Super Heroes Have Mental Illness Too
From the time I was a little boy I knew that I was different from other kids. My parents always said I could be anything I want to be. I wanted to be a super hero! Batman, Superman, Spiderman, any Hero would do! But there was something that I started to figure out at an early age. Other kids seemed to have super powers that I didn’t.
I was amazed at how some kids could be so focused on a subject or activity. I remember looking around at kids in school and I was in awe how they could focus so intently on one subject or one task when I would start the task and get so excited that my body couldn’t contain the energy that the excitement was producing and it would spill over. I would talk excitedly and would ask others what they thought about the subject or task and then I would fidget and start to think about other things I was excited about. I would be so happy about the task that I would get caught up in asking who else was happy and then switch to asking a friend what he was doing after school and then switch to thinking about what I was going to do after school. After a while I forgot what the original assignment or task was. It was usually at this point that a teacher would notice that I was off task and often I would get reprimanded for not staying on task. Sometimes I would get reprimanded long before that because my mind and my mouth were directly connected and I couldn’t stop talking about something because of the excitement. After being reprimanded over and over and over I started to pay attention or so I thought. I paid attention to the fact that I was getting reprimanded for getting excited about a subject and so I decided that I was going to try extra hard not to be loud or talk or get of subject. When I would do this I would get knots in my stomach. It would be quiet in my classroom and we would all be working individually on an assignment but although being quiet I couldn’t seem to stay focused on the assignment. Or I again would find my brain wandering. I would often times miss critical information because I wasn’t able to focus in this state of being. I would most often lose critical information like when the assignment was due. Thus getting reprimanded again for having late and missing assignments.
As I went into Junior High and High School I thought I would grow out of it. I thought that because of school and education that my brain would function differently and fix itself. I was very smart and worked hard but I got mediocre grades throughout most of my junior high and high school career. It wasn’t until I saw some late night infomercials on business that I started thinking that maybe I could train my brain. Maybe I could learn what these guys were doing and I wouldn’t have to get good grades to make money. I could just copy them! I ordered the program and after a few weeks figured out that I would still need a certain amount of money to get started and that no one was going to lend money to a 16 year old kid with a minimum wage type income. My bubble was burst but I knew that someone out there had to think and act the same way I did. I felt like I was motivated to succeed, that I was a good person, and that I worked hard or harder than most, but struggled more than others to get success. For the next several years of my life I worked hard and did find some success but again it was hard to obtain and was fleeting.
One day, when feeling dejected and lost, my wife mentioned that I tell a doctor about what I was experiencing. After some encouragement from my wife we made the appointment. I had grown up in an era when the stigma behind talking to a doctor about depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ADD, ADHD, or any other Mental Health Issue was taboo or frowned upon. It meant you were weird or broken. At least this is how I felt at the time but I was desperate for answers. I wanted more than anything for a doctor to have a magic pill that would make my life easy and that I could take it to be normal. After discussing my situation with my doctor he wisely advised me that pills, although they can help or be a tool, are not meant to be a crutch or a fix all. Through some evaluations the doctor narrowed my primary issues as ADHD with Anxiety.
For a while I was in denial and angry. ADHD and Anxiety. What the hell. Those labels are reserved for the crazy kids who need Ritalin and a shrink. The ones that were out of control and would fidget and couldn’t concentrate. The ones who would get distracted by squirrels and noises. The ones who were just like me.
That was the hardest part. Recognizing and admitting to myself that I had an illness and that I needed help to manage it. Naturally I went to the doctor that diagnosed me first because that’s what they do right? They fix people that are sick. He prescribed a round of ADHD medication and suggested we monitor the effects. When I took the medication he gave me I felt like my entire world went into focus like a magnifying glass narrows a beam of light. It was like a laser beam of focus. It was an incredible feeling and I was getting all kinds of projects done that were half way completed but got dropped because I was bored or distracted. My wife noticed all of the things getting done and was excited about the progress. There was just one major problem. I couldn’t sleep. The medicine literally made me not sleep. I was an insomniac. Which at first was gratifying because I felt like I could handle not sleeping as I went from task to task kicking butt and finishing every project I had once dropped. But as I continued day after day with little to no sleep my body couldn’t keep up and my brain started to think of crazy ways to make it all stop. I didn’t think of morbid or cryptic ways I could kill myself but the thought crossed my mind more than once that I could make it end by not living anymore. It scared me enough that I went in and had the doctor dial the dose way down. Once we got the medication right it allowed me to start focusing on how to manage my ADHD and Anxiety.
Over the next decade or more of my life I worked extremely hard at exercising my brain to recognize when I would get distracted. I learned ways that I could still see and hear everything around me but that I could train my brain to choose to concentrate or give the most focus to one main thing. I found a mentor and a guide to help teach me and help me see a the right path to take. Having someone that knows what I am feeling and can relate has been instrumental to my success as a person and in business. I have now learned all kinds of things about my brain and personality that give me strength and I have been given tools to manage my ADHD and Anxiety.
The point of all of this is that if you suffer from this or something like this that you aren’t alone. That you might feel that way but the reality is that millions and millions of people suffer from mental illness. You are a Super Hero who is amazing and capable of so much but you just might need to learn a few tricks on how to use or harness your super powers to be more effective. It’s ok to reach out to a specialist, therapist, doctor, or friend. Get the help and tools you need to become the best you that you can be in spite of or despite having a mental illness!