How I Found Out and Fixed What Was “Wrong” with Me

It’s been a long and winding road, though now I finally have some answers.

It has been many, many years (actually more like three or four decades, to be brutally honest) that I have been trying to figure out what is “wrong” with me. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt “like the odd one on the outside, looking in at the others.” In other words, I have always felt, and still do feel, that I’m different … which, in all honesty, is true.

Besides the vague uneasy feelings of different-ness, there also were numerous people along the way who either outright told me — or at least strongly hinted/implied — that I had stuff “wrong” with me. Gee, thanks everyone in my past for that! I guess that even though you probably contributed a bit (a lot?) to the anxiety and depressionI’ve battled with for decades, you also helped eventually nudge me into one day getting some answers.

On a side note to parents, teachers, etc.: I’m betting the odds are pretty good that it’s been proven (or at least theorized) by psychologists that constantly telling a child she has things wrong with her, that she isn’t “like all the others” is damaging to that child. Damaging, as in possibly causing anxiety and/or a whole host of other mental health challenges and low self-esteem issues. Issues that will affect how she makes decisions, whether she might be impulsive or attention-seeking or have behavioral problems. Just sayin’.

“So many people look at {my depression} as me being ungrateful, but that is not it — I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than fake happy.”

— Singer Miley Cyrus

Yup, I’ve had ’em, as have millions of other people in the world. So it’s useful and somewhat comforting to know that I am definitely not alone. A LOT of people have something “wrong” with them. They are the ones sitting in the offices at mental health clinics, or laying in a bed in a psychiatric ward, or helping keep the local bars and liquor stores in the business.

As I said earlier, I have had this vague sense of being different for most of my 50-plus years. Most of that was spent hearing about and agonizing over it. For about the past 20 years or so, coinciding with my kicking out my second ex-husband, I’ve been on an earnest journey to find out just exactly what was up with me. That journey has most recently come up with definite diagnoses and a lot of questions in my head answered. Finally!!! So in 2020 I actually got some good news!

It was around this time (my mid-30s) when I also said, “I’ve spent way too long focusing on what’s wrong with me. I’m tired of feeling less-than, sick of feeling inadequate, like a ‘loser’, as if I don’t belong and am a total weirdo, and tired of being the last person chosen for the dodge ball team in PE.” Actually those weren’t my exact words, but close enough. I vowed I would set forth to figure out my psychological issues, and would also search for and focus on what’s right, good, and positive about me.

“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, its still an illness, and there should’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together.”

— Former First Lady Michelle Obama

As an aside to Mrs. Obama’s comments, I have to add that in addition to the stigma that STILL exists today around mental illness, some people aren’t seeking help because they can’t afford it. Either they don’t have medical insurance or their plan doesn’t cover mental health care. Just an observation, and a depressing one at that.

Actually, I have to admit that my journey towards finding what exactly my issues began years before my mid-30s. My first visit to a therapist was when I was in college for the first time, right after graduating high school. He gave me the personality test whose results I don’t recall, though now I’m pretty sure I am an INFP: Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiver (because I’m a pretty sensitive person — I sense and feel stuff and “just know” things that others can’t perceive or feel— as are many other people with mental health challenges).

In addition to being given the personality test, this male psychologist I gave me an I.Q. test (I remember the result of that, but don’t want to brag). I also clearly remember him pronouncing me as “having a problem with authority.” Well, no duh, Einstein! I knew that YEARS ago! Now tell me something I didn’t know.

Whether he ever did tell me “something I didn’t know” I do not recall. This was over 35 years ago, my first experience with a “shrink.”

Several years (decades) and a couple of seriously traumatic life events later (that included being in a violent relationship and later the death of my mom), which included my visiting a number of different therapists, I finally got some answers. It was the “lightbulb above the head ‘aha!!!’ moment I had been waiting for …. like, ever. This past February it all came together for me when a battery of tests I took revealed my general anxiety disorder, mild depression, as well as a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

The anxiety/depression I had known about forever, and the ADD I had strongly suspected since about my late 40s. I was so relieved; it was not happy news that I had ADD though it was a relief to have a label on my perceived “wrong-ness.”

I remember when my almost-25-year-old son was little and most of his friends were on medication for ADD. It seemed to be the diagnosis-of-the-day back then. I suspected it was being over-diagnosed perhaps, and that people were being to quick on the trigger to place their children on drugs to control them and their behavior. Studies I’ve read concerning the possible adverse effects of these medications (that they can be “gateway drugs,” for example) since then seem to bear out my suspicions.

Now many years later, my thinking has reversed, after I read on the World Health Organization website that approximately 4–5 percent of adult women in the world have ADD. Since I consider myself a keen observer of people, I think that number is quite low. Because of the cost and effort required to get a diagnosis and then the price of meds to treat the disorder, a lot of people are out there running amok, their lives a shambles (or a bit chaotic) because of undiagnosed ADD.

In a quest to learn more, I sped to the local library after my diagnosis to check out “Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About it,” by Dr. Gabor Mate. What I learned in those pages was jaw-dropping, fascinating, and very illuminating. The chapters on the love and work lives of some people with ADD could’ve been telling my life story word-for-word!! As in, a string of fairly short-lived relationships and jobs, many of which I’ve been fired from (the jobs, not the relationships).

Mate wrote that people with ADD usually have co-existing issues, such as anxiety/depression (like me, from years of being told I was “inferior” or “wrong” somehow) and possibly addiction issues as well (thus my comment paragraphs ago about how some mental illness sufferers are helping keep the liquor industry afloat). The psychologist who gave me the ADD diagnosis talked about whether I might want to try medication for it, which I mulled for several months (the length of the Covid-19 shutdown).

Eventually I asked my medical care provider what she thought about it. She said she didn’t think it was a great idea because, for one, it would raise my blood pressure (which is usually in the “normal” range). Then she pointed out my age (thanks, doc!! LOL) and said, “Look at all you’ve done in your life, how you’ve made it this far even in spite of having issues. Do you really think it will help you much now?”

I guess she had a point. Besides, my current mental health therapist (a woman who actually went to school with my medical care provider) is doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with me. This includes pointing out my good aspects and helping reframe my thinking about things that in the past I thought were “negatives” or not-so-good parts of myself. She is basically the cheerleader of sorts that I’ve needed in my life for so, so long and it’s awesome.

This of course was part of the goal I’d set toward almost 20 years ago: to basically prove to myself that — though I knew I had mental health issues — there may have been stuff I had to deal with in my head, but there really isn’t that much “wrong” with me after all. Oh, and by the way, I highly recommend cognitive behavioral therapy to anyone who might be in my shoes because it is awesome. It helps that I also have that great therapist and the treatment plan that is CBT.

As for dealing with the ADD, I decided not to take medication. Because I realized a long, long time ago that I had classic symptoms of the neurological disorder, including a “scattered” brain, being easily distracted and having difficulty focusing on one thing at a time (and so started a number of things that never got finished — sad to say) I had developed my own coping strategies.

This included learning to value my uniqueness; realizing that yes, I am indeed different — but different doesn’t automatically mean “bad.” I am indeed “scatter-brained” (or a “space cadet” as I was termed in high school) …. but it is what it is. Not wrong, not bad, it just is. Oh and guess what? I alluded earlier in this article about my “having a problem with authority figures,” and it turns out that is among many of the characteristics common in someone with ADD. Hmmm.

My ADD coping strategies included making to-do lists that I could gleefully cross off each task as I did it; making goals and lists of steps to keep on task toward them; putting things out in the open so I wouldn’t forget about them; and allowing myself a lot of quiet time (no TV, phone, radio to bother/distract me) reflect, calm down and try to bring mental clarity.

These and my tactics for dealing with anxiety (like lots of deep breathing) have had some success,. Though as many of you with similar issues knows, it’s good progress some days and other days, you’re finding your car keys in the freezer (and probably exclaiming, “How the hell did they end up here?!?!?”). It’s kinda like a Facebook meme that says something like, “Some days I’m Wonder Woman, and other days I find myself looking for my phone while I’m talking on it.” Well, that could also be due to age, as well as ADD …

So after many years (decades) of having the feeling of being “different,” many, many years being on a journey to find out what was “wrong” with me and how to deal with whatever I found, I finally — at the grand ol’ age of 55 — have some answers … as well as more (natural, non-drug) methods to deal with these issues. I’m blessed with great medical care providers plus supportive family members and friends (some of whom share my “different-ness” — go figure!!) around me to talk with and that makes all the difference in the world.

No, the journey has not ended, because my quest to deal with the issues will be forever. I’ve just come to a crucial place of self-knowing, self-acceptance, and the knowledge that what I thought for so many years was “wrong” with me really could see flipped over to read what is “right” about me. I encourage everyone out there who has a feeling something is “off” to get it checked, speak to health professionals, get credible information … and I wish you luck and hope with that journey.

“My doctor asked if any of my family members also suffered from insanity. I said no, they all seem to enjoy it.”

— Unknown

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

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