Growing up, I always felt like there was something off about me. My personality varied based on my ever-changing moods, you either loved me or hated me. I felt so different from my peers. I couldn’t concentrate on any one subject, task or project like the others. Horrible at time management, I would overpromise and underdeliver. Some would take my lack of focus as rude, little did they know I was struggling inside. I was not put together, I always had some sort of wardrobe malfunction and my stuff was always disorganized or missing. Some saw this as careless, but it wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just didn’t have the capacity to notice. I was terrible at making decisions as I would either make one impulsively or not make one at all because I had trouble making up my mind. I talked a little too much and said things before thinking it through that many others wouldn’t dare say. Take for example me sharing the fact that I have both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder 2 to everyone on the internet.
This was not something I was always comfortable sharing, especially since I didn’t know for more than half my life that I even had ADHD and Bipolar 2. It wasn’t until I took psychology in college that I discovered the characteristics I listed above actually had a name and it was ADHD. I became so intrigued by the idea that I wasn’t the only one dealing with the challenges I have dealt with all my life. I vividly remember thinking, “You mean to tell me there have been others like me this whole time?!” This made me both scared and relieved. I was scared because I didn’t want to believe I actually had a mental illness but at the same time relieved in knowing that I wasn’t alone. I was relieved in knowing that I had other stories to reference and that resources exist for people like me.
It took years after that psychology class (and a car accident due to inattentiveness) for me to finally admit that I might truly have ADHD after researching more on my own and observing my symptoms worsen. I diagnosed myself with ADHD and decided I needed to seek help. I looked up support groups for ADHD and found one in my neighborhood I could attend. I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. I surely didn’t expect that decision would change my life. In an hour and a half, I related so much to a group of strangers as if I’ve known them forever. The stories they shared hit so close to home and after sharing a few of my own, I felt like I belonged for once. They guided me through the steps I needed to take to meet with a doctor and get an official diagnosis.
After getting diagnosed with ADHD, I continued to do more research and really studied my behaviors, moods and habits. The diagnosis helped me to get to know myself better but I hadn’t told others to allow them to understand me better. I was afraid of what my friends and family might think. I didn’t want my diagnosis to seem like an excuse for my shortcomings. Once I decided to share this part of me, I made it a point to never use it as a crutch but rather as an explanation that hopefully make sense to others. Unfortunately, it didn’t make sense to some of the most important people of my life – my parents. They had never heard of ADHD and thought it was a made up thing. In bringing this up however, my mom suggested that I might have Bipolar Disorder instead.
This was hard for me to accept since I wasn’t too familiar with Bipolar Disorder and I was still coming to terms with my ADHD diagnosis. I chose to explore it anyway. I didn’t go to my doctor specifically asking about Bipolar Disorder but instead requested a general psych evaluation. The doctor found that I may actually have both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder 2. This is something I am still trying to process and navigate through til this day.
My mental health journey has been an interesting one but in my willingness to seek the help I need, I have gone from surviving to thriving. I continue to study how to work with my conditions instead of letting them work against me. Thanks to my diagnoses, I learned so much about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I’ve learned that there’s honestly nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to my mental health. I hope sharing my story inspires others to pursue their own mental wellness so that we can all thrive together and erase any stigma.