Living with a mental health condition

‘’To describe my worst day, in the morning I would open my eyes and it would be absolute chaos in
my head. Its dark, it’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, and I don’t know what to do and where to go. The
things that bring me joy seem like a mission to achieve’’

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a mental health condition that impacts one’s ability to
concentrate and it affects behaviour. It is also the disorder that has changed and complicated Lesego
Sehemo’s young adult life. A little less than a year ago she started experiencing extreme mood
swings, chest pains, anxiousness and frequent panic attacks. As a consequence, Sehemo was
diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Following a serious introspection, she decided to visit a therapist in
order to deal with some personal issues. This was when Sehemo was diagnosed with Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder also referred to as ADHD.

‘’As much as my concentration is limited and my attention span is terrible, I didn’t think that it was
to the point that I had ADHD because I had passed matric really well,’’ she said. Sehemo’s diagnosis
placed her in a state of shock, as there is no history of mental health disorders in her family. ‘’My
mother denied my diagnosis and claimed that the therapist was just looking to make a quick buck,’’
Sehemo explained.

‘’Living in a household where people don’t understand or rather aren’t willing to understand isn’t
helpful,’’ she stated. Sehemo’s relationship with her mother and other family members has been
rocky following her diagnosis. She also believes the ignorance amongst her family members
regarding mental health is the reason why they have been unsupportive. ‘’There are family members
who say I can’t possibly have this condition because I went to a good school and because I am in a
good University,’’ Sehemo expressed. Furthermore, her mother took her out of therapy because she
believed that it was a cult. Consequently, a bigger dent was created in their relationship. ‘’I started
cutting myself and when my mother found out she started telling people that I was in a cult,’’
Sehemo explained. This led to an even more damaging strain to their relationship. ’’All these came at
a point whereby I was already struggling with my faith, religion and belief as a whole,’’ she said.

Subsequent to her diagnosis Sehemo has had to make some changes in her life in order to deal with
the ADHD. ‘’Being in a cluttered space doesn’t make me calm, so I try to create a space that is not
cluttered, this is to ensure that I don’t fall into a space of panic,’’ she explained. Unfortunately, some
days are more difficult to handle than others. ‘’Sometimes the comfort of sleep is fleeting, I am
constantly plagued by suicidal thoughts and thoughts of inadequacy, I try to look for an outlet but I
can’t find one and that’s frustrating,’’ Sehemo shares.

Due to the fact that there is no open dialogue on mental health in her household, she is constantly
expected to behave like everything is good. As a means to try and fight this battle, Sehemo has
adopted some coping mechanisms to assist. ‘’I’ve had to change how I speak to myself, how I speak
about myself and how I treat myself,’’ she stated. Sehemo asserts that dealing with mental health has allowed her to relate to others who share similar struggles. Furthermore, she states that
‘’dealing with mental health has changed me as it has taught me to be patient with myself, and it is
teaching me to be patient with others’’.

Sehemo is incredibly passionate about changing how mental health is demonised in black
communities.’’ The challenge of living with a mental illness in a black household is that one is
constantly met with violence and that needs to change,’’ she expressed.

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