Recently diagnosed earlier this week… thought that sharing my thoughts/trajectory to this point might help myself, as well as other people new to these waters.
I was a very bright child, very creative and constantly working on little projects. Any other Chinese speakers here? My parents would call me 灵活 - mandarin for lively/nimble/generative. So I always associated many of these traits as positive - though I did struggle with other things, like being overly chatty, loud, and hurting my friend’s feelings with my carelessness. Losing so many sets of keys, wallets, jackets, etc. I was enrolled in Chinese lessons, piano, math tutoring, et cetera, and while I performed well in everything, I was also aware I felt a need to do even more than that, or rather, less structured, more creative things, so I taught myself all sorts of crafts to fiddle with after school and on weekends, sewing, knitting, baking, etc. I struggled to fall asleep because I would be stuck thinking about my projects. I laughed at myself for it - there’s something so absurd about having a restless night because you’re thinking about how best to construct a layer cake (pastry cream? mousse? fruit filling??) - but it was also troubling, frustrating; I wondered what was wrong with me. I first experienced existential dread and depression at age ten; waves of depression would hit from then on.
I got into an amazing college. I moved very far away from home, and hit some major roadblocks: I couldn’t choose a major; I couldn’t give up any of my interests - it felt like if I gave up even one, it would be gone forever; I got into a series of unhealthy relationships with emotionally codependent/abusive partners, and even when I did fall for someone who genuinely cared for me, my bouts of emotionality would shake things down to the foundation again and again; by senior year, I felt like I had done everything wrong - jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I had daydreams about completely divergent career paths: English professor, fiction writer, surgeon, psychiatrist.
The road out began with treatment for depression symptoms, which had grown out of control. I couldn’t sleep anymore without being paralyzed by fear for hours beforehand, crying to my boyfriend that I was scared. I couldn’t socialize - too overwhelming. I couldn’t work on my thesis, a project which I had poured so much love and labor into but which I couldn’t seem to make progress on except in frantic bursts. I couldn’t decide what to do after graduation, couldn’t even think of where to look for help, who to talk to. My older brother has bipolar disorder, and used me as his emotional triage in years where I was already struggling to manage myself, let alone a very volatile loved one. Therapy and medication did wonders.
But in the past few months, with the depression under control, I found myself frustrated and complaining - why is it so hard?? Why did it feel like to do all those self-care things (exercise, sleep, meditate, eat right, etc) were lovely for my mental health, but absolutely exhausting for me to complete. I wrote in my journal about six weeks ago, “Why is self-care and self-management so IMPOSSIBLE.” A few weeks later, I burst into therapy with a question that had never crossed my mind before: Do I have ADHD?
(Getting to that point has been really helped by transparency in those around me. A close friend of mine, and my boss both have ADHD. Much of what led me to my fortuitous moment of self-diagnosis was noticing all the ways in which I functioned like them. Especially since I do not belong to a demographic commonly diagnosed.)
I think I am extremely fortunate, and maybe unfortunate, to be very high-functioning. I’m smart (though I’ve rarely felt that way), and I’ve done a really good job so far (or, so I try to remind myself). But there’s this dissonance between my self-image and my external image. I can’t blame my friends at all for responding to my fears and doubts with incredulity - from the outside, I appear very successful. But I want to learn to be gentle with myself, And I want to teach myself and my loved ones that there is a simultaneous function occurring, in that my internal experience of frustration/self-doubt/self-loathing is real, while my external presentation of competence is also real. The lurching depression has been very real, very sobering to think about, and often, hard to admit.
For the past month since I first began wondering about if I have ADHD, I’ve been leaning into what my brain wants. I’m a lot more scattered, but I have found more energy, more whimsy and fun. I have begun to realize just how self-flagellating I have been towards myself for years. I’m excited and scared for where this ADHD journey is going to take me, and truly grateful to have found this slice of the internet where a bunch of brains like mine are hanging out.