Life Changes and an Introduction
Hello everyone! My name is Caleb and I’m very excited to be part of the start-up team of writers for Skeptability! I’ll say right off the bat that this is a really hectic time for me. I recently graduated college (as in earlier this week) and am about to move halfway across the country (as in tomorrow). Originally I was going to go on a road trip with my mom but then her truck burned down in an engine fire, which means I didn’t go to my own graduation ceremony and I now have to take a plane to Oregon and ship all my stuff. My body also decided to catch a cold this week while I’m supposed to be packing and cleaning. But! I’ll be starting a new chapter of my life, I finally am out of college, and I’m about to live in a really amazing city. And Skeptability launched. Which means I should give you all some background about who I am and why I’m here.
I became involved in the secular community in college when I started my university’s Secular Student Alliance chapter. I wasn’t raised in a religious household, and I had figured out early on that religion makes no sense to me. Being straight didn’t make sense to me either, and I figured out that I was some shade of queer at thirteen. What took longer was figuring out what shade of queer that was. It’s kind of a funny story because everyone always says things like “you don’t just wake up one day and realize you’re trans/gay/whatever” but that is exactly what happened to me. Or rather I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep when it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t a girl. From there I figured out that I’m non-binary and genderqueer; it took me until I was 20 to realize it.
It also took me until I was 20 to realize I have inattentive-type ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Like being trans, most people expect you to figure it out at an early age. In fact for ADHD the diagnostic criteria demands that you display symptoms by age 12. Which I did, but I didn’t know what it was (sort of like how I had gender dysphoria for years without knowing what it was).
When I moved off campus I started working in retail. That was when I really started to realize something was wrong. I couldn’t remember the directions my bosses would give me. Weird things kept on happening to me because I would space out or forget what I was supposed to be doing. I was a hard worker but I started to tell myself I was unintelligent and unequipped to keep even a job in retail because I kept forgetting and messing up. I couldn’t process new information easily and I was really slow at learning new things. This was incredibly hard for me as someone who grew up being told that I was really intelligent, despite doing poorly in school. My absentmindedness, boredom at school, and lack of motivation to do homework were all taken as evidence that I was too smart for my classes and was simply not challenged enough. But then why did I have such difficulty with performing simple tasks at work?
I also had trouble taking care of myself. This has gotten worse over the past few years as my depression has become more difficult to manage. It’s a circle; I have executive dysfunction which makes it hard to feed myself and do other things I need to do to take care of myself, which in turn makes my depression worse. It also makes it more difficult to think clearly which doesn’t help with my ADHD symptoms, which make me more depressed and anxious. And then weird things happen like dissociation which also makes my body dysphoria worse. Dysphoria is also worsened by the fact that I’m in horrible physical shape and am fatigued easily, but it’s difficult to get in shape if you aren’t eating enough. All of these problems feed off of each other. 0/10 would not recommend.
But I’m finally able to recognize these problems for what they are. From an early age I was taught by members of my family that depression and ADHD didn’t exist as legitimate mental disorders and that being diagnosed with either of them would make me a weak and bad person. I was warned that being diagnosed with ADHD would ruin my life. That at best medication was useless and at worst would turn me into an emotionless zombie. There are also a lot of misconceptions about what mental disabilities are like, much of which I ended up believing. So here I am as a 22 year-old college grad who hasn’t learned how to effectively manage my ADHD, depression, executive dysfunction, and a small host of other mental health problems.
Sites like Skeptability are incredibly important for addressing these misconceptions and negative stigmas against mental and physical illnesses and disabilities. We can share our stories. We can define our own experiences. I tried really hard to build my own community where I can be open about being genderqueer; it didn’t feel right to have to be silent about my mental health. So I decided to start talking. I’m hoping that along the way I can help people or even change some minds.