuring out the things I really enjoy, how I can do things in a sustainable way, and finding places that foster a sense of belonging. It also means society waking up to creating acceptance in more spaces for Neurodivergent brains.

I want to help others on similar journeys and show that, regardless of a Neurodivergent diagnosis, we can create inclusive environments where everyone can thrive. In sport, we need to put things in place to support all players to be able to JUST PLAY and to reduce the mental strain that comes from feeling like you don’t belong.

Unapologetically living YOUR life

I am finally able to put myself first, because I have a better understanding of who I am. Finding out that I was Neurodivergent wasn’t the win I first thought it was. The win was realising that I did not need to be different, I just needed to be myself.

I have realised that the true essence of winning lies not in the trophies on the shelf, but in the relentless pursuit of understanding yourself. It is in that continuous journey that you achieve something that means you keep winning every day…

Unapologetically living YOUR life.

Follow @ollierae14 on Instagram, and Twitter or find Olivia on LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

Mar 28

The more I read about the amazing stories you present, the more I realise how far society still has to go to understand what Neurodiversity actually means. In media (TV) people with ADHD and other conditions are presented in lazily depicted ways further skewing understanding of what difference actually means.

The stories I read about here inspire me and educate me in equal measure.

Thank you!

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