“Okay, so if this paragraph says X and this paragraph says Y, then I can connect these two together. Wait, does that make sense? Let me read over this a third or fourth time. Gosh, this is taking way longer than I thought it would.”
The above quote is a common dialogue that occurs in my head; a thought process I have become way too familiar with as someone living with Apraxia, anxiety, and ADHD. Each of my diagnoses have their own story, but they have all intertwined to create a unique challenge that has become an essential component of my life. I am at a point where I am proud of who I am and overcoming the adversity my disorders have brought me, but it isn't perfect. Each day, I am reminded of my differences, whether it's taking longer to complete my assigned reading or feeling a sudden uneasiness. However, I do not let these instances define me and have learned to embrace them. I want to love myself in my fullness.
To fully understand what I live with, it is important I break down each diagnosis individually before explaining how they can intertwine with one another.
My doctors knew I had anxiety since I was a toddler. I was the kid that would be excited to go to a classmate’s birthday party, and then cling to my mom’s leg the entire time. I would get anxious easily and essentially break down. At such a young age, my parents didn’t want to put me on medication, so we treated my anxiety with other tactics, such as breathing exercises and talking out my feelings. However, the older I got, and the more I dealt with the stress of academics, mean girls and other responsibilities, the worst my anxiety became. Anxiety looks different on everyone. I don't experience the stereotypical shakiness that the media portrays. My anxiety is more quiet and subtle. Some days, it can feel like an internal uneasiness that starts in my stomach and slowly expands to encompass my entire body until I want to shut down completely. I’ll feel paralyzed. Depending on the situation, my brain will either go blank or hyperfocus on a situation. I’ve been told I resemble a robot when I'm preparing for a big test or event because my emotions are drained from me. I have an unrealistic fear of sharing my feelings, instead bottling everything up inside. This can lead to depressive states where I feel fatigued or just want to nap in order to escape what is going on inside my head. When my emotions finally come out, it’s usually in the form of tears because it feels like a cathartic release. The term “a good cry” is not an exaggeration. I now take medication as well as the positive tactics my mom instilled with me when I was young. My good cries and robotic tendencies are less frequent, but I still have to be conscious of lingering thoughts or sudden waves of emotions.
Out of all my diagnoses, Apraxia is the most rare. Only one in one thousand kids have Apraxia. Apraxia is a speech and processing disorder, and like anxiety, it is different for everyone who has it. When I was younger, I could not say essential sounds like "th" or "ch." Therefore, I struggled to say words such as “this” or “the.” Cinderella was “Cinverella.” What took an average person around eight words to say took me twenty because I struggled to get my thoughts out. I went to speech therapy multiple times a week for over five years, and I continue to do word drills and exercises to this day. Now, most people cannot tell I have a speech impediment. However, Apraxia leaves its most prominent mark on my processing skills. Reading ten pages can feel like reading twenty, for I often have to read sentences or paragraphs multiple times before I fully comprehend the content. Once I understand it, I understand it, but getting to that point can take longer.
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD was my last diagnosis, and it came as a surprise. When I was 15, I went to have updated testing on my Apraxia, and the results came with a new surprise diagnosis, ADHD. I do not fit the stereotype of being "hyperactive," but I can become easily distracted. Even with medication, I often need a lot of motivation to start tasks that I'm not looking forward to and even more to stay focused during them. After long, demanding tasks, my brain takes longer to recover and recuperate. One test can cause mental exhaustion for up to two to three days. Exam weeks are an absolute nightmare, and Zoom University has not been particularly kind either.
[bf_image id="8hv2rbmc768brkm8nqctkt"] The Intertwine
My anxiety, Apraxia, and ADHD are no strangers to each other. In fact, they are best friends with the amount they love to interact and fight with one another. For example, when reading a textbook, it will take longer for me to get through a page because of how Apraxia affects my processing ability and ADHD affects how much effort I need to fully absorb the information. The longer this takes, the more anxious I become.
I’m also limited on medication options because a treatment for one can counteract with a treatment for the other. While I have some prescriptions that help relieve the weight, most of my treatments come from self-love, reassurance, and other internal processes that I have had to practice for years.
At this point, you are probably thinking “Dang, this must suck.” To be honest, it absolutely can, but I have found beauty in my disorders because they have shaped me into who I am. Because I have to study in different ways, I have also learned to see the world differently. I’m more creative because I always have to think outside the box. My disorders have also taught me important life lessons early on, such as the importance of patience and timing. Sometimes, things may take longer, but that is what makes success so much sweeter. Life is all about choice, and when I choose joy and embracing who I am, I am happier and better at anything I choose to do.
Having multiple disorders does not make you broken. I used to fear that if people knew of all my diagnoses, they would look down on me. However, this mindset is what makes sharing my story so important. We need to break these stigmas about mental health and processing disorders. Just because someone has a disability does not mean they have less value or worth. We have the potential to break boundaries, defy expectations and show the world who we truly are. What makes us different is what makes us beautiful and special. We have the ability to change the world. Yes, I have anxiety, Apraxia and ADHD, but learning to live with it is the best thing that has happened to me, and I would not change it for the world. Remember, no matter what disadvantage, disability or diagnosis you face, it doesn’t define you. Your greatest limit is how you perceive yourself, not how others perceive you.