Is it still taboo to talk about mental health? I hope not. This is my story about my depression and ADHD.
Racing heart, chest pains, dizziness, trembling. Three months into the pandemic lockdown, the last week of June 2020, I experienced my very first panic attack. I had never been more afraid. I knew I needed help.
I was depressed.
Accordingly, I dusted off my therapist’s phone number. I quickly scheduled my very first COVID style therapy appointment. Prior to the appointment, my therapist required me to complete The Burns Anxiety Inventory and The Burns Depression Checklist. I learned that these tools may be used by mental health practitioners to develop a reference point. Also, they can be great for self-assessment, while making steps towards recovery. Learn more about Dr. Burns and his tools here.
|TOTAL SCORE||DEGREE OF ANXIETY|
|0 – 4||Minimal or No Anxiety|
|5 – 10||Borderline Anxiety|
|11 – 20||Mild Anxiety|
|21- 30||Moderate Anxiety|
|31 – 50||Severe Anxiety|
|51 – 99||Extreme Anxiety or Panic|
I scored a 22 on the anxiety scale, which suggested I had moderate anxiety. Today, I’ll be honest, for the first time. I definitely wiggled through some of my responses. I didn’t want to score in the “severe anxiety” category.
|TOTAL SCORE||LEVEL OF DEPRESSION|
|0 – 5||No depression|
|6 – 10||Normal but unhappy|
|11 -25||Mild depression|
|26 – 50||Moderate depression|
|51 – 75||Severe depression|
|76 – 100||Extreme depression|
I scored a 30 on the depression scale, which suggested I had moderate depression.
Depression Appointment by Teletherapy
On Monday, June 29, 2020, overwhelmed with sadness, I sat on our guest room floor. The room had been a disaster for over a month. There, I participated in teletherapy.
I strategically positioned myself so my therapist wouldn’t see that the room was a disaster. I had been seeing this therapist off-and-on for several years. She noted that she had never seen me so sad. She suggested that I see my doctor to talk about the possibility of getting medication to help me through what was obviously a tough season. Her suggestion made me hysterical. Next she asked, “how have you been managing your ADHD?”
Things escalated quickly. I spilled the beans, “this room is a mess! I can’t finish anything!” I was a COMPLETE mess! Dr. Dee calmly responded, “before we finish today, I would love if you would let me see the room.” Eventually, I did.
“I see the room. Is that how things appear in your head? Are things a mess in your head, too?“
Bingo! Sis had me all figured out. The following week, I started taking medicine for depression.
Over a decade ago, I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I was already a practicing attorney. I had difficulty paying attention to details. I was constantly making careless mistakes. Secretly, it was really affecting my quality of life. One day, I made a very costly error, which compelled me to go see a doctor.
What does my ADHD look like?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. I’ve used their site for helpful information regarding my own mental health symptoms. So, I highly recommend you checking it out if you have basic questions related to mental health.
My personal symptoms include (but are not limited to..lol) :
- Makes careless mistakes
- Has problems sustaining attention in conversations or lengthy reading (**reading comprehension was always my lowest score in standardized tests growing up)
- Seems to not listen when being spoken to directly
- Fails to finish duties (**this blog was supposed to be shared months ago!)
- Starts tasks but quickly loses focus and gets easily sidetracked
- Avoids tasks that requires sustained mental effort (**Please give me all the tiny projects even though I have something big pending)
- Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (**Have you seen my laptop, keys, or my cell phone?!)
- Becomes easily distracted by unrelated thoughts (**I’m usually planning a kid’s party or play date in my head”)
- Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments (**So thankful for my husband’s gentle reminders and continuous PATIENCE)
I’m decent at managing it. I have taken medication almost daily for over a decade. I try to make to-do lists of priority tasks. Oftentimes, I even set timers to force myself to commit to a priority task for a scheduled duration. On good days, intention and preparation really pay off.
March 2020 was starting off with a bang. Levar, Lia, I had just returned from a fabulous Disney cruise. The following week Lia got tubes placed in her ears. We were so excited that our baby girl was going to be relieved from constant ear discomfort. Lia Catherine never made it back to daycare because the world shut down.
For the majority of the lockdown, most of my energy was focused on the girls. The mental load of motherhood was heavier than ever. Although it wasn’t apparent, every day I also grew more anxious constantly thinking about, not only the girls, but lawyering and laundry and Levar. My neglect was apparent.
We kept our girls at home (without ever having a sitter) for almost six months. The hardest part was probably the uncertainty. There was no way of knowing if/when we would be comfortable sending the kids to school/daycare. Consequently, it was nearly impossible to set expectations for those depending on me at my law office.
Dealing with Demands
During a virtual training, a judge urged us to be more diligent in responding to emails from court staff. Additionally, the judge pointed out, “This quarantine period is NOT a vacation. We should not have to wait 24 hours for you to respond to an email. You need to be working!” I was still new to the whole zoom thing. I thought I was sending a private message to a friend. Instead, it went out to everyone.
Thankfully, I don’t think many people saw the message. I only received a handful of “Amen, sister” text messages offline.
SHAME has always been my hardest challenge dealing with ADHD. I am often ashamed that I forget important things, that I’m always misplacing things, that I’m not always as productive as I would like to be. I can only imagine how often I don’t meet the expectations of my life partner at home or my law partner at the office. So, in the middle of a pandemic, with no certainty and constant disruptions, I lost control. Depression tried to take over.
Today, things are looking brighter. The kids are in school. My husband and I manage day to day much easier. I am no longer on medication to help manage depression. We are thankful that God allowed us to make it through this season COVID-free. Now, with caution, we are spending more time with family and friends. This season has taught me that God can sustain us through anything. Not only does He give His peace, He gives practical resources for living. You just have to be willing to take advantage of those resources!
If you feel overwhelmed, please know that you are not alone. I encourage you to seek assistance from a professional who can lead you on the road to recovery.