ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and anxiety is the body’s response to stress. In some cases, like mine, they coexist. It’s not always easy living with the two, but I make it work.
I was recently shuffling through a pile of documents at my home, and I came across a letter from a psychologist that was dated back to the year 2000. At the time the document was created, I would have been 7 years old, and after a few seconds of reading, my heart sank.
The letter was a psych evaluation. It began by saying I was a “slow learner”, how there were concerns circulating my future, how my brother, who is on the autism spectrum (ASD), is a ‘burden to the family’, so it will be hard for my parents to monitor my educational success while trying to monitor my brothers.
Statements like the above are the first thing most people think of when you hear anything about mental health, or cognitive disabilities. People believe “oh yeah, they have anxiety, they will probably be ‘freaking out’ every 10 seconds”, or, “this person has ADHD, they will never be able to focus and be a good employee”, or, “this person has ASD, they must be ‘a burden’ ”. Why would this be the first thing you think of? To put it simply, it’s because we were raised to view mental health, and cognitive disabilities in this light. People who have ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, autism, and so on, will not be successful. This is where I tell you, this is not true.
Firstly, my brother is not a burden. In fact, he is one of the kindest, most well versed people I have ever known. He has a job at the bank, a job he landed because of how fantastic his communication skills are. He is a talented musician, self taught. He is so many things above what this 20 year old documentation assumed he would be. So, someone with autism, much like someone with ADHD, are CAPABLE people of achieving success. This is something that is not paraded around in society. Maybe more so now, but for a long time, everything was very “hush hush”.
Even though I was raised my whole life being told by my parents that they believe in me, and that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, I still felt that looming judgment from society. On top of my parents’ support, my elementary teachers were also incredibly supportive. Regardless of all these support systems, I always felt ashamed when I was pulled out of class to get extra help. This stigmatization around asking for help, getting a tutor, or learning in a way that works for you is something I wish was shut down years ago.
For someone like me, with ADHD and anxiety, it took me awhile before I realized I needed to do something about my mental health. It began to spiral out of control, and I could not see a way into success. I didn’t have enough resources to success stories, and so I believed I was destined for a certain fate of working a job I do not like, with low pay, because I was not good enough, and that “it was what someone like me deserved”. I felt this way until I was pushed into the idea of taking medication.
There is a huge problem with people who do not have mental health that shame someone with mental health for trying to better their life. Whether people realize it or not, we (people who take medications) get shamed and or judged subconsciously, and often because there is a misconception that “medication is nothing but bad”. Of course, there are ups and downs to everything, medication included, but I was at a point where I had to weigh out my options.
I had already tried consistently working out and eating clean, I had cut out caffeine. Year by year, my options were narrowing, and less things were working. So, the final year before I started meds, my choices were, “continue to live my life this way, with constant debilitating panic attacks”, or “try medication and see what it can do for you!”. At this point in my life, I was depleted of any energy I had and I needed to change it.
The person I was from the beginning of taking medication and now are two different people. The personality of the person I was before is still here, except now I can achieve my goals. I am glad I pushed past the people who “do not believe” in medication, because that’s how I was able to focus and hone in on what I would love to do with my life. I could finally see clearly, I could finally think without all the pollution of thoughts in my head. That’s how I ended up rediscovering web development, and pursuing it.
Now, I can proudly say, I am a web developer, and I am a person living with ADHD and anxiety. I am entering week 8 of coding bootcamp, and I will begin job hunting very soon. My brother is a bank teller and musician, and he is an adult living with autism. He worked very hard to get to where he needed to be, and he continues to make me proud.
We both did the “impossible” to make our lives better. I’m here to tell you, these strides to bettering your future is very much possible. We did that through means that worked for us. The point is, if you look past the stigma, look past the “shame”, and realize that sometimes, that little pill is all you need to get you to your future, then maybe if you’re someone who needs to hear this, it could be the start of your success story.
The “slow learner” is now on their way to succeeding in the world of tech. The “burden” is a talented, smart human being bettering their life everyday. Don’t let people, even documents tell you how your future will be. Take that document and rewrite your future the way you see fit. Never settle for less, and know you are deserving of the best life.