For so long, I have been stuck in my own head, struggling to catch my breath! I’ve suffered most my life with mental illness. Diagnosed with severe anxiety and adult ADHD as well as long battles with deep depression. Yes, I am on medication. I’m sure a lot of you who know me have read the last sentence with a response of “oh, really? I wouldn’t have guessed!” Or may be you knew all along, but it has taken me 36 years to understand it and use it to develop a life worth living. You may think I’m damaged, and believe me, sometimes I feel as though I am, but i’m here to tell you that I am not and my successes are that much sweeter at the end of the day!
I’ve battled many days and nights with thoughts of what my funeral would be like, who would come, what stories would be told and how long it would take to be forgotten. I have gone so far as to think of play lists of songs to be played at the service, what videos of my life will be shown, what foods would be served and who’d speak of great moments in the life of Jared. Does this sound disturbing to you? Not to me! I’ve never gone to the edge or tried to take my own life, but my illness forces me to dive deep into this way of thinking. To me, it’s normal and on some occasions, it’s all I know. 36 years and I’ve masked my true self through humour and outrageous antics to ensure people around me don’t see this illness and just see ‘ME’ as the fun, adventurous, creative person they’d WANT to be around.
Ya see, the most creative people on the planet have been blessed and cursed with mental illness. It’s a completely different way of thinking that offers insight to various levels of human consciousness. We are able to reach deep down and connect with dramatic feelings away from the typical. It allows us to write incredible screen plays for movies, develop paintings that test the human experience and lets us connect with ‘dramatic’ emotions that ultimately possess the power to create amazing projects. For this, I embrace all this illness has to offer because, well… I have no choice. It’s embrace it or die. That’s how one sided it can be!
You take medication for your heart disease, or for your over active thyroid, but why is it looked upon with such judgement that I take medication for my faulty serotonin levels? Do you think it will make me less funny or compassionate? Less human? There is no such thing as normal, my friends. If there was, this world would be a pretty bland tapestry made up of the same repeated colour of yarn. The brain is an organ, and just like your heart, it too needs to be looked after, helped and jump started sometimes. The medication I take does not alter my reality or personality… It helps me maintain my humanity.
Adult ADHD and ME
ADHD to me, is not something I throw out there like others do who aren’t clinically diagnosed. ADHD to me, a clinically diagnosed recipient, provides a million thoughts at once without capability to choose which one to focus on and it can be crippling. I’m not hyperactive, but hyper thought – high functioning. I can sit in front of my computer and write a 40 page proposal for work, all while worrying about that pain in my back, why I can’t stop eating at 2am, what bills I have to pay, what friend I have to impress, the lengthly event ‘load in’ I have at a venue, the Star Wars Tshirt I want, where I’ll be in 15 years, Oh! I can’t get that song out of my head, how long it’ll be before I go home to lie in bed and what my death would be like – Ultimately, my funeral. To not control your thoughts is the scariest part, but again, I have found a way to harness it and guess what? BRAINSTORMING has never been easier. It’s taken me a lifetime to figure out the power I possess and how to harness it for everyday life. I can come up with eight incredible ideas to your one and you’ll never understand how! The hard part is, strategically making these ideas come to fruition and THAT part takes every ounce of energy I possess as my ADHD squeezes me breathless!
This next paragraph is the hardest part of my illness –> Relationships! On a daily basis, I am contacted by friends and family who want to set me up with a girl they think would be PERFECT for me. Perfect? How can this perfect woman want to be with someone who has so many damaged goods? I’m going to be completely honest right now or this post would lose its purpose. I choose to be single (alone) because I think I’d burden the one I’m with. Sick right? No, it’s not. It’s my way of thinking! My relationships have been short and for the first time in my life, I can explain why. Imagine looking at your soulmate, looking into the eyes of this perfect woman in front of you and the only thing you can focus on is 20 reasons why she’ll dump you or 20 reasons why you’ll ruin it and ultimately 20 reasons for hiding your true self – The illness! I am a unique and amazing individual, but I keep my distance to protect ‘my illness.’ Take that in for a second and really think! I choose to be alone to protect the one thing that damages ME! It comes down to this point, where the reasoning for not being intimate with someone is because you don’t want them to know this and losing them feels like you’d go over the top. This is the ONLY part of mental illness that makes ME selfish, because mental illness IS selfish! Think about that before you call someone who commits suicide selfish! You can never imagine how dark this reality is.
I write this not to gain sympathy from you, but to KILL the stigma and hopefully persuade more people who are suffering to stop holding it in! You’re not damaged – You’re unique (possibly gifted)! Robin Williams died yesterday and it hit me hard. He was the only actor I could relate to and so many of his roles reflected my way of thinking. He was a genius on all levels and you could tell he was suffering from internal issues. He talked about it. He tried so hard to entertain, provoke thought and inspire everyone around him. Even though I never met him, I connected with those sentiments he carried with him. I posted last night on Facebook about my illness and within 30 minutes, I had an incredible amount of private messages from people you’d have NO clue are suffering from similar issues. Not a few, but MANY! They thanked me for my bravery of speaking freely to the 1800 people on my Facebook. Some even said they could never do what I did. That hit home! Could it be that by laying it all on the table, I released my internal hurt? Suffering with this illness is SO individual! It’s not lonely, it’s debilitating and it alters reality for many. Telling me to JUST BE HAPPY is not in my DNA, literally, and saying it won’t make it so.
Today I start this column called DAMAGED GOODS in hopes to inspire true change and understanding for those who don’t understand. I’ll try to never plan my funeral in my head again, because my imperfection is now broadcasted; I don’t need to hide! Today, I vow to TALK and say those things that others will not say in hopes that my GREAT IMPERFECTION proves that this illness is a curse, but also a gift.
For once, I understand why I have this unexplainable disease is in my head —> It just is!
The on going battle continues….
An incredible video that really helps sum up the above: