This past Saturday was Happy World Mental Health Day!!! Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can be affected by stress, trauma, physical health, etc. My story includes a huge emphasis on mental health.
Mental health is not the same thing as a mental illness, but if mental health is left ignored for a long time and often paired with poor physical health then it can lead to Mental Illness.
I Have a Mental Illness
I talk a lot about mental health and mental illness on my blog and in my everyday life. A few years ago when my father passed away, I was truly forced for the first time in my life to deal with my mental health, and the truth was; I am mentally ill.
Writing it out like that “mentally ill” is a little bit heartbreaking, no matter how much I talk about it. It’s taken three years, a therapist, several doctors, a few different medications, and several incorrect diagnoses to get to where I am today.
And it breaks my heart a little to know that I’ve actually had a fairly easy path. Mental health and mental illness in America is an under-explored and underfunded part of our healthcare system.
I have good insurance. I have a great GP. And see a psychiatrist and a therapist regularly. But, everyday can still be a struggle. My current diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, and ADHD.
Yes, not just one but three. Our brains are so unique and so much of mental health and mental illness have an overlap. Different illnesses cross over and merge with others. Some look nearly identical.
My Diagnosis Journey
For me getting diagnosed with ADHD as an adult female was one of the hardest things. I had been being treated for Generalized Anxiety, and Depression for over 16 months, and I wasn’t getting better. We switched around my medications a few time. I could now thankfully get out of bed in the mornings, but I couldn’t focus, hold a long conversation, keep my workspace or my kitchen tidy. I couldn’t make plans. It felt like I wasn’t making any progress.
At this same time I was getting married, had a high stress level, and the more steps I took towards mental health, it felt like the farther I really was from it. So, I kept telling my GP and my psychiatrist, these meds don’t seem to be quite right for me. “I have XYZ side effects, I’m foggy brained, I’m still tired all the time, and I can’t focus on anything.”
I finally suggested to them that I would like to consider being evaluated for ADHD after taking an online test. Finding someone who does full adult ADHD evaluations in Hawaii, was like pulling teeth. I found one. I got it done. (It wasn’t easy and it took a long time!)
Turns out: I am a textbook case of female ADHD.
And I had been exhibiting signs since the second grade. I was always very talkative as a child. I had a crazy imagination. And daydreamed constantly. I was very smart but couldn’t complete a homework assignment. I couldn’t stick to a routine to save my life. The only way I thrived was to do 500 different activities. I also would give-up on them as soon as I started to become intermediate and my progress slowed. I had severe anxiety, often surrounding my daydreaming and procrastination.
There is one chapter of my story that occurred in second grade which sticks in my mind: my teacher read out how many homework assignments each student was missing from the semester. She wanted to give us all a chance to complete them before winter break. As she called out each name and number I began to panic.
Our class average was 3 missed assignments. I was missing 18. At recess I tearfully approached her with an armful of half-finished assignments from inside my desk. I told her that I had them, but they weren’t done. She let me skip recess for the entire week to complete them in her classroom. She was an angel! But, this should have set off a red flag somewhere. Why wasn’t a bright, interested child with high scores on all quizzes and tests able to complete a homework assignment and turn it in on time??
Women Have a Harder Time Getting Diagnosed
Because they tend to be less energetic and less violent, girls are often left behind when it comes to an ADHD diagnosis. They’re also much more likely to get diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety instead.
I am so proud of myself for fighting to figure out what was wrong with me. For daring to dig deeper into my mental health and mental illness when things weren’t working. I started my ADHD medications in April of 2020, and most days I feel like someone has turned on a lightbulb in my brain.
My ADHD Medicine is Working
I can track my train of thought, I can have a conversation, I can complete a task. And I am able to think more for myself, and have finally been taking steps towards improving my mental health too.
You can be mentally healthy if you have a mental illness! It takes a long time and is a lot of work! And you’re gonna have to fight a little harder than most people. But, it’s worth it. I promise.
My story includes adapting an amazing self-care routine that helps me on a daily basis to maintain my mental health. Journaling for depression and anxiety has been a huge part of my routine.
Although, I don’t enjoy being vulnerable. It’s really hard for me. But, I am also passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness into our society! So, I’m sharing part of my story with you, as a way to remind you that mental illness is a lot more common than you might think.
My inbox is always open if you ever need to chat!