So THAT's What's Wrong with Me
It's not depression, or anxiety. It isn't some rotten core in my soul. It was just undiagnosed ADHD.
Just do it, its easy. Be consistent. Act responsibly. Just FOCUS. Calm down. Make a decision already. What do YOU have to be stressed about? These are the statements that have left me reeling my whole life, no matter what stage, what circumstances, or how easy something "should" be.
This past year I discovered that I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I'm 30. I'm a girl. I got good grades in school. I wasn't "disruptive" or super hyper or anything. But it turns out that stereotype of a little wild boy who can't focus in class is just one small example of how ADHD manifests. I'm still doing my research, but so far what I've found - mostly from the help of other ADHDers - is that 1) ADHD affects girls as well (and they are grossly misdiagnosed/undiagnosed); 2) ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that does not "go away" and; 3) I am not alone.
I self diagnosed myself with ADHD in September of 2020. Then I spent months looking for more resources, treatment, therapists. My primary doctor couldn't send a referral, but provided a list of counseling services in the area. None were ADHD specific. A lot had "pill pusher" reviews. Some didn't accept my insurance. The ones I did call either didn't respond or weren't taking new patients. Eventually I found someone, and was officially diagnosed in April (I think?) of 2021, right after turning 30. At first I did NOT want any medication, adamant that I treat my ADHD naturally or homeopathically LOL! Since then I am trying out a very low dose extended release medication, but as of now I don't think it has been long enough (maybe not strong enough?) to really report on the effectiveness, so that part will have to wait for a future post!
How did I get here? I mean, don't most people with this get diagnosed as a child or teenager at least? Turns out, I have learned how to "mask" my symptoms for so long with the help of parental, school, and work structures. Most girls are taught to be people pleasers before they learn how to walk. I was good in school, for the most part. But all my report cards have comments like "talks a too much in class" and the like. There were a few classes that I absolutely struggled in (lookin' at you Chemistry 101!) and to do well I had to take ALL the notes. Like highlighted every word on a page because aren't they ALL important points? I'm looking back at my life experiences and events with new eyes and notice what was the absolute overwhelm of having a neurodivergent brain. I went to community college right after graduation and guys... my first semester was a dumpster fire. I did turn it around after my academic probation but eventually dropped out (with a semester left at that) to work full time. This past year I decided to go back to school, too many years had passed that I put myself down about it. Too many years telling myself "at least I don't have student loans!" as my excuse. Now, I do have a good job. I've been working my way through this industry since I left college, so it's not like I truly NEEDED to go back to school for a career or anything. But something deep inside told me this was something I had to do. I've since taken on a lot more responsibility in this job, and it included a ton of swerves this past year on top of a global pandemic. Oh I never did mention that I was supposed to be planning a wedding too, did I? Add that to heap of adulting going on! So, in 2020 I go back to school, while working full time and taking on more responsibility, trying to navigate all the pandemic threw at us, and canceling my wedding (it's ok, the planning + money for that is outrageous and clearly my brain was not meant for that, so we'll be happier doing something else!). All of these hitting at once basically pushed me to the "What is WRONG with my brain?" limit!
I've struggled with insomnia and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and even was diagnosed with depression as a teenager. At the time, depression was really the only word I had to explain my frustrations and overwhelm, so that's what I told my mom & my doctor. The treatment for that didn't last long, because.. well I suppose I wasn't really depressed. Maybe the added support I got at home was what actually helped me through that time. Maybe I'll do a separate post of that situation in the future. It didn't take long after that to receive an anxiety diagnosis. Cue the "what do you have to be anxious or stressed about at your age?!" comments! I don't know, something is wrong with me! I tried a few different medications, some that sorta helped, some that had unpleasant side effects, but ultimately weened myself off. I do use CBD though, and it may or may not be "legit", but I'll take the placebo effect if it helps my overactive brain! I've now come to realize while my anxiety is real, it has been my coping mechanism. As an example: I may not be late everywhere I go due to the time-blindness that comes with having ADHD, but my anxiety overcompensates that so I am usually earlier than needed. I'll be in a state of "waiting" and forget to do a million things I wanted or needed to in anticipation of being where I need to be at a certain time. For hours. Sometimes the entire day. When I don't have that gigantic cushion of time, that's when my anxiety really sparks! Man I disrespect my own time, my creativity, and my priorities with this. There's a lot to unpack when you're diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder late in life. But I can say that this reflection of my life with the knowledge I have now has been freeing. Of course I think of how my life might have been different if I was diagnosed & given the proper treatment + support as a child or teen, but I've moved past that and am trying to be more graceful with myself and others. It wasn't recognized in me, it wasn't known what to look for in girls, especially those of us who did well in school and behaved. Little rambunctious white boys were studied for information on this. That is where all the data and research had been for decades on ADHD. Even the term "attention deficit" is a misconception. I have a surplus of attention, it just spans a million topics and I have a hard time directing it to where it needs to go. Also, the "hyperactivity" is misleading, in girls this usually shows as a hyperactive mind not body, and it can be accompanied with fidgeting like hair twirling or bouncing legs.
So, that is my diagnosis story. It may be all over the place, it may be boring, I'm sure I left out things by mistake - but it's my story, and I'm aiming to be as authentic to myself as I navigate life. My first 30 years have been spent confused, overwhelmed, trying to be enough, trying to not be too much, and people please at every moment. The next 30 years (and on) will be spent being true to myself, lifting others up, and helping where I can without my identity being someone else's creation.
Thank you for reading! If you have any comments or thoughts, please share! I love communicating ideas and sharing experiences. I plan on doing more specific posts about ADHD and neurodivergencies. I also try to be self-aware, so your honesty is always welcome & appreciated!
Until next time,