I have literally saved everything I’ve ever purchased, every gift I’ve ever received and every word I’ve ever written. A quote from my post Colored File Folders and the Organization of Life kind of sums it up nicely:
“Many times I’ve been here, among the crap that is my life, trying
desperately to climb out of it…to understand it…to let it go.
I’ve held onto so many things as reminders of what once was, what
could’ve been, and what never was. Other things I held onto with
the hope that one day I would get to them, to read them, to finish
them, to become whole. These things represent my infamous “to-do”
list that never seems to get done.”
I wrote that post in 2006 just after being diagnosed with ADHD. Here I am, nearly ten years later, in a similar self-excavation phase. Things have changed greatly since my Xanga days. I’m a successful social media professional for a global company, I have my own car…that I’ve already paid off, I’m an aunt to two amazing little people, I enrolled myself in a Social Media for Business certification program and I completed it…and, perhaps most importantly, I get out of the house on a daily basis.
That said, there’s still a lot left for me to sort out…and I think the recent self-excavation (of my last self-excavation) has made me realize things that I had kind of forgotten. Life kind of happens and spins you in all directions and, in all the fighting to keep up, it’s easy to lose sight of what it all really means. Anyway, I’m trying to sort it all out, uncovering pieces of myself and remembering all that I’ve overcome.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I have certainly come a long way. The other night I sat with a friend, reading short stories and unfinished scripts that I had written as a child. I was a happy child, but always very aware and sensitive to the world around me. In my stories, there was a persistent theme of struggling…and overcoming…the main character always faced a huge obstacle (literally, like having cancer or AIDS…or being homeless), but there was always hope. I laughed a little bit at myself and my friend asked me why I was laughing. I said, “It makes me sad for my former self.” Later, I realized that that wasn’t the case at all. My former self was so full of life, struggling in her own ways, but striving to be more and to bring hope to those around her. I think I really laughed because I was embarrassed to realize that I’ve lost sight of some of that, that I don’t believe as much as I once did, that I’ve sort of given in to the day-to-day grind…out of necessity, sure, but at what cost?
Without going on and on, I wanted to share another one of my Xanga posts. I wrote this one shortly after being diagnosed with ADHD (and Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder), too. I think a lot of people go through these kinds of emotions as they start to accept and understand their own diagnosis…whether it’s ADHD or something completely unrelated. A diagnosis can be a difficult thing to process, but I really do believe it can help you understand yourself better…and ultimately be happier for it.
The original post was long enough, so I won’t add more to it now, but the thoughts and emotions are flooding me. It’s a strange feeling to be inspired by a former version of yourself.
“Why can’t I just be normal? I know I come on here and I can rave about how great we all are because of our differences…how without them we’d be boring, life would be boring. But sometimes I just get tired of it all.
I feel like everybody’s always overlooked these issues or dealt with them for the time being and then assumed they’d never be back to haunt me. But, I look back now as an adult and I can see the things that have weakened me. It’s not that I ever forgot about these things, I just never put them together. But, as a child, I wasn’t exactly aware of the connection of things…I was not educated enough to be. Not only that, I was too naive to think that all these things could be connected…no one ever spoke of them too much…and I think it was pretty much assumed that they no longer existed.
Seeing the connection of it all pisses me off. All these red flags popping up all over the damn place and nobody looked a little further. It’s a lot to take in at once and I have honestly tried to pace myself as not to drive myself completely insane…but, in this moment, I cannot hold back. No, I was not labeled as a child, but perhaps we made such an effort to not label me that we missed the importance of the things I was going through.
Depression…ah, yes, the label has suited me for nearly a decade now…no, I take that back, more than a decade. Sure, give me a checklist, and I’ll pretty much check ‘em all. But, I always knew there was something more.
I did remember a life before the depression, though I always struggled with things that I knew other people didn’t. I longed for that life and I imagined I could will myself out of the darkness. But, hard as I tried, I, of course, could not.
As I tried everything I possibly could to save myself, it was to no avail. I began to wonder if I would ever be whole again. I tried St. John’s Wort and the depression subsided for a while. I was thrilled with the idea of being able to focus again…to be able to read…participate…learn…live. But then I couldn’t still. I crumbled with that realization. Something bigger than me was making it impossible for me to function normally.
And maybe those of you who know me never saw this…the struggle. I thought it was my fault, so why would I put out my wounds for all of you to see. Sure, I’m doing that here, but this is a virtual world for just such purposes. I am free to rant, free to expose myself. I know who reads this for the most part…the two people…and I don’t care what you read…you pretty much know it all anyway. And for the rest of you, I don’t really care. This is a rant. I’m here to keep typing until I understand it all. I write to clear my head, to formulate ideas and to get them out. But, in real life, I wore a smile…it was my protection against the world. If I could pretend to be happy, maybe one day it would take me over and it wouldn’t be just pretending anymore…but, no, that didn’t happen either.
As I faced the “real world,” everything collapsed. Without structure or purpose beyond myself, it all fell apart. I tried the website thing, but it was not enough to sustain me-financially or emotionally. I could not fix the things that were broken within the site, and I could not fix the things that were broken within myself.
And then a friend suggested it, Attention Deficit Disorder…one of the more recent labels…one of the more important labels that has helped me regain some control over my life. I researched on my own for a while…websites, books, songs, anything I could get my hands on. The first time I read a list of symptoms, I saw my life reflected in those pages. Everything I was and had been came to the surface. It explained so much…most of it…or at least a big chunk of it. And then I went to a shrink…to find out for sure. It took a long time to make that step…cause, I guess in some ways I was afraid he would tell me I was wrong and I’d be back at square one wondering what the hell was wrong with me.
But, no, he did not tell me that I was wrong. He said, “I don’t usually recommend medication on the first visit, but you definitely seem like the perfect candidate.” One more visit and a trip to the psychologist (or psychiatrist…can’t keep ‘em straight-whoever gives the meds) and I went home with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, a prescription for Adderall and the hope that my life would finally get better.
And it did…in some ways. But, as with any kind of self reflection, things tend to get harder before they get easier. It is painful to reflect upon my life and to see the countless times ADD/ADHD defined my situation. I see the countless hours spent in the UGA library trying desperately to read my film books while the rest of the school sat knocking a few back at happy hour. I see the relationships gone to crap as I impulsively changed my mind about what I wanted…pushed and pulled, loved and hated…, “He never stood a chance,” and no, no, he didn’t. I regret that, for him…although, I think we’ve both ended up better for it. It was not meant to be, as things that do not happen are not meant to be…and that is all I can put my faith in. Yet, somehow, seeing how much of that was my fault hurts. I see myself forgetting 3 pages of a poem I had memorized and could recite honestly (though I don’t remember how I did it) backwards…and not even realizing I forgot them. I see myself signing up for classes I had already taken and sleeping through my first exam at UGA. I see myself almost failing out of math my senior year and rewriting my entire research paper in English my junior year because the teacher could not find a point anywhere within the 10 pages I turned in. There are hundreds of other examples I could pour out on this page, but it would not be productive.
Being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD did label me, but it explained my life in a way that nothing else possibly could. It gave a name to the thing that had prevented me from living a successful life. I don’t care what anybody says either…I have a college degree from UGA, so some say that’s a success…but to me, my college career was a failure. If you try hard as hell to read a book and cannot, then you have failed. If you try hard as hell to study and you cannot, then you have failed. Sure, I made it through, but I did not reach my potential. Had I been able to read or study or pay attention, I would have been able to do a lot better and perhaps have been able to explore other opportunities or life paths.
So what…ADD/ADHD explains a crap load about how I got to where I am today, so what now? Is it an excuse to continue living a half-ass life? No, it’s not. With the knowledge of how my mind works and the understanding that yeah, I can ask for the student notes if I feel I need them, I have the ability to change things for the better.
It does take time…and I am trying. Rome wasn’t built in a day and restructuring your entire life cannot happen in a month. I make strides; I fall down…I get back up and try again. There are good days and there are bad days…good moments…bad moments. It changes, sometimes without reason. There’s a lot going on inside my mind right now and I know a lot of people can’t see or understand that.
But I am trying my hardest. Trying hard has never been the problem. I expect greatness, if not perfection and with my brainstyle, things tend to get very complicated there. I don’t spend a single waking moment free from thought, assessment, or problem solving. I spend every moment trying to figure out how in the hell to get my life back on track. But, you spend a lifetime trying as hard as you can and not being able to do and you start to lose the motivation to try and the confidence to put yourself out there.
As independent as I have tried to be or as independent as my thoughts may be, I cannot function on my own. In compensating for things I could not do on my own, I have come to rely on others in my life. I’m not a patient person and I frustrate myself daily. But the diagnosis alone cannot fix the issue…the medication alone cannot restructure the life.
I keep going…as I hear it in my head, “Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.”
But there’s more. Generalized Anxiety Disorder…yeah, that’s a surprise there. I mean big freaking shocker…I’m terrified of life and everything in it? No way. And what to do with this one, I’m not so sure. I’ve tried willing myself out of it. So many have said, “Just do it…it’s that easy;” they don’t understand. Or my favorite, “Everybody gets nervous about that.” Sure, but all the rest of you can do it in spite of the fear…the fear does not shut you down or make you completely avoid life. There are things that frighten all of us throughout life…first day of school, first dates, trips to the doctor…or the like…but we go and we move past the fear…and I know it’s a spectrum…like everything else in life. There are some people who are so consumed by anxiety that they cannot face their first day of school or they cannot face their first date…perhaps it varies throughout life as people evolve within themselves…but I’m stuck here in this freaking moment and I don’t know what the hell to do.
And I wonder how I got here. “Not all who wander are lost,” I can bs my way through that statement all I want, but we all know I’m freaking lost as hell…either forgot the atlas or can’t find it under the pile of crap that resides, permanently, on my the floorboard of my car.
I can; however, look back at the roads that led me here and it becomes more clear each step I take.
Denial simply postpones the inevitable.
I spoke with a lisp as a child. My “g’s” were “q’s” and my “d’s” were “b’s.” They thought they were going to have to put tubes in my ears. I couldn’t tie my shoes. I couldn’t tell time.
They put ME in gifted classes.
It’s ironic how the one label I received as a child has harmed me more than any I have found in the recent years. They put me in gifted classes, which meant I was smart…or, at the very least, expected to perform as such. I was a year behind where I was supposed to be, which always sort of cancelled out the “gifted” label to me. It came so easily to everyone else around me…everything did. I didn’t really care. I tried. I came into this world fighting for my life and I will always be a fighter. But somewhere between the shocking tone of, “You can’t tie your own shoes yet?” and yet another September with unread summer reading (the same summer reading that intrigued me beyond explanation in all my complete nerdy style when I received the list of books the previous June), I realized that I am not like everybody else…that perhaps I want things more than most people, that I can see the benefit in education, that I long for it, but, hard as I try, I cannot grasp it.
And all the while, you know it must be you, you must not be trying hard enough…even though, somehow, you know that can’t be true because you couldn’t possibly try any harder. You’ve tried sleeping with the book under your pillow (to learn by osmosis), you’ve tried reading the book aloud and sleeping with the tape-recorded version under your pillow, you’ve tried underlining the entire book, you’ve tried retyping the entire book, you’ve tried highlighting the important stuff (but isn’t it all important if it’s included in the book?), you’ve tried referring to the book only for the parts that align with your class notes…and your class notes-they were a whole ‘nother hopeless struggle. The money you spent on Student Notes (even when you actually had your own) should’ve been spent on beer with the rest of those slackers as that would’ve done you just as much good.
I kept on, having nothing to blame my failures on but myself. After all, I was gifted, so my brain was capable of digesting the information…if I could only discipline myself enough to get it there.
The self-loathing increased over the years…how could it not? Each year built on the previous year and I got farther and farther behind. I could pull my weight (between all-nighters and creative study techniques) until 5th grade…from there, it was all downhill.
I sat at the back of that lecture hall, blending in with the hundreds of students around me. It was a new semester, a new chance to make it. The professor offered it up, “If any of you need the assistance of a student note-taker, please see me after class.” I listened, hopeful for a second. I thought, “Maybe I should get one. Then I could pay attention to the professor instead of trying to write down everything he says with the intentions of figuring it all out later.” I had long since realized I could not keep up with the professor or focus enough between the thoughts in my head and the sounds of tapping feet, running air conditioners, and students walking by outside. I always intended to learn the information later, but found I couldn’t read the information or process it, even in the most solitude of places. After a lifetime of education, I knew what I was capable of, or what I wasn’t capable of, rather…but I also knew what I was expected to be capable of. “I will just have to try harder. Asking for a student note-taker would be just taking the easy way out. That’s for people who really have a problem, not for people who are just lazy like me.”
And I could spend forever looking back at all the times I should’ve asked for help or should’ve heard the cries of helplessness within my heart. But that wouldn’t fix the problem.
There are labels to come, some of which I am expecting…some of which I fear. But, if nothing else, I have learned that as detrimental as labels may be (if incorrect or incomplete), they can also be that missing piece that completes your puzzle.
We ARE all different. We ALL have our own set of weaknesses and our set of strengths. It does us no good to pretend that we do not have weaknesses. It does a person no good to run from who they really are; deep down we know we can only save ourselves.”