Grief, Depression, or Something Else Entirely?

So… I got diagnosed with ADHD today… surprise?! After 3 and a half hours of tests and studying the data, the doc sat me down and explained to me the way my brain works. Or, um, doesn’t work, I should say.

I cried. Perhaps not for the reason you think. I had to grab the box of tissues because I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief. To know that my frustration with my own brain wasn’t my imagination… or an elaborate excuse I’d come up with for my failures.

The neuropsychologist described it thoroughly, taking me through the purpose of each test I’d done and what the details of my performance told them about my mind. (Neuropsychology is fascinating…) 

As she spoke I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d never clearly been understood, or even understood myself, before that moment. 

You see, my relationship with depression has become more complicated in the last few years. Though I didn’t understand how… or why…before today. 

When mom’s death felt fresh and raw, I knew my sadness was valid.  I had the most legitimate of reasons to be down. Shit happens. In fact, it probably would have been concerning if I didn’t struggle for a while. But when the shock wore off, nothing went back to normal. The bad feelings got worse. And, somehow, the depression felt different.

Grief never really finishes, to be fair. I’ll never feel good about not having a mom anymore. I’ll miss her in the way you can only miss the person who brought you into the world. But I had come to a peace treaty with grief. I accepted its permanence with as much grace as I could and allowed it to lay low in the background from now on. 

Still, the sadness stayed. The unhappiness intensified. It felt like my fault. I was trying so hard every day, but still letting myself down. (Interestingly enough, upon research I’ve found there’s evidence that PTSD, which I had as a result of mom’s month in hospice, can cause ADHD.)

I’m not going to go into the details of my symptoms, because we’d end up with a book on our hands! All you need to know is that my intuition was onto something. There was more to my depression, so I started to thoroughly examine my own mind and thoughts and patterns and shortcomings. 

I realized my daily behavior was upsetting. Not in any way that hurt others, but in a way that hurt me. In a way that tore me down a little more each and every hour of the day. I sound dramatic., but I promise that statement is not as hyperbolic as you might think. I mean, I gotta live in this noggin 24/7! 

The chasmic disparity between my intelligence and my ability to use it had me frozen in place, stuck in a 20-something nightmare of, “I guess this is all I’ll ever be.” 

I hated myself. 

Even if I couldn’t convincingly love myself, I still worked to show myself love and care in action.  

So I became my own advocate. I trusted my intuition and my intelligence. I listened to them like I would a friend. I insisted I be taken seriously. And when others led me towards doubt, I held my ground. 

I keep catching myself thinking, dear lord, calm down, plenty of people have adhd, it isn’t the end of the damn world! … but then I get this overwhelming feeling of hope at the thought that I might be able to fix this… and the hope wins out. 

An adult diagnosis feels surreal and SO exciting. Like I might get a whole new chance to live a life I’m proud of- a chance I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t trusted myself. The flood of relief I felt while sitting in that office made me understand how sad it would have been if I’d given up.

For every moment I wanted to do something and my brain said, “I can’t. I just can’t, I really really can’t” for no. fucking. reason… there’s the potential for relief from that now?! I don’t know how to possibly describe that I could almost feel my frontal lobe and rest of my brain as two separate pieces of my mind, fighting one another like siblings. 

So if you’re struggling to start caring for yourself (like me, who just didn’t respond to the doctor’s voicemail for over a month) it’s OKAY. 

It’s never too late to start paying attention. It’s never too late to act. It’s never too late to give yourself a chance.

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