My name is Nathan Leeds and I have mental issues.

Today, February 8th, is Bell Let’s Talk day, a day where Canadians are encouraged to talk about mental issues. To let others know that they are not alone. To explain how you cope so others might also. It can be difficult to stand up and proclaim that you have something that a lot of people consider taboo to talk about. Let me help you.

There. I have said it. I am a 42yr old man who has Bi-Polar depression and ADHD. Have you stopped reading because I said that? No, I didn’t think so.

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression. A lot of people believe that if you have depression you are miserable all the time, listening to Coldplay and shunning company. People with depression don’t always act as if their dog ran away. Those are just people who listen to Coldplay. Most depression suffers go about their lives normally, some undiagnosed, some unaware that they have depression.

How do you know if your thoughts are not right if you don’t have any other persons thoughts to compare them to? I didn’t realise that how my brain reacted to certain circumstances wasn’t normal. I didn’t know that waking up on some mornings and feeling as if I could fly or at least jump tall buildings wasn’t the norm. How could I? I had no other experiences to go on.

When an expert looks at my elementary school report cards, it takes about 10 seconds before they can find all the indicators that point towards ADHD. ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with ADD being simply Attention Deficit Disorder. Living with ADHD or ADD undiagnosed means that you make mistakes because your attention drifts when what you are doing becomes boring. In school you become an underachiever, someone who should do better but for some reason is unable to. Think about getting those report cards saying must try harder or needs to concentrate. Makes you think!

Going into adulthood, there are still plenty of challenges. Just as you drifted away when doing homework, employment can throw up plenty of issues if you keep making mistakes, mistakes that you cannot explain.

I was diagnosed with both issues in my 40s after an incident at work. I won’t explain further because I would prefer to put it in the past. Once I was diagnosed, pieces fell into place. Why I felt stupid in school when I knew I wasn’t. Why I was difficult to get on with, and was annoying (I blame the issues and not my normal personality). The mistakes I made at my jobs. My inability to take advantage of talents in sports. A myriad of things, big and small, that were suddenly explainable.

Other than the birth of my children, my wedding day, that night in Vegas, it was one of the most important days of my life. In many ways it felt as if I had discovered who I was. As Samuel L Jackson‘s character in the movie Unbreakable, discovers that he is a super villian, I had come to the realisation that I wasn’t the stupid, under achiever who was unable to do anything right and who seemed to mess up each and every step of my life. I was a normal person who had to deal with a little more than most.

Having depression or ADHD doesn’t mean you have brain damage or that you are crazy, at least that is what my wonderful doctor says. A chemical imbalance in your head is to blame, simple as that. It doesn’t mean you are destined to end up in a strait jacket or medicated until you are akin to a zombie. It just means that you have to deal with just a little more than most.

You are not broken. You are special and don’t you ever forget it!

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