This is my submission for the May Carnival of Aces, hosted by The Asexual Agenda, the subject being “Quarantine”.
These past two and a half months have been some of the most tumultuous of my life, but they have not been completely without benefit. I was given five days notice that I had to move out of my college dorm. This was my last semester at my community college, a little school I have grown to love immensely, and to be so suddenly torn away from the place I had come to call home was absolutely heart breaking. I was resilient, however, and resolved that being back home with my parents wouldn’t be completely without benefit. Being forced to slow down may actually be a good thing – with no where to go, I could get back into reading like I used to, relive my high school afternoon routine and hike the trails around my house, take up painting, get back into mediation now that I had a private room of my own and relative quiet. Only one problem – once classes went online, the workload nearly doubled. It is possible my mind may have been playing tricks on me, but my work definitely took me twice the time it usually did – and considering I’m not speedy, that’s saying something.
As the weeks went on and the instant, motivating escape of studying in coffeeshops remained out of reach, my mind went ever slower – assuming I could find the concentration to do my required reading and essays at all – my energy levels dropped, and suddenly, getting anything done in a day was an accomplishment. With such limited physical and mental energy, I convinced myself that any pleasure writing or even a few pages of a book was a waste of time – school had to come first.
Talking with my friends, they relating to my trouble concentrating whilst stuck at home – but they were still doing the things. Yes, quarantine had affected the, but it wasn’t completely destroying their ability to be productive. Comparisons only served to deepen my depression. I was just lazy and undisciplined, I determined. I just had to work harder, but no push was hard enough. I inevitably just. Couldn’t. Get there.
Whilst having intense mental difficulties, my physical health also declined. I had frequent headaches, which isn’t unusual, but these headaches were accompanied by bone deep fatigue and weakness so great that I nearly fainted one night while trying to make dinner. After nearly two weeks of hardly getting out of bed, I went to see a doctor. It took a bit to diagnose the root of my chronic fatigue and weakness, but the cognitive issues were clear to my physician. ADD, an apparently outdated term for ADHD that lacks the hyperactive component.
Once my knee-jerk, stigma-poisoned reaction of “oh no, that can’t be me” passed and I actually thought it through, it made perfect sense. I always finished all my class work last in elementary school. During my brief athletic career, I was the little girl in the outfield watching the butterflies, oblivious to the game taking place, utterly in her own world. My first grade teacher lost it one day and fiercely told me to “grow up and get some self control” because I was physically incapable of not daydreaming in class. Group work in high school was nightmarish because I could never seem to keep up with my workmates – I got distracted by how my writing could be neater, or by thoughts of what I was going to do when I got home, or some conversation I had with my best friend at lunch, etc. etc. I lost a stocking job because I couldn’t keep up with the other workers. It often takes me longer to organize my thoughts for essays (or blog posts, hence my sporadic posting) than it does to actually write them.
All these years spent quietly berating myself for being lazy and stupid simply because my brain works differently than most.
From the research I’ve done, ADHD in girls is often overlooked – a teacher is more likely to notice a little boy bouncing off the walls than a little girl who physically can not pay attention.
In general, females are told our problems don’t matter – we have to be half dead before anyone will take our pain seriously. If I think too much about how many years of frustration I could have been saved had I been properly diagnosed earlier, I can feel my face start to heat.
One silver lining of this quarantine – being trapped augmented my ADHD symptoms. Whilst telling my doctor about how I am so often physically incapable of concentrating, how I kill myself trying to keep up with my overachieving friends and just can’t, how I feel like I’m wasting my life living it in slow motion, I burst into tears which in turn got my problems taken seriously. I have talked briefly with other doctors about my concentration issues and chronic fatigue in a highly composed fashion, and I can’t convey how many times and in how many different ways I’ve been dismissed.
Extreme circumstances made me more extreme – being a women, sometimes you’ve gotta be extreme to be noticed.
As for the fatigue and weakness, it all comes down to vitamin D – or, in my case, lack thereof. Turns out I’m only getting 50 percent of the vitamin D I need.
When I first heard the news, I was tempted to call B.S. – but after some research, I found that literally all of my physical problems, down to the budding arthritis in my thumbs and pinkies, can be traced back to vitamin D deficiency. I was brutally honest with myself and realized just how badly not only my mental health, but also my physical health, gets neglected.
Living at home before the dorms, I was constantly nagged to take my stupidly expensive, high quality vitamins – I was always too busy. This semester at school, I always planned on getting outside and hiking the forest trails behind the school, but I always had just too much schoolwork to do. I planned on pleasure reading on the lawn in the sun (prime source of vitamin D) umpteen times, but was just too busy. I planned on taking a yoga mat outside some weekend when campus was deserted, but was just too busy. I planned on buying big groceries and cooking instead of constantly eating out, but – do I need to say it? No time. The list goes on, and on, and on. I neglect my body and work my poor, exhausted, neurologically atypical brain past exhaustion, then I expect it to do everything the way a neurotypical brain would. Not only is it not realistic, but it’s rather cruel. Quarantine has really driven home for me that, as I said in my 7 Things I Wish I Had Known 7 Years Ago About Mental Health, self care is more than bubble baths and Netflix – not that I’ve been giving myself even those little luxuries. Self care is taking your vitamins. Self care is drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning instead of diving for the coffee pot. Self care is stretching instead of staying in bed ten more minutes. Self care is getting enough exercise, managing your stress, taking the time to go to the doctor to get crap diagnosed instead of just pushing through the pain. The body and the mind are intertwined, and it is terrifying just how much long term stress can effect a person. Stress can not only affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, but lower bone density, elevate secretions of insulin in the pancreas, which can lead to diabetes. Stress can cause inflammation that not only leads to depression, but also memory loss.
Here are some articles to check out if you want more info:
Quarantine has been brutal, honestly. Even before excrement hit the fan, I was having some intense familial issues. Quarantine only served to augment things – but it also forced me to realize that, even when I’m forced to slow down, I still don’t make taking care of myself a priority. I have neglected my body, and in turn my mind, for far too long. The neglect finally caught up with me. My mantra when it comes to what I’m beginning to think of as “mundane self care” (little actions like drinking enough water and getting proper nutrition) is no longer “I don’t have the time”. It’s now something like “I don’t have the time not to”. Ugh. I really wanted something catchy to end with, but I think my point is conveyed.
Until next time (which will not be months away),
keep safe, keep sane, keep health.