ADHD Diagnosis: Prison or Freedom Pass?
In August, 2006, I received my ADHD diagnosis. Since then, I’ve experienced mind-boggling changes in every area of my life. Okay, almost every area; I’m still short.
The one, singular change that stands out above all has been the key to the greatest happiness and peace of mind I’ve ever felt.
It might seem counter-intuitive that receiving a mental health diagnosis late in life would turn your life around for the good. This tells us a lot more about our society than about ourselves.
The dreaded label
I didn’t know anything about ADHD when I was diagnosed, yet when I read about it, I instantly recognized myself. And I was horrified.
Even though I had some education in the mental health field, receiving my own “mental health” label scared me. I too grew up immersed with the stereotype of someone with a mental health label as a crazed, psychotic axe-murderer. This image and equally sensational ones were perpetuated by news stories and urban myths, and popularized by Hollywood films.
And now I was crazy?! (Maybe ignorance is bliss, I thought woefully.)
The paradigm shift
Gradually my fears were allayed. Today, I feel as though I’m embarking on the final stage of the journey, stepping into a Golden Era for me (and no, I’m not talking about impending retirement; I don’t think people with ADHD retire. Or get old. But that’s another story).
In hindsight, I see the stages I went through with undiagnosed ADHD.
In childhood, I played joyfully with friends and enjoyed a wildly creative public school.
At home though, comments about my “strangeness,” mood swings, intensity and odd behavior eroded my self-esteem and self-confidence. Over time, my buoyancy turned to anger, depression and confusion.
In my teen years, this culminated in rebellion. This continued into my early 20s and 30s, with an “I’ll show ‘em!” attitude. Even my sister called me a Bohemian. A sign of my success, I thought.
What I didn’t realize was that doing “it” my way, meant doing what “they” wanted me to do. I hadn’t held out for what I wanted to do.
Try as I might to fulfill the status quo, I none the less felt like a persistent failure. I did the only thing I could think of to do: take a different approach to achieving the same goals.
Ya, I’d show them, alright: I’d have a career, a car, a house, I’d get married, have kids, and …uh… wait a minute!
Diagnosis: the key out of prison
My ADHD diagnosis made me face the fact that doing it their way had never been an option for me. And I didn’t have the self-knowledge to be able to choose my own path.
It would take an ADHD diagnosis, and learning that my brain was intrinsically different than non-ADHD brains, to finally get off the hamster wheel and break out of my cage. No wonder I was so exhausted!
I would never be like my family and friends. It’s taken a while since my diagnosis, but now that’s not only OK with me, it’s great! My job is to be me, not anyone else. ADHD unlocked the key to finding out what that means.
I no longer grieve being different. I celebrate it, and that’s the best anniversary gift ever!
My gift to you
I know it’s my anniversary, but I’d like to offer a gift to you.
What if you took your creative mind and re-envisioned the possibilities for your life? What are your passions? Are you living them? If not, what’s stopping you? If you look closely, like me, you might find that the limitations are illusory. You might re-envision your life exactly as you’d like it to be.
What if you took that creative, intelligent, sensitive and beautiful ADHD mind and made new choices?
I’m experimenting with this idea. Recently, I’ve been amazed at the support, acceptance, and creative, innovative ideas I’ve attracted into my life through the amazing people I’m meeting.
There’s a whole world of possibilities out there, and now that I say YES to ADHD, I can let my non-linear mind dance and play in those possibilities.
Kessler, Z. (2012). ADHD Diagnosis: Prison or Freedom Pass?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 9, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2012/08/adhd-diagnosis-prison-or-freedom-pass/