For something which has fundamentally altered the person I am, my experience of therapy is a real ‘enemies to lovers’ slow burn. I didn’t know about mental health as a concept through my teens – I knew about Sylvia Plath’s suicide, and saw Elizabeth Wurtzel’s book Prozac Nation on sale at The Friary Guildford HMV, but it all felt so far away and unreachable. What was going on in my own head felt sticky, self-loathing and filled with terror.

When I was 11 I felt a thin, greasy paper cover my mind. I’d been moved up a school year at seven, due to being tall. I was academic enough to keep up but I completely lacked the social skills necessary to navigate this leap. I was bullied throughout school and struggled to understand why, or how to move along in spite of it. Even today, my inner critical voice is a result of this bullying

I had my first therapy session during my first year at university, and after my therapist told me it sounded like everything stemmed from my family I stormed out in a protective rage. It didn’t occur to me that I could find another person to speak to. I thought that was my chance, and it wasn’t right, so I wouldn’t have it again. 

It was another five years before I had another go – not that things were fine in the meantime, more that I was sporadically taking antidepressants and dealing with my brain by overeating, overdrinking, and overspending. I had a not-very-impactful course of CBT to tackle depression. I had a small breakthrough in 2012, when I had private therapy through my work’s health insurance, and my lovely therapist said, ‘It sounds like you think you’re defective.’ I didn’t know the root of why yet, but this was a huge moment of self-realisation.  

Away from work I did lots to build myself up and to enjoy the time I had. I got involved with the Olympics ceremonies in London, and I learned to run and ran the London Marathon. I challenged myself and ideas that I had. But underneath there was always something that I couldn’t identify let alone solve. I didn’t feel like other people – from what I read, or heard, or even how my friends and colleagues behaved. In 2016 I was diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and had outpatient therapy, but I saw three therapists over the course of that year-long programme due to staff illness, and struggled to rebuild relationships.  

I didn’t know there was a bigger picture to see, so I carried on having therapy on and off without really knowing what I hoped to get from it. Some therapists were wonderful – I told one how hard I found it to enjoy small things, and that it was as if I needed an entire street of cherry trees in blossom. Whenever I pass them now I look at them individually with great joy, just as she helped me to do.  

I was struggling to conceive when I saw her. After my husband and I went through failed IVF and faced childlessness I broke and saw a new therapist who helped me to come to terms with what was happening and to know that it wasn’t because I was bad or useless. We did a lot of work with schemas, which I found fascinating – learning what was under the bonnet and why helped me feel more in control. She was also the first person to gently suggest that I look into ADHD.

After my diagnosis I saw another therapist specifically for therapy around ADHD. We did a lot of work around radical self-acceptance, which became invaluable when I had a routine hip replacement that became infected and I spent three months on antibiotics, unable to work or think. I was hugely grateful for the work we had done. It compounded the reading, listening and understanding I was doing to navigate ADHD, to understand the conditions that came under its wider remit and then, in turn, to be able to use what I had learned to help other people. I spoke to people with ADHD, and experts in the field – psychiatrists, researchers, clinicians and even those who set up the first adult ADHD clinic in the UK in the 1990s.  

That I have two books coming out, within a month of one another, both intended to act as support groups for people who are struggling, feels like the best possible outcome for a life with undiagnosed ADHD. I am not defective – I know that now. I hope my readers come to know that too, and apply it to their own lives. It has taken a long time to build this understanding, and it has been worth the journey