A Different Kind of Perfection

By: Iyassa

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.

  1. Reply

    Wow, this is such an important topic, I’m so glad you brought it up. The topic is critical, as research indicates that up to 50% of people seeking treatment for addiction may also have ADHD. I’m also a clinician specializing in the topic, and will be speaking at this years ADHD conference regarding the “Myths & Truths of ADHD and Addiction/Addiction Recovery”. Here’s two examples of some of the important points I think need to be made:

    Myth: Giving kids stimulant mediation will make them drug addicts as adult
    Truth: Being on (properly prescribed) stimulant medication reduces the risk of addiction for a person with ADHD

    Myth: People with ADHD must discontinue their stimulant medication while in treatment for addiction in order to get sober.
    Truth: Best practice is that addiction treatment should include concurrent ADHD treatment. A person with ADHD has a lower risk for relapse when on their (properly prescribed) stimulant medications.

    It blows my mind how poorly informed the world (including much of the medical community) is regarding the topic. It breaks my heart every time I hear about an addiction treatment center forcing someone off their meds as a condition of treatment. I hope the full facts will make their way to the individual, medical, and treatment communities about this topic.

  2. Reply

    So much if what you say resonates with me and my life.

    • Carrie Allmon
    • June 30, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story of courage and resilience. Hearing stories like yours helps me to remember how awesome I am, with ALL of my differences. Knowing how we best handle the aspects of ourselves that ‘don’t fit’ the EXPECTED model in or culture helps us to celebrate who we are, in spite of those around us who think there is something wrong with us, or who are ashamed of us. Even reading you saying your husband was ashamed of you is helping me to re-frame some of the same stuff that’s going on in my life.

    *I* don’t need to feel ashamed of myself because someone else is ashamed of me. Even as I type this, tears are coming to my eyes, because I think I’ve been trying to people-please my whole life to get acceptance from everyone, especially family (chosen or not) who don’t fully accept me for who I am. I’ve been contorting myself to fit into what I think they’ll like, or at least not get angry at me for. When those I care about express their anger, frustration, disrespect, etc. at me, I have been taking it on as its my job to fix myself, because I haven’t been able to stand it if they don’t approve of me.

    I know this is probably many of our stories starting in childhood (where it usually starts), and leads us through years, decades of being not (smart, fast, calm, like them) enough.

    Thank you, again, Iyassa, you are inspiring me to view my life through a higher perspective lens. You are a beautiful human being!

    • Adam
    • June 28, 2019

    In my early teens I thought not much of it, you know I d realised that I had super powers and figured that if I kept quiet and practiced my craft I could manage quite well and things would only get better. In my later teens and a couple of years into an 80hr a week chef apprenticeship I came across a psych paper on ADD.
    I was kind of confused after the second doctor I approached to find out more and get meds told me that it was an acronym for Absent Dad Disorder. That was my early 20s. It was in my mid 30s that I came to find myself alone in the lounge room tears pouring down like rain as I contemplated the situation. My first unopened bottle of pills in hand I didn’t take my first one for a week or two either.
    It’s been a roller coaster ride the last few years and blah blah blah I’m in more of a shit now than ever.
    But I have hope, iv recently given up smoking, gambling and excessive drinking.
    Reading other peoples stories on ADDA always makes me feel less ashamed and gets me laughing.
    Thank you everyone for sharing your stories, and thank you for ADDA for the one million book recommendations, pod casts and e-mails and the hints and tips. It really is encouraging.

    • Abu Sesay
    • June 27, 2019

    The stigma of the diagnosis and medication is the absolute worst. Droves of people with no qualifications or experiences telling me everything from, “there is no such thing as ADHD. It is a tool for the pharmaceutical industry to make money”, to downplaying my symptoms, to convincing me that the medication was poison. It took for me to be off for a year, believing that I found alternative ways to handle and manage it, me being fired, losing my best friend, and my brother, to realize the error in that. That last part, my brother and my best friend, is what prompted me to do a deeper dive into ADHD. That’s what brought me to the book, ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. That book, plus my endless years of trying and failing every productivity trick in the book and every mind hacking program, to realize how deep this thing was effecting my life. It was a revelation. I don’t even see it as a disorder. More of a superpower that’s a little off the conventional path. But when harnessed, can make you do the impossible in this world. In any event, I empathize with your story. Don’t want to go into much more detail, I would be able to write an incoherent novel. Much love.

    • Rev. Allorrah Be
    • June 27, 2019

    I Am just recently diagnosing mySelf with ADHD/Addiction Disorder which I believe is a result of my Mother’s addiction caused by US Gov. pushing cigarettes on her while she worked in the shipyards in the Columbia River/Oregon and during her pregnancy with me. To add insult to injury, they injected her with their “shiny new toy” = penicillin, at 6-7 months. Her immune system immediately began attacking me as an invader! My lymphatic/glymphatic drainage system could not detox the toxic “medicine” and I swelled up like a balloon. Doctors took me in a dramatic C-section at 7-1/2 months. I weighed 9 pounds, 13 ounces… back in the dark days just before WWII started at Pearl Harbor. I have had autoimmune problems all my life but changing my diet and eliminating gluten, grains, gmo and packaged products, and dairy and adding coconut oil and herbs and spices changed my body and allowed 90 pounds of sludge to slide right out of my fat cells!! I am now 130 pounds, a Petite size 6!! And healthy!! I thank God for my healing and wanted to share this testimony to encourage others. I have finally found out what has made my life so peculiar! I was an entrepreneur at 7, teacher’s assistant/hall monitor from 2nd grade on through grade school, and had exceptional experiences throughout all 77 years of my life. But I still have lymphedema from the autoimmune disorder. I am really looking forward to getting a diagnosis, finally, and learning how to take better care of mySelf! Thanks for Being here for me and others like me: Amazing, Unique, Creative Individuals!

    • Beverli Marshall
    • June 26, 2019

    So much if what you say resonates with me and my life. I only charge at the “getting better”. We are not I’ll or broken – just different. I want others who are diagnosed late in life to feel okay if they choose no to medicate. It’s just great finally to know why we are so different from everyone else!

    • Anita
    • June 26, 2019

    Thanks for sharing this good tale of courage.

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