Content Warnings: eating behaviors, anxiety, parental trauma, verbal abuse, ADHD
Ever since I was little, I’ve always been “too much”. At the dinner table, my dad chastised me for being “too loud”, holding his head in frustration as my excitement for something was hushed. When I spent time with my friend, I often got looks of annoyance as they told me to “calm down”, my energy irritating them and quickly dismissed. In school, I was always “too rambunctious” in comparison to my peers, who were model students with an ability to focus that I could not ascertain. It should be noted that when my male peers acted the same way, they were “just being boys”. It was only my overzealous behavior that seemed to cause problems.
To be fair, not everyone in my life felt this way. My dad constantly made comments on how it “wasn’t ladylike behavior”. In regard to my friends, it was really only one friend who also used to call me “fat” for being healthy and not having a flat tummy figure. But the vast majority of people–especially strangers–were quick to make fun of my loud voice (especially my laugh. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase “your laugh always makes me laugh” but every time I asked what they meant by that, they’d say I sounded like an animal or start stammering), cackled at me for picking at my lip/mouth (as I’ve internalized my energy for so long it’s become anxiety), and criticized me for being too rambunctious, obnoxious, or unpleasant when I was literally just excited about something. I desperately wish I hadn’t been brainwashed by romance culture because then I wouldn’t have been so nervous about being friends with boys and then maybe I wouldn’t have grown up being told I’m constantly bothering everyone around me.
Over time, I learned to resent myself and my “overwhelming” demeanor, which led to me hating myself all throughout eighth grade and half of high school. I spent way too much time worrying about annoying people and when they did get upset at my extra spurt of energy, that day I’d curse myself endlessly. I was so ashamed of who I was, and how I interacted with my peers. I was kind and loving and so f**king caring. I spent hours upon hours thinking of others, making sure they were happy, even at the expense of my own happiness. And yet, it was never enough. I was never enough.
Once I reached my junior year of high school, I gave up trying to please others and began trying to please myself. This allowed me to get to know myself and love the person I was. Instead of hitting myself for not being able to focus, I’d embrace my need for music/background noise and let my mind wander during class, knowing I’d learn the material in the manner that worked for me once I got home. On that note, I’d give myself patience when I wasn’t able to achieve as good of scores or study time as my peers, as I knew my brain worked differently. I also gave myself extra time in the morning to walk in and out the door several times, coming back for another thing I’d forgotten. While I made sure not to interrupt others with my thoughts on things, I began to appreciate my chattiness and zest for everyday conversation and made friends with people who appreciated it as well. I still received criticism from peers for being “too much”, but at that point it bothered me much, much less.
To this day, I still struggle with my ADHD. I still pick at my lips/mouth, and in addition, I pull at my hair. Also, at this point I know in my brain when I should do something, am able to recognize that I should do it and why I’m not doing it, and still can’t seem to actually do it. For example, I know when I’m craving sugar, the majority of the time I’m either thirsty or eating too many carbs, and yet I’m still unable to get myself to drink water or make myself a filling meal. I’ve also discussed implementing routines in my daily life–including participating in daily exercise to help with my anxiety–and taking breaks based on time instead of the completion of a task with my therapist, and yet I continue to procrastinate work because I’m too anxious, want to relax because I haven’t set time aside to do so, and force myself to keep working on something even when I’m burnt out. But the difference is I’m not ashamed of that behavior, nor am I ashamed of getting excited about things or raising my voice when I do. I’ve embraced my boisterous laugh and admire the way my brain works, because although it made going to school one hell of a challenge, it’s given me such creative and original ideas and a valuable perspective on life.
I’ve tried getting myself medication, as I’m drained from my impulsivity getting the best of my logical side. But because I didn’t get put on ADHD medication as a child–a reality for a lot of girls, as their symptoms often go undiagnosed–my anxiety has hardened and normal stimulants make me fly off the handle. Also, my insurance fights me every step of the way, and it’s exhausting. That being said, I’ve learned to manage my symptoms and laugh at the way I jump from task to task, unbothered because I know eventually I get it all done. I also think it’s sort of useful that if I do one thing in a category, I’ll immediately set myself on a track that lasts until I’ve completed the category. For example, if I clean the cats’ litter boxes I’ll need to vacuum, and as long as I have the vacuum out I’ll need to clean the kitchen, and as long as I’m cleaning the kitchen I’ll need to wipe off the stove and on and on until my apartment is pristine. I love my ADHD brain and would never trade my neurodivergence for the functioning of a normie, but I do wish I had been validated in my struggles throughout childhood and not criticized for my symptoms largely because of my girlhood.