‘I’m fine! I have it figured out!’ I struggled in secret as I hid behind my smile. I woke up in a suicide room.’: Woman shares her ADHD journey to make mental health ‘less secretive and stigmatized’

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of suicide and may be triggering to some.

“378 days of living. 378 days of finding the light in the darkness. 378 days of figuring it out and taking it day by day. 378 days ago I was hospitalized after an unsuccessful attempt on my life. This may make you uncomfortable. This may make you feel differently about me. This may make you leave this page. If so, so be it—this is my truth, and I feel led to share it. I’ve learned sometimes life is more like a dumpster fire than a perfectly curated Instagram grid, and it’s time to show it.

In the beginning of 2019, I was in shambles. I was struggling to focus at a job I loved. My marriage felt rocky. (Did you know counselors say the first year of marriage is often the hardest? I didn’t. I thought I was failing). I felt like I never accomplished what I should be. I had zero self-esteem. I felt like a waste of resources.

I truly thought the world would be better without me in it, and this just felt like how it was meant to be.

I had a picture-perfect childhood filled with love, support, everything I ever needed, exotic vacations, summer days spent on boats at the lake—literally blessed in every way. However, I’ve struggled with depression almost my entire life. I started having what we called the ‘lonely hour’ at dusk when I was a child, but there was never any type of diagnosis. I was bullied mercilessly in high school by my group of ‘friends’ and cried myself to sleep most nights. My self-esteem plummeted. The depression and isolation grew.

I didn’t actually get a diagnosis until I was in college, and even then, there was such a stigma around medication that I was scared. I figured I could do it on my own through better eating and exercise. I couldn’t. My depression became cyclical… be depressed, not get things done, have severe anxiety about not accomplishing things, then more depressed because I couldn’t figure it out. It was exhausting and, as you can imagine, debilitating. The years kept passing, and I yearned to be ‘normal.’ I wanted to feel as carefree and free-spirited as I seemed. The cycles continued.

I started therapy and, eventually, medication—things were looking up! I was less depressed, less anxious, and happier! That lasted about a year, and then the feelings started creeping in again. Slowly at first, but then all at once. I started a new job, and my therapist couldn’t fit my hours. I didn’t bother finding a new one because, ‘I’m fine! I have this figured out!’ I started feeling like I was behind in work, and not able to give it my best effort. My dog and constant companion since college passed away suddenly. Housework and keeping up with being a good wife felt impossible. I binge ate. I drank. That dreaded cycle of depression and anxiety started up again and, for those of you with seasonal depression, you know having all of this happening in the winter was even worse. I stopped looking for the light or, more accurately, my mental illness was blocking my view.

Courtesy of Kendall Flegel

One morning, I woke up alone in a suicide room (even typing this makes me shudder). It was an empty room—no windows and devoid of any type of decoration. I was wrapped in tubes. And these awful, yellow, smiley hospital socks—so stark against the white of the room—were staring up at me. I realized I had absolutely hit rock bottom, and I was ashamed. Tidbits of the day before kept flashing through my head, and I kept hoping the floor would open up and I would just disappear. I didn’t want to face the world.

After my hospitalization, I learned my medication was the wrong dose, so it had stopped doing anything for me. I started on the correct dose. I started therapy with a therapist who helped me understand how my mind worked—instead of me always feeling broken and dumb. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, which explained why I had trouble with tasks and getting things done. The cycle started to break, and I learned healthy ways to cope with my brain.

As someone who has always been viewed as free-spirited, independent, smiley, and fun, I’m still embarrassed of my rock bottom. It was not a pretty time in my life in any way. I still struggle to say the words out loud, and most of the time I don’t. However, I’m glad I was given another chance. I’ve gone back and forth about sharing this more times than I can count. I’m not sharing this for any type of sympathy or compliment fishing. (And I promise I’m in a healthy place—body and soul!) I’m sharing this with everyone today because I want to do my part in normalizing mental illness. I felt so alone for so much of my life, struggling in secret as I hid behind my smile.

Courtesy of Kendall Flegel

As a society, we are starting to get to a point where mental illness is less secretive and stigmatized, but we are by no means where we should be. I want to share my story as one of awareness and hope. If this helps just one person feel less alone, then it was worth showing my most vulnerable and ugly place.

Getting help if something doesn’t feel right doesn’t mean you’re broken or crazy. It’s one of the bravest things you can do! Looking for the light when your mind is dark is HARD, and many times feels impossible. Mental illness is a mountain many of us can’t climb alone, no matter how hard we try.

Today, I ask you to be honest and ask yourself, ‘How am I, really?’ YOU are worth it.

I am here. I am a Mental Illness Survivor, and I am with you.


Courtesy of Kendall Flegel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kendall Flegel, 32, from Denver, CO. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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