Last August, at 49 years old I was existing in a space that had me thinking that, should my 16 year old son die quite suddenly, I might actually follow through with fantasies I’ve entertained about killing people and then myself.
Because why not. My life was nowhere near where I imagined it would or should be at its mid-way point. I sincerely saw no value or purpose in my life other than continuing to rear my son.
My career was upended in 2016 by a sudden layoff, and I had been looking off and on for work in my field. I was consistently either turned down immediately or made it to final interviews and didn’t land jobs. That kind of rejection over a period of nearly three years will shred your soul.
“No one offered help.”
My friends and family cheered me on with promises that “something will give,” or “when the right job opens up, it will be better than you ever imagined,” “you’re so talented someone will hire you.”
No one actually said, I am so sorry, that sucks, let me help or let me talk to some people I know. No one offered help.
Add to consistent rejection my desperate need to move away from where I live, letting go of friends (again), and facing the reality that I would soon see my son off to college and be an empty nester. In a nutshell, the one thing left in my life that was giving me purpose and meaning would be walking out of the house to live his own life.
So that fateful August when I simply couldn’t take my life anymore, I returned to therapy where suddenly my entire human existence would finally make sense – mostly.
I entered the ring of self discovery with my trusty therapist, let’s call her Remi, and we got to work. I was in a lot of emotional pain and talked openly about what had been happening the past two years and how I felt like shit and was unworthy of anything good, because if I was worthy wouldn’t someone have hired me by now, wouldn’t I have more friends and wouldn’t I have a man in my life who loved me? Jesus, God, Mary and Joseph. Pathetic.
After I unpacked all that BS, we got to work on identifying and managing the pain. It was in my first session back that I discovered that I would need to carry pain in whatever kind of imaginary case I deemed suitable. I chose a backpack with a machete – I always carry a knife so the machete made sense. Remi also helped me realize that my purpose (my son) was not going to be my only purpose anymore. So the bus I was driving down the road that was keeping him safe and getting us where we needed to be had basically driven off the road, and ended up sideways in a mud filled ditch with the emergency hatch swinging wide open. I needed a new purpose.
Sidenote – My son is a better person at almost 17 than I was by the time I had him.
Fast forward to our next session. As Remi and I talked about machete ladened backpacks, I explained that I figured out how easy it was to pack up my pain and that I felt a million times better. I provided all the details of how I worked everything through since our last meeting. She laughed and said, “that usually takes three sessions for me to work through this process with other clients.” Then she started talking about something – I honestly only remember getting bored with what she was saying – and I drifted away mentally and began thinking about why I couldn’t keep a friendship or intimate relationship going for more than 2 years max.
“She stopped me and said, ‘I think you have ADHD.’”
Remi asked where I went, and I said, “I was thinking about how I let go of friends again, the ones that haven’t been loyal, and how I can’t keep a boyfriend for long before becoming extremely bored. I just lose interest if they aren’t smart and don’t keep me laughing.” She stopped me and said, “I think you have ADHD.”
My head cocked sideways and my left eyebrow went up in the sharp arch it takes when either curious or pissed off.
Then I saw a giant light bulb turn on over her head. “I should have seen it, but you always just did the work I gave you, did it really well and we moved on,” she said.
I was confused because, at the time, I didn’t realise that ADHD presented differently in women to men.
I was confounded, overwhelmed and intrigued. With a promise not to go into hyper-research/hyperfocus on my ADHD diagnosis (i.e. lose my mind down in the various rabbit holes of the internet) and homework to mindfully observe my behavior as it relates to how my brain works, I skipped out of her office and called what was left of my friends. Then I went to the bar and had two vodka sodas to celebrate.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve embarked on a new journey of self discovery, and let me tell you, it’s been amazing. I know now that my brain is exceptional.My poor underdeveloped brain helped me have a 20 year career in marketing and communications. I hyper process information so well that I am considered a high level negotiator, mediator and coalition builder. I can get anyone to do almost anything. I’d be Jim Jones if I were a psychopath. I am an empathetic leader who can do the work of three people while managing as many as 20 others at the same time.
My brain has also allowed me to navigate emergencies and crises better than an average soul. I do not flinch when people die, bones break or buildings fall. Finally, I raised a well-adjusted, mature and level headed son because of my hyperfocus and dedication to his mental, physical and emotional well being. Every person who meets him absolutely adores him and tries to win his affection.
“Over the past six months, my new purpose has begun to reveal itself. I want to help people understand that different thinking isn’t a disability. That living life outside of social and cultural norms is not deviant or abnormal. It’s just different.”
My purpose now is to break open beliefs, thoughts and ideas about what is right or wrong or unusual to make room for individual norms. I want to be a voice for people who are both neuro-atypical or neurotypical who have felt shamed or judged for their decisions, their lifestyle, their being.
To be clear, I do not advocate for accommodations. Instead I advocate for letting people be exactly who they are and suggest that we attempt to focus on individual strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses or what may be considered “different.” I’m talking about open minded, open-hearted, out loud living. No apologies, no guilt, no shame.
“I want to help people understand that different thinking isn’t a disability. That living life outside of social and cultural norms is not deviant or abnormal. It’s just different.”
Because, I tell you what, the spectrum you’re on, the color of your skin, your spirituality, your sex life/orientation, how you view the world, is yours and yours alone. No one can take that from you. Ever.
And you know what else, it’s your normal. And if your normal works for you, that’s good enough for me. I may not agree, but I refuse to get in the way of your life experience.
If you’re inclined, please feel welcome to contact me about embracing your diagnosis, finding your strengths and living your life according to what works for you.
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