International Men’s Day 2024: Turning ADHD stigma into a superpower

By Ben Carey on 19 November, 2023

At The Business Exchange we’re always keen to share inspiring stories from our business community. This International Men’s Day we thought it a perfect opportunity to put the spotlight on Rob Curtis from the Pursuit Agency, who was keen to tell his story following a recent ADHD diagnosis.

Rob Curtis and The Pursuit Agency scooped a Techie Award in the Driven by Data category in the autumn. The digital marketing agency has gone from strength to strength since it was founded by Rob in 2022.

Rob (34) decided in November 2022 to be tested for ADHD and was officially diagnosed in February this year. He joins the 4% of adults diagnosed with ADHD in the UK.

“I’ve always been full of energy,” he explained. “I’ve always been at 150 miles per hour at everything I do. It has been a core part of myself, for good or bad. My journey with ADHD has not been an easy one.

“It was only when a friend of mine commented that I might have ADHD, that I connected the dots and went to a doctor myself. They went through a question sheet and confirmed that I probably had ADHD and I was referred for an official assessment. Sadly, the system is extremely bureaucratic and two of my attempts were never acted upon by the mental health clinic. Finally, I was referred but then 2020 and Covid-19 happened and I didn’t hear back. I finally was officially diagnosed in February 2023after paying for a private assessment.

“When I was working in the corporate world, I realised that my way of thinking did not suit that lifestyle, I was a square peg in a round hole – and I couldn’t work out why. It was not an environment where I was enabled to be myself. The corporate life I was in was like ‘you’re an alien’ and ‘you’re not welcome here’. Since then, it’s become obvious to me that my skills of being set challenges and achieving them were simply not harnessed.

 “Currently, I’m on medication as prescribed, my biggest fear was not being my normal self, but thankfully, it worked well. I’m able to focus much better on the task in front of me, rather than run away with another 100 ideas. I don’t feel it’s the end goal for me. I feel I need to keep learning as I would rather find more organic ways of supporting myself, but that’s an option that I hope to continue to learn.

“Since this diagnosis there are many things in my past behaviours that I now recognise as being part of having ADHD. So much more makes sense. One example of this was when I was able to speak to ADHD 360 (the private company I was assessed by) and was talking about my struggles with procrastination and concentration. In a past job, I was actively practising focusing techniques like the Pomodoro Technique and craving coffee, which I now know is a concentration drug. I didn’t connect the dots but I now realise how those behaviours fit within the umbrella of having ADHD. Even more, it has helped me understand my relationships with different people, in life and business, and how I could be considered like ‘Marmite’!

Hyperfocusing

“I now know hyperfocusing is a common trait of ADHD. Having the ability to hyperfocus when it is needed especially when you’ve got structure is easy. But when you don’t have structure, you must make yourself do it and that’s difficult. I didn’t previously understand how to create that structure for myself when I was younger which was why exam revision was next to nothing and why college went down the pan, because it was all up to me to create the structure.

“Starting The Pursuit Agency has allowed me to be relentless within my own business and achieve awards because of that drive and passion. With intense energy and hyper-fixation on tasks, it can feel like having a team of 1,000 people behind you. Then comes the challenges when you have peaks and troughs. I have these moments, and will continue to do so, but I’ve been able to be my own boss and create a lifestyle that works with my ADHD rather than against it.

Organisation

“Organisation is still a challenge for me, I have software that can help me negate a lot of that worry. I tend to complete tasks last minute, which whilst creating a buzz emotion for me, can be challenging for those working around me. I’m very lucky because I have a supportive family and a great small team, both of which are receptive and embracing of my working patterns which makes life a lot easier.

Managing lows

“Before the medication, I would crash and burn badly. It would be 3pm and I would need to sleep. I still have that now but I’ve come to accept it. I’m training, eating healthily and providing my body with everything it needs. Yet it sometimes feels there is something missing and that’s quite hard to take. When I have those moments, I’ve started to find ways of resetting. This might be something as simple as going out in the garden to get some daylight.

ADHD Superpower

“I’ve realised that ADHD is my superpower and I’m learning to work with it. I’m glad so many people are talking about ADHD as they are spreading awareness. My ADHD makes me a better businessman, my networking is better for it as it helps me so much with the ability to flip through 15 conversations in a short timeframe and remember them.”