Jul 16, 2017

Hiatus

You. Yes you, fictional reader on the internet. You're probably wondering what ever happened here, with three years passing and not a word (if anyone still reads this). I'm not being self-depreciating, I just honestly have no idea if they do anymore. This is an aside. I never really know how to start posts, but at least I'm starting one. Hi.

During the week of my last post, I had a huge emotional meltdown because I was really badly beaten up about an ADHD diagnosis. There is so much stigma surrounding ADHD, and pretty much everything that exists as a layman's idea of what ADHD is in Western society, or at least in the social circles I was in then didn't even come close to lining up with my lived symptoms and were mostly derogatory.

The diagnosis was a kick when I was down, and when I did go on medication, it was fast-release stuff that heightened my anxiety - at a time when everyone around me either talked about me in hushed tones while they thought I wasn't noticing, or they had this great diet I could try instead of drugs, or ADHD isn't real, or weed cured all of my illnesses you should try it, or have you tried going vegan? Have you tried cutting out sulphites from your diet? Have you tried removing food additives?

It felt like people were trying their hardest to make sure that this really wasn't what was wrong with me, it might be something much more palatable. I felt so fucked up. I felt like I was a joke and a failure. There were those people, and there were the people that just stopped inviting me out, and began to treat me like I had two heads. My ability to focus while on medication was much better, but it wasn't quite right yet, and I'd be doing better at uni but super anxious and sleepless on medication as well. Honours was hugely stressful. I had teachers telling me not to bother. I had friends who just let me stay isolated because I was too much, too concerned with their own social wins and how things "looked". I had lots of other health issues at the time, it was easy to write this all off and just bury my head under the covers.

Somehow I got through honours and moved the hell away from the people who had made things harder that year. Then I had a few years from hell, where I had deaths in the family and all manner of things happen at once. There was no room or time to think about why I was getting sicker, I kind-of blinked and I was in 2017 and living on the other side of the city, using every shred of my waning energy to get to work each day so that I could afford to pay the bills.

My memory was shot. I was so anxious and depressed that I barely left the house unless I had to, and that was at the best of times. I got so sick that my liver started to malfunction for a while there and my bloodwork was all over the place, my blood pressure was a mess, I was sleeping at least 13 hours a day and still exhausted through my every waking hour. I had a suicide plan in case things got any worse than they were. The people who had hurt me and who I'd pushed away found their way back in and made things harder in my life, once I was isolated in a new town, I'd had relatives pass away all-at-once, and I was at my most fragile. It's been a hell of a few years.

Over the past few months I've gone past being miserable about the concept of ADHD as a potential diagnosis, and into full-blown desperation to find anything that would help me as my body kept steadily shutting down and the bills kept constantly coming in. Government support was hopeless, almost completely unavailable to me, and frankly demoralising. I'd found myself on the other side of the city and away from any solid support network. I didn't know what to do anymore, I was at my wit's end and didn't feel that I could even really talk to people, I couldn't focus and at my worst moments, I struggled with selective mutism and getting words out at all was not possible when I needed to most. I went back to my specialist, after three years.

We tried something new to treat ADHD and it just kind-of clicked. I've spent a month and a half reorganising the absolute mess that my life was in, that I hadn't seemed to notice had fallen by the wayside. I stopped being so tired. My anxiety all but left the building. I took the components of my suicide plan out of my medicine cabinet and threw them in the bin. I started to be able to communicate clearly with people about what I was going through, and better yet move past it. I started listening to the right people, and walking away from the wrong ones.

So that was it. That was my hiatus. I do have ADHD. It's not something I talk about with everyone, and it's nothing like what you'd expect. At. All. I worked really hard in therapy and got through my PTSD last year, but I was still really sick. Some things you can't hide from.

In case anyone else out there is struggling with a diagnosis and feels like the medical industry has taken an approach with them of just diagnosing everything until something sticks at the cost of your actual health over the years, these were my symptoms after years of searching for answers:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Insomnia
  • Selective Mutism
  • Social Anxiety
  • Severe problems getting out of bed upon waking
  • Forgetfulness, even when things were important and mattered to me
  • Trouble remembering names
  • Low immune system
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Struggles with task completion
  • Struggles with timeliness
  • Struggles with memory
  • Impulsivity
  • Short temper that is gone as fast as it appears
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Social Isolation
  • Withdrawal from recreational and social activities 
There was no running about. There was no bouncing off the walls. Being sick in the ways it presented in me was nothing like the the picture I'd always had of ADHD in my head. So many people attributed what I was going through to personality flaws, laziness, a lack of care for others, selfishness, intentional flakiness and snappiness, or me just being a hypochondriac. I wasn't the picture of that naughty boy in class that wouldn't sit still. I'm so sick of the way people joke about and talk about ADHD in the social sphere, because it's way off and to be honest it could've led to my death.

I hope talking about this helps people. I hope it helps people that don't know what's wrong and are starting to blame themselves, and I hope it helps other people to stop being such dicks. I swear to god, ADHD is Depression and Anxiety's weird cousin on facebook. Everyone wants to post about being supportive of mental illness. Nobody even thinks about what else it might be, and what support for that looks like. It's such a common disorder, and it's so dangerous to ignore. People with ADHD have a 30% increased risk of suicide compared the people without it, and for those who aren't medicated, the risk increases. It's estimated that 5-11% of people have ADHD, and that despite its equal prevalence across sexes, women are chronically underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed. It's really not rare. Why does nobody seem to understand it? Do you know someone being treated for a mental illness that doesn't respond to the treatment? Are they female? Who are they? Have they considered ADHD? Are you there for them? Do you even know how to be? I had no idea at all.

So here I am now, in my 30s, trying to play catch-up with my life and feeling like I'm running at full-tilt just to get to where everyone else already is at my age. Medication has taken away a great deal of my issues, but there are still things that I will always struggle with. How I got through the last half of my honours degree without medication, I will never know. How I managed to survive the past couple of years is probably a combination of being too tired to kill myself most days and just being very lucky. It's nice to be past that, but it's scary to think about. I wonder how many people didn't get to this point, and I think about what can be done to prevent that sometimes.

I learned very quickly this year who my friends were, and who were simply seeing someone at their most fragile and taking advantage as much as possible. This sounds so dark. I don't often afford myself time to just sit like this with all of my thoughts, because unless it's being considered in order to move onto something more positive, it seems like a dangerous kind of thing to get locked onto.

What I'm making my life about now is ignoring thoughts on how this is so unfair. About how much easier it would've been if it had been caught sooner. About how much easier things would've been if people had cared enough to be there for me when things were the hardest. I think that comes from a place of thinking that life owes you something, simply for existing. I don't want to mourn my life. I just want to live it and achieve the things that I daydream about, now that I have the means to do so. I internally eyeroll every time someone tries to build me up by telling me what a rough deck I've been dealt. 

I just got the keys to my life handed to me. I need to figure out what the fuck I'm going to do with it now. I have a plan that I can actually start to stick to here. It's daunting, but it's also exciting. The first thing I've started to do is go looking for the type of people that I want to become. I can socialise without being terrified that I'm going to fuck everything up and get hurt now, I can focus enough to actually follow conversations in crowds too. I need to take that and do something with it. 

That's what I need right now. Not your new diet for management without drugs. Not your soapbox opinion on the existence of this disorder. I get it. Jet fuel doesn't melt steel beams. The thing is, actual medical conditions are not really a polite discussion point. We already know they exist. It's not up to your interpretation. Go and muse over some abstract painting in an art gallery or something while I'm over here trying to live through this and make something of myself. I don't have time for that sort of nonsense, and to be honest, I won't always tolerate it. I want to embrace my life. I'm so lucky to be alive. I'm so relieved that I made it to here. I want to be with friends now, making happy memories and going out and doing things now that I finally can. Just to be able to get out of bed without feeling like I'm going to pass out is absolutely wonderful.

I have so much to do now. I've spent this month just trying to put paperwork and tasks in order that were left wherever they were dropped. I spent ages re-doing my budget so that I could finally live within my means and not worry about forgotten bills or memberships coming up for renewal. It's finally working. 

Now that I can be something, what does that look like? Where does that take me? How do I get there? What are the risks involved? I've got a lot of it figured out, but there's so much to do, and all I want to do is jump ahead and be there right now. I need to keep working toward the same thing every day and stay patient. I need to be around people so that I keep up momentum to achieve these goals and keep living instead of just existing the way I was. I'm hoping that the next post I publish will be another step in the right direction. I've at least got my friendships and family to a point now where I'm comfortable and it feels supportive, but the rest of my life is completely up-in-the-air. I want to keep working on these positive things now that I have been given this opportunity.

Can I do this? I want to do this. This has to be my turning point, I'm ready for this now. I'm so much happier now. I'm so excited for the future. I have to stick at this. That was a lot. Thanks for visiting.

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