Uni halls is a right of passage for many. Your first time living away from home, having to do all the things that up until now have been done for you. It’s a new world to conquer, and for an ADHDer the word new conjures a feeling of fear that bubbles up from deep within. New is terrifying.
When I arrived I thought I had it in the bag, having been at boarding school I was used to being away from my parents and making friends quickly with flatmates came naturally as it felt just like a boarding house. However, I soon realised there was more to taking on uni halls than knowing how to get on with flatmates and doing my own laundry. I suddenly lost the structure to my days that had forced me to keep a fairly regular sleep schedule, I lost the disciplinary processes that forced me to stay on top of work and I lost everything that held me accountable for looking after myself. By second term I was essentially nocturnal, not going to lectures and struggling with my mental health in ways I had never before experienced.
This had its impacts on my academics, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about a non academic part of my uni life, my flat.
In first year, I was in a flat with eight lovely people. I was very lucky in this sense, as many people find themselves in flats with people they do not get along with at all. Two of the eight I rarely saw, they kept to themselves and I expect simply had lives outside of the flat. For a first year flat, our shared space was pretty clean if I do say so myself. But maintaining this was certainly not easy. I had luckily picked up the habit of washing up as soon as I was done eating from school (although this did not come easily to me), but having the motivation for such a tedious task is not easy. But in my experience, if something like this is not done right away it will be left until it poses a health hazard. So the cleaning got done.
Another difficulty when sharing a space was the differences in sleep schedule. I would often be awake past 4am, while the rest of the flat slept soundly. This meant needing to be aware of my volume levels as to not upset anyone by keeping them awake. Volume awareness doesn’t come naturally to ADHDers. It is a habit you must force upon yourself until it becomes second nature. We especially get louder when what we are talking about is something that excites us. This is not ideal past midnight.
To cope with this I began to place post-it note reminders in places I would see them in my room when I was talking on the phone. They said things like ‘VOLUME’ or ‘SHUSH’. I would love to say that I now don’t need these reminders and am perfectly aware of how loud I am at all times, but this simply isn’t true. It is therefore also important to have an open dialogue with your flatmates, once you feel comfortable, to explain aspects of your ADHD that may also end up impacting them. Especially in second year, I have found the best thing you can do is say to the people that you live with that it is okay to ask you to quieten down when you disturb them. You can’t become aware of something without being informed of it in the first place.
Having this open communication with the people you live with is genuinely the best advice I could ever give to an ADHDer about to move into uni halls. Sometimes, ADHD symptoms can negatively impact those around us and especially those we live with. Therefore, them being informed on ADHD and being able to talk to you about it will prevent tension from building up over these grievances and allow peaceful cohabitation.
TLDR – be open about your ADHD symptoms with flatmates and it will make everyones lives much easier.