Woman replanting a thriving aloe plant in the glasshouse social enterprise project

I learned that I’m neurodiverse while in prison.

Guest feature

17th September 2021

This post was written by Karine.

Like many of us in prison, things in my life have not always been happy and merry. When I look back, I realise I have lived most of my life trying to fake normality – often very successfully. I longed to be ‘standard’ and to fit in. I was told as a young girl that I was rude, that I needed to listen, to pay more attention and not interrupt. As a kid I was expected to read classical novels – but with my greatest effort, I could only manage a paragraph or two and by the time I reached the end of that, I had to go back as I’d already forgotten what I read. A hectic and rebellious early life and many reprimands for not being ‘normal’ led me to see myself as lazy, absentminded, difficult, and naughty. I was bright and capable in my own way, but I didn’t know it. I fought myself and tried hard to be what I thought ‘normal’ was. My parents were at a loss with what to do with me and tried to make me ‘good’ with strict discipline.

By the time I finally got an explanation for why and who I am, I was over 60 and in prison. When I was diagnosed with ADHD it was the most liberating moment of my life. I embraced my neurodiversity.

I look back at the decisions I made in my personal and professional life that led to super-high highs and fiasco lows and I wonder if I’d known about my ADHD if I could have negotiated things differently, allowed my talent to overcome my deficiencies. My trial was a mess, mainly because of my ADHD. My defence barrister told me repeatedly to ‘listen to the f&*%ing question’ and ‘answer the f$£*ing question’ but I was not wired for that. I was the prosecutor’s dream come true.

I am in prison, and it is what it is. Every day is a struggle, but every day is also a blessing. I try to make the most of my time here. ADHD continues to hinder my communication and make me doubt myself. Learning new skills helps. In prison I have been working toward new qualifications and a new life. The Glasshouse project nurtures house plants in UK prison glasshouses and it has been a true blessing, allowing me to find my own green fingers and care for myself whilst caring for green, living things. Being around plants, I have found comfort and a tranquillity that would have been unimaginable a year ago. I think every person with ADHD would benefit from learning the intricacies of growing and gardening. It truly slows down the feelings of urgency and the outcomes are so beautiful, full of love and life.

‘Neurodiverse’ is my new tag. I am learning to accept and live with my ADHD. Strangely, I don’t think I would be in prison if I didn’t have ADHD but, equally, I would have never known I had ADHD if I hadn’t come to prison. Now I recognise who I am, and I accept my ‘abnormal’ way of thinking. I am making my disability my super-natural power.




logo image of the glasshouse social enterprise project

The Glasshouse is a social enterprise project that offers second chances through horticultural training in the disused glasshouses of UK prisons. Women are also provided with employment support with the aim to reduce reoffending. This is significant as a lack of employment is the primary cause of reoffending. The Glasshouse offers plant design, installation and maintenance, and a corporate gifting service. Their distinctly beautiful plants can also be purchased on their website or at their bricks and mortar shop in Cranbrook, Kent. As the project is a community interest company, all profits are reinvested to expand and grow the programmes for ex-offenders.