My Mental Health

I wouldn’t say that this is one of the hardest things I’ve posted. I think mental health can be difficult for some people to talk about, but for me, it’s been part of my life since I was a child.

I was diagnosed with ADD & ADHD (back then, separate disorders) when I was in elementary school. I had an in-class observation done by a mental health professional. I’ve read this file remember finding it remarkably odd to see my own reality written in someone else’s words. About a year ago I submitted myself to a friend’s research study at the National Institute of Health. One of the disqualifying factors was ADD, so I underwent several tests to determine if I had ADD. I tested negative on all.

I was surprised, having lived with ADD as part of my identity for about two decades, but it isn’t uncommon for children to grow out of this disorder.

Between being diagnosed in elementary school and being retested post-college I was also diagnosed with anxiety. More specifically I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder in my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t something that I spoke about a lot, but I did find it as a reason for my unsettling, what-do-I-do-with-my-hands feeling when I’m in a social situation. It’s why I love the anonymity of a crowd, and why groups of ten or fewer make me extremely nervous. It’s why I get tunnel vision and focus on tasks as opposed to a social conversation. (Example: Being at dinner and getting hyper focused about what to select from the menu instead of the tables’ conversation.) I use tasks as lifeboats.

About four weeks ago I was deep in a mental health rabbit hole and found myself questioning if my social anxiety was to blame for all my issues. The more I was writing the more I was finding different personal flaws surface.

I use tasks as lifeboats.

After several aptitude tests, consulting the DSM, and discussing with mental health professional I found that I do have dyslexia.

My combination of dyslexia and Social Anxiety Disorder presents itself like ADD/ADHD, however, there are sensitive differences. I’ve always believed that as a child I lacked a solid education in spelling and grammar and that that is the reason I struggle with new words/phrases. I believed that I just wasn’t one of those people that were good at learning a language, and that was why I struggled in Spanish and French. I ignored the way that words would blur in front of my eyes and began using my memory to learn words. I thought my struggle between identifying left and right were just personal quirks, but it is actually a symptom of dyslexia.

The way I explained dyslexia to Kevin was like this: you know what a Golden Retriever looks like, right? But can you draw one? You can picture it and you know it, but your ability to connect it to pencil strokes was impossible. I can picture words, but writing them is different.

I don’t think this disqualifies me from being a writer. I think it just adds a different layer to my writing and editing process. I wouldn’t change myself for anything. My personal issues just require a little more TLC.

I’ve always had anxiety about writing in front of people or writing down something that another person is spelling to me. That anxiety has been bubbling at the surface since learning I’m dyslexic. It’s been two weeks since my last panic attack. Panic attacks used to be a rarity for me. In February I had six panic attacks, five happening in a two-week span.

If you have never had a panic attack I pray you never have one. It is a suffocating feeling. I can closest explain it as feeling like the amount of heat radiating from your body is stuffed into a too small body. It’s an out of body experience where you watch yourself spiral and try to calm yourself and the more you try the more you spiral, the harder it is to breathe, and you witness as one by one all your foundations crumble. They are emotional and exhausting. For me, the post-panic attack is not a quick recovery. I spend the next 24-48 hours feeling guilty, nervous, unsettled. I struggle to eat, I struggle to sleep. February was torturous to me.

I wouldn’t change myself for anything. My personal issues just require a little more TLC.

As much as I would like to believe that all of this is out of my control (that means taking less ownership for personal actions) I do believe that I neglected the TLC I needed for several months, which is what led to my collapse. I wasn’t eating well. I hadn’t cleaned the house in weeks. I didn’t accept ownership over an apartment I had been living in for two years. I was riding in the passenger seat of my life, watching things happen and pitying myself. I started recouping two weeks ago.

I dedicated energy into my living space. I bought organizational pieces. I bought gentle personal touches to make the place feel like my own. I hired a maid to give my living space a deep, professional clean. I spent 24 hours eating just vegetables, nothing processed and will be continuing this for the next week. I am drinking more water than I’ve ever consumed in my life. I’m sleeping normally, not four hours, not 14. I’m holding myself to a higher standard of living and already reaping the benefits. I’m sleeping easier. I wake more well rested. I enjoy walking around my house.

Kevin is happier. Our relationship is happier.

I am still feeling the aftermath of panic attacks, but I come back now. I haven’t had a panic attack in two weeks. I think not shopping has been a really important step. I’m pulling myself out of the shop, feel guilty, shop to stop the guilt cycle. I’m feeling better and I’m working to feel my best.

Thank you for reading this mini novel. TLC to all of you.

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