This year I will be 35 and at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with ADHD.
This diagnosis, although a bit random, made more sense to me than anything else in my life.
Read along as I share my journey discovering:
I’m not a Depressed, Overwhelmed, Mom of Three,
I actually have ADHD.
All the Icky Feelings.
I had been struggling.
I felt like a walking set of flaws and began to feel perpetually overwhelmed.
That overwhelmed feeling then led to that type of anxiety that sits quietly and then ragefully explodes. Those anxiety-filled bouts of anger paired with my seemingly inability to function at the most basic level, (all while knowing how extremely capable I was) left me feeling like a failure. That turned into a sadness + an internal anger that I just couldn’t fight off. The combination of all of that (not even getting in to the migraines + facial pain I was having from TMJ) created a fairly depressive state of mind.
As I shared in the post “To the Mom that Doesn’t Want to Live but Doesn’t Want to Die“, it got to the point where I was having some not-so-awesome thoughts. I wasn’t struggling to get out of bed and I didn’t feel like everything was doom + gloom but I definitely felt a shift in my thinking. A shift where, when I would fail, my first thought would be “Well I just shouldn’t be here”, “The kids would be much better off without me. “They would happier with a different, BETTER mom”
I was no stranger to depression. Thanks to my circumstantial teen years, I knew the shape of that very well, and this wasn’t that same dance partner. Yet somehow it seem to know all the same moves and that was a scary. With that experience + knowledge I knew I needed to reach out and asked for help.
I Need Help.
After about a month of being on medication that was conveniently prescribed to me by my OB/GYN, I followed up with an actual psychiatrist to discuss the effects of the antidepressant, Prozac.
I felt a sense of pride for getting help when I did, but I still knew something was off. I knew that I wasn’t just “depressed” and I wasn’t just “anxious” and being an “overwhelmed mom of three” was no longer a valid excuse for me.
I explained what I was still experiencing to my doctor like this;
“It’s like I can no longer prioritize my priorities. In fact, I can’t even MAKE a list of any priorities because they all seem equally important and vital and feel as though they all need to be done right.this.minute. I can’t formulate any sort of plan for basic daily living without struggling and it’s not because I am sad or worried about the outcome of that plan, but it feels like my brain legit isn’t able to string those actions together cohesively. It’s like there is a deadbolt lock on whatever door opens the pathway to sorting that basic stuff out and I just don’t have the key or the right tool to pick the lock.”
After listening to me word-vomit for a good bit, she suggested the validity of a potential ADHD diagnosis
The Psychiatrist then gave me a diagnostic test and my results very much indicated that I did in fact have ADHD.
I didn’t really accept this right away. So I went home and got a second opinion from the best doctor around:
As I scrolled I began to check more and more items off of those checklists.
Some Symptoms of Adult ADHD are:
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
I then read that those “symptoms” can lead to certain life “complications“.
Some Complications of ADHD are:
- Financial problems – Um, hello maxing out credit cards
- Interrupting people when speaking – This is a serious PROBLEM
- Losing things – “Has anyone seen my phone” *is holding phone*
- Being late – Actually, it’s called being fashionably late…
- Starting projects + not finishing them – Let’s ask the husband, shall we?
- Frequent car accidents + reckless driving – Stop it, right now…
More about The Symptoms of ADHD in Women
Reading that last one, Reckless Driving and Car Accidents, really hit home. I’m not exactly sure why this was the main trigger, but after reading this “complication” it felt like a literal giant light bulb went off. As if my brain was screaming “This is where we are going to find the key to unlock your brain, Stay on this course!”
I think the driving life “complication” made me really think because it’s pretty much a running joke (and accurate observation) that I drive fast and wreck sh!t.
At one point I said to someone, “When I’m driving in the car, it just feels like that’s when I can get things done. As if driving was some sort of multipurpose activity that was meant to be multitasked through.
I didn’t view it as an act that require thought + safety (AND my undivided attention) but more of a means to an end of transporting myself through time.
Therefore, it was the perfect opportunity to do all the things.
As I read page after page and article after article, I swear to goodness it felt like the scene in Rapunzel where she realizes that she IS the lost princess. It’s like my entire life started to make sense all at once.
I felt like my whole world came to a screeching halt yet was going a 1000 miles per minute while simultaneously replaying my entire life in slow motion.
Like hooold up-wait a minute- you’re telling me that I’m not lazy and disorganized and I’m not flighty + unreliable and reckless with my emotions but INSTEAD I have a chemical imbalance that makes me the way that I am…
Okay, but I Need More Help.
It was at this point that I was like yesss, this all does make perfect sense.
Even with this new knowledge that my body is literally incapable of creating the correct amount of dopamine on it’s own, I still felt like I could just “beat” this chemical imbalance in my brain with exercise, eating right and meditating alone.
Let me advise you against this.
Yes, those things are great and should be implemented regardless of the state of your mental health, but this notion that I could just “beat” a chemical imbalance on my own eventually led to an absorbent amount of anxiety + depression that almost landed me in a psychiatric institution.
The fact is; I need medication.
So right at my breaking point I reached out to my psychiatrist and said;
I NEED HELP…AGAIN.
Even though I knew I was doing the right thing, I had a lot of shame and guilt, and fear around taking medication. My psychiatrist gave me the perfect analogy, she said;
“When my son was diagnosed the doctor justified medication to me like this:
Your son is exceedingly smart, He has great parents and you guys have a lot of resources. Could he get up this mountain with all of these rocks in his backpack? Yes, he could. But as a parent, wouldn’t you love to take the rocks out of his backpack? So it would be easier for him to climb the mountain?”
** ALLL the goosey goose bumps **
After hearing this amazing analogy, a wave of emotions came over me.
Yes, I am climbing this mountain and I’m doing just okay while doing so, but oh.my.goodness. Imagine the heights I could reach and the pace I could make if all these damn rocks were out of my backpack!?
Relief + Bittersweet Joy.
I swear to goodness the first day I took the [non stimulant, non habit-forming] medication it was like my whole world finally connected.
Similar to when you get glasses for the first time and can see that trees actually have individual leaves.
The medicine allowed my brain to process if a thought should be acted on or not. Instead of snowballing into a thousand different ones all at once, I could actually stick with just one thought at a time.
It’s like the inner voice in my head finally just shut.the.F*cK.up.
** To be clear, this voice wasn’t ever a negative one. It wasn’t a voice of depression or angst but an inner voice that managed to create a never-ending hamster wheel of thoughts and ideas and aspirations. To be honest though, I thought that wheel of chaos and disorganized thoughts made me, ME. And well it did, but it also made me feel this sense of exhaustion that I can’t even begin to describe.
During the first week of taking medication, I distinctly remember having the realization, while my husband was reading a bedtime story, that I was present. I was truly + fully in the moment. Just listening to the actual words of the story. No other thoughts or a running ticker tape.
I was just fully there in the moment.
I remember thinking- “Huh. This must be what “normal” people experience.”
It was pretty astonishing + extremely foreign.
This was a strange and bittersweet feeling. I finally had some relief but damn. How?
How, could I go over 15 years with the wrong diagnosis and wrongs meds?
You can’t help but think about the past at that point…
Over the next few months I started to understand more about the science behind the dopamine imbalance in my brain and how I was functioning. Things like my massive obsession + need for caffeine and even the discrepancy between being able to plan and create amazing + elaborate parties, yet being unable to do the daily dishes finally made sense.
[Baaasically, because of the lack of dopamine, doing the dishes didn’t give my brain the “boost” it needed to function, so that task and all the other non-fun ones were avoided until they absolutely HAD to be done- which then created anxiety, and lack of action and then more anxiety and you get the gist- it was a vicious cycle.]
Related: Harry Potter Nailed-It! Party
My awesome little brain on medication was finally able to guide + filter my thoughts in a manner that looked more like this;
“Yes, the washer needs to be switched over, but I can do that after I finish drying these dishes and the kitchen cabinets can be organized at a later time because the kids lunches don’t need to be packed up until Tuesday anyways, so let’s just finish doing the dishes and then you will have that done and have a lot less anxiety about life”
To which it got to a point, that if I was doing the dishes I couldn’t walk over to get the cup that was dirty in the living room because I would end up folding a blanket, then after seeing a kid’s shoe I would take that shoe to said kid’s room, and while in that room, I would see Legos out and be compelled to put those Legos up and well, I might as well oragnize the toys, while I am there anyways and then when I find a spoon, I take it downstairs to find the kitchen floor wet from the overflowing sink from doing the dishes…
Noone needs that…
Life Continues Forward.
I will tell you right now that my life didn’t magically turn around and be better. I am still sorting out my life daily, but damn if I don’t feel the most okay I have ever felt in my life.
Yes, I still have depressive moments and yes, I still fight through the anxious thoughts, but now both of those are appropriately sized + I know what effectively works when I experience them.
I would be remiss not to mention that medication didn’t solve everything. Very rarely does medication solve it “all”. I still have to eat right, sleep, meditate, exercise, ya know – the whole thing. But now I have the ability to stay on track + consistently keep doing those necessary things.
And therapy. Lots + lots of therapy to continue to learn new coping tools
Speak Up + Be HEARD.
If you think that you might have ADHD or any other health issue that you feel “just isn’t right”, my suggestion to you would be to ignore the stigmas. Stigmas that surround mental health maladies keep so many people from getting the correct help that they need.
Ignore those that say this isn’t a real diagnosis.
Ignore those saying you are looking for the easy way out with meds or a quick fix.
Because trust me, this life-long search hasn’t been quick, easy or anything of the sorts.
And just like anything else, Advocate. for. Yourself.
For years, I kept being handed the wrong key by doctors + psychiatrists to unlock my brain. To get it to function at the same base level that everyone else was at. It wasn’t until I found a psychiatrist who actually listened to me, who truly HEARD me, that I got the correct help that I needed.
I discovered that it wasn’t a gold metal key that I was searching for.
Turns out, what I needed was a 4-digit pin code to unlock this magnificent nuero-diverse brain of mine all along.
What a long-awaited breath of fresh air…
I have ADHD, it’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation that I was always looking for.
To read more about ADHD, check out these great resources:
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