As early as I can remember I never really felt like I fit in, like I was somehow different from my peers.
I never understood why things seemed to come easily to others, but never to me. From time management and emotional regulation, to my messy room, I struggled with all of it.
What was wrong with me?!?!
As a teen, my struggles with mental illness started to make things more complicated and I had to work even harder to try to keep up with life in general. I turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age to cope with the chaos churning inside of me. The partying continued my whole life, throughout college, while building a career, growing a family, etc.
Despite all this, I managed to build an amazing life with my husband, our kids, and animals. I had a good career I was proud of and, on the surface, looked like I was just a “normal” 30-something adult with her ducks in a row. On the inside, however, I felt completely broken. I was drowning just trying to keep up with life, and struggling with a dependency on alcohol that I hid as best as I could.
My younger brother was diagnosed with ADHD in early 2022, which is what initially triggered my curiosity, and when I started researching ADHD in women it BLEW my mind! I felt like suddenly it all made sense, which led to me booking an appointment with my doctor for an assessment ASAP.
Ultimately, at 36 years of age, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and made the decision to try medication to help manage my symptoms. I remember crying one of the first days I took it, for the first time in my life my mind was quiet! 36 years of constant chaos in my mind and it just stopped - WHOA!
I’d love to say that receiving this diagnosis was my happy ending, but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite like that for me.
At this point in my life, I was the unhealthiest I’d ever been - both mentally and physically. There was also the aspect of having lived the past 36 years unknowingly neurodiverse in a world not built for me that I needed to unpack and understand… which was obviously a lot.
A couple of months after my diagnosis I had a complete breakdown and needed to take a significant leave of absence from work. Everything I thought I knew about who I was, a life I’d spent trying to be like everyone else when I was anything but… it felt like I just completely shattered.
I started working heavily on myself and my recovery, learning tools to help stabilize my mental health, educating myself on ADHD and taking control of my physical health.
I began to learn who Danielle actually was and how to start to allow myself to be me - without the masking! I learned about my sensory sensitivities, stimming, triggers, and issues with my executive function. I addressed the negative beliefs I had about myself that were related to my ADHD, and began creating new, healthy narratives surrounding those.
Fast forward to now…
For me, being diagnosed with ADHD was the biggest blessing in disguise… sounds a little crazy, I know. It forced me to do HARD work on myself, and I wanted to give up so many times, but I’m so proud for sticking it out because in all the mess of rebuilding and recovery, I have found stability.
For the first time in my life, I can say I’m balanced, with a newfound inner peace, healthy head-to-toe, and I’m truly thriving! I’m learning to advocate for myself as well as others, and the importance of setting boundaries.
I’ve learned that I’m not like anyone else and I’m now proud of that! It’s also pretty freeing to wake up in the morning and just be me! I’m unique, talented, I work well under pressure and I’m incredibly creative. I also noticed I stopped drinking every day - I didn’t need it anymore to cope. Partly because of this, I managed to lose a bunch of weight and I’m able to think more clearly. I’m learning how to have a casual drink or two, and not binge until I’m wasted in an attempt to bury my demons.
I’ve found my purpose in advocacy, started a mental health apparel business and am working everyday to help others feel seen and heard. Parts of this journey were incredibly lonely, but if I can help just one person feel less alone or offer some piece of advice to aid someone on their own path, that will be enough for me.
I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, learning new skills, and keeping myself stable, but I found Danielle - the real, quirky me! No masks, no boxes to fit in… just me, and THAT is pretty darn amazing!