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Finding JOY with ADHD

#ChooseJOY

Finding JOY with ADHD

Maddi Allen

Photo by Woah Stork Leans

Photo by Woah Stork Leans

"Anyone who says you don't have ADHD is insane."

And, there it was. My psychiatrist uttering my diagnosis.

Grief. ADHD does not go away. I will have this forever.

Relief. This diagnosis means that I am not lazy, or disinterested or selfish. This diagnosis means that I have a chemical imbalance that prevents my brain from operating like an average person's.

Confusion. I'm 19, why am I just finding this out now? My dad has ADHD. Surely, my parents saw the signs

Anger. I could've stayed in college if i'd have gotten diagnosed and treated sooner. I wouldn't have lost those relationships. I wouldn't have wasted precious years of my life stuck in damaging cycles. I wouldn't have wasted thousands of dollars on lost phones, student IDs and car keys.

Hope. This is treatable. Many of the things I hate about myself are treatable. Maybe I don't have to live this way forever.

These were just a few thoughts that crossed my mind as I processed what my psychiatrist had just told me. In the same moment, I felt I had been given a get-out-of-jail-free card and a life sentence. In the five years that have passed since then, I've learned to make peace with my diagnosis. Most importantly, I've decided to embrace my diagnosis and choose joy.

Photo by iStock Images

Photo by iStock Images

Of course, this doesn't always come easily. Sometimes, it doesn't come at all. Sometimes, having ADHD sucks. Period. When I had to choose between medicating and being functional or breastfeeding my new baby? That sucked. When I have to look my husband in the eye and tell him I can't answer his simple question right now, because my capacity for decision making has run out for the day? That sucks. When I can't fall asleep because I took my meds too late in the day, and then my anxiety kicks in because I'm not falling asleep and I have to fall asleep now because I have to wake up in five hours and I can't meet another client on no sleep again? That sucks. When I lose my brand new iPhone and owe Verizon $643.25 for a phone I used for a month? That sucks.

I focused on how much it sucked for a few years. I let myself be the victim of my ADHD, and I think that’s ok. There can be a season for that. But you know what? I got tired of it. I got tired of the isolation, sadness, insecurity, and apathy that came with choosing to let my diagnosis become my identity.

One day, I just decided. No more. I am not a victim. I am not ADHD. ADHD is mine. It can be a burden, and I can’t not bear it, but I am strong enough to bear it.

It started slow and small, choosing joy and victory. In the beginning, it was choosing to take my prescribed dosage of medication at the prescribed time instead of putting it off, or lying to myself and saying “maybe I don’t need it today.” It was saying no to a second piece of cake because I know sugar triggers my symptoms. I was walking on my lunch break for 10 minutes instead of refreshing my Instagram feed for a third time. Small.

Today, those small and slow choices I’ve spent years making are adding up to equal a woman of confidence; a woman who “believes she can, and so she does.” A woman who struggles, but keeps getting up. A woman who has learned how to make waking up in the morning less painful, how to simplify her morning routine so that decision fatigue doesn’t set in until about 5 p.m. now, instead of 12 p.m. A woman who is able to care for others, as well as herself. A woman who, once in awhile sends a letter to her grandma and dying grandpa instead of thinking she should, but never following through. A woman who eats lunch. A woman who calls back, and responds to emails. A woman who can get dinner together and actually enjoy the process 3-4 nights a week, when it’s not her husband’s night. A woman who remembers to bathe her child regularly, and even change her sheets. A woman who can keep a cactus alive. A woman who is at peace.

Photo by Марафон Худеющих "Осенний марафон

Photo by Марафон Худеющих "Осенний марафон

I’m not where I want to be, and I know these things may sound small and even basic to the average person, but to those of us who aren’t “average,” we know that these things are the big things. These are the things we spend those early years (sometimes decades) sitting on the floor, paralyzed over, thinking how we may never have anything to give or offer. Thinking how we may never have any money in our savings account, or clean sheets, or an empty sink. We may never be able to drive from our house to the grocery store without rear-ending someone because we got so lost in thought or so enamored with the blue sky again. How maybe all of our friends will eventually get so tired of us forgetting to text back, or show up, or initiate that they’ll each bow out and move on, and there we will be, alone with our good intentions, in our filthy homes with our dead plants.

I decided to change the narrative for myself. I have changed the narrative for myself. And I believe you can, too, so I write. I’ll keep writing until everyone I can reach knows that a meaningful, joy-filled, and modest but successful life is incredibly, deeply possible. With time, and hard work, and a lot of help and maybe some medication, it is possible.

It starts, though with choosing

J O Y.