My story. My pride: “We need ‘colours’ or variety in this world to make it beautiful” - Jonathan Nah
Credits: Jonathan Nah
ADHD... Autism... Dyslexia...
Many of us may perceive these neurological conditions as debilitating disabilities that might invoke sentiments of pity. However, what if the essence of Neurodiversity lies in the unique abilities that each Neurodiverse individual has been given to make the world a better place?
Beyond the numerous achievements this multi-talented persona has won in the creative industry, we have the privilege of hearing about Jonathan Nah's impeccable journey with ADHD and how this revelation enriched his life tremendously.
Growing up years
Often described as a shy, quiet, yet observant kid by his elders, Jonathan was subjected to frequent bullying in primary school given his tiny stature back then. Nonetheless, that bullying eventually ceased when he found comfort and belonging in the company of older kids who allowed him to tag along on their trips to record and comic shops after school. Not only did they not pick on him, but they also encouraged him to pursue his interests in art and music. While he still had to deal with feeling “like he(I) was on the peripheral of life” and struggled to fit in among most of his peers, he had also managed to forge friendships with “the cool nerds from the other classes” which made the discomfort of socialising “bearable somewhat”.
Going into adulthood, Jonathan’s career in the creative industry began to take off. This saw him snag a bunch of international awards in his late 20s during his 12 years in Advertising before moving on to become a Creative Director and designer of a boutique design/comms studio that he manages with his partner, Cherry, where they create branding projects for clients across various mediums in both the digital to physical spaces.
Hard at work DJ-ing. (Credits: Jonathan Nah)
In addition, he also co-founded Syndicate, a 12-year-old audio collective comprising a motley crew of the most forward-thinking musicians, DJs, and multi-disciplinary artists on the island, to create experiences both locally and internationally. As an electronic music producer, Jonathan also writes music for record labels based mostly in the UK and Germany with occasional deals to write music for brands such as Nike to Vogue. His flair for the artsy side of things also led him to begin creating abstract expressionistic art through diff mediums which saw him launch his very first exhibition at the start of this year as part of the art week.
An exclusive feature of Jonathan’s artwork courtesy of the man himself.
While Jonathan was hard at work, Cupid was also at work to prove him wrong about “never (being) one to settle down” as he had the great fortune of “marrying my best friend who has seen more sides to me” than even he is aware of. He often credits his wife for being his pillar of support throughout their years of deep friendship and marriage.
“She’s really given me such a safe space for me to just be me as we work together now and I’m grateful for that every single morning when i wake up.”
While his marriage has been a great addition to his life, Jonathan remembers certain instances where there were miscommunications between him and his wife that didn’t seem quite right. One of them involved him having “fake memories” which made him believe that he was truly going crazy. In addition, he recalls there being “a lot of hints” that his mind functioned very differently from others in ways that he had struggled to express.
“It would manifest in me putting myself in high risk situations just because i loved the challenge and unknowingly, the stress.”
Along with his supportive wife, Jonathan decided to pay a visit to a therapist to resolve these mind-boggling issues that were also causing friction in their relationship and his daily life. While the therapist pointed out very quickly that his symptoms and behaviours seemed to suggest a case of ADHD, he eventually got a proper diagnosis with the results confirming their suspicions.
“I didn’t take it too seriously at first but after reading up more about it, it was super clear that was me 200%.”
In the beginning, he remembered feeling angry and even wondered why it happened to him. Nonetheless, all of that slowly began to fade away. With a clearer mind, Jonathan started reflecting on his entire life and what he could remember from it. Eventually, he realised that those memories were not as bad as he thought.
“It was amazing. I saw all the epic experiences I’ve had and things I’ve unknowingly excelled in and I told myself that I’m glad I didn’t find out earlier as this has made me who i am...good and bad. Then I took a step back and examined my relationships with my parents, friends etc. and it allowed me to see everything in a different lens. And i felt my life made total sense in every aspect…As I became more comfortable with the way my mind works, it feels more like a superpower I could use when needed and not a handicap as most people think it is.”
While there are days when he has to deal with challenges, such as "time blindness" where he struggles to see beyond what is in front of him, Jonathan takes it in his stride and with great optimism. Being aware of how his mind works has enabled him to live in the moment and to use his ability to hyperfocus to deliver some of his best works often within a short time.
“It feels more like a super power i could use when needed and not a handicap as most people think it is.”
To Jonathan, getting evaluated has enriched his life in so many ways. It has also made him appreciate those around him a lot more especially his parents. After opening up about his diagnosis to his dad and the guilt that he has carried from certain events in his younger days, it was his father's assurance that that was what made him unique that “changed everything in their (our) relationship” for the better.
“Most importantly for me at least, it brought me and my wife even closer as we viewed my ADHD as something to just laugh about whenever the symptoms appear. And through lots of reading and gaining a deeper understanding of my mind, I feel super connected to every moment in my life right now and i’m just cherishing all the experiences.”
Advice to readers
While Jonathan prefers not to talk about his condition publicly and only on a need-to-know basis, he hopes that his experience will be of encouragement to those who might find it hard to come to terms with their neurodiverse conditions or facing difficulties understanding a loved one who is neurodiverse.
“I would say, take time and be patient to understand their minds. Our existence on its own is a beautiful thing and everyone has something special to share. We just need to be still and listen. Everyone will have challenges regardless of their situation and comparison isn’t the best thing to do. Normal is what our society has created to make things easier to manage. I think I’ll share what dad told me - That humans are diverse as species of dogs. You have guard dogs, toy dogs, hunting dogs, and working dogs.. they are all different but yet the same. And it's the diversity that allows us to move forward as a species as nature intended us to. For me, all I can say is that we need ‘colours’ or variety in this world to make it beautiful. I think we have to relook at the idea of what is ‘normal’ and accept a new paradigm of collective differences as one huge living organism which we are really.”