We all need to talk more about mental health

Hello. I’m Charlotte. I’m 27 and I edit an online technology magazine. I apparently have ‘adult ADHD’. This isn’t the only thing I have been diagnosed with (see below if you’re interested).

At least, that’s what I was told by a top psychiatrist when I was 18. I have never spoken about mental health issues openly, but I’ve got a few friends going through their own crises and it has inspired me to be more open. I never bothered to get the ADHD diagnosis made official, because someone would inevitably have tried to persuade me to take medication. Having taken medication for insomnia, anxiety, disordered thoughts etc for nine months, and gained a load of weight, I didn’t much fancy that.

So here I am now, coincidentally awake on my sofa because I can’t sleep, even though it’s 5.45am. (PS: for anyone asking after, I did manage to get back to sleep, until 8am)

I’ve realised in the last few days and weeks, thanks to a lot of research and a bit of thinking, that ADHD has in fact been the bane of my life, in some ways. I will list them. If any of this confuses you, please Google the symptoms associated with ADHD and it may make more sense.

– People often cannot follow my thought patterns, so they sometimes assume I am crazy, manipulative or stupid, or some combination of the above. They can find me quite threatening. This means when people don’t like me (often because they don’t understand me), they despise me. One particular manager I used to have springs to mind. I really like her. She absolutely hates me. This feeling, of being constantly misunderstood, can be the most isolating thing in the world. This is why I value having time to myself so highly.

– It regularly means you have difficulty sleeping and/or you’re physically restless, because you are too excited or anxious, or both. This makes you feel worse, and it really affects your health. Sleep is my number one health priority in life, plus exercise, specifically running and stretching type stuff like yoga or pilates. They both help. A LOT. So much so that I stupidly trained for and ran a marathon last year. Lol. At least I raised money for Mind and for Refuge I suppose.

– If you’re an adult and never had an official diagnosis, you have the capacity to self medicate to the nth degree. This can be food, smoking, alcohol, coffee, pharmaceutical drugs, sleep, shopping, spa days, baths, seeing friends, sewing, exercise, literally whatever makes you feel better. Because honestly, managing ADHD symptoms can really leave you feeling down. Thankfully these days it tends to mainly be the last seven 😂 (and food to be fair, I will never not be greedy).

– It can be bloody awful for people around you. I can often behave like a teenager. I am forgetful, impatient, disorganised, easily distracted and I have a really short temper. I have the capacity to feel sadness or rage uncontrollably. I don’t even have time to go into everything my husband has put up with. He is a saint. And that is before I even bring up my family, you’ve dealt with it all with kindness and sympathy for AGES.

However. There is also a plus side, and that is basically everything I have ever learned from adapting to cope with my symptoms. Which is, even if I say so myself, a lot of stuff, both personal and transferable.

– I am now REALLY organised. Because I have to be. Otherwise I’d go mad, along with everyone I know and love

-Superfocus. It’s like a magic power. Read more here.

– I am confident but I have a lot of empathy for others. I know what it feels like to be underestimated, patronised and overlooked, because quite frankly, I have let that be the case for too much of my life so far. I also relate to weight issues, mental health problems and people who experience systemic discrimination. People are often really resistant to the idea they could learn from me, probably because of my age and gender. I really try not to let that bother me these days. But it’s a tad ignorant on their part.

– I am emotional, but I am logical. My brain is basically a computer. It has to be gradually woken up and shut down. It must not be left on for too long. It will overheat. But on the plus side it can compute lots of information fairly quickly.

– I think that’s it so far. I’ll add more to this as and when I have more to say.

Thanks so much for reading, and please, share any thoughts or questions at all. I am very happy to answer anything.

Further reading here, specifically ADHD plus PTSD and women and ADHD (please feel free to message me so I can add to this).

Diagnoses I have been given, largely all at different points in my life: anxiety, depression, acute psychosis, insomnia, ADHD

Medications I have been prescribed: 

  • Zopiclone, for about a month or two, and then as required. Hate it.
  • Aripiprazole, for at least six months. Risperidal for about three months. They were okay, Aripiprazole was the ‘lesser evil’. It made me feel stupid and fat though. Basically just appeared stoned most of the time to others.
  • Diazepam and antihistamines, to help me get to sleep. Took this for a few months. It did the job. Makes you feel really drowsy the next day though. I can only describe this as a medication hangover.

Medications I prefer, in descending order:

  • SLEEP
  • Time with my other half
  • Writing
  • Exercise, specifically running
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Seeing friends and family
  • Being pampered (getting my nails done, a spa day, a bath, etc)

I have to shout out to my wonderful friend Elizabeth Woodward (she’s just finished a PhD in sleep and PTSD at Oxford and had her first paper published). She witnessed me basically experiencing a mental breakdown at university, and knew something was wrong where no one else did ❤ Here we are in 2011…

lizladme

Update: the response to this post has blown me away. 1000 page views and 800 reactions on Twitter. I’ve also had, at a rough guess, at least 50 people contact me directly. Which is lovely. It also confirms my suspicions re mental health.

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3 thoughts on “We all need to talk more about mental health

  1. Fascinating. I’m 45 and after a lifetime under the label of depression and GAD, antidepressants and of disasters and alcoholism I finally discovered adhd exsisted in adults 5 weeks ago. Last week at a mental health review, I was prescribed Concerta for suspected adhd and although the thought of more medication doesn’t sit well, the last 6 days has been liberating.
    Thank you for the article.

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