ADDA asked me to share my story. My first thought was, “Why would they ask me? I don’t have a story anyone wants to hear.” Yes, that voice in my head is almost always negative. I reject myself before someone else has a chance.
Along with ADHD, I struggle with depression. Depression and ADHD are quite often coexisting conditions. Like ADHD, there are diagnostic criteria and common symptoms. But like ADHD, depression can present differently across individuals. (If you or someone is dealing with depression, please learn more and get help. But this story is not about depression, so…)
Since childhood, I’ve had professional support in different areas of my life. But it wasn’t until adulthood that I started to make real progress. Many of the coping skills I developed turned out to be bad for me in the long run. For example, rejecting myself. I almost turned down this opportunity to share my story with you. Sure, turning down opportunities prevents me from failing and protects me from pain. But how many personal and professional opportunities have I passed up in my lifetime? And the longer I practice these ‘skills’, the harder they are to stop. They become habits. But, even though I sometimes feel hopeless, I am not helpless.
As an adult, I started learning new strategies and soon saw tiny bits of progress. I realized there ARE things I can do to help myself. Like we learn skills to help with ADHD symptoms, we can learn skills to help with depression. I wish I could say, “And this is how I made changes and now everything is awesome! Call this number and I’ll help you solve your problems!” That is not where this is going.
Getting help and making changes in my life has been difficult. It is often hard for me to identify what is wrong, much less figure out how to fix it. Self-awareness is one of those areas affected by executive function. And it’s one I struggle with. I’m so lucky to have a supportive wife. But I know she gets tired of seeing me struggle. And it’s tough on her because she feels it’s her responsibility to point things out when I don’t recognize them.
Getting help has been difficult in other ways. Finding a skilled practitioner that is a good fit is hard, time consuming, and expensive. Being vulnerable for self-discovery and sharing painful experiences is taxing. I forget previous successes. I forget the supports and solutions that worked before and have to start over. And I continue to experience symptoms, which makes me feel like I am wasting my time trying to do it all again.
I’m lucky though. I have experienced a lot of success throughout my life. I am friendly, I find purpose in my life helping others, and I love to make people laugh. I can use my strengths. I am creating a wonderful life with my wife. And I have had interesting and fulfilling jobs.
I have learned many skills from peers and practitioners. I’ve become so much stronger in noticing, experiencing, and talking about my feelings. I have learned to reframe negative thoughts. I am able to see that I have had amazing experiences that are worth sharing. I have joined support groups though ADDA and learned to be compassionate and kind to myself. I also have opportunities to use what I have learned to help others. And it will be worth it if even one person reads this and finds it helpful.