This post is going to deviate from my normal sewing/crafting/making blog posts, so if you are here for that content, please just come back next week.
It's not that I didn't want it badly enough, because I did. It's not that I wasn't trying hard enough, because I was.
It's not that I wasn't organized enough, because I'm well-known in my circle for being organized.
I've recently discovered that I most likely have ADHD. I came to this discovery after starting home school with my kids and being the most scared I've ever been in my life at failing. I intuitively have known for a long time to not take on large, complex, or long term projects because I always lose interest after a couple months and quit.
Home schooling is definitely a large and long term project, you know?
I really don't even know how to put into words the relief and grief and anger I have been cycling through since this discovery. When I told my friends that I thought I had ADHD and wanted to get a diagnosis, one friend said "I thought you knew?!", one said "are you sure?", and the third said "why would you even want a diagnosis unless you want medication? Everyone that takes medication eventually has to increase the dose, so it's not really even worth it.", and my family has been supportive. I asked my dad if he had it and he said yep, and when I asked if he takes medication for it, he said "yes, it made a tremendous difference."
I wonder how my life would have turned out differently if I had been seen and treated early on. I keep thinking back to my childhood and it sort of feels like my memories are slapping me in the face. I was quiet, bright, sensitive, easily hurt, had trouble making friends, preferred books over social interactions, learned easily but struggled to plan ahead for long projects, was frustrated easily, highly emotional....
So, I called the VA to talk to a mental health specialist and get a formal diagnosis, and that was a total joke. I called, apparently, I am depressed (who isn't, 2020 is a fucking dumpster fire of a year), so they wanted to focus on my depression, despite the fact that I called and said "I want to be evaluated for ADHD." Two weeks after I called, I had an appointment to talk to a psychiatrist. I spent those two weeks rehearsing what I was going to say, convincing myself that I was not going to get laughed at or not taken seriously, convincing myself not to call back and cancel the appointment. I retook the Adult Self-Reporting Screener to make sure the results said what I knew in my heart to be true.
I made voice recordings of what I wanted to say to the doctor, I wrote my voice recordings down so I wouldn't forget what I was saying in the middle of a sentence. I went back over text conversations I had previously had with my family and friends. I turned everything into an outline with bullet points. The doctor was supposed to call me at 1 pm. I cleared my schedule for a solid 15 minutes before the appointed time to get myself into the right head-space, and I gave myself an hour for the phone call. Then 1 pm rolls around. Then 1:05, 1:10, 1:15. I start to panic that I had it wrong and I was supposed to call. So I find the appointment card, re-read it, even though it says they will call, there is a pone number with an extension so I call and end up on hold before I even can talk to a person. Then my phone beeps and the VA is on the other line. The doctor is there, no apologies for being late, just a casual "I'm running a bit behind schedule right now." I start telling her why I called, why I think I have ADHD, she interrupts me after a couple minutes with a question "why are you talking so fast?" I tell her I'm nervous, I want to get it all out before we run out of time. Then she starts asking more and more questions, but the way the questions are framed I can't really explain why I feel the way I feel. I can't explain that these problems that I've lived with my entire life, the feelings of not being good enough, not trying hard enough, not wanting it enough even though I am, I did and I do can all be explained with my family history of ADHD. She is not listening. I get upset. I start crying. She asks about my anxiety levels. Can I sleep at night? Have I ever had siezures. Does depression run in my family. She tells me she thinks I have anxiety, she wants to try me out on some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications for 8 weeks and then check back in with her. She thinks the sleeping pills will really help. My phone call was over in 20 minutes. She didn't listen to a word I couldn't say. I was flustered.
I got off the phone and cried, and then I tried to convince myself the psychiatrist knew better, maybe I do "just have anxiety". I talked to my mom. My friends. My boyfriend. I cried some more. Maybe I was "just" depressed. It did not feel right. I don't doubt I have anxiety, but I think the source of my anxiety is undiagnosed/untreated ADHD, not that it is there on its own.
I'm now facilitating learning for my beautiful daughters. They are 5 and 8. They are smart and funny and sensitive and empathetic and clumsy and weird just like I was when I was a little girl. My 8 year old can't sit still. She's so bright, she loves animals and babies. She always makes friends with the little kids that she can empathize with, and kids her own age confuse the crap out of her. But she can't concentrate on anything for more than five minutes, except video games. She gets overwhelmed any time I present her with challenging information or tasks. She cries when she can't spell a word shes never heard before. I remember back to 4th grade being so nervous at timed multiplication tests that I would pee my pants in school, or my leg bouncing so hard in an effort to focus my mind that I would be bouncing desks 3 feet away from me, or getting upset when my teacher said on the first day of school "turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself" I was crying because I was new at school and none of the kids in my classroom were my neighbor. I remember being so frustrated after missing a lecture due to my daydreaming that I would fail a test. I would finish homework assignments only to forget them at home. I was a bright student, I never really had to try all that hard in school and I graduated high school with honors. But when college came around, it was all too overwhelming and I quit after my first year when my grades and attendance started slipping.
My 8-year old has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. She had lyme disease a few years ago. That was really hard, but then she got better, but in some ways she didn't. She was so young when she was diagnosed and began treatment, that her personality was just beginning to show, and I think ADHD has been there in the background all this time. I see it so clearly in her now that I can recognize it in my younger self. I didn't know ADHD was genetic until I began reading up on it. My parent has ADHD. He gave it to me. I gave it to my daughter.
I am still trying to figure out how to get a diagnosis. The problem is that I am a woman. A grown woman, and I don't look like a hyperactive little boy that can't sit still. Except I can not sit still. I am always on the go. I learned a long time ago that I can't sit still, so every morning I make myself ridiculously long to-do lists, and I usually get most of them done. I do so much in a day that I add items to my to-do list just so I can cross more off. I never finish a task on the first round, I usually start and finish 6 more before I get the first one done. Because I can't sit still. I have trouble sitting down with my babies and playing games with them, I space it, it bores me. I bring knitting with me everywhere because I have done it for so long I can keep my hands busy which keeps my mind engaged at the task at hand (conversations are the worst). I am always doing several things at once. I love new things, until they get boring, or hard, and then I quit. I have quit nursing school, I quit college several times. I quit doula training. I quit horse riding lessons, singing lessons twice (I hated the sound of my voice after practicing for several hours), ukulele lessons, I started and quit the Master Knitter Program. I thought maybe I quit things because they weren't a good fit for me, but I even quit things I love that bring me a lot of joy because I lose focus on it.
I have quit every job I've ever had within a year of getting hired, except for that one job I really loved that I got fired from. I lasted as an exotic dancer for years because that job is built for flaky people that can't stay in one place for long, and the drugs and alcohol and fast money made it easy to stay, I was never sober at that job. When dancing would get boring, I would just go to a new club, and I would make decent money because I was always the "new" girl. But I was a terrible sales person, I couldn't sell drinks, and I had too much empathy for the sad men in the clubs, so I took a little of their money, but not enough to do more than pay my fees and rent and bills. The best dancers were con artists, but not me.
I've quit all my intimate relationships so far. Most of them were really unhealthy. Some were abusive. A few were not that bad and I could have figured out how to make them work if I knew then that my brain is the way it is. I have unhealthy boundaries because I am a people pleaser, because I have rejection sensitivity dysphoria due to my ADHD, which also has caused and chronic imposter syndrome and low self esteem from feeling like a permanent failure at life. I am easily frustrated because I suck ass at regulating my moods and emotions.
This all sounds so bleak and negative, doesn't it? You know what is really crazy though? I am the most hopeful and happy I have ever been in my life. I really am. ADHD is not an excuse, it is the explanantion I have been looking for my entire life. Why am I like this? Why am I the way that I am? Why do I want so badly to be successful and happy and normal, and yet I can never bridge the gap between wanting and achieving? I finally have an answer. It's this massive missing puzzle piece to my brain that I finally found. I get me now.
I am still trying to figure out how to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor that will actually listen to me. I really want to try medication and cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling. I have a long ways to go, but having an explanation is a huge first step. Having an explanation has allowed me to forgive myself. I am learning about how ADHD brains work from an amazing YouTube channel "How To ADHD" and implementing suggestions that feel right into my life, and I am already seeing small improvements.
I desperately want my daughter to be evaluated. I want her to have the therapies and support in her life that can put her on a path that includes more self confidence and self esteem and understanding. My childhood was chaotic during the early years, and I am now realizing that chaos was an outward expression of my own father's inner chaos from his ADHD. We all lived it. I thought I was just imprinted on it, it never occurred to me that the chaos I have been making for myself for the last 38 years was due to the same neuro-developmental condition that he has. I am so happy I can forgive myself.
The long term implications of understanding my brain are just starting to creep into my peripheral vision. I can be successful. I can be kind, patient, understanding. I can take on long term, complicated tasks. I know I will probably get distracted along the way, and it may take me longer to finish than "normal" brains, but if I persevere I will succeed. I never had hope for my future. I never thought I would be able to accomplish anything big. I never thought I would be anything more than mediocre, and now I know that is not true. I can be more. And the best part is that my daughters will be able to do big things and feel accomplished. They may have my affliction, but it doesn't have to hold them back the same way it held me back.