Imagine thinking of yourself as one way for your entire life, and then finding out all at once that it was wrong. It’s kind of identity-shattering, even if it’s a relatively mild thing. This happened to me for the first time when I was 22. I needed my birth certificate for my marriage license, and my mom couldn’t remember where it was. She told me to just call and get a replacement, so I called the good people at the main courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina, only to be told they had no record of me. I called my mom in a panic and she just said, “Well, of course not. You were born in North Carolina.”
Hoping to salvage what little bit was now left of my ‘born and raised in South Carolina’ identity, I said, “Oh, ok, that makes sense. Because I was born at Charlotte’s Medical….” (which was only about 15 minutes north of what I believed to be my hometown in South Carolina.)
“Well, yeah, but also we lived in Charlotte until you were 2.”
The next time this happened to me was in the past year, when I was diagnosed and began treatment for ADHD. This is one of those things that doesn’t seem like a big deal to people on the outside looking in. You get diagnosed, you get some support, you get some meds, you move on with your life and everything is sunshine and roses from there on out. To some extent, that isn’t incorrect. Support, meds, and moving on are a big part of the deal. What’s missing, though, is the identity piece. The regrets piece. The what if things had been different piece. The “Oh! That’s why I do that thing!” piece. It goes from feeling like you’re this solid, Lego tower of a person, built by all the pieces that make you what you are, to feeling like you’re a wobbly Jenga tower that’s too tall and missing key pieces that are supposed to hold it up. The information we have about ourselves and our experiences are what make us feel like we have a solid grip on who we are and why. When something comes along that has been there all along, unnoticed, it starts to feel like it erases things you were so sure about.
That’s where I am right now.
That’s where kind of where I’ve been for the last year. I’ve read (ok, half-read) three separate books on ADHD. I’ve scoured the internet for practical strategies and things to help me. I’ve talked to people and made plans for myself and worked my ass off to combat what seemed like a minor annoyance of a disorder. I haven’t really had any emotional connection to any of it. If anything, it’s been kind of a source of amusement for myself and those around me – myself because I like to laugh at my excentrities, and those around me because they can’t seem to believe this is new information to me. I think it felt like a fake diagnosis – kind of like when you do an internet search for a headache and come to the conclusion that you’re dying. You don’t really think you’re dying. You just kind of think maybe you might be.
My first “diagnosis” was a 10 minute conversation with my primary doctor, where I talked about how I was seeing some similarities between myself and my oldest daughter, who had recently received an ADHD diagnosis of her own through extensive testing. My doctor said, “Sounds right” and gave me a brochure of resources to look into to help me manage it. She asked if I wanted medication and I said no thanks, and we never talked about it again. Recently, as my school and work responsibilities begun to get challenging and I begun to get that fight or flight response I usually get before I quit something, I decided to bring it up again with my new doctor. Certainly it wasn’t supposed to be this hard just to function like an adult, right?
This doctor spoke to me for a long time, had me work through a questionnaire, talked to me some more….it was a real process for which I was grateful. I have to admit, I was half expecting her to come back and say that there was no cause for concern, because I didn’t really have it, remember? For all intents and purposes, I self-diagnosed myself and then Old Doctor agreed with me. So, when New Doctor matter-of-factly told me where I fell on the scale, it kind of felt like a gut punch.
“You mean, it’s really a thing I have? Like, for real?”
Well, damnit. Again.