I grew up in a middle-class, working family in the Midwest during the late ‘80s and ‘90s. The middle child in a family of six children, I was quiet, creative, smart, and played sports. Still, I never really “fit in” to any social groups.
I excelled in many areas, but failed in just as many. At 18, I couldn’t wait to flee and explore the world. I received a full-ride scholarship to a small, private college in northern Indiana for mechanical engineering, a field I pursued because I liked math… and money. I also liked being independent and bucking the status quo – I’m the pretty, blonde female engineer who drives a truck and challenges your biases, happily. After failing many classes, acing others, and changing schools twice, I still graduated with a 3.3 GPA and landed a dream job at a large, well-known company.
I traveled the world (Morocco, Spain, China, Belgium, Mexico, Canada) with a desire to learn more, more, more. I couldn’t get enough! Since college, I have moved more than 10 times, and held countless jobs, all very different. I even went on to get an MBA.
My life appeared perfect, and I am thankful for all of it. But on the inside, I always knew there was something missing. I was never really happy, no matter what I did. Any happy feelings were short-lived, and I was left trying to chase them. I was also in intense pain, constantly. Not physical pain, but mental agony. The toll of failed relationships, physical and mental abuse, and rape were all too much. Ending my life was an all-too-often thought.
I also spent tons of money and time on therapy for eating disorders, anxiety, and a mood disorder, all in the pursuit of happiness. I tried to figure out what was wrong with me – why I kept choosing damaging relationships, putting myself in awful situations, and choosing such bad behavior to cope with the pain.
[Read: “What Is Wrong With Me?” ADHD Truths I Wish I Knew As a Kid]
Why do I feel emotions so intensely? I don’t want any of this, and I know what’s right and wrong, so why do I keep choosing the latter?
I didn’t think life could get worse, but it did. My world came crashing down in 2020. My boyfriend of six years left me, and I was alone and devastated. I felt that my life was over. I blacked out one night from drinking too much at a bar, and was raped, only to be told by police that they would not take my case because of its complexity. I was raped the first time almost 20 years earlier as a teenager. I failed to report it because, like most victims, I thought the authorities wouldn’t believe me. Back then, I also felt that it was somehow my fault. But this time, I thought justice would prevail if I spoke up. I was wrong.
So I did what I do best: I moved. I took a new job that I ended up losing after a few months thanks to the pandemic. At the time, I was living out of an Airbnb in an unfamiliar place by myself with two dogs, all of my belongings in storage. My nearest family was states away, and I didn’t have any friends. It was truly rock bottom for me. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel. I had lost all hope. My 33-year downward spiral could sink no further, I thought.
On chance, I read another woman’s story that sounded all too familiar. And what followed was an “aha” moment that saved me. I must have ADHD. It explained every aspect of my life – the intense ups and downs, sensitivity, anxiety, lack of self-control, impulsivity, lack of confidence, procrastination, unfinished projects scattered throughout the house, and constant need for change.
[Blog: “I Could Have Been Myself for So Much Longer.”]
I was never more sure of anything in my life. The fog had lifted. I figured out my “why.” I could move on and do something about it. So I got tested. I got diagnosed. And I got treatment.
My anxiety and hopelessness almost instantly went away. My struggles just felt like struggles – not matters of life or death. I developed a confidence and resolve I only dreamed of before. And I was lucky enough to finally find someone – my soulmate – who has stayed with me through some the worst of my journey.
After 33 years, I can finally say – in the midst of a pandemic – that I’m in control of my life. I want to live. Everything that felt so far out of reach is finally right here. And I’m truly happy, which is all I’ve ever wanted.
Finding Happiness with ADHD: Next Steps
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Updated on December 23, 2020