From the earliest memory I can remember during my childhood, the world was a scary place that left me with a wide array of mixed emotions. At times, everything would be vibrant and clear, but then others, overwhelming and confusing. There were days I would feel as if I could hang out in a crowd of a hundred people and be the life of the party, but then sometimes the shadows of anxiety would overtake me and even the simplest of tasks would seem monumental and near impossible to accomplish. Despite these ups and downs, the ‘why’ behind these mood swings remained unknown for a very long time.
Throughout my life, I always felt like I was an outsider in my own body. Like an ominous cloud overhead, anxiety would remain persistent and overwhelming in what seemed like my entire life. But, as I am sure many of you could relate, I never understood what was happening or where it was coming from. I always envisioned life to be “normal” to me, but, looking back, it was anything but normal. After years of challenges faced throughout adulthood, I had started finally putting pieces together.
At first, much of my family, who remained inexperienced in mental health, would just classify it as “butterflies” or “nerves.” Yet, there were days where I held this overwhelming dread and fear that would not go away. My doctor would just say it was anxiety, and nothing to be concerned about and eventually I would grow out of it. I am sure you can take a guess that I did not in fact get over it. As the years started progressing, and I became more educated in the field of mental health, my emotional journey started to unveil itself.
For a very long time, I thought I suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a common diagnosis in the field of mental health that just regards an individual as excessively over-thinking, worrying, etc. But this was a self-diagnosis from education in the field and I should have known better than I most certainly should not have relied on this and sought professional help sooner. You live and you learn, right?
When I finally found the time and courage to seek my own mental health support and I received my first real diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When I say I almost walked out of my therapist’s office to find a new one, the thought was real, and it was strong. There was no way in hell I had a diagnosis of PTSD. How? I was a therapist myself and I had everything figured out, or at least I thought I did. The reality of it is though, it doesn’t even stop there. I talk more about this experience in another blog, and if you have not read it, I highly encourage you to do so as it discusses PTSD in much more detail.
Fast forward several years after this diagnosis and much radical acceptance, and trauma focused healing, I received another diagnosis. There was another piece to this puzzle and when I found it, everything seemed to make so much more sense. I was also diagnosed with ADHD, a revelation that painted my entire life in an entirely new light.
The ADHD Enigma in My Life
Can you remember the days during childhood when you couldn’t wait to start a new class or there was an upcoming school trip? It was an exciting time that offered new experiences and fun for many. For me, I would look for every excuse to stay home and avoid it at all costs. I wasn’t trying to be rebellious, or cause conflict with my parents by pretending to be sick or adamantly refusing to go to school. Rather, it was the anxiety I discussed earlier that would become so overwhelming to the point I could barely function. Getting up in the morning and thinking about all the tasks of the day ahead would cause this feeling of serious dread. It was enough to make me want to force myself to become sick just so I didn’t have to face the reality of whatever was coming next.
The thought of having to do certain tasks like math or reading in front of the class, or anything involving multiple steps felt like I had to walk across hot lava. It was like my mind just did not want to process what I was learning and would shut itself down. Oddly enough, if the topic interested me in any capacity, I not only grasped it, but I would hyper focus on it and become good at understanding it. But, if it didn’t immediately click, I felt as if I was wading through quicksand. When that would start, my brain would find other means of finding what it wanted, which was to avoid everything it couldn’t understand at all costs. So instead, I would become impulsive, speak out of turn, daydream, or go to the bathroom to cause some type of trouble. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times my parents received calls from the principal or my teachers. In my defense, there was only so many times someone wanted to hear they were being “careless” or “lazy” all because their mind processed things much differently than the average person.
Embracing the Journey: From Clarity to Advocacy
Finding understanding about these aspects of myself was not about finding labels. We don’t really walk into the office of a mental health professional and say, “give me a label so I can feel cool and relate to others.” Rather, it was about liberation from the constant chaos of life. It gave me the ability to not only understand myself, but also find ways of not just surviving but thriving. In fact, getting the proper diagnosis not only allowed me to gain understanding about myself, but also broadened my perspective, fueling my passion to understand the intricacies of mental health so that I could then better help the clients I serve. This personal evolution was pivotal in my decision to specialize in working with individuals who had similar struggles. It allowed me to become a trauma specialist, serving others with PTSD through the power of EMDR. It also allowed me to become highly educated in not only treating ADHD, but recognizing it in others, which is so often overlooked.
Message from One Heart to Another
At the heart of my journey lies a fundamental truth – our struggles are both our challenge and our strength. As I pieced together the complexities of my emotions, it wasn’t merely about healing but also about understanding. Every insight, every moment of clarity, was a step towards a hopeful tomorrow.
If you’re reading this and feeling weighed down by your own battles, know this:
- Acceptance is Empowering: Acknowledging your challenges is the first step towards empowerment. These conditions, labels, or diagnoses don’t determine your worth.
- Knowledge is Your Ally: The more I understood about PTSD and ADHD, the more I could navigate them. Unravel these conditions. Break down misconceptions. It’s liberating.
- Lean on Others: There’s no weakness in seeking help. A therapist, a confidante, or a support group can provide insights that resonate, uplift, and guide.
- Celebrate Every Victory: Every day won’t be perfect, but every challenge overcome, no matter how small, is a testament to your resilience.
There’s an inherent strength within you, perhaps yet undiscovered. Life’s adversities, while daunting, also pave the way for profound personal growth. Amidst the darkest nights, remember that dawn is inevitable. And in that dawn, with the right support and understanding, you can find a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
Life’s complexities have shaped me, both as an individual and a therapist. And if there’s one thing, I’d want anyone to know — it’s that our struggles, our vulnerabilities, make us more human, more relatable. It’s in these shared experiences that we find strength, understanding, and growth.