Two things I was known for growing up - my imagination and being hyper. I was the super hyper kid that spoke out of turn, recited whole passages of movies at the time of her lungs, couldn't stay in her seat, and routinely got stuck up a tree because she had to climb higher than anyone else.
As I got older I began to feel out of step with my peers and my report cards always said variations of the same thing: "very outgoing but has trouble focusing on task at hand," and "enthusiatic about learning but forgets to turn her homework in." It was like I was missing something everyone else was picking up on. I struggled with memorizing multiplication tables and formulas that seemed to be a cinch for the rest of my classmates. I had poor social skills so making friends with also a challenge. I never could seem to say or do the right thing and I was soon the odd kid that just tried to be as quiet and unnoticed as possible. At school anyway. At home I was still the loud, spontanious, uncontrolable ball of energy - probably more so because I kept it all bottled up at school.
I daydreamed a lot at school to escape my feelings of not belonging and at home I would hide in books because I was always in some kind of trouble. My mom called me a hurricane and constantly critiscized my clumsliness and tendency to break things. An English teacher praised me for a writing assignement and encouraged me to keep writing. I felt like I was finally doing someting right for a change. So I kept at it, even after I left her class. One of my friends got into fanfiction and soon we were sharing stories back and forth.
When I went to college I was put on Academic Probation three times in two years because I had poor attendance and incomplete classes along with a terrible GPA. I switched majors from what I thought I should be taking to what I really wanted to take and suddenly my attendance and grades shot right up.
During this time a teacher noticed I was struggling with depression and anxiety, that had probably started in my early teens. She suggested I see a counselor which I did but I felt let down by who I was assigned to. I left after a few sessions and tried to manage on my own but it got wrose. I was in a bad relationship, still living at home with the same mother who called me names, and struggling with school again causing me to break down one day in class. A friend took me to the student health center and I went back into the school-run counsoling but this time with a different therapist who I clicked with right away. I owe him so much for the help he gave me. He taught me coping skills that I still use today to bolster my damaged self-esteem from years and years of being torn down, from both inside and outside myself.
After college, I had a hard time staying in one place long enough to really get anywhere in life. It wasn't until I married a saint of a man who had the patience and compassion to keep me in one place and offer a stable environment I couldn't seem to create on my own that I finally stopped feeling like a failure. Eventually I would start a successful business and he encouraged me to get back into writing. I felt like life was finally going my way for a change. Then we had a baby and my still-not-fully-resolved depression and anxiety came back to say hello. I put off getting help for a long time. Part of it was my symptoms got lost in the choas and sleepless misery of being a new parent but also because I thought I wasn't "depressed enough." I had been screened for Postpadern Depression but the doctor caught me on a particularly good day so I didn't score low enough on the test (to be fair, the overly simplistic questionare they give mothers is not a very good safety net in my opinion but that's a rant for another time) so I felt guilty for feeling depressed and anxous when I thought I should be the happiest. Which just makes the whole problem that much worse, I'm sure you know. questionare Things were finally going right for me and I felt guilty for not being happier.
Luckily my primary doctor caught the symptoms my OB-GYN missed at a yearly physical several months later and suggested therapy. I resisted it for a few more months even with the great expereince I had with therapy in college thinking I could fix it on my own. It didn't get better and I finally worked up the energy to seek help.
Again it took two tries before I found someone that I connected with. My new therapist worked with me through the many layers of depression and anxiety with just talk therapy and a little behavior modification. We were in the middle of searching for the root of my issues when I had a chance conversation with a good friend about her recent ADHD diagnosis. Our backstories were uncanny in their similarities - from our childhoods to the names we were called, to the "bad luck" that only ever seemed to happen to just us. I had always joked that maybe I had ADHD but never took it seriously enough to follow through with a diagnosis. When I brought it up to my psychologist she didn't scoff at me as I had feared. She took me seriously and offered to give me a test, "just to rule it out at the very least," she assured me cheerfully.
When I went back in to see her for the results she told me I was very smart to bring that up to her. I had scored so much higher than either one of us expected. She said it was actually a testament to how well I manage my symptoms and how much effort it must take to do so. I broke down crying because I hadn't thought of it that way and because it was all true. Every single day of my life I felt like I was just barely keeping my head above water. I had gotten so use to feeling that way that I stopped noticing how much effort that took. For every two steps I took forward in life I would evitably take three back. The only thing that was keeping my life from falling into complete shambles was because my husband took such good care of me.
I became very proactive with managing my ADHD and my therapist gave me numerous resources and coping mechanisms that were a great help. It turned out she also specialized in patients with ADHD. I was very lucky because despite how common this is not all therpaist understand the conditin or they are not up-to-date on current research and treatment methiods. But even with all the all the work we were doing in therapy and all the improvement I was seeing in my life I still felt like I was I just treading water.
I've never been against medication but I had heard the same terrible stories I'm sure we all have. Someone we know that takes medication with horrible side-effects, it doesn't work for them, or it makes them feel not like themselves. As a creative person by nature, I couldn't imagine the torture it would be to not be able to dream or to feel inspired or be too bogged down with troublesome side-effects. When we addressed my feelings of frustration she brought the idea of medication and I told her my concerns. Again, she acknowledged them without judgment and explained to me that everyone reacts differently to different medications and if they don't feel right then I could always change them out or try a different dose. I was still reluctant but I heard her out. She talked to me about the pros and cons of the various medications available. She recommended Wellbutrin, if I was interested, as the side-effects are very minimal and it could also help with the depression and anxiety I was still working through. She didn't press it beyond that and I gave it some thought. I did a lot of research, talked it over with my primary physician, and finally decided to give it a try.
It took two months and tweaking the dose once to see any real change but when I did I didn't feel like I had to struggle to keep my head out of water anymore, it was like someone had pulled me out of the water entirely. And more than that even, I realized there had been a fog in my brain that I didn't even know was there that kept me from seeing beyond a few feet. For example, I use to always forget to empty the dish rack before I would add new dishes to it. It was like I couldn't see far enough beyond the task at hand (doing dishes) to realize I would need to put them somewhere later. And it worked miracles on my writing. I use to struggle with all the executive functions needed to craft a story because I couldn't see beyond the immediate page I was on. And so I use to have a hard time sticking with anything long enough to develop it into anything beyond the first few chapters. Not to mention editing made my head spin, I couldn't even wrap my mind around where to start much less have the patience to take a crack at it. Now I can stay in my chair to maintain a regular writing routine, see where I have to go with my plot, and I can even edit!
While I am very glad I decided to go on Wellbutrin it hasn't been a miracle cure. I still have to work at staying on top of things on a daily basis but it's a lot easier now. I still have bad days where I feel like I'm slipping backward or my depression sneaks up on me but I bounce back a lot faster. I'm not telling you this to push medication on you, though I am a lot more positive about medication than I once was, and hopefully, my experience can dispell some of those stigmas. I just want you to know that you're not alone. It took my friend telling me about her experiences for me to seek help for myself. I'm so grateful to her because it changed the course of my life. Maybe your story will do that for someone else.
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