To start, I am a big believer in mental health diagnoses and I am a big believer in understanding thyself. As hokey and manufactured as diagnosing a person may be, I think adding a label to a set of characteristics can help better understanding how to treat those issues and gives the person a language in which to understand themselves.
I’ve been given, and given myself, many diagnoses over the years. It’s helped me see that I am struggling with a problem, but I am not the problem.
Each diagnosis has given me the tools to look a little deeper and become a little more accurate. First, I was a binge eater. Then, I realized binge eating was triggered by anxiety. As my binge eating subsided, I felt I had generalized anxiety disorder. But, I realized a lot of my anxiety actually had to do more with people then with anything else, then I had social anxiety disorder.
Along the way I’ve labeled myself (or been given the label of) intuitive, highly sensitive, enneagram 4, and INFP. (They all sort of describe the same kind of person, by the way…someone who is emotionally in tune with themselves, introverted and inner looking, more withdrawn, interested in self growth, in helping other people, creative , and struggles with overload of stimulation etc… )
But last night, at the prompting of a friend I was chatting with, I finally looked up being ADD. I’ve joked with my mom in the past that I might have had ADD or some sort of learning disorder, but I’ve never really taken it seriously. I’ve seen a lot of my little character flaws (losing things, getting lost or overwhelmed easily, forgetting birthdays) as just part of my personality. I’m intuitive and a little spacey. I’m not connected to concrete details.
Well, I started reading about ADD in Women and Girls and how it often goes overlooked. Because girls are people pleasing they will do their best to meet other peoples expectations. They will be quieter and/or the chatty cathy. The behavior is more often misconstrued as their personality. Often, women with ADD struggle with depression and anxiety.
Reading the description of Women with ADD, it felt like my whole life fell into place. I realized that almost everything I’ve struggled with from a young age, from feeling’s of being ‘not ok the way I am,’ and anxiety, to my forgetfulness and current feelings of becoming overwhelmed by new tasks, is rooted in difficulties with impulse control, inattentiveness, and difficulties with organization and getting distracted.
I’ve always had the feeling that everything was a little bit out of my control. And the truth is, it is!!
The interesting thing is that it’s like the last block has been put in place. Being ADD explains all sorts of little quirks about myself that nothing else has been able to explain. For example, I have difficulty distinguishing my right from my left, I lose things, I have difficulties with word retrieval, I get easily distracted but once I get focused have a very hard time switching my brain to a new task, I am sensitive to stimulation and get overwhelmed easily. I have to keep my life very simple and it’s really limiting, but it’s the way I function best, and I know it.
I’m lucky that my mom, growing up, did work extensively with me so I think I have a pretty good handle on the organizational part of it and can get places on time when I am focused (albiet with a lot of rushing around) and get my work done ok.
I think I am going to see a specialist and I am even open to medication at this point. I wonder what it would be like to remember birthdays, to not make stupid mistakes that feel out of my control, to not lose things, to not get overwhelmed easily, to feel like I can’t fight my impulses…??!! Maybe, incredible. :-)