Heya, new brain here.
This introduction is probably going to take a bit, so no hard feelings for skipping or zoning out. It has only been a couple weeks since I realized that there are way more people that face some of the same struggles every day.
TL;DR: Hi I’m new here, had a rough few months, but hey, who hasn’t at some point? Things are starting to look up. Hope to see you around.
3 months ago I felt like was at the edge of rock bottom and a void. The past 7 years of my life had been a mixture of depression, heartache, weed addiction, social isolation, self-hatred, low self-esteem all thrown into a blender and served intravenously with a catheter after I shackled myself to a chair.
I’ve always had a believable mask on in front of everybody. My parents taught me as a child to just smile and laugh whenever I was bullied, that way I make them believe they have nothing on me, which worked quite well once I learned how to fake a genuine smile good enough so other people would believe it, good enough to convince/scare my therapist with it, and sometimes even myself.
My parents moved to Spain when I was 8, but I was never able to feel happy there and for years I was homesick. My lack of attention span or ability to focus caused many issues and bad grades at school. My teacher was quite an a****le and sometimes abusive (getting mad, grabbing my ear and shouting). Inside, but mostly outside the classroom I was bullied with the word “mono”, which means monkey in Spanish. I got that name because I was quite good in climbing stuff. Whenever there was a ball that got stuck high up in a tree, I was the one able to get it.
After repeating one year I was able to go to high school, and for some reason my parents thought it was best to send me to an all-boys Catholic high school. Aside from the fact that 1) I had/have no connection with religion, so why a Catholic school? and 2) we had to wear uniforms that were itchy, I HATED it, the worst was 3) the fact that a few of the guys that previously bullied me in school, were actually going to the same high school as I was. Even though he said he would stop bullying me, you can guess how that turned out.
At home things weren’t any better. I was (still am) often quite forgetful. I forgot tasks, instructions, chores, deadlines, I lost backpacks, books, jackets, shoes, watches, sunglasses, hats, keys, pens. If it wasn’t attached to me or written down on my hand or arm (even then…) I would forget everything the second one would finish talking. So my parents were often mad at me. I eventually got used to people just being mad at me, for whatever reason. They were usually right.
At that time my parents bought a piece of land and were planning to build a house on it. It was their dream to turn the place into an oasis. Granted, many gallons of blood, sweat and tears, and years later the place looks amazing, but it was never my dream, it actually felt more like a constant nightmare. During the week I had school where teachers were mad at me and kids were bullying me, at home I felt caged up and unmotivated to meet up with friends, because I had none, so mostly I was homesick back to the Netherlands. I don’t remember my age exactly, I must’ve been 12 or 13 years old, but I remember it because (quick side note: I’m a huge dog lover) one of our 2 dogs was really sick and we had to put him to sleep, a beautiful golden weirdo (retriever) who was my buddy and my rock, the other dog always growled at me when I came near, sometimes even tried to get the upper hand/rank, so I had a hate-hate-love relation with that dog. My bucket got flooded quick and at one point I was sitting at the edge of my bed with a knife on my wrist, pressure already applied and ready for one final motion, but was too scared to actually pull through with it.
I was convinced that my existence only caused problems, issues, and pain to the people around me. I know that kids sometimes shout, “I wish I was never born!” out of frustration or anger, but to me it was a daily reoccurring thought which turned into a slow-growing seed planted in my brain, which I’ll come back on later in the story.
At that time the internet was becoming more and more popular and we finally got an internet connection at home as well. This opened a new world for me because 1) I could do this by myself, nobody else needed. 2) satisfied every teenage curiosity and devilish idea I had. 3) I was able to make friends online and 4) was always available. Perfect! (Or so I thought).
Like I mentioned, my parents bought a piece of land to build their house on and realize their dream. Yeah, in a way it was pretty cool to have so much space available, it also meant that it was quite far away from the nearest town and other kids my age, let alone the nearest city (25 min car drive, one way). Because of the location where we lived, riding a bicycle was pretty much ruled out as an option, unless you wanted to arrive drenched in sweat because of the terrain and risk a heatstroke, so staying home it is…
Each and every opportunity my parents got, they wanted to drive up to their piece of land and work on it (gardening, planting, cleaning, weeding, shoveling sand, gravel, cement, stones, rocks, bricks, laying down electricity, water, fixing stuff… name it). In a way it gave me a lot of experience, but I always felt isolated and stuck at home before and after we finally moved in there.
Each and every opportunity I got, I tried to go online and talk to my friends on it. That was my window into the world, but because it was always online and heard them talk about the things they were going to do, or were already doing in that moment together as a group, it never actually felt like I was really part of it. I was never actually there physically with them.
After repeating 2 years and finally finished my major (I think it is, if I’m translating correctly) in IT I rushed back to the Netherlands and started building up my life there. It wasn’t long after that when I met a girl from the US online. Things were getting serious rather quick, and 1.5 year after meeting one another and flying back and forth, I moved to the US, and we started living together.
Long story short (because the b**** doesn’t deserve any more attention), we both were often smoking weed at home, perhaps it was because of it, perhaps not (completely), but things eventually weren’t going great. I had a meltdown/crisis and when I needed her most, she dropped me like a brick. Not long after that everything went downhill fast. We ended up in divorce and 6 months after I left and moved back to the Netherlands, 1) I received a message from one of her friends apologizing to me, because he didn’t know she was married, and 2) I found out she had a kid with the guy she told me “Not to worry about” (different one). When I confronted her about it through messaging I got blocked in every possible way.
So, there I was… Back in the Netherlands, staying over at my sister and her boyfriend’s place for over 3 months, which up until this day I still feel like those months were 2 weeks tops, but eventually I found a student room for rent and had to make a first step in picking my life back up. Being 24, and having nothing more than my rented student room, basic Ikea furniture and a couple of suitcases of clothes and stuff along with a broken heart, boiling over with rage, anger and betrayal… Thoughts racing like a train and taking over faster than a forest fire, but still feeling completely powerless to do anything about it.
Yes, I thought about it. Simply putting an end to it all. Again. And again. And again, but somehow it felt like if I were to put an end to it after what happened, she would’ve been the reason as to why I killed myself. Being filled with rage and anger and refusing to give her that satisfaction was the only thing that kept me from it, even though the thoughts kept haunting me.
At one point my money ran out, I was without a job and after applying for over 100 jobs in 1 week (no exaggeration) and receiving minimal response back. Eventually I was struggling to pay rent and I had to apply for welfare. Perhaps it’s my own twisted brain, I’ve always disliked asking people for help, but having to apply for welfare was such an attack on my already low self-esteem. I believed that I should’ve been able to make it on my own. I don’t want or need anybody else, but suddenly I did, and I had to put up my hands and feeling like begging the government for some money to keep my head above water. I felt like a failure, but I had no other option.
Luckily only one month into welfare I got a job and things were getting a bit better. The pay was good, the hours were flexible and best of all: at 10 min walking distance from my house. I didn’t have a car, so I used public transportation when I needed it, but hated using it every trip, so living close to work was a nice perk.
The job wasn’t exactly in my expertise, but all with all, it paid the bills, gave enough flexibility during work hours and didn’t require much effort. I felt like I was doing my job right without much effort, and even though there was quality control, I rarely got any issues reported back, so I knew I was doing my job correctly.
I eventually saved up enough to start looking for a house and apply for a mortgage. Not long after that I eventually was able to buy my own house. It felt nice having a place of my own, but before I had my own house, I was always living with somebody else. Whether that were my parents, a cheating ex-wife or a roommate. It was the first time I was living alone and there was nobody else to see and judge whatever I felt like doing, or not doing. Somehow the fact that if somebody else is able to see the space I live in on a regular basis and judge its state was a way for me to get myself to keep my room in an acceptable condition. Leaving dishes dirty in the kitchen is bothersome for others that want to use it, which was a way to make myself do the dishes because I didn’t want to bother other people with my dirty dishes. When I started to live by myself, there was nobody to “keep in mind”, nobody that can give me a look and make me think to myself “my god, he/she must think I’m a pig living in here like this. Maaaaybe I should clean up”. I had some acceptable times, and quite some low times in the years after that.
Things eventually stagnated into a being stoned daily, my house is a daily mess, the laundry pile is part of the furniture by now. At work things were going downhill. Good coworkers left; bad ones came back in their place. Good managers left; bad ones came back in their place, and suddenly work switched from “this is fine” to “do I really wanna keep putting up with this?”.
I eventually got a new job, but only because an ex-coworker got me in with a good word. It meant better pay, more interesting work (that actually requires technical thinking, which I’m good at), a car to drive to work and some new challenges to overcome.
By that time, I was so used to things “just working out” in my life (big quotation marks, has a lot of double meaning). Ever since I came back to the Netherlands, I feel like I’ve been floating on a raft on a river slowly drifting downstream, just letting the current take me wherever. No real interest to take part in whatever came along, no ambition to partake in. I was living on autopilot with a mask on in front of the world, but because of my new job I had to turn off autopilot and actually take control.
Once behind the wheel and trying to adjust to the new job, I felt like an imposter. Suddenly I was struggling remembering everything from the new job, I struggled for a while to say the new company’s name when picking up the phone, which was quite embarrassing. I often got reports back about mistakes I made, and even though people didn’t make an issue out of it and actually told me I was picking up rather quick, I felt like I did something wrong “again” and was beating myself up about it way more than anybody else.
By this time, I never would’ve considered myself depressed. I felt like that was a heavy label, and once pressed on, quite difficult to get off. Everybody feels depressed sometimes, right? The thing is that feeling depressed becomes the new normal once you’re stoned long enough, and I was having more and more trouble keeping my sh*t together at work and in my personal life. I was always late to reply to text messages, but I started to reply days later, instead of hours, sometimes even not responding at all, not knowing what to say or even bring up the energy to start the conversation.
I delved myself in games, movies, series, novels and weed, trying to escape reality like a turtle hiding in its shell. I came across a novel of a girl (with hidden suicidal tendencies) who was struggling with emotions, not knowing how to express them, but being in a battle with them every day. She eventually jumped off a bridge but survived, so yay, happy ending.
The problem is that the novel became a giant watering can with a power supply of nutrients to that little sprout in my brain, planted years ago and I fell into a 3-week involuntary hyperfocus I couldn’t get out of, flooding me with the darkest thoughts of suicide I’ve ever had.
I know what you’re thinking, (okay, turns out I’m often wrong in that department, but) I even thought it myself as well, “how the hell can you be so unstable to let a character from a fiction novel get you so emotional that it makes you start thinking about killing yourself?”. Truth is, I don’t know, but my shell was paper thin, and everything was able to set me off. Thoughts were haunting me and had dark thoughts in a lot of situations, like walking outside with my dog and seeing a bridge in the distance, and catching myself thinking about whether it would be high enough to make sure I’m really gone? “Perhaps if I aim for the rocks, I’ll have better chances compared to the soft grass.” The thought of standing on the edge of a bridge, looking down and one shift of balance later feeling the air rushing alongside me, feeling weightless for a couple seconds and in the next simply be gone felt so welcome, relaxing, inviting and good. It felt so cathartic that it scared me. It felt like I wasn’t alone in my thoughts anymore and having no control over them. As if I was hooked up to the Matrix and operator is feeding me the Final Fantasy series on a loop with short, commercial type breaks of numbness.
What scared me the most was when I had a near-accident on the highway (caused by the other party that didn’t see me because I was in his blind spot). Even before it happened, I had a feeling, which turned into a thought, and then a wish… I watched the car getting closer and closer, driving 60mph/100kmh and I feel myself getting hyped up, I mean enthusiastic, happy, excited for what I hoped was about to happen. I didn’t turn the car away, I didn’t release the gas, I didn’t hit the brakes. I did nothing to keep myself safe. I just kept driving in my lane at my speed. The other car eventually saw me, steered away, and properly passed me, after which I flooded by disappointment and frustration. I got so confused by this battle in my head. If I wanted to die, why would I get confused and scared in part of my brain, but at the same time, why would I be obsessed with thoughts of suicide if there wouldn’t be an underlying desire for it? I always thought I was too much of a coward to actually pull through but realizing that fantasizing about a potentially lethal accident was starting to feel soothing, which by logic, should feel unnatural and was a major conflict in my head.
I eventually opened up towards my sister, later found out I (obviously) scared the living shit out of her and I felt bad about dragging her through it. She helped me get into therapy, finally snapping out of my hyperfocus from haunting suicidal thoughts eventually easing up to depression and progressing into figuring out whether all of this could be because of some undiagnosed ADHD.
I know about ADHD, or so I thought. “I don’t have that label because I’m not hyperactive enough, so it couldn’t be that”, or so I thought (shallow, I know, I’m sorry). But the more questions my therapist asked, the more I had to respond with “yes”, “often” or “always” and it started to realize what the actual struggles are when having ADHD and I started to recognize my daily struggles in them.
Realizing now that most my low self-esteem and self-hatred is rooted in ADHD symptoms that I can do something about gives so much needed hope. My diagnosis is currently still on-going. Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of psychiatrists at the moment where I live, they are the only ones who are authorized to make that diagnosis (not sure if it’s any different in the US).
In the meantime, my hyperfocus kicked in and honed in on researching ADHD (and having more and more “wait, I have that too, that’s a (comorbidity of an) ADHD symptom?” every time), and started binge-watching videos on How to ADHD, even though Jesse said in one video that it’s not a good idea to binge watch everything (I KNOW!! Guess what? Don’t think about a pink elephant!) and think “oh I’ll just do that, change this and that and all’ll be fixed” (unfortunately true), it did help shed some light in my dark mind. It was my therapist that presented the idea and told me to research ADHD a bit to see if any of it would resonate with me, but Jesse’s videos on How to ADHD were the ones that helped convince me, help me see what kind of hidden struggles and obstacles are ADHD related, and that there are more people who deal with the same struggles. It helped me see my future a bit brighter than what it was.
For once I didn’t feel alone, like I have been for most of my life. It felt like as if all my life I was trying to walk up a mountain while I’m dragging a huge rock behind me, tethered by a steel cable, not understanding why the hell it’s so damn difficult to get up there. People around me didn’t seem to have any rocks or issues, so it took somebody else to point out to me “look behind. You’re dragging a rock behind you. Looks like you can’t cut the wire, but if you put wheels under it, it’ll be easier”.
To me, that somebody is Jesse. I don’t know if she still reads every new introduction, but Jesse, if you do: thank you for doing what you do. Your videos helped me understand a lot of hidden (familiar) struggles that I didn’t know were ADHD related/caused, and how to approach a lot of these obstacles. That there is no such thing as normal, but rather neurotypical and neurodivergent. That I’m not (just) lazy, but there’s an explanation to why I have to scrape every bit of motivation together just to do the laundry. But more important, that there is a way to deal with it. Again, thank you.
If you made it all the way to the end, not only do you deserve a sticker as Focus reward token, but also my thanks for taking the time (and effort!) to read this book of an introduction.
In my defense, the description underneath Intros does say “Tell us a little (or a lot) about yourself”.