On February 29 also known as Leap Day, I got into my car and made a call to my best friend with the excitement of one getting a three-chair turnaround on The Voice. “Guess who has ADHD and major depressive disorder with a side of acute anxiety? THIS girl!” I yelled into the phone. Chuckling, she replied, “Well alright! Umm…congratulations?” We both knew that this was a reason to celebrate because before this day, I had spent most of my life feeling like I was walking through the dark in a room full of cobwebs. That is the best way I can describe living with an undiagnosed mental illness. How could a person so passionate, bubbly and full of joy, wake up on some days and not find one good reason to get out of bed? Why did the thought of accomplishing things render me with so much anxiety that there were many nights that I’d curl up in a ball full of fear and fall asleep with all of my clothes on? For the longest time, I didn’t know why but on this day I officially got the answers.
What led to this event was a very dark period that I experienced in fall 2013. After dealing with depression off and on as a teenager, I was at the bottom of the deepest depression I had ever experienced. It was so frightening that I didn’t want to explain it to anyone for fear that I would alarm them to the point of watching me around the clock. I really couldn’t articulate what was happening honestly. One day it was the end of the world and the next day I couldn’t remember what I was so upset about. I did all of this while keeping a beaming smile on my face, seemingly with enough life and laughter to fill up a room. But inside I was drowning. All I knew, or felt I knew, was that I was failing. I was letting everybody down because I could not “adult” properly. On a day I’d like to forget, I stood in my room barely able to hold myself up and cried, “I’m letting everyone down! I’m letting everybody down!” There was absolutely no one accusing me of this. In fact, I have such a great support system that I often heard the opposite. But in my heart and mind I knew I was barely keeping my head above water. I pulled myself together enough to make a decision and that decision was to choose to live. It was at that point that I made a call to my parents telling them that I was moving back home to get healthy. It was a call that saved my life.
So a few months later after being on my own for 15 years, I pulled up to my parents’ home to begin my journey towards mental health. I can’t really explain how humbling it is to come home at the age of 40 to the very room you grew up in, Cabbage Patch Kids and all. I got up to my room and saw that my parents’ had sweetly put a bouquet of flowers on my nightstand. It reminded me of checking into a hospital room and essentially that was pretty much the case. I crawled into bed with the same sweats I drove in for 18 hours and had the most peaceful sleep of my entire life. Then the next day I got to work.
I got to journaling and doing some serious introspection. I started asking God the tough questions that I needed to know about certain cycles and habits that plagued my life. I spent nights under the covers with just the light of my phone journaling and crying out to God. “What is it that is keeping me from moving forward?” I sobbed late one night. I soon found out that God was never hiding any answers from me. He was just waiting for me to give Him my attention long enough to give me the answers.
The next day I was talking to a close friend of mine who found out that their boyfriend had ADHD. “So this whole time I’m thinking he’s just forgetful and depressed and he has ADHD.” “Wait what?” Say that again.” She went on to tell me about the symptoms that made him want to get help and they sounded really familiar. I got off the phone to look up ADHD symptoms and was blown away. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was: a made up disease used to explain away the reasons overactive children won’t sit down and listen. It was much more complex than that. After about a half hour of research, I read an essay by a woman describing what it felt like for her to have ADHD. I burst into tears as she described my entire life.
“It’s the feeling of wanting to do everything and nothing at the exact same time.”
“It’s feeling like an imposter when there’s things you are really great at doing but deep down inside you feel stupid because you have trouble following directions.”
“It’s having a carousel of thoughts going on in your head that is constantly moving.”
I looked over my journal from the past year and knew that this had to be it. I had made an appointment with a doctor to get on medication that treated mainly depression and anxiety but it also treated ADHD. Two days after going on medication, I was driving down the street with no radio on, hearing only the tires on the road. Tears fell from my eyes because it was the first time in my life that my mind had been completely silent. I was getting my answers.
There was no doubt in my mind that trying to manage life while being unaware of having mental health challenges was what was keeping me from moving forward; I just needed a professional opinion to put a stamp of approval on my self diagnosis. On February 29th, I went to a psychiatrist who asked me a number of questions. At the end of her inquiries, she looked at me and smiled. “Well, you can go on and celebrate because you definitely have ADHD.” My feet flew up in the air as I leaned back in the chair and rejoiced. It was the happiest moment of my entire life.
There was a quote that I saw years ago that said, “Be who you are but know who that is.” I am the happiest I have ever been in my life because I finally feel free to be who I am because I finally know who I am. I know and finally understand my challenges. I know that I am not my challenges and that they don’t define me.
Knowledge is power and the truth will definitely set you free. Knowing and accepting who I am has empowered me to freely be myself. There is no happier feeling in the world.