For years, J was passed around systems as he tried to understand what was causing him to behave in a self-destructive way. Finally, he was given a diagnosis of ADHD and one-to-one help, and everything started to make sense

Countless sleepless nights followed, as my mind never stopped ticking. A disruptive education, relationships deteriorating rapidly, struggling in society, encounters with the law, and eventually ending up in court. This was my struggle of being ‘different’, however I knew I had to change my life before it was too late.

I realised from a very young age that something wasn’t quite ‘right’ with me. I felt different to others and extremely out of place. Somehow I was just ‘failing’ to be normal in the eyes of the norms of society. My challenges with ADHD started to become serious when I entered secondary school. At this stage I was around 11 years old and in year 7.

I went to school in East London, and my time there was extremely difficult. The first few months of secondary school were actually OK, but then it suddenly went downhill. I started to struggle with numerous issues, including feeling rejected, despite me feeling that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I missed a huge amount of lessons and important tests and was excluded numerous times. I was labelled as the ‘naughty kid’ of the class and a ‘troublemaker’. It made me feel humiliated and worthless, and I questioned myself. Why me? Why does no one else act in this manner? What’s wrong with me?

Dark clouds cascaded over my head. I was deeply troubled, but no one else seemed to care or even notice this at the time. The majority of teachers used to think I was purposely misbehaving had no idea of what was going on inside my head. This knocked my confidence. Why weren’t they helping me? Why were they turning a blind eye and not trying to help me?

I was deeply troubled, but no one else seemed to care or even notice this at the time

In July 2016, after nearly three years of pain, anguish, depression, and every single other negative emotion you can think of, my family and I decided to move to Chelmsford in Essex. This was an extremely tough decision but ultimately it was in hope of a fresh start.

I joined my new secondary school at the end of year 9, when I was 14 years old. I didn’t like the change, as most people with ADHD will understand, but I accepted it. I found it hard to settle in, I didn’t really like a lot of the people there. I didn’t know them. Change was tough and detrimental to my mental wellbeing on this occasion. I knew straight away that this place wasn’t for me and my gut instinct started to begin to be proven right.

It mirrored my previous school as it all began well for the first few months, but then after the summer holidays and the start of year 10 things started to change. The feelings of being misunderstood and rejected came racing back, as did the challenges in the classroom. I already had much more anger and hatred in my veins after my experiences at my old school, so here everything seemed much worse. My anger mixed with my problems with self-control led me into sticky situations and again to numerous exclusions. Mental health issues and teenage hormones are not a good mix.

J Grange

J Grange

Me and my parents had many meetings with the school. One of the only ways that it was different to my previous school was that they picked up on aspects of my behaviour and advised me to get tested for an underlying condition. I worked with numerous SENCO teachers and got to know them. My parents contacted the mental health services and, after a long wait, I went for numerous tests with different specialists. I was told lots of different things. One said I had autism the other said ADHD. I was really starting to lose hope and couldn’t bear the uncertainty.

I couldn’t accept myself for who I was, in fact I didn’t even know who I was. It didn’t help that during all of this I was still getting in trouble in education and had no support. The school tried to put things in place for me to improve my behaviour. Unfortunately schools are not mental health experts. As time went on and everything built up I was permanently expelled around the end of year 10.

I felt betrayed and so did my parents. I had been let down again by people I thought I could trust.

I believe that no matter where you came from or what challenges you are facing you can still conquer your demons, realise your dreams, and achieve your potential

Due to everything that was going on, I started to go down the wrong path. I turned to drugs and would hide away from the world. I stopped everything I’d usually do. I had encounters with the police and eventually ended up in court. Everything was taking a massive toll on me. I began to feel more and more suicidal.

I was empty of emotion and reasonable thought. Luckily, a man who had experiences similar to me and had only just left prison saved my life. He realised I was upset and traumatise, spoke to me and actually gave me hope and positivity which I hadn’t had before. I owe my life to him and yet I don’t even know him!

At the start of year 11 I was told I would be sent to a Pupil Referral Unit called Heybridge. This seemed like the worst thing in the world, but how different it turned out to be. This place made me accept who I was. I had 1:1 teaching here and this really helped me to focus. With there only being a few months till my GCSEs I still managed to pass all of my GCSEs and achieve my grades. I found my passion and love for music here as well.

One 30-minute lesson a week with no equipment gave me a purpose in life beyond being angry and pushing the self-destruct button. I knew music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life from the very first lesson.

During my time at Heybridge I was eventually formally diagnosed with ADHD. I was placed on medication. This was a massive relief and weight off my shoulders. I knew why I was acting the way I was, and why I had faced these traumatic times. I felt like my life had begun again, this time with a purpose!

J Grange

J Grange

After my time at Heybridge I continued to follow my dream with my music. I started it as a hobby but from early 2019 onwards I started to take it seriously. I write and produce all of my music and I released my first track and music video in April 2019 and from this gained great traction. In October 2019 my second release ‘Buena Vida’ accumulated over 100k views on YouTube via urban platform Link Up TV. I also Appeared on BBC Radio stations to be interviewed, BBC National and Look East news and the BBC National website talking about my mental health experiences and how my music helped me. I experienced great admiration of my story from local newspapers and magazines. I am currently working with a Kiss FM DJ on my debut EP which will be released at the start of May

I also now go into schools and PRUs across London and surrounding areas to do presentations and to inspire the students and tell my story. I am looking to start my own music studio for people with mental health issues.

I believe that no matter where you came from or what challenges you are facing you can still conquer your demons, realise your dreams, and achieve your potential. Don’t let anyone say you can’t. Avoid all negative energy. Stay strong. We are all the same and can allow our journey to take us wherever we want it. We’re all in control of our own destiny, no one else.