Being diagnosed with ADHD made me feel I'd put all the jigsaw pieces together


My name is Mark Williams, I'm 41 years of age and a mental health campaigner. Just a few months ago, I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This was a complete shock, but looking back I can see how it has affected me all my life, and how, because it wasn’t picked up when I was young, it’s had a real impact on my mental health.

In school I was a typical day-dreamer and often would be told off by my teachers. I would be really forgetful and impulsive, which would sometimes get me in trouble. It would often result in me becoming anxious about sitting still in class for the entire lesson. I was labelled "thick" in school as I just wasn't interested in the lessons apart from Physical Education and Maths. I have always been fidgety and would over talk when given the chance. The one thing I can only describe it was like having two television sets going on at the same time in my mind. 

I wasn't interested in the subjects at school, so I put all my focus on sport. At fifteen things were going well and I became British Pool champion for my age group. I learned coping strategies to deal with my anxiety, without really knowing what a ‘coping strategy’ was. But not all of mine were healthy - some involved drink and drugs. I stopped playing pool and sport altogether and had no real focus. When I left school and started work I felt like everything was one big party, but I was always having to change jobs. I was getting more hyperactive in situations where I needed to be quiet and was now having run-ins with my bosses all the time.

I met my wife, Michelle, and we decided to have a baby. When Michelle was in labour I had my first ever panic attack, convinced they were both going to die. After the birth, Michelle suffered severe postnatal depression, and I was soon to become depressed myself. I had to give up work and with a new house to pay for, felt huge pressure. I was now using drink more each day. After suffering in silence for six years after my wife was diagnoised in 2005, I had a breakdown in the autumn of 2011.

"It's like having two TVs going on at the same time in my mind"

It was after talking to a man in the gym who experienced PTSD and depression that I realised how wide-spread these problems are. I set up a charity and started campaigning for Dads’ Mental Health. I was still under services and by this time I was also working in mental health as an Independent Mental Health Advocate. Around this time I was also diagnosed with dyslexia and anxiety in the workplace. I was put on medication for the anxiety and learned mindfulness as a positive coping skill which really helped, along with cognative behavioural therapy (CBT). My road to recovery had started and I began speaking on television and radio about mental health issues. I am now a public speaker, author and campaigner.

Being diagnosed with ADHD made me feel like I've put all the jigsaws pieces together. I suffer anxiety, dyslexia, depression, OCD and sometimes tics, and this is now managed. I realise that it's all linked and I'm not so hard on myself anymore. I'm lucky, I've been able to turn a negative time in my life into a positive - my message for people is to always remember "the quicker the help, the quicker the recovery".