I have committed to myself that I will write a blog once a week for Inclusion Zone (IZ) www.inclusionzone.org. I have already failed for the first few weeks of the year, but New Year’s Resolutions can be that way, right?
So, here we are with a New Year of 2016, and most of you don’t know what in the world IZ is. You don’t know me, or my podcast co-host Melissa. The first thing I want you to know is that I am the mom of two wonderful children, one of whom has a disability. But my disability journey did not start when this child was born. It started in a galaxy far far away called Long Island in the 1960s, when I was born. I cried all the time. I was inconsolable. I talked incessantly; I daydreamed in school in elementary school. I picked at my fingers till they bled. It took me double, triple the time to understand and get my schoolwork done. All were telltale signs of childhood ADHD, but that was not diagnosed back then.
There are moments in life when you know that something you are hearing will change things forever. When my husband proposed to me, that changed things forever. When my sister in law called to tell me my dad had died of a heart attack, that changed things forever. And, when my psychologist said I had ADHD, anxiety and depression, that changed things forever. It gave me a lens into myself that I had not had. It has been a gift to know this.
But others have been skeptical. Not long after the psychologist shared the diagnosis, I had lunch with some old workmates. I mentioned, in a moment perhaps of ‘over-share,’ that I had recently received an ADHD diagnosis. These former colleagues, who are very disability-friendly, responded with – “No kidding” and “Well, that hasn’t held you back.” The comments stung. I retreated and didn’t share this again openly for a few years. But that ends now. I am among those who are diagnosed later in life with conditions they have been dealing with for decades often with maladaptive coping mechanisms. The journey to understand my son’s own ADHD led me to understand that I, too, had similar symptoms, which also led to the discovery of anxiety and depression, which often go hand in hand. While, perhaps these workmates were not surprised that I had ADHD, I was. And, as far as it holding me back — I admit, I have been successful in school and in work, but the diagnosis gave me a opportunity to look back at my life and recognize what I have had to do unknowingly to manage and cope, and what happened when things got overwhelming, as it does for people like me.
What I wanted to say at that lunch –and want to say now– is that my ADHD and bouts of anxiety and depression are real. They are, according to my doctor, in the mild to moderate range. Most days lately, I am happy to say, I am in the mild range, but moderate to severe never feels far away. I know that being a mother has exacerbated my hidden disabilities, but it has been with me all along in some mild to moderate range since birth.
So, I, Mary Dolan, am in addition to being a parent of a child with disability am also someone who identifies as a person with disability. I am aware that some may find this opportunistic, given my launch of Inclusion Zone and the podcast, and others may simply say “no kidding” and “it hasn’t held you back.” My Prozac and Adderall prescriptions say differently. My days of being unable to get out of bed say differently. My panic attacks and anxiety pills I had to take to sleep some nights say differently. My childhood symptoms say differently.
This missive is for anyone who cares and for my own reasons of transparency and honesty. That is my truth, and that is who I am. No kidding.
Mary E. Dolan is the founder, Chairman and President of Inclusion Zone. http://www.inclusionzone.org