Thursday, 29 March 2018

ADHD and Me

Sorry it's been a bit quiet here on this blog as of late due to circumstances out of my control, but I'm back with another post and switching gears a bit from depression to ADHD.

So because ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is something that doesn't just develop suddenly in adulthood (it is something you either have or do not have in childhood), my journey with it actually started long before my journey with depression...I just didn't know it until I was thirty-three years old.

I discovered my ADHD while I was being treated for depression (read more about that here). While my anti-depressants really helped improve my mood, my lack of continuous sleep did not. I was perpetually tired/exhausted and never felt well-rested even after a nap or a 'better night's' sleep which didn't make much sense because the anti-depressants should have caused improvements in sleeping which should have improved my energy as well. This didn't make any sense to my therapist, which he told me during the session where he asked if I wouldn't mind doing an assessment "just to see" and for "an experiment's sake." I didn't know any of this at the time, but my therapist completed a screen for Inattentive ADHD with me to see if perhaps this may have been the reason behind my poor sleeping and energy as opposed to depression. For this particular screen someone was considered positive for Inattentive ADHD if they scored 6 or above out of 12, and when it was completed my therapist sat there with an incredulous look on his face as he told me, "You aren't going to be believe this, Sharon. You have ADHD."

I had scored 11/12.

Before this assessment, I hadn't even heard of Inattentive ADHD and had always just assumed that ADHD was all about being hyperactive. After this session I started researching and reading as much as I could about Inattentive ADHD and I was floored: everything that was said and written about people with this condition in terms of symptoms and manifestations described me perfectly. In fact, so many of my self-perceived faults that I thought could be improved with more practice, more focus, or simply trying harder were explained by this diagnosis.

Now, because my therapist isn't a psychiatrist, I needed to get my GP on board so I could get some stimulants to address my ADHD. I spoke with my GP who then referred me to the psychiatrist working on my family health team at the time and after three months and an initial assessment with her, I got my diagnosis and it became official: I have Inattentive ADHD.

Since then, I've been on medication to manage my ADHD symptoms and, my goodness, I cannot even tell you how much a difference not only my diagnosis but also the meds have made to me in terms of my feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. I'll go into this a bit deeper in future posts, but for now just know that my being diagnosed with ADHD has been life-changing in such a positive way and I will be forever grateful to my therapist who took a chance on doing an "experiment" and helped uncover my Inattentive ADHD.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Things I'd Tell My Early 2017 Severely Depressed Self: 2/2

This is a continuation of my previous post which can be found here.

3/ Who you are when depressed IS NOT YOU.
When people are physically ill they generally can become pretty moody and easily irritable, don't feel like getting out of bed, their appetite goes down, and being social is the last thing thing on their minds even if they are usually the exact opposite most of the time. However, the person who is physically ill knows in their head that that how they are at that moment is because they are sick, that it has nothing to do with them as a person, and that all these symptoms listed previously are just temporary until they get better.

When people are mentally ill with depression many of the side effects are the same: they generally can become pretty moody and easily irritable, don't feel like getting out of bed, their appetite goes down, and being social is the last thing thing on their minds even if they are usually the exact opposite most of the time.  However, the biggest difference in how physical and mental illnesses are processed by the individual, at least in my own experience, is that those are physically ill are able to separate these symptoms from themselves (attributing them to the illness itself) while those mentally ill are not. Instead, for individuals with depression or any other mental illness, they start seeing these symptoms as a part of who they are -- believing that it is their fault for being that way -- are as opposed to realizing what these symptoms actually are: manifestations of their mental illness itself.

This is a vitally important realization to make because as soon as you start believing that who you are in your most depressed state is who you really are, your sense of reality is greatly altered and hope seems to be even farther away from your grasp. This is probably one of the worst lies of depression, which leads me to the last and most important thing.

4/ There is hope; With help, you can and will get through this.
There was a point when I thought that my depression was something I would never be able to shake or overcome. I felt as though I was continually hitting the bottom of a bottomless pit with no chance of every making back up to ground level.

At my worst, I felt so helpless and hopeless that death was the only way to escape depression. While I was never actively suicidal, passive thoughts of death worked their way into my mind and I remember thinking that perhaps death would be the only way to actually get some sort of respite from the struggle. (That's how much depression had fucked with my thinking.)

Thankfully, despite the severity of my depression, I was able to realize that this line of thinking was 100% not normal and that I needed to get help (if not for my own sake, but for the sake of my husband and two daughters who didn't deserve to have a wife/mom thinking these types of thoughts which were far from being healthy or productive).

While reaching out for help was a huge internal struggle, once I did everything changed. I began to feel hopeful again and knowing that I wasn't trying to do things all on my own anymore made the helplessness fade away as the community that God raised up around me consisting of my GP, my therapist, my husband, and a few good friends, spoke truth and love into my life.

Despite my resistance to getting help, I fully realize that I couldn't have gotten to where I am now on my own; my downward spiral deeper and deeper into depression is evidence of that. However, with help I was able to do what once seemed nothing less than impossible: I got through depression and reached the other side.

To read more about my journey with depression, read this post.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Things I'd Tell My Early 2017 Severely Depressed Self: 1/2

Early 2017 was, by far, the darkest and most awful season of my life thus far. I was well into the throngs of my depression and I consistently felt like a horrible mom, a terrible wife, and a complete failure at everything (read: life in general). I mean, not only were all my attempts to get myself back on track unsuccessful, but I started feeling that the person I was always 'being' -- that horrible easily irritated, super moody, perpetually tired, stupid assed, weak person -- who wasn't me at all, was slowly becoming me because I couldn't live life any other way as hard as I tried; This self-realization was nothing short of terrifying because I hated this person I was becoming but then, in a moment of twisted self-reflection, I started this new path of self-doubt where I began doubting whether I was actually the easy-going, optimistic, pleasant, and genuinely joyful person I had remembered being at some point or whether this had all just been a facade to hide my true self: an awful, pessimistic, irritated, moody, tired, stupid-assed, weak human being.

Like I said in my previous post, depression is a bitch.

I know it's only been a year since then (February 14th, 2017 marked the day I finally plucked up the courage and sought professional help which really kick-started my journey of healing and self-discovery), but where I am now is insanely different from where I was then; I'm mentally and emotionally healthier and stronger than I've ever been before, and because of my experience my own perspective and thoughts have shifted in profound ways. While I know in my heart that I couldn't have gotten here if I hadn't experienced first hand what it was like to walk amongst the darkness, through my 'valley of the shadow of death,' here are some things I would tell my early 2017 "severely depressed" self now that I've reach the other side of that dark space:

1/ Trust your gut
I didn't seek help until early 2017 but I knew in my gut, as far back as late 2015, that something was wrong in me and would likely only get worse if I kept being in denial. My gut knew this, but my head just denied and justified everything, and made my believe that I could bring myself out of this rut on my own because I had always been able to do it before and, quite frankly, I was much more interested in what my head had to say on this subject ("Don't worry, Sharon, you just need to try harder" and "Just stick this out and things will eventually get better") because it made me feel like I still had some semblance control of the situation in a really messed up way.

In retrospect, my head was a total moron and I really shouldn't have put much thought (pun intended) into what it was telling me especially when my gut was clearly telling me something completely different which would have actually been useful and helpful. My gut was wiser which tells me that I instinctively knew myself better than I thought, but then let my head get in the way. 

It makes perfect sense now that I'm in a healthier place and my mind is working the way it's suppose to because, damn, depression really fucks up your thinking in the biggest of ways. Honestly, your thoughts cannot be trusted when you are so severely depressed because your thoughts don't make much sense due to the your skewed, depressed, not-in-touch-with-reality lines of thinking (thanks, depression). What can be trusted? Your gut. Over the years I have learned that my own gut isn't quite as clueless as I have made it out to be and I don't give it nearly enough credit. You see, unlike our heads, I think our guts are fundamentally closer to the essence of our beings so depression isn't able to affect our guts the same way depression is able to affect our thoughts. That's a weird sentence, but I really hope you get what I mean.

Trust your gut. Or, at the very least, give it a good listen if you're not at the point where you feel you can fully trust it. But work on that trust because I feel like it plays a big part in developing true self-confidence, self-worth, and self-love.

2/ You are not weak nor are you failure.
I have always advocated for the mental health of others and have always fully believed that the stigma surrounding mental health should not exist - that people should not feel ashamed to seek help or even talk about their struggles. However, in the midst of my own experience with depression I realized that all these words I had so passionately and genuinely meant did not apply to me.

The shame I felt regarding my own depression was so intense and heavy. Self-stigma is real; It really sucks when you realize the greatest obstacle in your life is yourself and because of the shame you feel and your pride (which is definitely in cahoots with your shame) you don't even feel like you can actually do anything about it. 

Honestly if depression is a bitch, then shame and pride are its asshole friends. Why do I say this? Let's take a look at some examples:

My shame and pride were...
- what kept me from seeking help when I knew I needed it
- the ones telling I wasn't getting better because I was "too weak" and I just needed "toughen up more" and things would be ok
- behind my bitter tears after first getting diagnosed with depression
- what made me feel like such a failure every time I took an anti-depressant

It was only after I was able to get over myself that I was able to see the truth: that there is no shame in having depression, that I was strong because I chose to seek help and followed through, and that I would have failed myself if I had allowed myself to continue down the destructive path of depression; It was only when I made the decision turn around and walk the other way with help that I actually gave myself a fighting chance to be successful. 

Turns out I wasn't neither weak nor a failure; These were just some more of the lies depression told me.

More to come, stay tuned for Part 2...

To read more about my journey with depression, read this post.