I’m a 27-year-old native New Yorker with the accent to boot. Yes, I’m that New Yorker that rolls my eyes at the vacation “zombies” that clog the sidewalk and I’m not afraid to tell them where they can put it as soon as they start getting full of themselves. Even when I moved to Massachusetts at 5 years old, it always felt like I kept “the city that never sleeps” in my veins. In my heart and in my spirit. In fact, if you were to meet me, you might assume I never sleep either.
“Hallie’s always happy!”
“Hallie, slow down! Slow down, slow down, slow down, slow down…”
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m Hallie, and I have ADHD. It went undiagnosed for the first 17 years of my life, but I knew that something was wrong well before that. I think my parents knew too, but as their one and only miracle baby, they were resistant to ruining me with medication.
But my problems were real. My classmates and even my mother would never take me seriously. I was simply vibrant to them, “That’s just Hallie!” You know? But the truth was, it had become invasive. I could never sit down to do my homework – even if I was interested in it. Even while suffering with mono, which happened to be the breaking point.
When my parents finally decided to get me in to the doctor to test for ADHD, I had a psychotic break. I laughed and I cried at the same time. Sitting in the office with a psychologist who instructed me, “Every time you see this, click this button, redraw this…” Despite my glands swelling to the size of golf balls and barely being able to speak – it was 100% clear to everyone, my mind refused to rest. I had ADHD.
The doctor promptly prescribed me Ritalin, which immediately gave me pregnancy symptoms – I wasn’t having any of that, so I quit it. I became very familiar with the obstacle that I imagine nearly all those trying to cope with an invisible illness experience; trial and error quickly became a way of life. I was put on Adderall, which worked, but sent me spiraling into a deep depression and drove me to self-harm. At one point, I cut myself so deep in my arm that I required stitches. I want this written though, because for years, I’ve said to people, “Oh, I slipped when I was making my thesis…” I didn’t slip. My brain slipped and caused that to happen.
Today, I’ve found sanctuary in a simple cocktail – Vyvanse, Klonopin, a mood stabilizer called Lamictal, the tiniest bit of Prozac and my own mastered combinations of essential oils. The Prozac, for anxiety, I had to be careful with. Originally overprescribed at 40 milligrams, I began feeling like one of the “zombies” I told you I so disdain. So now I’m at a comfortable 10 milligrams that just makes me a little groggy in the morning. The price we pay to feel sanity.
Through the trial and error, through the pain and feeling misunderstood, I’m happy to say I live a life in Harlem that’s pretty brilliant. At my very core, I know that I’m a strong woman who has fought to find the cure to her ailments, who covers the battle wounds collected along the way in floral tattoos and isn’t only effectively taking care of herself, but also a successful business in custom apparel and printing. If that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.
My advice to other sufferers of ADHD is to get yourself tested, first and foremost. If they diagnose you, it’s going to be hard. It’s bound to be a hard road to try different medications. It’s certainly a hard road to find a therapist that works for you. It’s not easy, but when you find out what works for you, your life changes. I also want to stress the importance of finding your people. The people that won’t judge you, that will take you seriously when that’s what you need, that understand that you lack some of the “mental handcuffs” that other people have, that love you anyway, and encourage you in your journey to getting better.