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".
Looking back to my own experience, the feelings I experienced at the birth of my son still affect
me today. When I think about my wife being pregnant again I have strong feelings of anxiety.
I even get anxious when looking at new born babies as it brings back the panic that I had on
It’s common for women to be treated for PTSD at the birth and rightly so. We must
remember, though, that a traumatic birth is a horrific experience for the father
observing it, too. I remember having my first ever panic attack at the birth of my son.
I really didn’t know what was happening. I was terrified that both my wife and baby
could die. I was later to find out in 2013 that I would have been diagnosed with PTSD
at the birth today. The nightmares and anxieties after the labour were horrible.
The feelings of helplessness, intense fear and horror stayed with me long after the birth.
Men suffering PTSD can experience suicidal thoughts and sink into a deep depression.
They may suffer repeated flashbacks of the birth, reliving the fear and panic they felt.
They may experience a breakdown.
Often they won’t talk about their feelings and they try to bury them, hoping that they will go away.
As the memories keep resurfacing they struggle to deal with them, leading to intense feelings
of anger and despair.
Unless they talk to someone, they can feel very isolated. They may experience mood swings,
depression and have difficulties sleeping, eating and concentrating, some turn to coping
strategies such as drink drugs to try and block out their horrible and vivid memories within
The impact of PTSD and Post-natal depression on the family unit can be devastating.
Many men struggle to hold things together and many families split up. I have met men that are
still suffering mentally many years after the birth of their child due to not seeking help at the time.
It is important to encourage them not to suffer in silence, to speak about how they felt at the birth.
Whether you are a health professional, a family member or just a friend, look out for the signs
that a new father may be suffering from PTSD. I suffered in silence for years and only when I had
a breakdown in 2011 I seeked help. It was the first road to my recovery.
I am still under mental health services and was diagnosed with ADHD two days before my
forty-first birthday. It's something that I've had all my life and can cause depression, anxiety,
tick disorder, OCD and other issues. I suffered a lot in my life and didn't know why I felt different
to my friends.
But in the last five years have turned a negative into a positive. I have raised awareness on
national television and radio, am the author of a second book coming out this year, Inspirational
Father of the Year and Local Hero at the Pride of Britain Awards, have spoken at nearly
100 conferences and work as a trainer for my company. I have written in magazines and
professional publications about perinatal mental health and this year I will be travelling
around Austraila, New Zealand, U.S. and Canada speaking and doing workshops.
I am also proud to have helped dads and families along the way. I am campaigning to make sure
dads and mums don't go through this illness with no support. I also was shortlisted at the
mind media awards for my support group Fathers Reaching Out. Trust me sharing a story
helps others. You can find me on Twitter @MarkWilliamsROW
If I hadn't had got the help, I dare to think what would have happened to me. Do me one thing
today, get the help and talk after all you can share your story like me too.
Remember the quicker the help, the quicker the recovery.