It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing with your life.
For me, that is a constant thought – an unwelcome companion that goes everywhere with me. My shadow. Now it doesn’t matter WHY, it just matters that I feel like I’ve never done anything with myself.
I think many of us with ADHD know that feeling all too well.
We’ve jumped from one thing to another, or never found our niche, or get too bored, or too overwhelmed, or too..well, you name it, we’ve felt it. For me personally, it’s more of an “if I’d known then what I know now” kind of thing. Once upon a time I saw myself as a happy little stay at home mom. As my then husband pointed out – there was no NEED for me to finish my degree because I was going to stay home with our children. (Just a piece of advice – always ALWAYS finish that degree. Things don’t always go according to plan and you never know when you might have to unexpectedly enter the work force. Get some skills. Just saying.)
Oh, as the years went by I tried a few things. That’s where the ADHD kicked in. It was all hyperfocus and excitement for a new project for a while, then it just fizzled out and I was left feeling like a failure. Again.
Don’t get me wrong. Life isn’t about just a career.
I let myself feel inferior for all SORTS of reasons – not having a career to speak of was just one of those things.
So there I was, suddenly a single mom. Now what? I worked and decided to go back to school. I entered into a distance learning program which I thought would be great for me, and then…yep…you guessed it.
My then seven year old had a breakdown. Life as we had begun to know it was suddenly something I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t about jobs, or careers, or self fulfillment anymore. It was about getting through the day intact.
The next several years became about getting my daughter through the day. Nothing else much mattered. I worked at my job, the hours were great for our needs and if there was an emergency I could leave whenever I needed to.
Even though I knew better, sometimes I still compared myself with others.
Even though I knew I was doing what needed to be doing, sometimes I still let that doubt enter in. I would look at others and see people that looked so put together. People happily in careers they enjoyed. People that didn’t panic at the end of every month when there wasn’t enough money to go around. I was never envious of them, I just felt like I didn’t measure up.
So today my daughter was having not such a great day. It was a really rough one for her. This evening I went to church and I just felt helpless. I felt like I’d failed in some way. I wasn’t able to protect her when she needed it. I felt like a lot of what happened to her was my fault. Unproductive thoughts. My brain knows I could not control the actions of someone else. My brain knows I did what I could. My heart doesn’t always see it that way.
So during the sermon, the priest was talking about what we would put on our obituaries if we had to write them for God. What would we say we had done? What would we tell God that we had done with our lives that served Him? I sat there, in the back pew in the far corner and I started to cry. What have I done? What have I given back to this world that I could tell God about? What good had I accomplished?
Then the priest said something that changed everything.
He said God does not judge the way the world judges. In the world when you die they print your obituary and talk about the deeds you’ve done, the organizations you’ve belonged to, your career, and the volunteer work you did. In the world they look at the big things you’ve done, the accolades you’ve been given. God doesn’t look at it that way.
God does not care if you’ve done big things or if you’ve done small things.
He said maybe you’ve led a life where you had the opportunity to serve your community in big ways. He said, maybe though, the things you have done are not so noticeable to the outside world. He paused and when he continued, the words meant more to me than any I have ever heard.
Maybe what you have done with your life is to care for a child with special needs. Maybe you’ve given your life to this child to make theirs better. No one might know that but you and God. No one in the world may notice how important it was.
I sat there crying quietly because my child may not be “special needs” in the way other children are. I am blessed and thankful that my daughter has always had physical health. I cried for all the parents out there giving their all to a child with physical or emotional and mental needs. I cried for other parents hanging on by a thread feeling helpless as they watch their child suffer with mental illness. Depression. Self Harm. Suicidal thoughts.
And even though I know that being there for my child was the most important job I had, I felt like God was reminding me that while my life might feel out of control sometimes, and while I might feel like I don’t measure up – that I’m judging myself on the standards of the world around me, and on false importance. Raising my daughter – keeping her safe – was my most important job, and it was enough.
Maybe I haven’t done big things. Maybe I don’t have an important career. Maybe I’m scattered and forgetful, socially anxious and awkward – but I’m enough. What I have done is important and necessary. I kept her safe. I’ve been there for her so that she can one day reach her full potential.
As a mother I don’t regret one single thing I’ve done. I don’t need the approval of others and I’m not trying to sound self righteous like I’ve done better than anyone else. I don’t need sympathy and don’t mean that I’ve had it harder than anyone. I know that in comparison to some, I’ve had it easy. And I’ve made plenty of mistakes.
Sometimes we all need to be reminded though that sometimes we choose our path, and sometimes our path is chosen because it’s the one we are forced to take. We make decisions every day about what is important to us.
I’ve always chosen to care for my daughter’s emotional and mental health. I’ve lost friends, I’ve missed opportunities, and I often feel I’ve nothing to show for my life thus far.
But that isn’t so. I have a beautiful daughter that is still here with me. I have a beautiful daughter whose smile lights up my day. I have a daughter who is getting better every day. So I have everything.
Maybe my life doesn’t look like much from the outside. But I am reminded of what it looks like to me. And that’s all that matters.