Yesterday's news about the death of the British singer/actress/celebrity Sarah Harding is all over the front pages of today's UK newspapers.
Sarah sadly lost her life to breast cancer, aged just 39 years old.
She had been a member of the hugely successful British/Irish girl band Girls Aloud (which sold over 4.3 million singles and 4 million albums sold in the UK alone between 2002 and 2012); went on to have a successful career as a solo artist, actor, model, tv presenter and winner of the tv show Big Brother in 2017.
Her autobiography "Hear Me Out" was published in March 2021, only a few months before her death, when she knew her cancer was terminal.
Before yesterday I admit to knowing nothing whatsoever about Sarah, except that she was famous. So I was intrigued by the media coverage about her which revealed a fascinating, energetic character whose rollercoaster life and career screamed out at me that she was probably Neurodiverse.
So I did some online research, and sure enough, discovered that she was indeed diagnosed with ADHD as a child. Which made total sense when I read interviews where she'd admitted things like:
- She eventually dropped out of school, having attended seven different ones
- She'd had multiple jobs, including waiting tables at Pizza Hut, van driver, debt collector and as a BT operator - while performing in clubs and pubs in the evenings
- ‘I might come across as confident when I’m out or onstage, but that’s my mask. When I’m around people you can’t shut me up; I’m a people person and I love to talk’
- "I'm very hyper, I’ve got a low attention span, I’m a control freak and I definitely have a bit of OCD, too."
- She'd experienced alcohol dependency and depression over the years
- “I’m the rock chick, blonde bombshell, party girl, the caner of the band”.
- She didn't take medication for her ADHD until she joined Girls Aloud and began struggling with the pressures of fame
- "Somewhere - amongst the nightclubs, the frocks and hairdos, the big chart hits, and the glamour of being a popstar - the other Sarah Harding got utterly lost. She's the one who's been forgotten".
Unfortunately, as with many other ADHD-ers, it’s likely that Sarah’s need for stimulation from others and impaired Executive Functioning meant that she neglected her own health and wellbeing (she probably self-medicated with alcohol as a coping strategy), and didn’t take action to address symptoms that could have indicated symptoms of a life-threatening condition until it was too late....
In my research I found various articles in which Sarah Harding admitted that she had dismissed a lump on her breast as a cyst during the pandemic in 2020, disguising her "denial" as COVID fear and concern for overrun hospitals.
In Sarah's autobiography "Hear Me Out", she wrote:
"At first I thought it was just a cyst. The trouble was the pain was getting worse. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep in a bed. Eventually my skin started to bruise. By now I was terrified.
“One day I woke up realising I’d been in denial. Yes there was a pandemic but it was almost as if I’d been using that as an excuse not to face up to the fact that something was very wrong.”
It was only when Sarah's skin began to bruise that she sought medical help. Unfortunately, her lungs and kidneys were already failing and she was rushed to intensive care after a port fitted into her chest led to sepsis. Doctors put her in a medically induced coma for two weeks, followed by chemotherapy and a mastectomy.
I urge organisations that treat and support those affected by cancer to take the opportunity of Sarah’s sad passing to target Neurodiverse communities and raise awareness of the importance of regularly checking your breasts and taking action as soon as possible if there are irregularities.
Meanwhile, one article about Sarah (which was published in The Guardian Newspaper only a few hours after the announcement of her death) really struck me more than all the others.
It was written by Michael Cragg, a music writer for the Guardian and Observer, and Editor of BEAT magazine, who included the phrase "....she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD as a child.....".
Which gave me a great idea that I’m going to suggest to Mr Cragg.
Sadly, as Sarah is no longer around for him to ask her what this statement means to her, perhaps he might like to consider interviewing other performers who have been diagnosed with ADHD, and write articles about their views on how they might be able to relate to his statement about how Sarah "suffered from undiagnosed ADHD as a child", and what eventually getting a diagnosis meant to them, and how they live with the condition now.
For example, for ADHD how about interviewing Dave Grohl (Nirvana, the Foo Fighters), Will.i.am, Mel B, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith front-man), Ozzy Ozbourne (who also has Dyslexia) or Justin Timberlake.
And then perhaps other famous music industry icons too, who have been diagnosed with other Neurodevelopmental conditions such as:
- Dyslexia - Mick Fleetwood, Noel Gallagher, Jewel, Carly Simon, Sir Richard Barnson
- Dyspraxia - Florence Welch, of Florence +The Machine
- Autism - David Byrne, lead singer of Talking Heads; Gary Numan
Maybe also ask them about their own experiences of being affected by cancer, addictions or mental ill-health while you’re at it Mr Cragg?
Before it’s too late, like it was for Sarah and countless other performers…
Her late father had hoarding behaviours, which is why she now specialises in working with people with hoarding behaviours and complex needs.
She has been a:
- Member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO) since 2011 (and was a Board Member for three years)
- the National Fire Chief Council's Hoarding Working Group since 2013
- a Dementia Friend since 2015
- a Trustee of the Fastminds Adult ADHD Support Group in Kingston-upon-Thames since 2020 (she received her own ADHD diagnosis in 2019, aged 56)
- consultant to Surrey County Council
- contributor to Jo Cooke's insightful book “Understanding Hoarding” (2nd edition published May 2021)
For further information please contact Cherry Rudge - Phone/Text: 07931 303310 - Email: email@example.com