I am sitting at the table with Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD. I realize that all of these things are part of me, which means that technically I am both a guest at the table and the table itself. I am here to remind the other three that I am a bright, kind, lovable force, but they have thoughts of their own.
ADHD is the loudest. He shouts indignantly that he doesn’t want to do anything, that we can’t focus, that this is boring, or stupid, or, or, or!! But he’s really just terrified that maybe we aren’t as smart as we have always been told.
Anxiety sits jittery in her chair, neurotically picking at her cuticles. She worries that if we don’t do everything right now then we will be a failure for the rest of our lives. She tries to get ADHD to sit down and focus, but she isn’t strong enough; instead, she turns and takes it out on me. She tells me that I need to be good enough, to do well in school, and to find a job after graduation. But she knows I cannot do all of these things and believes that I will never be good enough. Anxiety disguises herself as responsibility, but really she is just cruel. She knows that the things she is saying are impossible, that they aren’t all actually necessary, but she tells me we have to do them anyway. She won’t let me rest. She makes my fingers bleed.
Depression has sat sulking until now. She chooses a moment when ADHD and Anxiety have weakened me. She says quietly…I have an idea…you wouldn’t have to do any of it anymore. ADHD and Anxiety stare silently; they are always shocked when Depression speaks. I look at Depression. I am silent too, hoping I will have the strength to fight back.
Finally, I gather the courage to stand up and shout, “THAT IS NOT AN OPTION!”
I walk away from the table, feeling a shaky confidence. I hope it lasts. I hope I do not sit down with them again in this way.
This is what no one tells you about comorbidity. Those who experience it know that the illnesses in your mind talk to one another; they do not exist in silos. I’ve learned that I cannot attack them separately. I must come at all of them at once. I must find what they whisper to one another when I’m not paying attention. It’s been helpful to write because I’ve found out how they are intertwined. And it’s been helpful to talk, to let someone else remind me that these things are not me speaking, but the others at the table.
That may be the most important thing I’ve learned: These illnesses are not who I am. These illnesses are part of me, but they are not who I am. And the same is true for you: You are not your illness.
I hope that you’ll be able to find your true self at that table. I hope that you’ll find the strength to stand up and walk away from it, to advocate for yourself against the illnesses that tell you what you are not and what you should do and what you should say and wear and eat to make everyone else love you.
Those are not your thoughts. Those are their thoughts. I remember what my own thoughts were, before I knew the others at the table existed. I remember what I thought about myself in the light times. I wrote them down here so I could remind myself in the dark times. I wrote them here so you could be inspired to remind yourself, too. I told myself that I am a good friend, that I am kind, compassionate, and generous. I told myself that I am naturally inquisitive, bright, and witty. I showed myself that I am passionate, fiery, a fighter. I reminded myself that I am funny, lovable, loved.
I am enough. I am.
You are too.