Mental Health Spotlight: ADHD
In my monthly wrap-up, I mentioned that I was beginning a series of posts to raise awareness of various different mental illnesses. As my own experiences are with social anxiety and OCD, I didn’t feel comfortable to write about the other mental health conditions out there as I have no personal experience with them, and so I asked on Twitter if anyone would be willing to help me out so that I can feature these on my blog and I have had such an amazing response. So, for the foreseeable future, I will be bringing you a guest post every Friday to showcase the incredible people who are agreeing to share their experiences.
The first person up is the lovely Melanie Jessica to share her experience with ADHD!
Hi! My name is Melanie and I run the blog www.melaniewithanie.com! I’m 19 years old and from Worcester in the UK. Aside from my blog, I study BSc in Natural Sciences (Chemistry) with the Open University and work for the NHS as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in Histopathology. BASICALLY, I work in a lab where we dissect pieces of human tissue from live people and sometimes dead people and help diagnose cancers and sometimes other things.
I’m here today to talk about my ADHD. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about me, I have combined type ADHD which basically means I’m hyperactive, inattentive and impulsive. It screws up my life and my mental health.
Females with ADHD are around 3 times less likely to be diagnosed than males and globally, only around 2.5% of the population will ever get diagnosed with ADHD. Figures vary source by source but the general issue is that females are much less likely to be diagnosed and that’s why I started my blog and started writing about ADHD. I want to be a support to other females, like myself, with ADHD because when I got my diagnosis I felt alone and nobody should feel like I did.
I’m going to answer some questions about my condition in the hope that people can learn more about ADHD!
1. What mental illnesses have you been diagnosed with?
ADHD isn’t a mental illness – it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder but as a result of suffering with my ADHD for 19 years with no treatment, I have depression and anxiety.
2. What are the main symptoms that affect you?
Ugh. There’s too many to list. But I struggle to control my impulses where money and speech are concerned. I struggle to concentrate on tasks and procrastinate tasks that require more mental energy. I interrupt people. I have a load of ADHD specific symptoms and because of how self-conscious I feel about them, I suffer from low mood, suicidal thoughts, social anxiety, self-harm, isolation from others and low self-esteem.
3. What prompted you to seek a diagnosis?
I never intended to get a diagnosis. I found out I had ADHD by mistake and a total fluke. I presented to A&E with suicidal thoughts and was (after a year of fighting to see one) offered an appointment with a psychiatrist. He provisionally diagnosed me with ADHD and ASD (Autism) but the NHS refused to fund a diagnosis. This prompted me to see that psychiatrist privately to obtain my ADHD diagnosis. Having a diagnosis is the only way I’d be able to receive specialist treatment and medication so while it was expensive, it was an absolute need in order to feel normal again.
4. What medication do you take?
I take Concerta XL 36mg for my ADHD and 5HTP Serotonin supplements to help boost my mood and make the Concerta more effective. Concerta XL is a slow release amphetamine (it’s a Class B drug, strong stimulant. Yes, I was scared taking that through Border Control) that actually calms my brain down and stops it working so fast. This allows me to think more rationally and make decisions with more thought rather than acting on impulse. 5HTP boosts my serotonin levels in the same way antidepressants can but with ADHD, antidepressants mixed with Concerta can make you like a zombie but many people find 5HTP doesn’t do this. This is totally without input from my psychiatrist and he probably doesn’t know I’m taking this. Sorry, doc.
4. How has your ADHD impacted your life?
In every way imaginable. I’ve lost friends because of my temper or the fact they can’t cope with how I am. My grades dropped in high school. It affects my health and actually causes me to have time off work. It makes me so self-conscious of everything I do because I know it’s not normal. I end up isolating myself to mask these symptoms or not hurt others. Living with unmanaged ADHD was my normal but since starting treatment, I’ve come to realise it was an unbearable way of living and people do not understand this.
5. What is the one thing you’d want your younger self to know?
You’re not weird. You’re different, yes. But none of it is your fault and you cannot change yourself so don’t try. You should ask for help when you need it. You should be more forceful with professionals when they don’t listen. But you will get better, somehow.
6. What misconceptions do you want to break?
ADHD DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM HYPERACTIVE, DISRUPTIVE AND LOUD. IT DOES NOT MEAN I AM DUMB. IT CANNOT BE CURED.
For me, I was so caught up in these misconceptions when I was diagnosed that I felt ashamed. And I doubted my diagnosis because I didn’t fit those stereotypes we all have of ADHD. I’m not a fit for society’s view of how ADHD affects someone. We just don’t realise that these misconceptions actually leads to people never getting diagnosed and living their whole life struggling because they NEVER suspect they have ADHD so never see the right person who will say “well actually, you have ADHD”. I was lucky to meet my psychiatrist. So lucky. I’d have never sought treatment for ADHD and because he is a specialist in adult ADHD, he recognised it when I’d only reached out for help over my suicidal thoughts. People with ADHD aren’t just loud and hyper, we can be quiet but internally it’s a mess.
7. How can others help me with my ADHD?
Be patient with me. There’s not a lot people can do aside from just accept that I have certain traits they need to be aware of rather than react to. I may ask people to make slight adjustments at work or with friends but really, I just need encouragement, love and patience. Remind me to breathe and count to ten when I get angry- don’t fight back. Don’t ignore me because I’ll think you hate me and will work myself up and say things I don’t mean. Help me make decisions. Accept that certain things make me exceptionally overwhelmed and don’t doubt that- if I’m saying I can hear a noise that’s distressing me, don’t dismiss it let me leave or help me get rid of it. Just be mindful that this is who I am and can’t get rid of it- only manage it.
8. Why did you make the decision to talk about your ADHD on your blog?
I made the leap from beauty blogging to mental health blogging a few days after my official diagnosis in August. I wrote one post to explain why I’d been offline and it felt more natural than reviewing makeup so I rebranded. As I previously mentioned, ADHD is underdiagnosed in females and I knew no other women with ADHD when I got my diagnosis. I felt so alone and I can’t bear to think that other girls are struggling like that with no-one who gets them. So my blog is a place where I hope people like that can find peace and acceptance for their diagnosis. Not only that, I hope to educate others and help others who don’t have ADHD. I want to show the other symptoms of ADHD and guide people on how to support their loved ones with ADHD.
9. If you could completely live your life without ADHD, would you do it?
No. Even with how much bother it causes me, I cannot imagine a life without my dysfunctional brain. 2 months ago, I’d have happily said yes, I want out. But now, I’m loving myself and accepting that my brain’s a little quirky but actually, it makes me unique. I have an eye for detail which helps with my job and makes me really bloody good at my job. When I’m passionate about something, I’m really passionate. Over the summer, my village faced drastic bus cuts and I fought hard and was part of the reason we actually saved some of our services. I also helped get my department at work noticed by the hospital trust I work for and we now have social media pages and more coverage in trust AND local media. I can hate my ADHD but without it, I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am so no, I wouldn’t want to be rid of it. It can be a pain, but it makes me amazing in so many ways.
There is a lot more I could talk about but we’d be here for a lifetime! If you want to find out more about living with adult ADHD, I upload fairly regularly to my blog and will be starting to make videos for my YouTube soon!
It’s been an honour being given a chance to write on Kelly’s blog so THANK YOU SO MUCH Kelly!!
Love, Mel xx