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The Gift of my Mental Illness Diagnosis | Season 2 Ep 18

Uncategorized Sep 06, 2021

The Gift of my Mental Illness Diagnosis

 

The Gift of my ADHD Diagnosis

A lot of lawyers struggle A LOT. Compared to the general population, we have higher divorce rates, higher addiction rates, and higher rates of mental health challenges.

I am no exception.

Are you concerned about the stigma associated with mental health challenges, as in the way this article references that I have a “mental illness?”

The writer of this article made no attempt to reach out to me for comment before putting what she says about me to print. Is it that because I have a “mental illness” she believes I am not entitled to comment? Does she not need to reach out to me for comment BEFORE she plasters my face in a newspaper article delivered throughout the Province of British Columbia and other parts of our country (and yes, it is a great picture of me if I don’t say so myself).

Did the fact that the consent agreement between me and the Law Society of British Columbia mentions that I have a “mental illness” but does not mention that the mental illness is ADHD have anything to do with why this journalist did not see fit to contact me?

If the reporter did bother to reach out to me, I would have shared with her the years I have spent struggling with undiagnosed ADHD and the impact that struggle has had on my personal life.

Some Background and My Undiagnosed ADHD:

I am a single-parent divorce lawyer who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I was not diagnosed until late 2020.

I am also recently suspended from the practice of law for two weeks because I shared MDMA at a Halloween party with someone who I thought was a friend, that “friend” then reported me to the Law Society of British Columbia for doing so.

If you know anything about the way I approach my job, you will know that I am tremendously passionate.

I care deeply about my clients and their families. The work I do is forever challenging. It is also an honour. For me, my work is not just a job. It is my calling.

In order to succeed in my law practice, however, I have incorporated many strategies to make it work. I have checklists, precedents, and Loom videos everywhere setting out all the steps for all the things.

I have also structured my life so that I am very disciplined. My discipline includes me getting up at 5 am almost every day. I have a daily spiritual practice that is a huge source of joy, and comfort to me.

Although I have enjoyed a lot of successes in my career related to the client work I do, I have had a lot of personal challenges, experiencing massive failures and setbacks.

While I am very organized and careful when I advocate for my clients, I have a history of not always making the best decisions in my personal life.

Up until my diagnosis and medication, I was regularly anxious and had trouble concentrating. I could be tremendously absent-minded. People said I had “no filter” and found me inappropriate at times. I often appeared scattered and fidgety. Some people said I was weird.

I still have a lot of challenges regarding distraction. If I don’t set alarms for everything, and I mean every appointment, boiling noodles, running water in my tub, having something in the oven, bad things happen.

The checklists are for everything in my life, from running a trial to packing for a trip. If I don’t do this, I often get distracted and don’t even know I have forgotten something important until too late.

Just this past summer, for example, I took a road trip I had been planning for months. I broke my car’s fuel pump in the middle of the wilderness because I forgot to put gas in my vehicle. It took seven days and a ton of expense to get my car repaired.

While I am very organized and careful when I advocate for my clients, I am often not great at all when it comes to decisions I make in my personal life.

I have, at times, made decisions in my personal and financial life that were not well-thought-out. Some of those decisions have had devastating consequences.

The biggest decision I made with such consequences was back in 2009 when I purchased a property for my business that I could not afford. This has caused me many years of financial stress. And I mean many. The stress of this decision burdens me today in so many ways, including carrying the debt of over a million dollars after I finally cut my losses and sold that property.

Further complicating matters is that stemming from the decision to purchase that property, I have very stressful and ongoing other disciplinary proceedings with the Law Society of British Columbia. The whole process has been ongoing for more than six years now. Those issues stem from the financial and other chaos caused by me purchasing that office space.

ADHD Diagnosis:

Because I could never understand why so much of my personal life was not working, I sought treatment and help. I have attended therapy on and off since 1999.

ADHD often shows up differently in women. It is often profoundly misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

I have had over 100 counselling sessions with my main treating psychologist since 2015. I did EMDR treatment with my other psychologist. I also sought spiritual guidance and support.

Starting in about 2012, I was also diagnosed with adrenal gland burnout, extreme depression. I suffered huge weight gain on top of it all. Although things improved a lot for me once I was in regular therapy, there remained difficult personal challenges.

Initially, my psychologist first diagnosed me with an anxiety and adjustment disorder. When I first started seeing her in 2012, my personal life was in turmoil. I had health problems, problems at home, problems everywhere in my personal life.

I started a dedicated spiritual practice. Despite that practice, I also self-medicated from time to time. It is my understanding that self-medicating is when people use non-prescribed substances, or alcohol to cope with stress, worry, or anxiety. I was not aware that I was engaging in a behaviour called “self-medicating.” I just knew I was desperate for some kind of relief from the anxiety and turmoil I continuously felt.

My self-medicating included at one time, a “partying”-type lifestyle. For example, from about 2009 to 2011, I used non-prescription substances almost every weekend. This very much petered out to me attending one to two parties a year. Now, I no longer engage in that type of lifestyle at all.

In late 2020, when I sought the advice and treatment of an MD specializing in ADHD and Addiction, the doctor said I had ADHD and it was “off the charts.”

Suddenly, so much of my life made sense.

Since late 2020 I am now on prescribed ADHD medication, called Vyvanse.

My prescribed ADHD medication is LIFE-CHANGING.

Today, thanks to the medication I am taking, my life has gotten a lot better.

However, I am still dealing with the fallout of some of my previous actions.

Why I have a 14-day suspension:

Prior to my ADHD diagnosis, another not-so-great decision was when I was at a private Halloween party of my close friend in 2019. Because I had been, in the past, open about the fact that I had a safe source for MDMA, a friend asked me to bring MDMA with me to this party. I brought it with me.

I would never make either of those decisions today, that is, bring MDMA to a party or be open about that fact, whether I had a safe source or not.

A “friend” approached me and asked me for a tablet of MDMA. I shared with her. She then reported to the Law Society of British Columbia that I was handing out illegal drugs at that party and that I “was handing them out like Skittles.”

At the time I did this, I was fully aware that MDMA is a controlled substance. MDMA is a Schedule I drug under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).

I fully accept and understand why the Law Society of British Columbia does not wish lawyers to break the law openly. I agreed to a two-week suspension from August 28, 2021, to September 11, 2021.

This two-week suspension has had enormous consequences for my finances, my business, and my reputation. For example, I had finally been in a position to get a new mortgage that would give me significant relief from the property purchase decision I made in 2009. It was going to be a huge and profound relief from the financial consequences of that decision made so many years ago. At the very last second, because of the article, the lender pulled the financing. So, yeah, it has been a lot.

I am profoundly grateful for the support I have received from colleagues, old clients, and current ones. Of course, some clients are shaken up too. Some clients are upset to hear that their lawyer not only has a mental illness but actually broke the law. I get it.

I am moving forward in my life and continuing to do my best. Part of that best includes me being grateful for my diagnosis. And, guess what?! I am still a bit weird. I am still fidgety. I still say the wrong thing at times. Thank goodness I am still me.

It reminds me of a favourite quote reminding us to be compassionate with each other:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Much love,

Val

 


In this Episode:

  • The Gift of my ADHD Diagnosis [00:00:38]
  • Some Background and My Undiagnosed ADHD [00:04:45]
  • My ADHD Diagnosis [00:12:11]
  • Why I have a 14-day suspension [00:17:09]


Resources:

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