Growing up I was a good kid, and I excelled in school. We’re talking straight-A student. I loved to learn, but socially I was an awkward underdog – always insecure and unsure of my place in the world. I never felt like I fit in anywhere – with friends, or even family.
Fast forward to adulthood. I was married at 24 and had my two children at ages 25 and 26. I was living the dream with a home in the country and my perfect family. There was still an internal struggle, like a dark cloud hanging over me, but I managed. I’ve always been productive, fairly efficient, and never late for anything. On the outside, I believe I appeared to have it all together. On the inside, I don’t think I ever did until I reached (and overcame) my breaking point at the age of 35.
I had always been inactive, overweight, and never really prioritized my health and wellness. It was Summer 2020 when my children had grown enough to need me less, that I decided my lifestyle needed a serious change. I committed to an intense wellness challenge, determined to lose weight, get fit and feel great. Guess what?! It worked. It worked really well. I lost a lot of weight and was obsessed with the new me. Meal planning and exercising became my everything. I had accomplished something I never thought possible. But as I was building good health, I was also damaging it. Little ailments kept popping up resulting in numerous doctor visits.
By Winter 2021-2022 I was a wreck. I was stuck in calorie-deficit-mode when I no longer needed to be – which shifted to semi-starvation without me realizing it. I felt like I was living a lie – like the old me was going to return and everyone would see me fail. I was obsessed with maintaining control with every ounce of my being, until I cracked. An eating disorder was at the top of my mind. My husband was concerned about my mental health.
At this point, after visits to my doctor over physical ailments – I went in with my mental health concerns. My doctor recognized some patterns and behaviours at this point. ADHD was the diagnosis. I was stunned. Never in my life had I ever thought I had any of the characteristics. Truth is, I just internalized (masked) them all. My brain is very cluttered. I’m very forgetful and fidgety. I’m a terrible listener, known to interrupt and offer my two cents when they aren’t asked for. I obsess about the things that interest me. When I’m bored or lacking stimulation, I plummet into laziness, negativity, overthinking and often turn to food for comfort. My fixation on weight loss and physical improvement was my continuous hit of dopamine.
Since my diagnosis about a year ago, I have received support for my ADHD, as well as my disordered eating (and exercising). It became evident quite quickly that ADHD was the root. In treating and learning to manage it, my other problems have become much more manageable. I am a healthy weight, and no longer fixate on the unhealthy habits I’d established.
My diagnosis floored me because it was so unexpected. At first, I felt intense grief over the years lost not knowing myself. My life didn’t have to be as hard or confusing as it was! After those feelings subsided came a feeling of freedom. I stopped caring about what people thought of me. I stopped making choices based on others’ expectations or judgements of me. I started living more and worrying less.
My diagnosis has taught me so much about myself. It strengthened my marriage, and resulted in some changes in the ways we both parent our children. I’ve gained the confidence to start my own creative marketing business, and I’ve built some solid relationships with people who love and accept me for who I am.
I’m managing my symptoms with many tools. Medication calms my busy brain, but I must put in the work every day to thrive.
Here's a list of things that work for me:
• I articulate my feelings of stress and anxiety when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
• I find healthy hobbies and outlets for managing my symptoms and improving my health.
• I acknowledge that I feel my best when I eat well, drink plenty of water, and sleep well (although I don’t always do these things).
• I find challenges for myself and set goals. Then I use those goals to create action plans. It gives me motivation and something positive to fixate on.
• I see a therapist specializing in ADHD.
• I take risks (reasonable ones) and embrace opportunities to experience new things.
• I make lists so I don’t forget things as often. Crossing things off my to-do lists is very satisfying!
During the pandemic when I started that fitness challenge, I discovered a love for running. It is hands-down the most effective tool for managing my ADHD symptoms. I find peace when I run. I feel powerful when I run. Runner's high is the real deal! I love running so much that I challenged myself to complete a half-marathon. I trained through the winter and accomplished my goal on March 5th. I’m ready to do a second in May!
My ADHD diagnosis has changed my life. That’s not to say it’s not hard – it’s always hard. It creates a lot of stress and consumes a lot of energy to manage. But I choose to see the silver lining. I’m alive, I finally accept myself as I am, and I’ve learned to embrace imperfection. I accept that there will be bad days scattered amongst the good days. I’m finally starting to understand myself, and that’s really freeing.
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