2022 started at an all time low for me. I’ve had many lows over my young adult years with mental health and illness (I am now 27 years old), but things didn’t truly start to change for me until I hit the deepest of rock bottoms. I was hating myself, driven to a mental health crisis that ultimately landed me in the hospital for a week. However, this isn’t a sad story. No. This story is one of resilience and triumph, and I hope that it helps someone else.
I’ve collected several mental health diagnoses over the years, but it wasn’t until somewhat recently that I learned I am neurodivergent in other ways. I have Nonverbal Learning Disability, ADHD, Auditory Processing disorder, and Dyscalculia. I also learned I am Autistic, and have been masking my whole life. I deal with bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, eating disorders, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. And yet, while I cannot do complex math and have meltdowns over cooking a meal, I am a gifted creative writer, love to make abstract art, and have learned how to speak Spanish and some French. I am what one might say as ‘twice exceptional’—I can’t find my way on a map and sensory overload happens frequently, but I can research my favorite topics for hours and write a novel. I managed to get my undergrad degree in Psychology (with two medical leaves in the middle) and now I am in my Master of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing.
So, what led to such a deep low in January? Mental illness and untreated trauma for one. Second, and most importantly, a lack of acceptance towards myself. I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like myself for being mentally ill or neurodivergent or ‘needy’ (I’m not needy it turns out, I just benefit from accommodations). I also was grappling with being queer and transgender, other components of myself that I didn’t accept.
I have worked through all of this in therapy. Actually, I am STILL working through all of this in therapy. I do trauma therapy and I also talk about my gender identity and neurodivergence. I take medication for my mood disorder, anxiety, and ADHD. I realized it’s okay that I do things ‘differently’ sometimes. I realized that the bullies from my early teen years who made me out to feel stupid and socially awkward were… wrong. I am neither of those things, just because there is a discrepancy in my abilities to learn and see and process the world. The friends in my life that I care the most about unconditionally like my neurodivergence. They understand my mental illness. They have embraced my coming out as trans and queer.
Life really can get better. But I didn’t do it on my own, no. Accommodations, therapy, and support from those around me has made a huge difference. Deep reflection and pursuing self acceptance too, no matter how hard.
Kaden (he/they) is a writer for The Mighty as well as in a Master’s of Fine Art’s Creative Writing program with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. He loves dogs, helping others, pursuing creative hobbies, and advocating for mental illness, neurodivergency, and the LGBTQ+ community.