I don't like looking in the mirror these days. It's not that my reflection is shocking. I've grown used to the gray hair and the 25 pounds I've gained since having children. The problem is, I have a hard time recognizing the person staring back at me.
I trudge along under the armor I've molded around my likeness. I first strapped it on as a defense, to hide from the judgment of teachers and parents when my son, Luke, began having problems in school. Then it thickened, to protect me from the guilt of not being able to fix him. It grew heavier when I decided I'd have to force the world to accept my child, since I cannot change his neurology.
A Mom Can Dream
Now, here I am, living under this enormous protective coating, banging around in a life that is no longer my own. The weight of my armor has caused me to shrink, and I am rarely seen as anything but "Mom."
Somewhere along the line, my responsibilities and roles began to define me, despite all the reasons they shouldn't. I am a wife who loves and supports my husband. I am a mom who nurtures, teaches, loves, and protects both of my children. I am an ADHD crusader, who shields my son, and others like him, from undue criticism and judgment.
These roles are part of me, but they are not all of who I am. I have neglected passions that nurture my soul for the good of others. I love to write, and I still dream of publishing a book. I like photography, and I want to learn more about the art, and work on improving my skills. I wish I had time to try my hand at painting.
My family doesn't demand that I neglect myself or my dreams. My husband would love for me to spend time on my creative passions. My children? Not so much. But they don't mean to be selfish. ADHD is the elephant in the room, and denial absorbs all our energy. Not the denial that Luke has ADHD, but the denial that it controls our lives.
Perchance to Explore?
ADHD does control much of our lives -- and it clouds my identity. Managing the disorder requires researching the condition, paying attention, creative parenting, and time for doctor, therapist, and OT appointments. I spend more time on children and family than on self-preservation and self-exploration.
I have accepted my role as mother. I am not resentful, and I don't begrudge my son anything. This is the life I was given, and I am happy to live it. I am happy much of the time, because I choose to be. There's joy in loving Daddy and raising our two beautiful kids.
They say parenthood should be treated like an airline emergency -- put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help the person sitting next to you. I know this is true when I consider it rationally, in quiet moments. But in the throes of life, it is tough to put on the brakes when your strongest instinct, your maternal instinct, is to take care of your children first.
Recognizing that I am losing myself is important. Now I am prepared to fight to let the rest of me shine through. I am going to spend time on myself, doing things I like to do, alone, and just for me. My heart melts when those two little people call me Momma, but that isn't all of who I am.
This article appears in the Summer 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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