A renewed understanding (of myself)

As many (most?) of you know, my first pregnancy was an anxious shit show during which I had to take Zo.loft to control my anxiety-ridden, obsessive thoughts. I was such an incredible mess during the first 2/3 of my pregnancy that I could barely function. At the time I was teaching full time AND completing a Master’s degree in my second language. It’s funny how I never connected the two (my intensely demanding work load and my crippling pregnancy-related anxiety) until now.

So far this pregnancy hasn’t left me feeling so anxious or worried or out of control. I believed there are a lot of reasons for this, mostly that I already have a daughter and that this pregnancy was so unexpected, despite how much we were trying and how drastically we had changed our lifestyles in hopes of improving our fertility. I still believe those reasons have helped me weather this pregnancy better than the first, but now I see that there was something else at play before, something that exacerbated my anxiety the first time around.

You see, my anxiety has been very manageable during this pregnancy, but I’ve noticed in the past couple weeks it has started to ramp up. I was attributing the increase to our approaching NT scan, which was such a disaster during my first pregnancy and actually led to me finally breaking down and taking Zo.loft when my obsessive worrying was becoming unmanageable. There are a LOT of negative emotions associated with the NT scan for me, and I figured that my rising anxiety level was just nervousness about the approaching appointment (it’s this Friday).

Then I noticed that my anxiety seemed to be more generalized. I was feeling a low level of anxiety all the time, and since I thought the most about my pregnancy, I attributed my anxiety to those thoughts. Except I wasn’t anxious about my pregnancy really (though I certainly worry from time to time), I was just anxious about my life. I was feeling overwhelmed, out of control. My classroom is a total disaster area, literally covered in ever-growing piles of papers and mounds of books. Even my students have been mentioning it, and they are used to a certain heightened level of disarray in my space. Just sitting at my desk, which requires stepping gingerly over many piles, boxes, bags and other detritus, stresses me out, because the mounds of junk are almost unnavigable, even for me. I spend many precious teaching minutes every period trying to find the stack of papers I just copied or the key they need to correct their math homework, or my copy (one of three I might add) of the Spanish novel we’re reading.

My home is not much better. There have been days (more than I’d like to admit), where every single square inch of available countertop space has been COVERED in dirty dishes, wrappers, used aluminum foil, stale food, and other expected kitchen mess. My sink contains a perpetual pile of unwashed dishes. Bags of clean and dirty laundry (non of it folded) clutter every room of the house. Books and toys and princess dresses and stickers and whatever else my daughter is into these days is strewn all over the floors. The floor of my room is literally covered in clothes, books, magazines, Dopplers, paperwork… you name it, it’s sitting on my floor.

Even my car is disgusting, with a thick layer of cracker debris blanketing the boxes, bags, books, clothes, sippy cups and other junk that that lay every where.

Now my house (and car and classroom) always look like this in some way or another, and it’s easy to blame the current state of things on how sick I’ve been feeling (and I have, for the most part, blamed it on that). But I realized recently there is more at play here, there is a common thread pulling at all the different parts of my life, snagging it into a tangled, unrecognizable mess. And I realized it because of something someone sent me.

You know how sometimes, a friend or family member sends you an article and it arrives at the perfect time, opening your eyes to something so obvious that you can’t believe you didn’t see it before?

My friend send me an article like that not long ago. I actually didn’t get around to reading it until Friday and holy shit, was it a wake up call. It was called It’s Different for Girls with ADHD, and I swear it changed my life. Which is funny because I already KNEW I had ADHD and I already knew how much it impacts my daily existence, especially when I’m not on my medication (like now). And yet, somehow, in the daily bussle of every day life, I let myself forget.

Well, the article reminded me. And it taught me quite a few things I never knew about this disorder of mine. While it makes perfect sense–and perhaps I did understand this to a point–I wasn’t aware that for many (actually, most) women with ADHD, misdiagnoses of generalized depression and anxiety are common because it can be hard for a professional to recognize that the reasons for their depression and anxiety are their ADHD. When you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, underwater, out of control, you feel anxious, and eventually, you become depressed. Your self-esteem suffers greatly when the things most people manage easily, feel impossible for you. When you start self identifying as lazy, worthless, dirty, disorganized, a slob, it starts to get you down. You think your disorder, something you have no control over, is actually a series of character flaws and you judge yourself harshly. You also feel like you’ll never, ever get on top of the every growing mess rising up around you.

I also learned that ADHD symptoms are exaggerated by rising estrogen levels, which is why most girls aren’t diagnosed (or even start having insurmontable problems) until puberty. It’s also why many women don’t “hit a wall” (as it was described in the book) until pregnancy.

I had NO IDEA that my ADHD was not only bad because I’m not taking medication, but also because my soaring estrogen levels exacerbate it further.

No wonder I’m feeling overwhelmed lately (and thinking back on this blog, how many times have I described myself as feeling overwhelmed, ESPECIALLY during my pregnancy when I was working and in graduate school–pretty much EVERY post is about me feeling that way). No wonder I can’t stay on top of the little things that others seem to achieve so effortlessly. No wonder I’m honestly considering not having a birthday party for Isa because I don’t know if I can manage to get my house–and overgrown, neglected backyard–in order the weekend before school’s out. No wonder I feel this low buzz of anxiety surrounding me–every where I look are tasks that seem so simple and yet, for me, feel impossible. Every where I look I’m failing at maintaining the basic standard of organization and cleanliness that people have come to expect from productive citizens.

I’m currently reading Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, by Sari Solden and I expect it will further change my life. I’ve never done much work to specifically combat my ADHD and I hope the strategies (and simple validation) will help me get through these next seven months, especially the last eight weeks of school that loom before me and the first two months of school that I’ll hopefully be experiencing in the final trimester of this pregnancy. I also hope that once my nausea settles down for good, I’ll be able to go back to some semblance of my diet, which helped manage my ADHD immensely.

Until then, I’m so grateful for the reminder that a lot of what I’m experiencing right now are not my own personal failings, that I am not an utter disappointment to myself and those around me, that when things feel impossible for me, it’s not because I’m too lazy to get it done, but because of something much more complicated and out of my control. I hope I can continue to remember that for the entirety of my pregnancy and all the months  I’m (hopefully) breastfeeding, until I can finally go on my medication again.

7 responses

  1. Thank you for sharing. I am glad that overall you feel more in control with this pregnancy and are learning more about how ADHD effects women, especially during pregnancy. I understand feeling anxious re: the NT scan. I had that with Abby, after Molly, as the NT scan was the first inkling there might be a problem with Molly’s heart rate. But Abby’s NT scan was just fine. Sending peace, love, light, thoughts and prayers your way.

  2. It helps me to remember to NOT compare my insides with other people’s outsides. Simple to say, hard to do and VERY powerful to remember. YOUR OUTSIDES look magically wonderful to those looking from our own insides. To me, you are SO impressive.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. Just this past weekend I was beating myself up about taking meds for ADHD. In my head, the lecture went on and on: “everyone else seems able to handle their lives without medication…what’s wrong with you? get it together–be more organized–you’re just lazy.” I can read this article and remind myself that there are many of us who have brains that are just plain different than everyone else.

    Take care of yourself this week. The NT scan is stressful for everyone, it seems, and it’s reasonable to be anxious because you know too much and have been through so much. Maybe try to do some things for yourself to feed the love and peace in your heart and squash the anxiety as much as possible. I’m sending continued thoughts and prayers!

  4. I don’t know anything about ADHD, but I do know how my stress levels drop as soon as I’ve done some serious cleaning and got rid of those piles on the floor/stairs/cupboards/dining table! (I seriously need to now). So I can relate in a very small way to how you are feeling. The whole estrogen thing is very interesting too.

    Also – if you haven’t read Brene Brown and her thoughts on shame (links on my blog), you might want to. She says “Shame is when we believe we are bad.” Your comments about self-identifying as ” lazy, worthless, dirty, disorganized, a slob” etc fit this absolutely. You’re not these things. Don’t tell yourself you are!

  5. Thanks for posting this. I was seriously just about to write a post wondering “how come i can’t handle all the things other people can?” I have never been diagnosed with ADHD, but I have often wondered if I might have it (and this post is making me wonder again). I am so glad you discovered a possible reason for your current disorder.

    Also, I love what L said above, about not comparing your insides with others’ outsides! I need to remember that sometimes.

  6. You are always so brave In posting such raw emotions and being so honest about what’s going on. I am so glad you have an understanding of why you are struggling with these things. Been thinking about you a lot lately- hugs and lots of love to you

  7. As usual, I am blown away by your self-awareness and your honesty. Don’t have ADHD (pretty sure of it), but can relate absolutely to the overwhelm and the negative spiral that follows (dirty, slob, lazy, etc…). Lies, they are all lies. You are amazing, you do SO MUCH every day. Please be kind to yourself.

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