My Scarlet Letters | ADDA

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by Zari Benson

This pandemic has brought myriad hardships to people across the globe. For me, this “pause” has given me an abundance of time, and discomfort, to turn inwards and self-reflect. I have often avoided confronting my mental health issues and have actively chosen to spend every spare moment entertaining in a whirlwind of distractions; binge watching mediocre shows, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram after receiving zero new notifications or taking the time to complete Buzzfeed quizzes that reveal which type of salad dressing I am. Though these diversions are still readily available to me, when the self-isolation measures passed the one-month mark and the return to regular routines remained largely uncertain, they no longer sufficiently curbed my appetite to disassociate from my inner demons.

On one particularly dreary evening, I made the conscious effort to lock myself in our spare bedroom, turn off the lights, lie in silence and listen to the thoughts inside my head. Within minutes I was weeping into one of our pillows and desperately trying to sink beneath the springs of the mattress. The voice inside my head has always spewed negative gospels and I have sewed these words into my skin as though they are inherent, unwavering truths. While it already feels like a nearly impossible feat to try to rewrite this narrative, it feels like an entirely different beast when you have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). I have sat with this diagnosis for almost a year and though it has offered rational explanations behind my unproductive patterns, I feel extremely shameful of its existence within me.

I have not yet shared this piece of my identity with most of the people I hold dearest. However, when I have given myself permission to let someone in, I’ve noticed I broach the subject with the same uneasy, gut-wrenching apprehension as when I came out of the closet: this is who I truly am and I hope that you continue to love me in spite of this. Though this fear of rejection has been crippling at times, I found the acceptance of my sexuality was a much easier process. This revelation has been a painful one and has made me question why I, too, have swallowed this self-deprecating belief that suffering from a mental disorder makes me less worthy of being loved? Instead of embracing and finding effective coping mechanisms to manage my ADHD, I yearn to lock these scarlet letters inside the depths of my subconscious, as though I was never made aware of their presence in the first place.

As this pandemic continues to dictate our actions and we feel enormous pressure to become productivity machines, I have decided to opt towards one modest goal instead: to be kinder to myself. Over the past months I have learned that, despite my blatant distractibility, I am able to hyperfocus and devour books within a few days, so long as I leave all of my technological gadgets in another room. This discovery has fueled a desire to read the words of authors that are committed to destigmatizing mental health and reminding people that they are not alone in their internal battles.

The most recent treasure I have found is “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. This book has provided me with the strength to re-evaluate my persistent, self-deprecating, narrative. By turning inwards and sitting with my suffering, I am finally taking the necessary steps to claim a new, truer identity and sense of self-worth.  Though I swam through a sea of emotions reading each chapter, I have emerged a braver woman. I mustered up the courage to turn on the light and dust off each one of my discarded scarlet letters. I have given them a new home where they can be nurtured and loved.

I am aware that I will often be tempted to abandon this mindset, however, I believe that my commitment to understanding and bettering myself will ultimately win this uphill battle. The reality of having ADHD means that I spent hours fighting the temptation to abandon writing this piece altogether and find a new, shinier activity that required much less introspection. Though this may seem like a minor victory for some, it fills me with a deep sense of pride and affirmation that I can create better habits for myself.

To all those out there who are also navigating their own mental health struggles: I see you. I am with you. I am you.



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