I have lived most of my life with my head in the clouds and it has been a whirlwind. I have had many different jobs because I would get bored and move on – some jobs have been around entertainment so therefore seasonal and short lived. And, since having my son in 2000 I have started various micro-businesses to fit in with family commitments but I never really pushed myself to be the next Deborah Meadon. Up until March 2016 I thought my scattered life was down to me have an entrepreneurial spirit.
In more recent times, I have started to feel embarrassed about the fact that I never got my head down in a job and settled until retirement. Indeed, before Facebook kept our friends and families informed of our lives, whilst attending reunions, many of my family would say, “so what are you up to nowadays? we can’t keep up with you”. I used to think I was ‘windswept and interesting’. As I got older, it became tiresome to deal with the rolling eyes of slight objection to my lack of discipline or direction.
Still, I would go about my life, my way, throwing caution to the wind and hoping I would make the right decisions for the right reasons and “what will be will be”.
But in 2016, everything became clear. What happened? Whilst undertaking a Masters Degree, I was diagnosed with ADHD and Specific Language Processing Difficulties (SLPD). This explained a lot. The feelings I experienced following the diagnosis were relief; despair; guilt; gratitude; acceptance.
Relief – Mainly because of the SLPD. I had been struggling with the Masters – not least because I was invited to do the course despite not having any GCSES or an undergraduate degree – so who wouldn’t struggle with that. Liz would say that a Masters degree is supposed to be hard but I just thought I was too thick. Turns out, I just needed a different approach. Liz helped me, of course, and I graduated with a merit! No one could have predicted that!
Despair – All these years, if I had known, maybe I would have been in better control of my impulsivity. Perhaps made more conventional choices (and stuck to them) which would mean financially stability for my children’s future.
Guilt – My Son, Mitch, has learning difficulties; verbal dyspraxia and brain damage. His diagnosis of ADHD was overshadowed by all the other labels and we didn’t investigate it enough to understand that ADHD has probably been the main culprit of Mitchel’s struggles. These days, he is doing great (phew) but I may have been able to help him earlier if I had known.
Gratitude – Having Alopecia has also helped me to gain perspective on life. In particular, when I look in the mirror, I am still shocked to realise I don’t have any hair but that soon comes around to being grateful that my hair loss is not as a result of cancer treatment and that I still have my health. Having the ability to process thoughts like this has only come since my ADHD diagnosis. I have learned to recognise my thoughts and listen to my inner voice.
Acceptance – None of the above matter. One has to look forward and not back. Now I am more aware of how my mind operates and I try to manage my impulses rather than diving straight in (it is still a work in progress). Knowing this helps me get over the shame of how I had lived my life. I now accept that I always have and always will do the best I can for me and my children.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
– J.K. Rowling
There is no right or wrong way to live a life. All we can ever hope to do is our best, in any given moment. That ‘best’ will be different for each of us.
In truth, there is not much in life which cannot be fixed if we end up making a ‘mistake’. Arguably, thinking of any decision as a mistake can be as fruitless as having regrets. Instead, we can look at anything we do in our lives as a gathering of wisdom. After all, as Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Rachel is proof that life is there to be lived, no matter what happens along the way. As she says, acceptance is key to being your own experiment and learning from whatever happens. This can feel difficult, perhaps impossible, in the moment. Time and patience, though, can be helpful companions as we come to terms with our decisions and find ways to move forward.
“There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.”
― Sophie Kinsella,