Here is my second guest post, “Accepting Limits,” written by BoxingandBallet, who has a blog about living with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and depression, Discovering Ratchet. Boxing is an accountant, and she has a deep love of both boxing and ballet, an interesting juxtaposition! She is also a great writer.
From her About page:
I am an accountant. It is surprising how big a part of my identity revolves around this fact. Many of the stereotypes associated to accountants apply to me:
–a bit nerdy (I really do love Excel)
–I look great in black, grey and navy.
But like most people, there is more than meets the eye. I have a deep love for ballet, and will try convince you it is gangsta. I enjoy boxing. The incongruity of my accountant (“vanilla”, so I have been told) lifestyle with my boxing interest is the source of many of my amusing stories. That, coupled with my attempts at both online and offline dating, will be the focus of this blog – a catalogue of funny events in my life, however small.
My catchphrase, which I am trying to bring into the mainstream is: “Let your phoenixes arise proudly.” Slips easily into everyday conversation.
Boxing’s [“Vanilla” is what she calls herself in this post] article is about the years from childhood to early adulthood and how she coped with oscillating depressions and ADD episodes, and her struggle in learning how to set limits for herself and knowing what are realistic, appropriate goals and what aren’t.
I appreciate her post because it’s about a disorder I know little about, and have never had a post about before. Here is a good informative article about ADD and ADHD if you want to learn more: http://www.add-adhd.org/ADHD_attention-deficit.html
Thank you, Boxing/Vanilla, for sharing your story. People, please stop by and visit her blog, Discovering Ratchet.
By BoxingandBallet/Discovering Ratchet
“You are not your ADD. Don’t ever use ADD as an excuse for not succeeding. You can do or be anything you want, you just might have to work harder, smarter and differently than someone who doesn’t have ADD.” – My mother, circa 1988, repeated daily until her death in 2012.
She sometimes said it encouragingly, but usually yelled it at me in frustration during our daily tutoring sessions. All through elementary school, I did 3-5 hours of extra school work a day, even on weekends. Math drills, grammar drills, geography drills, essay writing, book reports. Relentlessly, she supplemented my public school education, and we did all this without the support of Ritalin: studies showed that habits learned without medication were more likely to stick. We waged wars. The more she nagged, the more I procrastinated. I practiced escaping from my study on the 2nd floor of our home by climbing onto the roof of the house to avoid my homework. She called it stubbornness. I called it boredom and free will.
“Of course you can live your life without medication. I completed medical school without it. But taking medication when you have ADD makes life just a little bit less hard. You notice, for the first time, that the sun shines brightly. It’s a pity to live your life without seeing the everyday beauty around you, because you are so caught up in the whirlwind of your mind.” -– My pediatrician, circa 1998
At 14, I got caught shoplifting several times at my local pharmacy. My disgrace came in the form of a stern letter drafted by the store’s legal department requesting I reimburse them for all stolen goods, and a warning that if ever I shoplifted again, they would press charges. My mother was heartbroken and confused. She wanted to know why? I was bored. Shoplifting was a fun challenge. Textbook ADD. My mother marched me into my doctor’s office to get me a prescription for Ritalin. I was reluctant: I didn’t want my mind and my successes to be a product of pills. I didn’t want to be medicated into good behavior. My pediatrician convinced me to give it a try.
“I don’t believe in this ADD stuff. Everyone has inattention issues nowadays. You’re just a bit flaky.” – My ex-boyfriend, circa 2005
I’d stopped taking Ritalin, right around the same time I discovered beer and boys (I’d gone to an all-girls high school run by nuns). I’d been shocked by the level of effort required to succeed in university, and overwhelmed by it all, I’d taken a nap. By the time I’d realized how much trouble I was in, the semester was too far-gone, so I procrastinated until I failed. Several semesters in a row. I flunked out of mechanical engineering with a GPA of 1.13.
“I think Ritalin is a cop-out. An unfair advantage. A crutch. Drink coffee instead. Why did you pick a field that requires you to take Ritalin in order to succeed? If you can’t do your job without relying on medication, maybe that is a sign you shouldn’t be making that your career. I’m pretty sure you’d be an excellent high-school teacher, and then your quirky ADD wouldn’t need to be medicated away, it would make you more fun for your students. What will happen the day Ritalin gets taken off the pharma market? Your career will end? Pffft, I don’t think it’s wise.” – Same ex-boyfriend, circa 2008
2 years after dropping out of school, I decided to put myself through Uni, and pursue my professional CPA designation in accounting. I was studying part-time, while holding a full-time job as an admin in an office. Determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past, I’d gotten myself a prescription for Ritalin. On average, I studied 30 hours a week, for 2 university classes. I did practice problems at lunch, on the bus, every moment I could find, because I’d learned from my first experience in Uni that I wasn’t as smart as I’d always thought, and if I didn’t give it my everything I’d fail. But I wondered…maybe I did have an unfair advantage over all the other students? I kept my pills hidden.
“Sadness is a choice. Have your sad thoughts, acknowledge them, and then choose to be proactive and focus on the good stuff. Why do you worry so much? It is just making you unhappier. Try thinking happier thoughts. You’re a vortex of despair.” – My ex-boyfriend, circa 2009
I was in the midst of an undiagnosed depression. To be fair to him, I was excelling at school. I’d quit my job, saddled myself with a boatload of debt and was in school full time. I refused to let myself ever get less than an A-, or to have a final grade that wasn’t in the top 5 of the class. I’d also stopped using Ritalin, because I couldn’t handle feeling like a fraud – that my success at school was due to the continued ingestion of a pill. I succeeded. I graduated at the top of my glass. At great personal cost.
“Vanilla, I’m worried about you. You’ve stopped smiling at work. Every time I see you at work, you look more unhappy, and anxious. Please, let me help you. What’s wrong? ” – My mentor at work, one of the top 4 accounting firms in the world, circa spring 2012.
I’d gotten my professional title in December 2011. Instead of celebrating, I fell apart. My senior coworkers had told me that passing the UFE (professional exam) and getting my title would be 2 of the happiest days of my life, right up there with my wedding day or the birth of my first child. I felt empty. My career was booming, I was making my mark at the firm, I was good. Except I felt like a huge failure: my finances were in a mess, I’d been single for 2 years, some of my team members found me hard to work with. I stopped taking Ritalin, to prove to myself that my ex was wrong. I could do this job without my pills. I started having serious panic attacks on my way to, and at, work. Getting showered, and showing up at work was a herculean feat – sometimes I’d show up 2 hours late. My bosses didn’t complain much, because once at work, I delivered excellent work. I didn’t mind the late nights on the job-–it meant avoiding sleep, and therefore less time for the nightmares.
“You have to accept your limits, in order to properly address the issues at hand, and determine the best course of action. Everyone has limits. Refusing to accept your own is not a sign of ambition and drive, it is a sign of immaturity.” – my new therapist, circa August 2014
I’d sought out a therapist because 2 weeks after getting a major promotion at work, I stumbled head first into the most intense, vicious depression I’d experienced in my adult life. I’d cry uncontrollably at work, sometimes for over an hour, several times a day. I’d pray that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Quickly, we identified my job as a key component in my emotional instability. I’d given absolutely everything to my work in the year leading up to my promotion. I’d always put in 25%-30% more time on the job than my co-workers, to compensate for my ADD inefficiencies. “You can do or be anything you want, you just might have to work harder, smarter and differently than someone who doesn’t have ADD.” I was prepared to do just that. Except…I was already consistently putting in 60-75 hour weeks, year round, compared to my colleagues’ 45-50. The promotion required me to level-up, significantly. I had nothing left to give. My personal life was a mess, the only aspect of my life that I was proud of was my career, and I could not face the next step. Either I went back on medication to do this job, or else I had to change jobs.
“What do you mean you are depressed? You just got promoted! You’re nervous. Maybe you need to work on your time management skills. Why are you throwing away your career? Don’t be a quitter.” – my coworkers, when I resigned from my job, September 2014
“Good for you, Vanilla. I’m proud of you. It’s ok to want to be happy, you know. You’ll figure out a way to have a career that doesn’t break you: it just might be slightly different from the one you envisioned.” – my mentor, September 2014
I suppose it’s a compliment, that my coworkers reacted with disbelief, even contempt, when they found out I have depression and ADD. I suppose I am blessed to be able to manage my ADD and depression through lifestyle changes and constant therapy, without resorting to medication. But I guess I am pretty immature, because I still have trouble accepting my limits. Quitting that job feels like an admission of defeat, even though I’m much happier now. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll be able to reconcile myself to the idea of medication, and like my pediatrician promised me, I’ll notice the sun shining a bit brighter.