by Sarah Fader
All my life I thought of myself as a fuck up and a failure. I didn't think I was capable of much, because everyone was better at things than I was. I thought I had to get good grades and get into honors classes. Ironically, failure academically was not an option.
I put an epic amount of pressure on myself to do well in school. This pressure I placed on myself resulted in developing chronic acid reflux and G.I. problems.
I was still getting A minuses—it made me feel like I wasn't doing enough.
At the time I didn't know that I had a learning disability. I was 15 years old and I didn't know that I had ADHD. I was assigned classic literature in my honors English class and I couldn’t seem to finish the books.
I enjoyed the reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. Well . . . the pages I managed to complete. I never finished the book and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was then assigned Crime and Punishment. I also enjoyed that book, but I couldn't focus for long enough periods of time to read it. These were stupendous wordsmiths—incredibly talented writers—whose words I loved and yet, something was wrong with me. I wasn’t able to finish any of the books during the short period of three weeks that the class demanded.
If I read for leisure, it would take me months to finish a book. I knew there was something different about me, but I didn’t know what it was. All the media coverage of people with ADHD featured small boys who were bouncing off the walls and hyper.
That didn’t fit me. I wasn’t a small boy.
I was a struggling, depressed young woman!!
When I became an college student it got even harder for me. It was already a challenge as a student in high school. I was chronically late to things and never made it to first period. I dropped out of every science class I took.
With tremendous effort, I eventually graduated with honors from New York University. But, I nearly had a nervous break down doing it. A psychiatrist prescribed me a medication that is typically used to treat people with paranoid schizophrenia. My anxiety level was so high I could barely sleep or eat. I took 22 credits in order to finish graduate school.
I did it. I made it through.
Then as an adult . . . life became unbearable.
At least when I was younger I had the support of my family. I lived with my parents. As an adult I had to pay my own bills and be on time for things. These are two things that are incredibly difficult for an adult living with ADHD. I still didn't know that I had it!
At 25, I took a pre-med science class. It was like the professor was speaking German. It was confirmed that there was something different about my brain. I couldn’t focus or understand the material. I chose to get evaluated for a learning disability—a learning disability that I knew that I had to be suffering from. I went to a Jewish Community Center where a licensed psychologist gave me a series of tests. I was diagnosed with a visual spatial learning disability and ADHD.
It was life changing.
I was awarded a proctor and untimed testing in my science class. I felt like finally I was getting somewhere in my academic life. I knew why I wasn’t able to conceptualize visual stimuli.
Still, I was challenged by the things that people with ADHD find to be barriers. I continued to interrupt people when they talked to me. I was late to jobs and got fired from them. I was not skilled with managing money. I didn’t know what I was doing “wrong.” I was in therapy. I took antidepressants. I was trying, but kept on failing.
With my ADHD I have done the following: had several articles go viral on The Huffington Post, published three books, been a public speaker at BlogHer, spoken at universities on mental illness. I've been awarded best personal essay of 2015 for Quartz media, and many more accomplishments that I would love to brag about.
Still, I continued to struggle. Still do today.
After having children, and showing up late to their school chronically, I got a wake up call. I had to change. For the sake of my kids, I realized that I needed to learn time management. This went hand in hand with ADHD.
I could not. keep. fucking up. like. this.
So I made a decision. I decided to go see a psychiatrist and go on medication for ADHD.
And I told myself these things . . .
I am not a failure.
I am a human.
I am flawed.
I am beautiful.
I am a mother of two.
I am someone who struggles with focus. I am a person who believes they can do better and is working toward a goal.
I will be better.
I will work hard.
And I will be the super hero I know that I am.
Because being different isn’t a failure.
It’s called being human.
And I love my humanity…
*** And I love who I am ***
Sarah recently released a collection of her essays from around the Internet and you already love her because you read this article and you want to buy her book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.
She is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.