Tara Campbell finds some bedtime reading that would ring the bell she needed to seek a diagnosis in her continuing story of living with ADHD.
Tucked beside the bed atop her stack of books they laid unassumingly – yet to my eyes, those three books on ADHD filled the entire room.
My partner, Candace, who long suspected I had Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had been reading about the disorder while I was away reporting in the near-arctic. It was a tumultuous time in our relationship. I had pulled away from her while up there, only to return a short time later in the midst of surrendering to a lifelong battle with undiagnosed ADHD.
Somewhere, hiding in the mess of it all, was a free-spirited athlete, with an unabashed passion for life; and I was going to find her.
It was waking up to my first day back from the North. Hours earlier I had said goodbye to the daily news business, packed my bags and was on my way home to Saskatoon; determined to rediscover the parts of myself I had lost along the way, in the clutter and chaos of my mind. Somewhere, hiding in the mess of it all, was a free-spirited athlete, with an unabashed passion for life; and I was going to find her.
I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this, but I knew I was committed to trying, no matter how scary, heartbreaking or painful the journey may be. So, where was I going to begin? Where does anyone begin to rebuild, to rediscover? There was no roadmap, no descript set steps, and no guarantee I would be successful – all I could do was follow my passion and trust it to lead the way.
The one sure place I knew to start was to run. Running has always been the place, the movement, the calmness in which I have felt most connected to myself, the world, and all that may lie beyond it. As a child it was my reprieve, as much of what came naturally for others was foreign to me. Whether it was a cerebral endeavour such as school work or a more spirited one like sorting through my intense emotions, I was often overwhelmed.
I’m crazy to think I can change my life this drastically at the age of 35
For a long time I thought this would somehow change and that I would grow out of it, but this mind of mine followed me all the way into adulthood and as surely as the prairie sun rises, I woke on that first day back in Saskatoon vulnerable to its ever-preying ways.
Within hours it had pounced, and was thrashing about, ripping apart my mind with this negative narrative: “I’m crazy to think I can change my life this drastically at the age of 35; I’ve damaged my relationship with Candace beyond repair; who walks away from a career they worked so hard to build; my running dreams are too lofty; what am doing with this writing.”
Attacks like this came often during my first few months back. It was disappointing, confusing and at times angering. Why wouldn’t it all just go away, and leave me alone? I wanted to be able to fully embrace the authenticity and joy I felt entering into my life, but I couldn’t. I was constantly aware that without a moment’s notice and without any logical reason it could all be swallowed up by my very own mind. The situation was breaking my heart, but I wasn’t letting it break my spirit. Determined to fight for the life I wanted, I remained optimistic.
I forged ahead, insisting I could manage on my own.
There was so much to be grateful for. I had a loving, smart, compassionate partner, supporting me along the way, I had an experienced, understanding, committed coach, leading me on my running journey, and, through it all, I had the ability to write and this laid the foundation. From this place of truth and strength I knew I was capable of whatever I put my hyper-focused mind to but first I would have to come to terms with the very disorder that gifted me with that atypical mind.
Fearful of the stigma of an ADHD diagnoses and too stubborn to give in, I forged ahead, insisting I could manage on my own. A missed diagnoses in my early twenties by a psychiatrist who didn’t believe in labels left me to believe I could and should be able to overcome my challenges without comprehensive treatment. I had told myself this for so long that I deeply believed it and wasn’t going to let anyone, including Candace, tell me otherwise. Despite her consistent nudges towards exploring the possibility of a diagnoses, I insisted I was okay. Until one night when I wasn’t.
As I was restlessly laying in bed, familiar tears began to fall as frustration and confusion charged through my body. My mind had pounced yet again, the negative narrative had grabbed hold and it wasn’t releasing its grip. In desperation I reached over the side of the bed, picked up one of Candace’s ADHD books and I started to read.
In typical fashion, I opened the book somewhere near the middle. Reading from start to finish always struck me as boring – something I learned to accept. My eyes honed in on a paragraph and I began to read. I read about the unique workings of an ADHD mind and about its constant need for stimulation – whether driving fast, picking fights with a partner, or making simple, boring tasks more difficult – like starting a book from the middle perhaps! Whatever funky order I was reading that book in one thing was clear – I was reading about myself.
I made the decision to start the process of a diagnoses. It was a decision to go deeper into facing my struggle, and it was a decision to set myself free.
Beyond my countless speeding tickets and car accidents, past the many times I had instigated unnecessary arguments with Candace, it seemed I related to almost every part of that book. It was helping me make sense of behaviors I always thought to be weird, like my inability to sit and write for more than twenty minutes at a time, my need to get up and walk when it’s obvious I should be sitting, my scattered forgetfulness, frustrating clumsiness, my fidgeting hands, my getting up to use the bathroom excessively as a student, and my gnawing through packs of gum as a reporter who was forced to sit and write copy. The ADHD mind will always find a way to be stimulated – even if it’s harmful.
As I continued to read, I recognized the destructive patterns that had been controlling my life – my need to run from one job to the next, my inability to withstand a lasting relationship, my tendency to convince myself I was happy just for a moment’s peace, and all the self-medicating that came along with it – whether it was caffeine or alcohol.
As the words continued lifting from the pages, so too was my spirit lifting. Suddenly, the potential of a diagnoses no longer felt like a failure, but rather a possible answer. In the weeks following, I made the decision to start the process of a diagnoses. It was a decision to go deeper into facing my struggle, and it was a decision to set myself free.
Tara will next be racing in the Nebraska Marathon on October 16