I was raised that anything you do in life, you do it to the best of your ability. Never let anyone see your flaws, you need to be perfect. I truly tried to live by that ideal, but the reality was that I could “never apply” myself. Those words echoed throughout my life. “If only you would apply yourself, pay attention, try harder, and think about what you are doing”.
I knew what I should be, looking at all my classmates sitting so peacefully in their seats. It seemed that it came so easily to them. And I hated myself and my inability to match up. After years of academic failures and a failed marriage, my life literally changed in a blink of an eye.
After giving birth to my first son, my doctor approached me and stated: “I know what is wrong with you!” I actually laughed in his face! Years of doctors, misdiagnosis, and trying different medications that didn’t work had jaded me. But after a year, I realized my son deserved a better mother.
I went back to the doctor and was prescribed medication. I postponed taking it for a week partially due to fear and also the stigma that circled ADHD medication. I remember the first moment I took it. For the first time in my life, I understood what it was like to be normal. In a blink of an eye, the world simplified. My life went from being so complicated and chaotic, to calm and manageable.
I went back to college and finished two master’s degrees with highest honors. Many would think that would be my happy ending, but life is fickle. The doctor that treated me made a prophecy that came to light. “Good morning, Alice. Now you are back from wonderland you need to deal with reality”. It seemed like an odd thing to say but in truth, it was the wisest thing I ever heard.
We all expect that our loved ones will be happy we get better. Sadly that is not always the case. The healthier I became mentally and emotionally, the more my husband tried to bring me back down. It was not surprising that he didn’t like the healthy me, he was in love with the distracted, forgot phone in the fridge, not able to function on her own girl. He went as far as going to my psychiatrist insisting I had amphetamine syndrome. My doctor knew better, and so did everyone around me. But I was left with the choice: do I keep my “perfect marriage” and discontinue my medication or do I walk away with nothing but my mind.
I had trained myself by this time that I could function without medication and I found it easier to achieve focus once I knew my state of mind, so to speak. So the reason I left my husband was not that he did not want me to take the medication. It was because he was ashamed of who I was.
My oldest son was diagnosed with this same disorder. The doctor looked at me stunned and stated out of all his patients he never saw a more severe case as my son, or someone functioning as well with the disability. If I were to stop taking my medication and allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole again to make my spouse happy, it would be like telling my son that there is something wrong with him. That there is shame in the medication we take that allows us to function on the same scale as our typical peers. That morning I left my wedding rings on the counter, took my prescription bottle and have not looked back.
Many people say they are sorry to hear of the divorce and I laugh. I tell them they should feel sorry if I stayed one minute longer.
I work as a counselor with dual diagnosis patients specializing in ADD/ADHD and addiction. People have asked me if I’m resentful that I was diagnosed so late. I am not. I understand that my life would have been drastically altered if I had not survived my past. This gives me perspective and hope to help others.
My life is not what most would consider perfection. But that acquired perspective has given me a different idea of what perfection is, and I would not change this even if I could.