So I wish I knew what was wrong with me. I just can’t seem to focus on many different things. My thoughts tend to wander too easily. I can’t keep myself interested in things after I leave the classroom. I forget important things. Am I odd in this? I don’t know. I think I am different in some way in how I keep track of what is important in life. My priorities themselves are much like most everyone I know, but the way I handle them is not. Am I lazy? Not caring? Do I have some developmental problem? I don’t know.
I have decided that my main problem in public schools was that I was either bored with the material or it was too complicated to keep my interest so most of the time I was daydreaming and doodling.
Not too different these days.
That was a journal entry of mine from 2005. I was thirty-one years old and in the middle of my undergraduate studies at Eastern Kentucky University. I struggled to get that degree. It took seven calendar years for me to get an undergraduate, not counting the shorter stints over the previous thirteen years wherein I attempted to find a career / life path through higher education. My twelve years sentence in K12 education was even worse. At least in my long stretch to the finish in college I was invested and engaged in my education. It never really got easier, but the expectations changed and I was better able to manage myself as a non-trad commuter.
It was late 2005 when I first began to seriously question if I had something fundamentally wrong with me. Until then I just assumed I was a “normal” person. What is normal? Even now I don’t know if I agree with the “neuro-typical” and “neuro-atypical” labels. I think we’re all screwed up to some degree.
But regardless, I figured out over a two year process that apparently the wiring harness installed in my brain or the software version I was running was for a different model. The expectations of Western Civilization were no motivation for me and instead offered nothing but torment and frustration.
I was finally diagnosed with ADHD on March 5, 2007. It’s been ten years.
I missed a great blogging opportunity on Sunday / Monday. I’m here to correct that. However, the real landmark date was March 28, 2006. On that day I sat in our home office trying to write a paper for some class. After hours of unproductive internet play I became frustrated to the point of anger. I remembered or reread the entry that I’ve copied at the top of this piece and typed into my handy-dandy Google search bar: “symptoms of ADD.” On that day I felt as if I had met the real me. I felt like the veil across my eyes had been taken away. I felt like someone had flipped on a light. But instead of hope my world devolved into despair. I felt broken, betrayed by the world, alone, and hopeless. My life changed that day more than any other single day before or since.
Since that day I’ve discovered more and more about myself. I also realized I suffer from very real and at time debilitating depression. I figured the sad moods I’d felt my entire adult life were just carryovers from my adolescent peaks and valleys. I assumed everyone went through the cycles I went through. I didn’t realize I was stoically bearing the burden of a comorbid gang of neurological demons hanging about my neck and chewing on my thoughts day after day after day.
I’ve also learned that I’m much stronger than I ever believed. While I may not have the physical endurance to do the things I would love to do I have a mental toughness that has protected me through the storms of my life. I’m one of those people who have been able to carry on putting up the front that nothing is wrong and that I’m well-adjusted and “normal.”
What’s different now—after living a decade with all of this new knowledge about myself—is that despite my strength and despite the coping strategies I learned without even knowing it I am running out of road. I just can’t keep trying to shoulder this burden alone. I can’t bear the weight without seeking outside help.
I have to back up just a bit. I’ve had help for the past eighteen years. My wife has been the solid rock in my life. Without her support I would have been adrift and likely sunk a long time ago. When I am at the bottom of the darkest well she is the one to shine the light I need to climb out. When I am lost in the wilderness it’s her voice I listen for to guide me out.
I’ve depended on her too much. Neither of us are mental health professionals. And so, after too long ignoring my mental health needs I am seeing a therapist. Tomorrow is my second visit. I honestly don’t know where this path is going to lead. But I needed to explore this, and I should have done so a long time ago.
When I was younger I didn’t expect I’d ever go through a midlife crisis, but then again, I didn’t expect to make such startling discoveries about myself going into midlife. I’m not predicting going bald and growing chest hair to show off through gold chains and buying a Corvette, but these days my mind is in turmoil all the time. I can point to specific factors that are troubling me, but there are days when I feel like there’s no point in trying to pick the flotsam and jetsam out of the flood to prevent getting pricked when it’s the flood itself that’s the problem.
I know, Dear Readers, this isn’t the happy-go-lucky fare you’re used to here on this back alley wall of the internet, but it felt timely, and I am determined not to sweep this stuff under the rug because I know part of my problem has been the cultural un-awareness of mental health issues.