Well, here we are, with me starting another blog. I’ve started dozens of blogs over the last 22 years — usually around major life changes, and wow, do I have a big one on my hands this time. I quit my job four months ago without a plan, and am just now starting to understand what’s next for me. It looks like it will be to develop skills, structures, and resources to help vulnerable people in my communities navigate these extraordinary times. More specifically, I want to help LGBTQ+ adults with ADHD navigate daily challenges and major life changes.
This is, of course, a personal mission driven by personal challenges — I am an LGBTQ+ adult with ADHD. I spent my twenties writing and speaking about identity (I am bisexual and androgynous), and building community around the grey areas of gender and sexuality. Throughout my life, I have also struggled with chronic anxiety and periodic bouts of depression. While a good chunk of this was absolutely connected to my struggle to accept my own gender presentation and sexuality, there was another self-acceptance challenge that I didn’t tackle until much later: my ADHD. Diagnosed with “combined type” (both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive), I struggle with focus, executive function, and impulse control. I have fought against my own brain extensively, and every time I do, I lose.
A number of my life choices make a lot more sense now in this context. When we last saw our hero on the blogging scene, I was a socially isolated chronic college dropout with a 4.0 GPA who refused tech job offers and insisted on working as a freelancer. After quite a lot of therapy, that changed dramatically. I swapped out my rich, tumultuous world of internet content and short-term tech gigs for a corporate career in software product management and a stable home life. It was absolutely worth it. I stabilized my mental health, got out of debt, built a happy marriage, developed deep friendships, finished my degree, and clocked an amazing set of professional experiences that I was never going to get while working on my own.
And then… 2020 happened.
I’m grateful to know that I’m not alone in the mental health challenges I faced this year. With life as we know it screeching to a halt, it was absolutely reasonable that our strategies stopped working, and our anxiety and depression — and good lord, the grief! — hit us hard. In my case, a job that I was deeply in love with turned into my personal nightmare. My brain went into an endless fog, my nervous system went into full stabbing mode, and I felt trapped in an endless cycle of Zoom meetings and impossible tasks while locked in a body that refused to move.
It wasn’t a total system shutdown. I had a series of victories, I found some new systems, I sought and benefited from professional help, and I connected with friends for mutual support. I was surviving. But I also saw the writing on the wall that this pandemic was going to last a lot longer than we were ready to accept, and I felt my inner voice screaming that I wasn’t on the right path anymore. Fortunately, thanks to the enormous privileges that come from working in tech, I also realized I had enough savings to be able to quit my job, take care of myself, and seek out something new.
It was a huge risk, and I never would have done it without the pain I was in, but I have not for one moment regretted it. I believe I will always look back on that moment as the most significant turning point of my life. And because of that, I already have deep gratitude for that pain.
So what’s next? Well, the first order of business is to begin this blog. I want to start documenting the process I’m undertaking-this massive career change, this mental health recovery, and this exploration into new tools, strategies, and knowledge. It’s been a long time since I was a writer on the Internet, so my voice feels awkward and self-conscious. Even writing this first post has taken multiple rounds of stopping and starting, deleting, restarting, and “no that’s not quite it.” If you’re reading this now, it means I somehow got through a giant wall of imposter syndrome and personal resistance. And so now I just need to keep doing it… over and over and over. (Hopefully it will get easier?) I want to tell my story in detail because I believe that the specifics of our individual experiences are the most helpful and relatable to others. And while my journey has always felt strange and unusual, I’m learning that I am much less unique-and as a result, much less alone-than I have always believed.
In January, I will begin a training and certification program to become a professional ADHD coach. I’m excited to build a private practice that helps people directly, and I see a deep need for this kind of service in the LGBTQ+ community. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle (because of course this brain of mine needs multiple paths). I also know my community frequently struggles with the costs of professional help, so I want to use my tech skills to build free and low-cost online resources that provide help, education, and more opportunities for mutual support.
I honestly have no idea what this will all look like in a year, let alone in 3 months, but I am very clear that it is time to start walking. I know what direction I’m heading in, and that is enough to begin.
I hope you’ll join me along the way.
Originally published at https://sarahdopp.com on December 11, 2020.