My bathroom has four lights above the vanity. They each take a 60-watt bulb. Early last month, two light bulbs burned out.
In 1998-ish, when I was still living in Cincinnati, I went to see a shrink because I was having some depression, some anxiety and some trouble focusing. You know, normal “I’m 22 and I have no idea what to do with a Political Science degree from a liberal arts school” stuff. I don’t think it was a shock to anyone who knows me that I have some ADD. She wrote me a script for Wellbutrin and told me it would help with everything. I took it, loved it, lost 20 pounds, and continue to take it today (although I’ve since found the 20 pounds).
The depression and anxiety lessened. The inability to focus got worse. But since I believed that I was being treated for ADD, I honestly just thought, “well, I’m being treated… so this chaos in my brain must just be me.” It really sucked. But you don’t know what you don’t know.
I’ve struggled over and over in my life with this chaos, and it’s had consequences throughout. But I thought that was the deal. It frustrated my family, my friends and my colleagues. It frustrated me. But, as it always does, life moved on.
Six days later, I bought a pack of replacement bulbs. They sat in a Target bag in the back of my Jeep for two weeks. In the meantime, the other two bulbs went out.
Then the bottom fell out. The consequences of the left-over chaos caught up to me. I struggled to keep my head above water. I didn’t want to open my mail. I lost the person that I loved (although that was a collaborative effort, for sure), my family was over it all, and I felt like I was juggling. I don’t know how to juggle. Turns out, I suck at it. The chaos had gotten bigger than me.
My mom worried that there was something really wrong with me. She’s been on board with the Wellbutrin from day one, but she also thought that it was treating my ADD. We all did. My mom would do anything for me. I was screwed up and she didn’t know what to do. In retrospect, I’m sure that is one of the saddest feelings that a parent can have.
She pushed me to figure out what was really wrong. She needed an explanation, and we both needed relief. There was a lot of yelling and screaming across the table. It was exhausting. I’d cry. She’d cry (and she’s not really a crier). But because she loves me more than she sometimes wants to choke me, she came to therapy, sat on the couch next to me and together we drilled down into what was wrong.
I’m not crazy. Or lazy. Turns out that I don’t have bi-polar disorder, nor was I trying to screw up my life. I was depressed. And anxious. But we already knew that, right? But now, the chaos in my head was causing those things to be even louder. Really loud.
I am severely ADD (emphasis on “severely”). I took the tests. I scored awfully high. There was really no question: I have untreated adult ADD. I had gotten by without an early diagnosis because I was (1) pretty smart and (2) pretty social and good with bullshitting. But the Wellbutrin, well it wasn’t helping THAT at all. Not even a little.
It was still dark in the bathroom, so I plugged in a desk lamp on the vanity. I’m fairly sure I had to move the box of new light bulbs to do it.
I sat in my therapist’s office, both relieved and pissed. I felt hopeful, but I was resentful as hell that I feel like I’ve spent 15+ years under medicated and not living my best life. Super resentful. It really sucks. It has impacted my finances, my jobs, my relationships… and who knows what else. And I blame a lot of that on the chaos. There have been a lot of tears recently—both of relief and regret. Mostly relief. I’m grateful for my mom.
I read a few weeks ago that a person with untreated ADD reshuffles their priorities every 20-40 seconds, and some things just never make it to the top of the list. Turns out, the damn light bulbs never made it to the top.
So here we are. My therapist (who might out do me on f-bomb dropping, which I love) sent me to a psychiatric nurse practitioner to get my medication straightened out. She added some Lexapro to the Wellbutrin. That’s about the best darn thing I’d felt in awhile. So calm. Sleeping, relaxing, NOT FREAKING OUT. I felt normal… yet, I still felt like me. And then after a little trial and error, we added my new best friend—Adderall.
A few days later, I changed all four light bulbs.
The moral of the story is that ADD really is an illness. The part of my brain that controls things like organization, follow-through and structure had no stimulation. I’m a smart gal. I just had a big, dark spot on my brain, and I had no idea. I was recently told that having untreated ADD is like being nearsighted and not knowing that glasses exist… you just think that’s how everyone sees. But, once you put on glasses, your life changes. My life has changed. Earlier today, I cried because I finally feel focused. And that’s a very overwhelming feeling for me. I like it.
I am not going to hide behind ADD. I didn’t do anything wrong, so I am going to own it. I don’t want other people to wake up one day and be resentful about wasting time when they could be living their best life. I have an amazing family. It turns out the ladies in my family really stick together when one of us is in turmoil. My dad has rallied to help me. My friends are beyond perfect. Even the other night, one of my best friends said, “I’m having a conversation with you and it’s like you’re listening from a whole new, peaceful place.” It feels good.
I love my job. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to shift to a higher gear and take it to the next level in the best place that I’ve been in a long time. I’m excited for what lies ahead. I’m focused. Life is good.
I’m now all set on light bulbs. How’s that for a metaphor?
My mom sometimes struggles with my instinct to make my life an open book. In this instance, I appreciate her support more than she knows. In addition to Susan, I want to give a special thank you to Molly Martin. As has been proven time and time and time again, when one of us is in in a pickle, it sometimes takes double the Molly to navigate through things. Thank you for always having my back… and when necessary, for hitting the deck.