At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had just returned to the office from maternity leave. As a then, 45 year old mother of four finding the time for self-care was all but impossible. In addition to the emotional roller coaster that comes naturally postpartum, I was nursing my baby full time, or and pumping to provide his food while I was at the office. Already having serious difficulties in my marriage and balancing a workload in my career that was successful, yet unhealthy, to say that my life was in “transition” seems laughable. So when covid shut the world down, I could only describe the feeling as a terrifying relief. Grateful for the privilege of being able to work from home AND nurse my baby and be with my family, the literal “outside” became the silent enemy. Then George Floyd and too many other stories of police brutality finally came roaring to the front doors of everyone, creating more uncertainty about what seemed to be an already fragile existence. Knowing that the kids would need to have things to do, I started to look for ideas of projects to keep them engaged. I had seen some videos of fluid art being done on YouTube recently, so I decided to grab a few art boards and fluid paint sets off the internet for us to do as a family. This was the beginning of my return to art and how it became my support.
Prior to the pandemic, my then husband and I were looking for homes to purchase that were closer to my work. We finally found one that we could agree on and moved the spring after covid began. After we settled in, I returned to learning fluid art painting. It was that and being able to continue my general therapy sessions virtually, that helped keep me present during the upheaval of my life as I knew it.
During the remote learning for my son specifically and noticing some things in his ability to be fully present during remote learning, my inner voice told me to research ADHD symptoms. This wasn’t out of left field; my 8th grader was diagnosed in grade school so the possibility was not far fetched. What I found was exactly what I expected; my son seemed to be displaying textbook ADHD behaviors. I shared my findings with his dad and he agreed. I let his teachers know and I proceeded to find out how to get him evaluated professionally. After his confirmed diagnosis, his father and I attended a series of sessions for parents with children who have ADHD. It was through those series of parent sessions that I grew increasingly curious about my own behaviors. *remembering this as I write it makes me giggle*
Summer 2022 at age 46, I was diagnosed with ADHD combined type. It was the best news because it just made sense. I was excited and ready to learn more. So that’s what I did.
Today, I am a self-proclaimed “brand ambassador” for ADHD. The dopamine deficiency and misnomer that is, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder is still widely untalked about due to lack of information and stigmas. I aim to change that starting with creation. A form and medium for dopamine, creating and art naturally fit hand in hand as an organic facilitator of dopamine. Because my art was born out of the need to express, channel and heal, it’s easily one of my most intimate contributions to myself, and to those around, especially for those of us who are learning to live and embrace their neuro divergent way of thinking and mental health.
NeuroDivergent thinking and behaviors in females and those assigned female at birth has been grossly under-studied and under-valued. This is changing. New awareness and tools like the internet and social media mean that the reach for education, support and research is expansive. Even just over the pandemic, “body doubling” is now coming to the TikTok mainstream as an effective productivity tool, even garnering a small selection of mobile apps for the simple purpose of body doubling with other users. We are talking about this and other neurodivergent modes of thinking like Autism as well as anxiety and depression from across networks and miles. We are connecting because of this commonality despite our differences and distance. Due to my own research of natural ways to increase dopamine, I learned that there is a direct correlation of estrogen to dopamine. As a perimenopausal female, I was able to take this information to my primary care provider and discuss how this impacts me and my health goals going forward. It also further explains the timing of the symptoms and their appearance after years of successful career growth, among other things.
As a black woman, making my story public is critical. Mental health in the black community has a long history of being invalidated. This is for various reasons. My story is a powerful one and is certain to change the trajectory of how we approach mental health in our communities. As an artist, black women aren’t even recognized on a pay scale. I know the data is inaccurate because I exist. My challenge is to bring these disparities to the mainstream and change the outcome of being undiagnosed and untreated in mental health and neurodivergent issues, to learning, owning and understanding the various ways our lights shine, and to thriving in our uniqueness.