Craig Meighan spoke with MSP Karen Adam on the 10 things that changed her life...

1. Becoming a mother

I GOT pregnant when I was 15 and I had a baby for the first time six days after turning 16. But I loved it. It was a positive thing for me.

Everybody was doom and gloom around me but I thought, “why is everyone so concerned?” I couldn’t understand why everyone was so negative. I can now, upon reflection, but I was oblivious. I was on cloud nine. I loved being pregnant, loved having the baby and I’ve loved seeing her grow up. We’ve been best friends since.

I don’t want to advocate that for other 16-year-olds, though.

READ MORE: Eilish McColgan on the 10 things that changed her life

It changes your perspective on a lot of things. It’s incredibly hard and if you don’t want it, don’t do it. You really need to want to do it. And having six of them is over and above the normal. I have a daughter and five sons with a 20-year age gap. I’ve created my own little tribe. We’re a close family. It’s been the most rewarding but hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

2. Finding and losing my religion

IT was life-changing finding it. I thought I had found a purpose and the meaning of life. I thought I knew it all. I felt so safe. I felt it didn’t matter what I did as long as I followed my religious beliefs.

When I realised I didn’t believe in it anymore, the ground opened up and it was a horrific time. Something psychologically shifted in my mind. I realised all the choices I had made had been because of my hard work and my graft.

Although my life fell through and it was earth-shattering, it was extremely empowering. It made me feel like I got there on my own.

There were nice parts to it. I enjoyed the community part of it and all of the people. Finding it but certainly losing it, I have to say, was life-changing.

It was my political journey that sort-of pulled me away from my religion. My marriage had also broken up at the time so that had an impact. I don’t know if it was the politics driving the division, really, or if it was politics filling a void.

3. Politics and activism

I FELT empowered after I lost my religion and I feel politics gave me that focus I could put my energy into.

As a mother, I loved that ... but that was Karen the mother. I had to start looking at myself. I was always a servant. Whether that was to a husband, a child or a religion of God.

This was where I was taking the reins and I was a leader and I wanted to be in charge.

I wanted to take control over my life and how my country was run. It also really helped me grow my confidence.

4. Having good friends

IT’S a corny saying that friends are the family you choose for yourself, isn’t it? But they really are. I was watching this programme once about women and how important – psychologically – friendships are over and above romantic relationships.

When my romantic relationships had fallen through, I loved being single – one of the best things I’ve done – and having friends around me really changed that support system in my life. We keep each other going.

Whether I don’t see friends for eight, nine months – especially in this job – I know they are always there and I am always there for them.

I think friendships are one of the most important things that somebody can cultivate in their lives. I think that is what can protect people from mental health problems that can lead on to physical problems. They have changed my life, particularly my friend Josh.

5. Being part of the deaf community as a Coda

NOT myself being deaf but being brought up by a dad who is deaf and being part of that community as a Coda – a child of a deaf adult. So we’re recognised within the deaf community that although we’re hearing, we are part of the deaf lifestyle.

Deaf people have their own culture, own history, social circles and everything else. And I know sign language myself.

Being a part of it – though I didn’t know this at the time – I can see it gave me a firm foundation in my drive for social justice and equality. I saw how much my dad and his friends were treated disproportionately in society and how the world by default just isn’t set up for anybody that wasn’t part of the majority.

I love being a Coda and I’m really proud of it.

6. The LGBT community

EVEN though I was brought up in a same-sex home, I wasn’t really part of the LGBT community. Growing up. I didn’t realise the social events my mum was hosting in the house were really gay. It was so gay, so camp, lesbians and gay men coming round, and for me it was just part of life.

Finding true fellowship later in my life in the LGBT community has been transformational because they are the most accepting, non-judgemental, loving, caring people I’ve ever met.

And they’re huge cheerleaders, always wanting you to do well, none of this pulling you down – they want to build you up. It’s like a protection I suppose that they’ve had to have over many years.

I’ve seen hate crimes enacted when I’ve been out in straight bars with my gay friends and you kind of forget, you get absorbed … you’re going to mostly queer events and community things and when you go back into the hetero world, it’s so grim and grey and boring and horrible and negative.

The National: 'The LGBT community is so uplifting and powerful''The LGBT community is so uplifting and powerful' (Image: PA)

You forget that world because the whole LGBT community is so uplifting and powerful.

I don’t know what that is but every time I speak about something equalities-driven or LGBT-driven, people roll their eyes or get fed up but I just think, oh my goodness, you people don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know the joy that’s to be found with fellowship within the LGBT community. It’s an incredible group of people.

7. Having pets

I LOVE animals. I’m a dog lover. I didn’t think I loved cats until I was watching my daughter’s cat in the house and she escaped and got pregnant.

It was all my fault. So she had kittens in my house and I fell in love with one of them. I got so attached.

I think having a connection with an animal is like friends but at another level. It’s having somebody that’s absolutely dedicated. It’s unconditional love.

And we know there’s even physical healing that comes from cat purrs. They’re really important for your physical and mental health. I always grew up with dogs. The bigger, the better. I love big, chunky, cuddly dogs – and they don’t talk back.

8. Discovering what neurodiversity is

I HAVE children who are neurodiverse and I had to learn about what this is, what ADHD is, what autism is, what OCD is, what dyslexia is and all these different things. I’ve been on a journey. Understanding what neurodiversity is and starting to realise it’s genetic and spotting signs within yourself.

I used to wonder why I was the way I was and I realised I was a neurodiverse woman. Coming to terms with that over the past few years has been really eye-opening.

You start to think, does everyone have ADHD? Is everyone autistic now? But they’re not – it’s just that people don’t connect as much with neurotypicals and your friend group ends up being quite neurodiverse.

It’s a disability in certain ways, in that it’s not a fit for the society we are living in. The capitalist agenda; the setting in school, rigidly having to be talked at; how exams are memory tests – that just does not fit neurodiverse people.

I think we’ve got to change hugely in society to make adaptions or to just let people be who they are and discover themselves.

Discovering what neurodiversity is has been life-changing because it has helped me make sense of myself, to stop being frustrated with myself and to start seeing things as how they are.

9. Elvis Presley

EVEN though I was born in 1975 – I was two when he died – I have been absolutely and utterly obsessed with Elvis since I was a little girl.

I was going to primary school with Elvis pictures in my bag which is a bit random for a little girl in the 80s. I had posters all over my wall when other people had Wham, Shakin’ Stevens, Duran Duran.

I got slagged rotten through school for listening to this old-school music while everyone was listening to 80s pop, which I kind of liked as well but not as much as Elvis. It was important for me – for a lot of people, music is an escape. It can comfort you, it can build you up, when you have a good time then you relate to what music you’re listening to, it can be nostalgic.

The National: Karen Adam has been a fan of Elvis from a young ageKaren Adam has been a fan of Elvis from a young age (Image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

I never got the opportunity to be a musician so I live vicariously through my kids. I always brought instruments into the house and left them around in the hope that somebody would learn and some of my children do play exceptional electric and acoustic guitar, drums and keyboard. They do get together and jam and it’s very noisy. Sometimes they get a tune together and it’s really nice to hear people come together and play music.

Music is often seen as an add-on to somebody’s life unless your actual career is in music. It’s almost seen as something that’s a bit frivolous, or not needed. I think music is essential. And if I haven’t listened to music for a while, and I put it on, I’m like, “oh, yeah, I remember how much I love listening to music”. I think having that connection has been helpful for me in many ways.

10. My diary planner

I LIKE to do things with a purpose in mind and I love setting goals. It’s about making big visionary goals. What do you really want to achieve? And break that down into smaller goals. Even if it’s just achieving happiness with friends, then you’re going to have to dedicate some time every week.

It’s basic stuff but because life is so busy, we’re all caught up in earning a living and looking after people if we’re carers – our social lives don’t always schedule into stuff. If we don’t stick to our plans, outside interferences come in and knock us off course.

READ MORE: James Cosmo on the 10 things that changed his life

So, in my diary, achieving Scottish independence is in there – that’s one of my big lifetime goals, hopefully in the near future. I’ve got monthly steps in there on achieving that, so it could be at least once a month in my column I’ll write about independence, educating people, telling them about the benefits. Maybe I’ll host an event in my constituency, talking to a family or friend who is sitting on the fence.

It’s learning how to plan and doing things with a purpose and being proactive instead of reactive.