Beth Calvert was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager and then postnatal depression in her 20s. She speaks about the highs and the lows, the exhaustion and the extremely dark moments where she thought her only way out was to die. What Beth went through sounds absolutely terrifying. And then a doctor diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and her life finally clicked into place.


  • I’ve always felt a bit different. At 13 I was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), it’s more uncommon for females to get an ADHD diagnosis but it suited my traits. I was unsettled, sought constant stimulation, felt fractious and had explosive moods. I was medicated for a short period of time but soon began abusing it and gave up.

  • Throughout my adolescent years, the ADHD side of me was strong. I had to be busy, couldn’t sit still, had mood swings and bouts of depression.

  • The older I got the more I used my ADHD to my advantage. I described it as a superpower, I was able to cram more into a day than most could in a week. On the flip side of that I was disorganised, hyper and overly impulsive.

  • Fast forward to 25, my husband worked all the time. I was left at home with two children under five, studying full time at university, juggling a part time job and managing a home.

  •  I had my first spell of depression. I’d felt low before but this was different. The world was grey and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I hated my husband, I couldn’t be in my own house. Everything just felt wrong.

  • It wasn’t a constant depression, I had weeks where I could take on the world. I felt like a hyper teenager again, I figured my ADHD overpowered the depression but with it I became obsessive. I was impulsive, promiscuous and needed to be doing all the time. I wanted everything, I needed to do exciting things, I took up pole dancing, went out most weekends, drank a lot and fixated on people.

  • But drinking took its toll, with the high comes the low. Alcohol threw me into the grey world.

  • After a particularly bad weekend I left my husband. I packed up my kids and my dogs and moved back to my mum’s. This lasted three weeks – what I now describe as the three week hangover.

  • Over the next three years I had long periods of feeling very level, but as time went on the highs were sky high and the lows were very, very dark.

  • I took on too much, I never stopped and I never let my brain recover. After every high period my brain felt floppy. Like a deflating balloon. It was physically exhausting. But I preferred the highs as these were my comfort zone. I could manage the chaos and drama.

  • In February 2019 my daughter was born, following two miscarriages. Everything should’ve been perfect, but it wasn’t. I remember one morning lying on my bed, hating my older children, hating my husband, with my daughter laying asleep on my chest. I smiled to myself, my husband asked why was I smiling. I replied that I would love for me and my daughter to just die at that moment. Get away from it all.

  • I got a diagnosis of postnatal depression, prescribed sertraline and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The sertraline slowed my brain down too much, I was apathetic and didn’t care. I stuck that out for a month and concentrated on the CBT.

  • Moving to lockdown 2020, the flit from high too low was unmanageable. My husband struggled, I repeatedly told him I hated him and wanted him to leave. I resented him for his freedom to work. I was now stuck at home full time with three children in the house, my university work, full time placement, managing a business, home schooling and trying to manage a house. My brain broke.

  • I fell pregnant again accidentally in May. I did not want the baby, I struggled so badly with my previous baby I knew that mentally I wouldn’t cope with another however my husband was antiabortion and insisted we kept him. This just added to the resentment. I couldn’t think, the noise in my head was too much. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t voice my feelings, I didn’t enjoy anything. This lasted for months, I couldn’t bond with my baby I hated my body, I hated being pregnant, I resented the baby.

  • Then he finally left.

  • I was broken. This thing I had wanted for months had happened but I couldn’t cope. The noise got louder, the thoughts got darker. I wanted to die. I couldn’t die. I had three children and one on the way, how could I die? I couldn’t leave them with their dad, he was inattentive and unreliable. I could leave them with my sister, she’d take good care of them. I needed out. I needed the baby out.

  • Then I found out about my husband’s girlfriend, a low life that couldn’t manage her own life let alone be a part of our family. I smashed my house up, I screamed and screamed and screamed. Everything was too much. I felt completely alone in the world. I pleaded with myself to go high, I was desperate to see any kind of light.

  • The nighttimes were the worst, there was no one. I was alone with my noise.

  • My sister told me that one evening I rung her and said I needed to cut the baby out of my stomach, I have no recollection of it but I remember the feeling.

  • I couldn’t eat or function. I detested my children and just wanted to run away. The more pregnant I got the worse it got. I thought about falling down the stairs, banging my stomach, all disgusting thoughts to end my pregnancy.

  • At a 28 week appointment I broke down. I confided in my midwife that I wasn’t coping and I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. The services in place were amazing and at 34 weeks I finally felt some love for the baby.

  • During this time I kept losing it, the red mist came and I felt out of control. I kicked in his girlfriend’s door in the middle of the night, I crashed into her neighbour’s car, I screamed and shouted in the street. I had lost all control over myself.

  • At 39 weeks I found out my husband had in fact had an affair. This tipped me. I cried and cried, I willed to die.

  • The baby was born and everything was ok for a couple of weeks. Then another blow, husband-related and I lost it.

  • I remember one morning my brain told me I was going to die. I said goodbye to my children at the school gates, I said goodbye to my daughter at nursery choking back the tears and I headed to my husband’s work to give him the baby. I was going to die. I didn’t know how but the voice in my head told me that I would never see any of them again. Fortunately my husband wasn’t at work. I had to go home and I couldn’t die that day.

  • I rung the doctors and got referred to the perinatal mental health team. They assessed me and deemed me to have postnatal depression and that a psychiatrist would call to prescribe me some antidepressants. When she rang I was having an episode. It was a Zoom call, I couldn’t speak or look at her. I was choking and there was nothing I could do or say to make it any better.

  •  That night I drove my car at a traffic warden and tipped my husband’s mistress’ bin outside of her house. I felt totally pathetic.

  • The following day the doctor rang back, I was chirpy and the world felt right. She explained that until the evening before she was happy to call it postnatal depression and medicate accordingly. However seeing my distress and inability to speak or function and having gone through my history and believed that mood stabilisers were the way forward and my history suggested I may have bipolar disorder.

  • Suddenly it clicked, this felt right. The highs, the lows, the unnerving stable times.

  • The noise was overpowering, crying until I had no tears left. I felt destroyed, there was no way out. I needed someone to rescue me, I needed someone to help.

  • I began the medication and within a couple of weeks the noise stopped. The voice in my head that told me I was going to die faded, I was more in control and I was capable of coping. I began to enjoy my children, my house was clean and everything felt better.

  • The doctor explained that all the events had triggered bad episodes of low periods and that pregnancy and childbirth can cause chaos.

  • Looking back, this fits with my life. What traits I put down to ADHD and postnatal depression fitted into the bipolar diagnosis.

  • Now I take regular medication, I have medication for the ‘episodes’, medication for the anxiety, a care coordinator for the support and therapy to help work through it all.

  • Relying on just mental health services alone isn’t enough (although they do wonders when you get it right), just taking medication isn’t enough.

  • You need to talk, laugh, cry and do things that excite you. Find coping mechanisms that can pull you back from any dark spots. Use everything and everyone around you. Therapy, specialist teams, friends, family, random strangers in the park for absent conversation.

  • I’ve found the most beautiful people in my life, the ones that offer unconditional love through the bad days and good, and it’s reciprocal.

  • I am incredibly lucky to have friends and my siblings who have been my rock throughout it all. They love me whatever I am.

  • There were some hideously dark and terrifying times, that make my fists clench and my stomach twist if I let myself get lost in the memories of it all.

  • I sit with guilt towards my son, but this gets lighter everyday when I see what a beautiful little human he is.

  • Bipolar is difficult to diagnose and a minefield to manage. It won’t be plain sailing and there is no quick fix, but the light is there.



NHS – Bipolar disorder: nhs.uk

Mind – Bipolar disorder: mind.org.uk



–  READ Jess Williams’ (AKA The Hot Cross Mum) list 40 And Diagnosed With ADHD and how much this meant to her.

–  READ psychotherapist Anna Mathur’s list Postnatal Depression Got Me Too where she shares her experience of suffering from PND.

–  READ Laura Dockrill’s terrifying experience of Postpartum Psychosis and how, with support, she began her recovery.

–  READ Diagnosed With ADHD As An Adult by Rebecca Schiller who explains how she had always felt at odds with the world until she was diagnosed with ADHD.

–  READ Depression And Me an incredibly powerful and honest list by Natasha Evans as she details how she kept going at her lowest moments and slowly began to recover.

–  LISTEN to Matt Haig on But Why? podcast talking Mental Health and how, although being open about depression and anxiety can be useful, the conversation needs to be handled mindfully.

–  LISTEN to author journalist Grace Timothy on But Why? podcast talking about ADHD and how her chance diagnosis helped her make sense of her life.





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