Hi, I’m Cara!

Most people who know me would describe me as confident, driven, energetic, and if I’m lucky, maybe even funny.  I love making people laugh, bringing energy into a room, and my favorite of all – being the fun aunt to my 5 beautiful nephews.  Most people who know me wouldn’t know that every day is a struggle for me.

I remember being about 11 or 12, and all of a sudden I couldn’t stop crying.  I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t go to school, I couldn’t go to hockey practice. Everything felt so painful and scary, and so dark.  My parents were terrified, they thought I had a brain tumor because my behavior changed so drastically.  They took me to every specialist, psychologist, and doctor available, to be told repeatedly that it was simply hormones making me feel this way. This didn’t make sense to me, because my peers and family members weren’t behaving this way, and everyone goes through puberty, so why me?  Even so, I accepted it and did my best to make it through each day.  I couldn’t control when I would burst into tears and I could never really figure out a “why” that made sense to me.  I had a very fortunate childhood, a wonderful support system, and a family who loved me dearly, so why couldn’t I appreciate those things and be happy?

Why did I have this crippling sense of impending doom and existential dread?  It is incredibly hard to admit this, but I hated myself so much for feeling this way and for not being able to snap out of it, that it even got to a point where I was harming myself physically.  After about 2 years, I “grew out of it”, and continued on with my life.  I still felt urges to break down, had a hard time getting out of bed, and had overwhelming feelings of anxiety.  It made me feel better to play sports, crack jokes, and keep extremely busy.

Fast forward to 2020: I’m working from home, living alone, and doing my best to stay entertained through the lockdown.  On top of my day job, I launched a podcast, where the purpose is to highlight entrepreneurs and their journeys to success.  I’d always felt like I was meant to do something bigger in life, have more of an impact, but didn’t know exactly what I could build for myself to get there.  In conversation with many people, I realized I wasn’t alone in this feeling, so I thought, ‘why not talk to the people who have taken the risks, leaped into uncertainty, and share their stories in hopes of inspiring people like me who don’t know where to start’.  What a fun journey this would be, I’d probably go viral and get famous overnight and fulfill my life’s purpose as a podcast host and finally feel satisfied and truly happy (that’s a joke in case you couldn’t tell)!  I dove in and started grinding away. I started interviewing all of these inspiring and incredibly intelligent people, working day and night to edit the recordings, prepare for upcoming interviews, find advertisers, find new guests, post on social media, grow and engage my audience, and the list goes on.  The stress that I put on myself to make my podcast perfect was immense, to the point that I can’t even explain it in words, but I’ll try.  To me, if I didn’t find my path, my purpose, my passion out of this, then I was an utter failure and disappointment to myself and everyone around me.  My expectations for myself are skyrocketing, and I couldn’t let myself down.   Although I absolutely love interviewing people, making new connections, and sharing amazing stories, I didn’t feel like it was good enough, and was struggling internally for months.  Like always, I fell back on pushing through, working harder, and smiling through the pain.  Until I broke.  Until I was that 12-year-old girl again, scared, confused, and straight-up SAD. Except now, I was almost 30, and could logically understand that I should be able to work through the feelings.  But I couldn’t, I still can’t.  Most days I feel chronically overwhelmed, stressed beyond belief, and empty at the same time.  Every day is different, and some days I can take on the world, and others I can’t get out of bed.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, ‘okay but we all have pressure, stress, duties to fulfill, why such a massive breakdown?’ And that’s exactly the point.  I’ve always been too sensitive and too emotional and shamed myself daily for it.  I asked myself “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I handle this?”  I admitted to my mom that I was majorly struggling, and although I had been going to therapy for years at this point, she asked me to book a doctor’s appointment.  Long story short, I saw 2 doctors, 2 psychologists, went through a 4-hour psychological assessment, to be diagnosed with… ADHD?!? What?  I was also diagnosed with Depression (duh) and was told that they go hand in hand.  After a ton of research, asking questions, listening to podcasts, you name it, I have learned the following:

– the assumption that ADHD makes little boys fidgety and disruptive is true, but it can also make little girls feel like they’ll never be good enough
– ADHD in girls is dismissed as being overly emotional, daydreaming, and talking too much
– undiagnosed and therefore untreated ADHD in adult women can present as depression and/or anxiety

I have been replaying my life over in my head, and it makes so much sense.  I DO talk too much, I DO have the uncontrollable urge to interrupt others when talking, and I AM overly emotional.  I will completely space out when someone is telling me a story, I can’t follow instructions worth shit, and I’m extremely impulsive in my behavior.  I am always on the go, being a social butterfly, playing sports, helping friends or family.  I can’t tell you how many of my report cards said: “she talks too much”.  I am in a constant state of anxiety because there are 30 trillion thoughts in my head and I can’t decide which one I should pay attention to first. I will avoid detailed work at all costs, and am the doer and the extrovert instead. I get a stupid amount of parking and speeding tickets, and I’m always late. I have trouble sleeping, and I don’t trust my own emotions.  No matter what I do, unless maybe I win a Nobel Prize, I will never live up to my own expectations of myself. I’ve learned that these are all symptoms of ADHD, and there are many more that I haven’t listed.

I finally found the “why” I had always been searching for. “Why can everyone else do this so easily?” “Why am I so emotional?” “Why can’t I figure this out?”  It wasn’t the answer I was expecting. In fact, I wasn’t expecting an answer.  I simply thought everyone had a life this hard, and that I was a baby for not being able to handle it at times. So it’s no wonder, that after living my whole life shaming myself for every single thing I don’t do perfectly, that I have crippling depression and feel like just I can’t do it anymore.

I want to note that, by sharing my story, I am not looking for pity. I’m not looking for people to reach out and check on me, I don’t need to hear, “oh my cousin has ADHD so I know what that’s like”. I’m not being this vulnerable for the credit, and especially not for the attention.  I’m doing this for my younger self.  For that terrified, overwhelmed, depressed little girl who thought she wasn’t strong enough.  I’m doing this for 11-year-old Cara, who needed to know that it’s okay to feel this way, and who needed to accept herself for all sides of who she is.  Who needed to know someone else was feeling the same way as her. So if that’s you, bring it in for a virtual hug, you are not alone.

For a while, I was focused on all the negative ways in which ADHD has impacted my life.  My sister helped me switch the narrative and reminded me of all the great things it’s made me.  I love to run after my nephews for hours on end.  I take pride in being able to sympathize and understand other’s emotions, sometimes more than they can for themselves.  I am creative and not afraid to chase after my dreams. I have endless energy and can be the life of any party.  If something amazing happens to you, and you call me to tell me about it, I will legitimately be as excited for you as if it’s happening to me.  It made me a high-performance athlete and a damn good saleswoman.  I can hear my mom in my ear now, “no Cara, YOU are all those things, and ADHD didn’t do all of that, YOU did”.

My story is a little bit different in that this is not something that I’ve conquered, and came up the other side victorious.  I truly don’t know if it will ever be that way.  My story is my current reality, and it’s a battle for me every day.  I am trying to be kinder and more accepting of myself. I’m trying to trust myself and my emotions more. I’m trying to accept that I don’t have to be the best, the funniest, the most successful.  I’m trying to not be ashamed when I have a burst of emotion and need to let it out.  This isn’t something that I can win at, it’s something I can manage and work through. Even writing this, I’ve cried, laughed, and had to jot down a million thoughts so I
didn’t forget to include them.  I’ve read over every paragraph and thought I should re-write it because I didn’t get my point across, though it wasn’t good enough, or wondered what you reading will think about me.

I hope to one day find a balance. I truly hope that I will be able to accept myself, in all capacities, and not just revert to humor when I get uncomfortable.  Until then, you can find me taking dares on Instagram, shotgunning on the golf course, and chasing around 5 of the cutest little nuggets you’ve ever seen. Jokes aside, if you are struggling like me, know there are good things coming.  Keep going, because there are good things coming for you in life that you don’t even know about yet. Read that again. Joy is coming.