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Stigma Fighters : Melissa Flicks

For a long time I felt guilty. I felt guilty for having ADHD and needing medication to feel somewhat close to “normal”.
I went through elementary school and high-school being labeled “lazy” and being accused of “not applying myself”. I even had a teacher sign my yearbook- where he said I was “a nice girl, but flaky.”

I had a hard time paying attention. I had a really fucking hard time sitting still in class, paying attention and getting any of my work done. It felt impossible. And despite how much I truly wanted to be the straight “A” student, I just couldn’t calm my brain down long enough to actually get the work done. I hated school. Not because I didn’t want to learn, but because I just couldn’t do it.
I finished one year of community college before dropping out. I became depressed because I felt like a total loser. I had applied to several universities and colleges and wasn’t accepted due to my low grades. I picked classes that I was truly interested in, but I still couldn’t focus enough to get the grades I knew I deserved.

Instead I worked in restaurants- something fast paced that I could work until the late hours of the night. Finally, something I was good at. I buzzed around that place like crazy, running from table to table. Constantly moving and changing. It was a good fit. And at night, I would go home and down some alcohol to calm my brain down. Work-Drink-Repeat. I was self-medicating, trying to fix whatever the hell was wrong with me. I was restless, always thinking, always moving. I was nervous and sweaty and at times incredibly moody. I hated the idea of going up to tables as a waitress, I felt like I wanted to vomit before approaching each table. But, it was the only job where I never had to sit and if I was good enough, I wouldn’t have to talk to the customers too much.

I lived like that for years, until I was offered an office job. I wanted to move out of my parent’s basement, so a job with steady hours and a steady paycheck seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t until I was there for a few months that I realized just how difficult it was for me to actually focus and sit. It was just like high-school all over again. My health insurance kicked in so I decided to talk to a doctor about what was going on. That’s when I got it: A diagnosis of ADHD/Anxiety/Depression. I hadn’t been familiar with ADHD at the time. Anxiety and Depression ran in my family, so I knew that was a factor. But ADHD? Wasn’t that something that kids had? Of course, after realizing the symptoms and thinking back to my entire life up to that point, it all made perfect sense.

My doctor put me on medication and within a couple of weeks, I was finally feeling … normal.
I stuck with my medication- although I have to admit, I often forgot to take them. But for the most part, they helped a great deal. I even felt good enough to re-enroll in to college and began taking courses in hopes of becoming mental health counselor. And for the first time since I could remember, I started getting straight A’s.

In 2008, I decided to move. Soon after I found out I was pregnant. I had my first child in 2009 and in 2011 had my second. I had opted not to take any medication while pregnant and breast feeding. It wasn’t until later in 2011 that I decided to talk to a doctor about my ADHD. Since I was in a new state, I needed to explain my symptoms to a new doctor. Unfortunately, I was greeted with suspicion- despite my giving him the information on my diagnosis and on my previous doctor- he did not consider giving me a prescription. I repeatedly made appointments for evaluations and still received no medication. For almost two months, I went in on a bi-weekly basis, paying co-payments each time and left without any indication of whether or not I would be receiving a prescription. Finally, he wrote one for me. A one month supply that would need an approval before getting filled. Four weeks later, I got notice of approval and filled my prescription. Each month I was required to call in to have my doctor write out another one month prescription. Even though I eventually got the medication, I was left with a feeling of guilt. This one person had made me feel like I was just some person coming in to score some narcotics. I felt ashamed for even telling him I needed them.

I forgot to take my medication once in a while. And I would forget to call in to have it filled on time. Eventually when I got notice that my approval would soon expire, I forgot to schedule an appointment with my doctor in time. The truth of it is, I hated being dependent on medication. I don’t like to take prescriptions unless I absolutely need them. But, I feel better having them when my ADHD becomes unmanageable.

However, I had no desire to go back and see that doctor again. I had no desire to seek out another doctor, to risk the possibility of feeling guilty for who I am. No one should feel guilty for needing medication. No one should ever feel ashamed of having a mental illness.

As a child and teenager, I went through school feeling depressed that people- my teachers- felt I was lazy and didn’t give a shit about school. As an adult, I was made to feel like a prescription drug seeker. With or without the diagnosis- these people are the ones we go to for help. Our teachers should recognize when a student needs help. A doctor should never make a patient feel ashamed when asking for a medication.

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melissa-profileMelissa was born and raised in southern New Jersey. After moving to Iowa, she became a full time student through University of Iowa- studying psychology and creative writing. She is also a stay at home parent.

Melissa can be found on Twitter

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