Despite all of the inspiration, I clearly failed to meet my goal of 30 blog posts in 30 days. But I have good news! It is for a VERY good reason that I have failed my own self-imposed challenge.
I have spent the last four months working very hard to get control of my mental health. Well, actually I have spent the last four years working on my mental health but in the last four months I have made drastic improvement.
I was brought up in a household that did not “believe” that mental health was worthy of exploration. Happiness was something you made for yourself and if you are not happy then you need to change your attitude. There would be no doctors visits, no medication, no effort to address the root of my “issues”.
At 30, I was diagnosed with ADD, OCPD, and anxiety. The way I see it, this is the sum of being raised in fear of what might happen if I do the “wrong” thing. I spent my whole young adult life trying to FIND happiness. Trying to IMPROVE myself. Trying to be a GOOD person by doing all the RIGHT things. I obsessed over self-improvement. Not physical improvement but mental improvement. I wanted to learn everything and apply all of my knowledge directly to my own life so I could be the best possible version of myself. But I was drowning in my efforts.
Trying to do everything RIGHT made me feel trapped. I wanted to dye my hair but I shouldn’t do that because it can damage my hair. I wanted to wear Converse shoes everyday but I shouldn’t because they do not look professional. I wanted to sleeve my arm with tattoos but I shouldn’t because I may regret it someday. I made sure that anything I bought was at the lowest possible price because it would be a waste of money if I over-spent. And I would have a panic attack anytime I spent money on things I did not NEED – like clothes – because if I had clothes fit I didn’t NEED more. Even if my wardrobe was dingy, well-worn, torn, stained, or a little loose-fitting, I still could not justify buying myself new clothes.
An ADD brain takes everything you have ever known and puts it into a channel. Then your brain spends all of its time channel surfing. External factors are always competing with the ADD brain for attention. This is why someone can appear totally normal on the outside but cannot pay attention to anything or anyone without a ton of concentrated effort.
Then I was prescribed Aderall. GAME CHANGER.
Medication combined with therapy has opened up a world of possibility. I find that I am not obsessing over my thoughts. My head is not channel surfing, looking for the RIGHT and BEST answer. In fact, the TV in my head is off and I am aware of my surroundings. Not just aware… I am actually existing IN THE MOMENT. I have always tried to live in the moment and find peace in just focusing on whatever I was doing but the changing channels in my head were always a distraction. Then, whenever any external stimuli competed with the TV in my head for my attention, I would often explode, scream, yell, or turn into a “tornado” and try to control my surroundings (a futile effort).
On medication, I can sit have a cup of coffee while I engage in conversation with my kids over breakfast. I am listening to them, observing their behavior, enjoying the way their minds work, answering their inquisitive little questions. I can do this because the TV in my head is off. They are not competing against the other ten thousand things I have to think about. They have me. All of me.
This freedom from my mental prison is coupled with four months of very good therapy. I am finally (at 30) permitting myself to be authentic. Ironically, this is the very message I am trying to deliver to parents and teens. Be authentic and you will find more opportunities that suit your needs. Well, if I am going to make a living pitching this message, I had better be a living example!
So here I am. Authentically me. Tattoos, nose ring, mermaid hair (as my daughter’s call it), Converse shoes, bright colored clothes and a vibrant (sometimes loud) personality. I also curse like a sailor and I’m not sorry. I’m embracing the alternative. I am making small choices each day based on what I WANT and not what is RIGHT. This is not to say I am making poor choices. I am just not making politically correct choices in order to avoid criticism. Avoiding criticism is exhausting.
While I may not have written 30 blog posts in 30 days, I am pretty damn proud of what I have accomplished. Taking control of my health and my authenticity is allowing me to be the best version of myself – which is all I ever wanted to be.