I’ve lived with depression, anxiety, and ADD since I can remember. Well, I had no idea about the ADD until I was 22 years old. It’s strange growing up with something so apart of you, yet you’re so unaware of its existence.
For me, I always knew something else was wrong. Throughout my constant anxiety attacks and beginning depression, I could feel something else. I could only explain it, at 10 years old, as feeling mentally insane. I felt like I should have been locked away and the key lost forever. It’s scary being a child, feeling like there’s something mentally wrong with you and not knowing what to do about it.
My parents, as difficult as they may be, tried their best. My dad was always willing to pray for me and my mother willing to send some… um… tough love my way. I was unable to tell them throughout my teenage and early adult years why I acted the way I did. I kept getting kicked out for not doing my laundry, I started acting out and partying, I began being hateful. I’m not a disrespectful person, I’m actually quite caring and sensitive. Yet, I was so angry that no one could see the little girl inside me dying. I was so angry because I could see that little girl, there was nothing I could do to save her myself.
So, this piece is about my current struggle with ADD as a 22 year old woman trying to get her shit together. Please be respectful and considerate of my stories and photographs. These photos are sensitive because of the subject of this piece. It is meant to get people thinking about just how raw and emotional things can get for those of us with ADD/ADHD. These are stories from my own personal experience and does not reflect the experiences that others have.
My days start out in this spot. On my patio of my apartment is where I have my most precious moments of my day. I take my cup of coffee outside and sit and wait for my first ADD medication to kick in. I chain smoke, I post to my Instagram accounts, and I call my grandma. This is the moment I need to get my day started correctly. It gives me time to be with myself and process my thoughts one at a time until my medicine begins to work and I can think clearly without effort.
My patio has become a bit of a mess. I’m ashamed of it. I clean it, and within a week it’s a disaster again. Due to my excessive smoking habit. Why do I smoke so much? Because I need something to constantly do with my hands. My brain is working in over drive all of the time and if I stop moving my hands, I shut down. The cigarettes keep away the anxiety. They keep away the panic that I can’t control my own mind. My medicine hasn’t been working too well this past week. Between the couple drinks I’ve had and too low of a dose, it’s been difficult. I’ve spent all day, every day on my patio. With the exception of sleep and a couple outings, I stay put right where I am. It’s safe there. There’s no dirty dishes to look at, no to-do lists, and no dog to take care of when I’m outside. There’s no pressure except of what I make myself.
Yeah, I sit there and look at the garbage bag that holds the outcome of the last time I cleaned my patio. ADD is full of unfinished tasks. We start out with great enthusiasm and motivation until it quickly fades and we’re left with a half completed project and sleepy eyes. Then, sometimes depression likes to sneak up and ask us, “Why f*cking bother?”
This is the most honest, painful, raw, and emotional project I have ever attempted to complete. Before I continue, I’d like to share what’s behind the images. The reason for the editing. I chose black and white, not for those colors but for the gray. ADD is like living in a gray area of super productive and astonishingly “lazy.” God, I hate that word. To the world, we look lazy, messy, like a hot mess. When, in reality, we know all the productive things we could do, and want to do, but can’t. We’re stuck in the gray.
I chose to keep some photos dark as to show pieces of depression that can easily coincide with ADD. And the blurry focus is there on purpose, as well. It’s to show that life is such a blur with this illness that you can’t just comprehend that one thing to focus on. And, I kept the highlights in these photos bright, because it’s not all darkness in our souls.
Our bodies are important to us. While we may not be able to take the best care of them, it is the part we can control. I love my body because it tells me when I’m tired. It let’s me know when I’m nervous. My body is beautiful, and not just in a sexual way. It carries me, it keeps me going, and it holds my heart. Being a woman in general, we get a lot of attention solely based on our looks. And in the past year, it’s gotten increasingly more common for me. While I don’t mind if someone tells me I look pretty, I’m waiting for the person who compliments my hot mess of a mind. That’s the person I’m keeping around.
Living with ADD is one thing. But opening up about it as I am, is a whole other story. I’ve had people leave the deepest cuts when using my mental illnesses against me. Having a mental illness makes you vulnerable. I’ve heard this from others, ADD/ADHD increases our emotions. We have the ability to feel so incredibly deep. My happy moments all feel like the happiest ever, I get extremely easily excited at the slightest thing, and I love with every ounce of my soul. However, that being said, I feel saddness like no other, disappointments come as easily as the excitment, and heart break is something that makes me feel dead inside. I’ve been told I’m overly emotional, as if I’m supposed to be ashamed and change that about myself. Well, no. While it’s smart to not let emotions control your choices, emotions tell us very important things we cannot ignore.
ADD can leave you feeling vulnerable, scared, and alone. Much like anxiety and depression. I get easily overwhelmed. I can’t do the things I usually do daily anymore. I can’t focus on conversations with friends, and I sure as hell can’t live in the moment. I can get so overwhelmed that I shut down. You can see it in my face. It looks much like the one in the photo above, only more empty. In reality, I’d be staring at an object, trying to focus on it. While my thoughts race around without a break, I look like I don’t have a thought in the world. This is because my physical body can’t keep up with my brain. It just can’t, and it knows it. My body will shut down, and once that point hits it’s hard to do anything for the rest of the day.
I took this photo because of how I was physically feeling at that moment. My heart was racing, it felt as if it’d just beat right out of my chest. Yes, taking these photos made me nervous, (even more nervous to post them) surprisingly the cause was much simpler. I took my second ADD medication and while I waited on that to begin working, I drank some coffee. Bad idea. It didn’t give me energy, or a boost. It did help my mood a bit, though. I freaking love coffee! It just happens to be one of the many things I’ve had to change about my lifestyle, though. No more or very little caffiene. Most likely you’ll catch me drinking decaf. I sneak a few half caf coffees in. Don’t tell my doctor!
This photo absolutely breaks my heart in two. I wasn’t going to post it, until I saw the meaning of it. My intention with this was to have me looking at a book like, “Why can’t I focus on reading this?” Instead, I captured a pure moment of confusion from my fur baby. To me, he just looks so sad. It’s as if he’s wondering why his mommy doesn’t take him for walks anymore, why does his mom spend all her time outside, why is the only time he gets attention is when his mommy is napping or falling asleep. I hope he can understand that I’m not well. I know he does his best to comfort me. I apologize to him daily for not being an active mom, because I know how it feels for him.
Along with ADD comes the terror of the messy bed. Laundry doesn’t make it to the hamper, other things start to pile up. And then the dreaded time comes when it’s time to go to sleep. I’m able to tell when it’s going to be a good night and I can easily look forward to escaping all of the thoughts in my mind. But, I can also tell when it is going to be a bad night. A night when I lay awake day dreaming, thinking of every random possibility. Contemplating why I even try to sleep. Last night, my medication kept me up. I laid in bed for 2 hours before getting up and eating a snack. With everything that’s going on in my life, there’s too many things to think about when I’m left alone with my thoughts.
This is where I usually spend most of my time. I’ll eat here, I’ll read here, and I’ll work here. It’s usually the place where I live my life. Yet, for the past week I have been solely sitting outside waiting for the moment I start to crave being back in my chair. Lately, every time I sit at my table I’m discouraged, sad. I have a list of things I want to work on. That’s right, I WANT to work on them yet, I CAN’T. That’s what ADD is. Wanting to do the things that will help you, and not being physically able to.
Although, it’s not all down in the darkness. There are moments when it starts getting lighter. When I can feel the self love I have. I know I deserve to have happiness. We all do. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get to that point, but we can all make it there. You just have to help yourself.
There’s still love in our lives. Even though my fur baby doesn’t get the best mommy, he’s got the best love. And I may not be the best friend, but I’ve sure as hell got some best friends. I feel emotions strongly, love being the strongest of all.
Things get lighter. They get brighter. The thoughts can calm down and I can function again. I was able to stay focused throughout this whole thing with no breaks. That’s an amazing accomplishment for today. On a day when I can’t even begin to look at my to-do list, I’m grateful for having been able to do this project. My hope in this is to inspire those with ADD/ ADHD and to share awareness with those who don’t have it. It’s not always a hyperactive disorder. I’m definitely not hyperactive. My mind is, though.
Please excuse the middle finger, but at the end of the day I’m left with confidence. I’m left feeling more confident that I can overcome the next day, as well. Sure, there may be some feelings of defeat and saddness, a lot of confusion but, there’s hope. At the end of the day, put your middle fingers up and tell your mental health issues to f*ck off. They’ve got no place here. And even though we both know they’re going to stick around, anyway, it feels great to stand up for yourself with some badass attitude!