Learning Me and ADHD

Unveiling New Layers and Discover Me

Being encapsulated in an ecosystem that demands a consistent performance of strength, I’ve always perceived my energetic, ever-active self as merely a byproduct of my roles and responsibilities. It's only just recently I’ve become aware, as a new chapter unfolds, bringing with it revelations and recalibrations as I come face-to-face with different challenges and opportunities to evolve

Growing up, the narrative around mental health was scarcely discussed within the confines of our community. The strong black woman trope was a mantle handed down through generations, implicitly implying that vulnerability equates to weakness. Here I was, navigating through life’s intricacies, juggling the multifaceted roles of a mother, an artist, and a professional, often attributing my occasional forgetfulness, frenzied thoughts, and perpetual motion to the bustling demands of life. It wasn’t until the consistent patterns of inattention and hyperactivity began to seep into the crevices of my everyday life that I began questioning – no seriously, what’s the deal?

Combined Type ADHD

Despite being a vocal advocate for mental health, my own diagnosis may have slightly caught me off guard. ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), especially the combined type which amalgamates both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, was never on my radar. I found solace in the arts, channeling my boundless energy and bustling mind into creations that spoke where words often failed. Unknowingly, it was a coping mechanism, a means to give composition to the abstract within.

The realization that my active mind and body were not just attributable to my dynamic lifestyle, but also a neurodevelopmental disorder, painted my past actions and struggles in a new, elucidating light. It was a moment of clarity, followed by a cascade of questions and what-ifs.

Peeling Back the Layers: Pursuing Understanding

With the diagnosis, the advocate in me sparked a fresh resolve - not just to navigate through this newfound knowledge but also to dive deeper, exploring the nexus between my mental health and overall wellbeing. The intersectionality of being a black woman in a society that is only now beginning to peel back the layers of mental health nuances became glaringly evident.

In seeking further understanding, I embarked on a journey to explore potential comorbid conditions, which are not uncommon with ADHD. Anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities often walk hand-in-hand with the disorder, and deciphering the intertwining symptoms became pivotal in comprehending my holistic mental health.

The Journey Forward: Empathy, Understanding, and Advocacy

Learning about ADHD, especially when staring down the lens of mid-life, is as much an individual journey as it is a collective one. It’s crucial for our communities, especially the black community, to dismantle the stigmas encircling mental health. The superwoman myth needs deconstruction, enabling space for dialogue, empathy, and understanding.

The art that once provided an unconscious outlet for my bustling mind is now a conscious medium to express, explore, and advocate for mental health. I bring to the canvas not just the hues of creativity but also the myriad emotions, struggles, and revelations stemming from my diagnosis and ongoing journey.

Advocacy through Art and Experience

While my advocacy takes a more deliberate path, it's intertwined with learning and unlearning aspects of my own mental wellbeing. It's a continuous process of exploring how ADHD interplays with my roles, my creations, and my interactions.

Moreover, this diagnosis has been a stepping stone toward breaking free from the restrictive expectations that often shroud black women, allowing for vulnerability, openness, and authentic conversations about mental health within our communities. It's a message to all — that understanding and addressing our mental health is not a sign of weakness but an epitome of strength and self-awareness.

Acceptance and Continual Growth

While my path has taken an unexpected turn, it is paved with acceptance and a renewed sense of self. Learning about ADHD and its symphony of symptoms and coexisting conditions is a continual journey of understanding, adapting, and advocating.

In sharing my story, my art, and my voice, I hope to ignite discussions and foster an environment where mental health is not ensconced in shadows but illuminated in our daily conversations, policies, and practices. For me, my family, and the diverse roles I embody, this journey is not traversed in solitude but hand-in-hand with a community willing to learn, empathize, and elevate each other amidst our individual and collective struggles.

It's never too late to discover new facets of oneself, and it's a journey well worth taking.


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1 comment

Hello! I am happy to have stumbled across your site as your artwork is beautiful! I read about your journey to receive your diagnosis, and I wonder if you can answer a question for me. How were you diagnosed? Is there a rating scale for you, family members and/or a therapist you work with? I was “diagnosed” by my psychiatrist who I’ve seen for about 12 years. I think I complained about my symptoms often enough that she finally started me on adderall, and it helped, although I am unsure how much. Anyway, I’m 53, have 3 kids and have been divorced for 9 years, so it seems we have a few things in common! Please take care of yourself and when you have a moment, I’d love to learn about how you were diagnosed; clearly, your health care professionals are the best in the world! ;)

Gwendolyn O'Leary

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