Jennifer Leslie spent years in a state of constant struggle with finding her dream job. It was not that she didn’t try hard enough, she spent days preparing for interviews and even writing out potential questions.
“I wanted an office job so bad as I would have been so good at them.”
Leslie, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, fiction writer and pet lover couldn’t handle the interviews because of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “I just can’t give my best if I’m forced to sit still. Only when I fidget does it create a connection to my brain.”
Canada Stats describes ADHD as a disability in the post-secondary environment and estimates four per cent or 150,000 Canadian adults are impacted by it.
“I have ADHD Inattentive, as well as anxiety-based depression. Inattentive wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16.”
About 11 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 24 experience depression, but only a fraction of them get diagnosed or treated.
“It makes people stubborn and it also accentuates feelings of depression. It won’t let me dive off the deep end no matter how much I want to. I think the illnesses have made me more selfish in some aspects, like with where I expend my energy, which makes it more difficult to live with other people.”
Leslie realizes because of this, she had a hard time making friends, which left her feeling lonely, isolated and angry more easily.
“I was 16 before I realized the full extent it was affecting me.”
Depression even drove her to the brink of suicide. There were days she had to stay away from the roads where large trucks would pass. “I don’t know why that’s my go-to. The only thing stopping me is the fact that I can’t clean myself off the pavement, so my dead self would end up being a nuisance. And my cat would be so mad at me.”
Initially, the only treatments suggested to Leslie was to eat healthier and to exercise more. Now, medication, along with a proper diet and an increase in Vitamin D, is how she copes and lives through her illness.
“I am a lot more self-aware. I’m a lot more capable of pinpointing when the spirals are starting. I’m still ineffective at heading them off, but I’m getting there.”
Leslie suggests when someone experiences symptoms of a mental health challenge or illness, it is essential for them to seek help from professional psychotherapist, support groups or peer supporters.
“There are ways to get help without your parents finding out if that’s what you need. Neither is fun to live with, but it’s the lot we’ve been given, and people more often want to help than not.”
At CMHA, peer supporters are trained to provide support and understanding, help individuals navigate the mental health system, link them with community service and support work towards personal goals.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Negative thinking is hard to un-train, but it is possible. Do the exercises. Take time to do self-care,” Leslie suggests.
Leslie finds writing is one of her best tools in battling against depression. “I can get the stress of the day off my shoulders by writing: Never give up. Never allow the disability to hold you up.”
“Keep going,” she declares. “For me, this is interpreted as ‘don’t die yet’ and ‘move forward.’