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Letting Love In With ADHD, Anxiety and Depression

I love you, she says. But I don’t believe her.

I’m not going anywhere, he says. But I don’t believe him.

I want to believe them, but it’s hard for me sometimes.

If you ask anyone who knows me to tell you about me, they will tell you I am outgoing with a consistently bubbly demeanor. They might tell you I have a ridiculous amount of energy. I hope they would tell you I am kind, compassionate and friendly. But there is one thing they won’t tell you… because there is something they don’t know.

My secret: I have ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

Mental illness is a bitch. For years, I have been wrestling with anxiety and depression. Begging for them to leave me alone, praying they would stop ruining my relationships and wishing desperately I were wired differently. I was 16 when I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression; it wasn’t until I was 20 that an incredible psychiatrist suggested these anxious and depressive thoughts may be manifestations of ADHD.

ADHD, anxiety and depression are teammates, and I am their opponent. Anxiety makes me insecure, and it makes me irrational; anxiety makes me so sensitive to the world around me that some days I just can’t bear the weight. Depression whispers you can’t do this, you deserve this pain, and you’re worthless. Having a brain with ADHD is like driving a car with no breaks; my thoughts move so quickly that sometimes I can’t keep up with them. When anxiety and depression sought refuge in me, ADHD stopped me from kicking them out. And I refused to reach out and ask for help.

Letting love in is hard for me sometimes. I waited to let love in. I waited until my life was in jeopardy. I was afraid someone would think I was being dramatic. Seeking attention. Weak. I didn’t know what I needed, but I could feel my thoughts spiraling out of control. So I kept it all a secret.

And that is what we do. We keep mental illness a secret. All because of the shame and stigma we attach to it.

It’s tough enough to have any kind of mental illness, but the shame and stigma we feel can be overbearing. It’s what stops people from reaching out. It stopped me.

I am so lucky to have friends and family who love me unconditionally, friends and family who patiently and relentlessly remind me that despite my flaws, I am worth loving. It was liberating to know I could open up to my loved ones and be met with love and support, rather than shame or judgment. There was liberation in accepting I wasn’t going to be able to fight ADHD, anxiety and depression alone — and realizing I didn’t have to.

Let love in. When you break an arm, you aren’t afraid anyone will stop loving you. You aren’t afraid anyone will think your bones aren’t strong enough. So why do we let ourselves be convinced people will think our brains aren’t strong enough?

Don’t let shame or stigma stop you from reaching out. I know I won’t. I desperately want my ADHD, anxiety and depression to stop winning, but I have to learn to forgive myself when they do. Because some days they will. And there is no shame in losing one battle when I’m fighting for my life — because lately I feel like I’m winning.

And it is all because I let love in.

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