Culture at Braze

Living with ADHD and GAD: My Mental Health Story

James Herridge-Leng By James Herridge-Leng Oct 28, 2020

Evidence suggests that people identifying as LGBTQ+ are at higher risk of experiencing poor mental health. Those who know me well—or have had the great pleasure of working closely with me—will know that I am very open about my own struggles with mental health. I openly share my story because I hope that it gives others the courage and comfort they need to seek help or to speak to someone, knowing that they are not alone.

In May 2018, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and GAD (General Anxiety Disorder). Adult ADHD is a psychiatric condition and in adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define. This is largely due to a lack of research into adults with ADHD. Some specialists have suggested the following as a list of symptoms associated with ADHD in adults:

  • Carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Inability to focus or prioritize
  • Continually losing or misplacing things
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness and edginess
  • Difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn
  • Blurting out responses and often interrupting others
  • Mood swings, irritability, and a quick temper
  • Inability to deal with stress
  • Extreme impatience
  • Taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others—for example, driving dangerously

The behavioral problems associated with ADHD can also cause difficulties with relationships and social interaction.

Rewinding back to 2010, I had just moved to Sydney, Australia. It was then that I started to notice that I was different, potentially not “normal.” Which I thought was a great thing! Who even wants to be normal?!

As time passed, I started to struggle with my concentration. I was becoming more impulsive, and I had to work harder to counterbalance those areas I was struggling with. As a result, I felt like I was suffering from anxiety—wrongly assuming that ADHD was for kids, not adults, after all. And over the next few years, I was on and off anxiety medication. The medication didn’t work for me; in fact, it made my anxiety worse!

In May 2015, having spent five-and-a-half years living and working in Sydney, I decided to move back to London. While Sydney was incredible, it was a little too far from home. My parents were getting older and coming from a family of six children, home is certainly where my heart is.

Fast forward two years: I met the love of my life, Dean, in May 2017. I was incredibly happy, madly in love, but still not feeling right. So one chilly Saturday morning in March 2018, I plucked up the courage to go and see the GP. This lovely man listened to all I had to say about how I was feeling and immediately referred me to see a psychiatrist.

The following week, I met Dr. Nathan Anthony, and he was not what I thought a psychiatrist would look or sound like. He asked me a few very open questions and two hours later, he knew my life story. He’d definitely make a great sales guy!

He said that on the day he met me, he knew that I had ADHD. As part of the standard process, I had to be assessed by his colleague, another psychiatrist, along with interviews for Dean and my parents. It sounds daunting, but it really wasn’t, especially as Dean and my parents wanted to help however they could.

A few weeks later, the results were in: I was diagnosed with ADHD and GAD.

Treatment of ADHD is usually based on a combination of medication and behavioral interventions. Exercise, sufficient sleep, and nutritious food are also known to have a positive effect alongside the medication. Upon diagnosis, I had to spend time with my psychiatrist to determine what type of ADHD medication I needed. Should I take three tablets a day, each lasting two to three hours or a single slow release tablet once a day, that lasts eight to ten hours?

It took years to get the medication right. At times, I still struggle; it’s work in progress. At times, I do feel like the Duracell bunny. While this is great for my work, it’s hard for Dean sometimes!

Treatment for ADHD relieves many of the symptoms I have and makes the condition much less of a problem in my day to day life. I have always worked hard; the medication makes my work better as I am much more focused and detail orientated. The overall impact to my work and my personal life has been huge.

For me, living with ADHD and GAD make my world a much brighter place. It’s full of happiness and opportunity. I am inspired by the fact that many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs have ADHD, so there’s definitely hope for me.

There are many types of mental health issues. I benefited from the right diagnosis which meant doctors could help me. Medication alongside plenty of exercise, healthy eating and sleep, was the way forward.

What advice would I offer for others?

If you’re feeling different, that’s ok. It’s ok to not always feel all right. Many mental health issues never go away and you just get better at coping with them. There are good and bad times, but with diagnosis and treatment, the good times outweigh the bad.

Through my experience, I would encourage you to keep a diary and document how you’re feeling on a daily basis. Writing about the day, what you did, how you felt, the things that made you happy and the things that made you sad. A story about your day, your experience, and your view of the world. When I felt anxious, I looked back at a time in my diary when I had the same feelings. There it was, written in my diary, a guide on what I did to cope. Since I’d been through it before, I knew I could do it again.

If you feel different, unwell, or if something isn’t just quite right, I would recommend going to see your doctor. Tell them how you are feeling, walk them through your diary or a day in your shoes—they are there to help you and not judge you. This is the hardest step, but also the start of what should be an amazing journey for you. Once the doctor has listened to your concerns, they will be able to guide you through the process. Typically, they will refer you to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Alternatively, for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, they can prescribe medication and offer a referral to counselling and specialized therapy or treatments.

Also, don’t forget to check in with your colleagues, friends, and family—especially during these unprecedented and challenging times. At Braze, we’ve launched a new employee resource group: Healthy Minds at Braze. We’re working together to shine a spotlight on mental health and help to de-stigmatize the conversation, an important focus as we navigate the new normal.

James Herridge-Leng

James Herridge-Leng

Based in London, James joined Braze in February 2019, having previously worked at Bazaarvoice (with Sara Spivey & Sabhy), Microsoft, Apple, Salesforce/ExactTarget (with Rod Amies), and ROKT

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