And the diagnosis is . . .
It’s first grade and the assignment is to draw Three Blind Mice. All the kids around me had cute pictures it seemed, but mine was a big blob, looking as though someone had thrown up. This is my first memory of feeling behind in school.
Flash forward to third grade, and I was falling behind on assignments, acting out in class – not in a deviant way – just speaking out, not sitting still and being my ridiculous self. My teacher and parents decided to have me tested, but everything came out average. That’s because I was obsessed with reading. After my mom completed Hooked On Phonics with me (yes it works), I couldn’t get enough of books.
By the time I got to middle school, I was STRUGGLING. I needed extra help in a lot of my classes; it seemed like once I got the hang of something, I soon fell behind again. Not to mention, I was an emotional preteen. My teachers had to sign off on a report every Friday on how I did that week. If I was “bad”, I was grounded for the weekend. Got to love strict fathers.
Diagnosis and a new beginning
I finally got diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and depression in 8th grade. It made sense. I was hyper; I couldn’t focus; and I was feeling really down – probably because of all of this. In high school, I was in special education, which I’ll admit, I was embarrassed about. However, my life changed then because I was blessed with a stand-out special education teacher. A recent graduate of University of Connecticut (UConn), she was young, smart, and best of all, empathetic. She gave me the confidence to overcome my learning disability and mental health problems – essentially to be a regular high school kid. It had been said I wouldn’t go to college, but I went on to UConn where I graduated four years later. Did I struggle in college? Absolutely, especially with my depression and anxiety. But I did it.
The amazing thing is I am now getting my master’s and doing well in grad school. I’ve now worked for a dynamic mental health care company for seven years and found the courage to go back to school. It’s different now. I know what I need to do to get things done. I still need extra help and extra time, but it’s okay. I have a supportive therapist who helps me confront my depressive episodes, and best of all, I’m in love with my life.
Not a thing
If I could change anything, I wouldn’t. The struggle made me who I am today, well-rounded and confident. In high school, I was a cheerleader but I was in special ed. I was a track captain but also in the school plays. I learned to excel in areas besides my studies, but I also learned to work really hard and get by when it came to my education. I have so many coping skills that many of my peers never had to learn. I am thankful for who I am because my struggle and shortcomings taught me to always be kind to others. You never know what struggles they are facing.
I have so many coping skills that many of my peers never had to learn. I am thankful for who I am because my struggle and shortcomings taught me to always be kind to others.
My advice for those struggling the way I did? Be patient. These things take time. We rush to diagnose ourselves and others when, in reality, we are still becoming who we are. In the end, we need to trust our paths and being patient with our journeys; we are all finding our way.
We also need to do our part to get rid of mental health stigma, which is why I’m sharing my story. I’m just a regular young adult who is living a perfectly normal life with ADD/ADHD, depression and anxiety.