Let’s roll back the clock, say, 8 months. Imagine, if you will, a young woman. She’s sitting on the floor of the bedroom with her back to the door while her cats scratch at it because how dare she have the audacity to want a little privacy. She’s on the phone with her mother. She’s crying. She’s realizing that one day she’s going to be forty years old, stuck in a cubicle somewhere, thinking back on her youth with thoughts like, ‘what happened to all those dreams’. She’s seen Walter Mitty one too many times and she doesn’t want to wait.
Why, yes. That girl is me. How did you know?
Needless to say, I was depressed. And despite the fact that I was poor, my mom was poor, my dad was poor, my grandfather was not poor but also not about to spend any money on anyone or anything, she told me to go to a therapist. Sure. Okay. Yeah, that’ll help.
And it wasn’t like I didn’t believe in therapy. I knew it was good, and useful, and practical to a lot of people. I even knew, inherently, that it would be good for me. But when you’ve only had bad experiences in the past with this sort of thing, it’s hard to give it another go.
I have been to one therapist appointment (technically two but that was a family thing that also ended in disaster) and one psychologist. The psychologist was in middle school because my sleep schedule was so out of whack my mother thought there was something genuinely wrong with me. (Spoiler alert: there was). I spent two hours in that office and left with no answers.
A few years later I became aware of the fact that my mother was seeing a therapist (and had for a while now). I asked, out of blatant curiosity, if I could go, too. Fun Tip: if you can avoid it, never go to therapy with a parent present unless the point is your relationship. It was an awkward kind of session I don’t remember anything of other than the lion hat I was wearing to prove that I was cool and unique, and in the end the only insight that therapist had was ‘she might be gay’, which was said not even to me but to my mother in private. (Disappointing spoiler alert: I’m not).
All of these led to the concept of: Therapy good-just not for me. But I humored the concept and I looked up therapists that were in my healthcare plan. But choosing a therapist isn’t like choosing a physical health doctor. You can’t just go to a list, look up the closest ones to you, and pick them based on reviews or convenience. You have to jive with your therapist. And I wasn’t jiving. So I put it off and spent another month being miserable.
I eventually got tired of being miserable. Trust me, it’s not fun. So I decided to look at therapists near me that weren’t in my plan. Best and worst decision ever.
Right there on the first page of the list that came up was someone I immediately felt drawn to. We’ll call her Maroon. The instant I read her profile I knew she was the one. It was a gut feeling that just said yaaaaaaas. But I was poor and everyone was poor except for the person who was stingy and I put her name away and spent another month being miserable. (Those of you who are astute might be able to guess my problem).
Finally. Finally. August. I’m done with this nonsense. I talk to my parents and they agree to help me pay for the out-of-plan therapy. It’s only going to be once a month, I tell them and myself. Just a session here and there to get some things off my chest.
Boy how wrong I was.
The first session goes well. I have this thing where I can’t talk about my emotions to people, not even family and close friends. But I am proud of how much I did reveal to her. After all, I’m paying for this; I better get talking. I think to myself that was nice. A good venting session. Do this once a month I’ll be fine.
She wants to do a test.
Maroon is a licensed art therapist. She has me come in for an hour and a half and draw. I feel a bit like a kid who has to draw because they don’t understand their emotions and the only way to know what’s going on is through their art. The problem is I know my emotions I just refuse to talk about them. So it’s kind of the same thing.
But this isn’t about my emotions. This is about the chemicals in my brain.
Picture one: Draw anything you like.
We’re off to a great start. She gives me some time to think about it but my mind blanks. I have no thoughts. Have I ever even seen anything before in my entire life? I don’t think I have.
I eventually tell her to start the two minute timer because I don’t want to seem like I can’t think of objects. She starts it. I do turn into a child. I draw a happy lil plant and a happy lil sun. And the time is still running. So I turn them into an angel and a demon because I’m obsessed with Good Omens. I tell her as much.
Picture two: Draw a person, anyone you like.
Did I mention I’m obsessed with Good Omens? Well, really, I’m obsessed with Jon Hamm. So I draw him. He doesn’t come out half as handsome. He doesn’t have a nose, he doesn’t have feet or hands. And his eyes, meant to look warm and inviting, look like they’ve seen a ghost.
I’m doing great so far.
Picture three: Draw the opposite of that person.
“What do you mean by opposite?”
“Whatever you think opposite means?”
Clearly one session with my therapist did not tell her that I need direction and can’t be left to muse about in the wind. She gives me time to think about it. My first thought is Danny Devito. Because he is short, round, and conventionally unattractive. The opposite of Jon Hamm.
But I don’t want to seem shallow to my therapist. What would she think if that’s the reasoning I gave, hm?
So I decide to take opposite in the meaning of ‘playing opposite of’. As in Gal Gadot played opposite of him in Keeping up with the Joneses, another obsession of mine. I explain this to her as she looks at my second noseless, handless, footless, scared-eyed drawing. She nods and gives me a look that seems to say ‘yeah I know this wasn’t your first thought’.
She’s onto me. I start to sweat. (More than I already am).
Picture four: Draw something you and your family do for fun.
This is where it gets interesting. Because I sort of have two. And as much as I love my mom and can never let her find out, fun happens more easily with my dad. I like to just say that it’s because after the divorce he saw us less often so our interactions were bursting with fun things and there wasn’t time for bad stuff to happen. But there could be something more deep and underlying to the reason. Who knows. I got a once-a-month therapy session to talk about it.
Anyway, I decide to opt for the movie theater, because it’s the one place that the majority of my family gathers together for fun. (I was gonna do our yearly beach vacation but my brother hasn’t gone in ages and I’ve had to stop once school existed). I draw the seats, me squished between my brother and dad from that time I saw War of the Worlds as a kid and had nightmares for weeks. I draw a snake on screen with skittles surrounding it from that time we saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and I got scared and spilled my skittles on the floor. Three of my five minutes are up.
I add in a projection screen with the little words next to it from when my dad told me about how you could look at it in your watch for subtitles if you were deaf. I draw more seats to make the page look more like the actual old theater we used to go to. With this drawing I’m running out of ideas, not time. I fill in random people in the other seats until the timer goes off, freeing me of the hell that is thinking.
Picture five: Draw anything you want.
Goddamnit not this shit again. Haven’t ye learned by now, woman? You want me to do more thinking after all of that? Who do I look like? A functioning member of the human race?
There’s a picture of a sailboat sitting next to my therapist’s head. I latch on to that.
It’s a pretty simply boat, curved bottom and triangle sail. Yeah I was a fool to think that would take two minutes. I slap a crew on there, add some clouds and birds. A fish. I put a giant octopus under there cause they’re fun and cool.
Time’s up. Lets see how crazy I am.
Turns out that I’m not they kind of crazy she thought I was.
“Well the good news is, you don’t have OCD,” she tells me. Which is obvious, as anyone can tell from the scribbles.
So what’s the bad news, I think, aware of enough social interaction etiquette to know where this is going.
“I’m glad we did this,” Maroon continues. “I never would have guessed based on our first meeting.”
“You have ADHD.”
Well. Mark me down as confused and surprised. And she didn’t really just come right out and say it so blatantly. She suggested it, because to be really sure I had to see a brain doctor. But she was pretty sure all the same.
“But I was always really good in school,” I argue. I do not line up with the poster child for ADHD. Probably because I’m H-removed. Rather, I’m internally H. I’m really good at pretending, basically.
I knew I should have gone into theater.
“Kids with ADHD who are smart can make it through school undetected easily,” Maroon, and later my psychologist, explains.
Over the next few weeks I learn a lot. And I learn it by going to therapy once a week. Because going undiagnosed causes a lot of trauma over 25 years (remember the eyes). I learn that not everything but nearly everything wrong with me came from this. From building up bad habits to overcompensate or deal with it.
It’s another few weeks before I can muster up the courage (and let’s face it: money) to get to a psychologist. To get drugged up, as I refer to it because I’m funny like that. (Reminder to self: strangers will not get it when you tell them ‘it’s the drugs’ in response to something).
Things are going to change. I know this. I can feel it happening. I haven’t even gotten the medicine yet at this point and already I can feel it. Just knowing the problem has made things clear.
I’m not lazy. I’m not bad. I’m not a terrible excuse for a human.
I just need drugs.