I have ADHD. I have had it since I was a little kid. I remember feeling symptoms as young as 3 years old. I wanna explain (mostly for my enjoyment) how I fight the symptoms, the tools that I use to fight them and the tricks I have learned in my nearly 25 years of fighting this terrible terrible thing. I think, or I would hope, that my tricks and tips would help others maybe manage their adult ADHD just a little better. Lets dive in!
Fight the Power: How I fight the symptoms of Adult ADHD
The following are the symptoms of ADHD that I feel I fight on a daily basis. Now I need to have my readers remember that I am also autistic so some of my symptoms are mixed/exacerbated by having the duel issues. I am also a adult female so that can change the presentation of the symptoms. I will try to separate the symptoms the best I can.
- Anxiety: I have lived with anxiety since as far back as I can remember. I remember feeling anxiety in my earliest memory. My earliest memory was the day Allie (my little sister) was born. We were on the rooftop parking complex at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, WA. My Grandma and Dad where there discussing who was going to watch me as my Dad was needed with my Mom and new sister. They had decided I would go with my Grandma and we would come back later. I remember feeling anxious that I was going to be away from my Dad, anxious that my schedule, my normal was being interrupted by something I didn’t understand. I remember throwing a fit over it and not wanting my Dad to go. Then my Grandma in all her Grandma magical powers offered that we would go to Toys R Us, and get a new toy. That seemed to change my tune. I fight anxiety on a daily basis. I think that the years that I went undiagnosed (nearly 21 years) lead to my anxiety being as bad as it is. Anyway, here is how I fight it. Medication. Yes, I take medication for anxiety. More on medication later in this post. Now, medication does not rid me of anxiety it in my opinion takes it down a level. From being on the verge of a meltdown constantly to being in a range where I can still feel it but yet I can manage it. Now, I manage anxiety in a few other ways. One being I talk my self/reason my self out of it. Say I hear a loud noise unexpectedly and suddenly feel anxious (sorry for the aspie example) I can reason that everything is okay. I can look around and see that no one else is caused anxiety over the noise and if they are okay and I can see that then I must be okay. Things to that effect. For the times I am anxious for an unknown reason and alone I think of my kitties. (Yes, they are registered emotional support animals, more on them later) I can reason that they are home, safe, warm and together and that puts me at ease. I often leave the house and get anxious, especially if i haven’t taken my medication yet. So I usually walk my self through what the cats are doing. They are likely playing or sleeping on Allie’s bed, etc. Cat things. They are okay. They are safe and happy and fed and warm and have everything they need. For some reason reassuring my self that they are okay gives myself permission to be okay one in the same. I know that may sound weird but it works for me. Finally, I manage anxiety through prayer. Say I am well, anywhere and anxious for any reason. I can pray about that. I can ask God to take the anxiety away, or help me reason that I have no reason to be anxious. Some how knowing that I am not alone that God is there helping me takes the edge off. Other anti anxiety methods include calming music, fidget toys and caffeine. More on equipment later.
- Chronic Bordom: Sadly, I have suffered from chromic boredom forever. If I don’t have something to do I am instantly bored. So I keep myself busy. I am rarely doing absolutely nothing. Only time I can think of where I do absolutely nothing is when I am asleep. I can’t even get through a movie without doing something else while I’m watching (with the exception of movies in a theater, some how there I can focus on just the movie, don’t know why) Mostly it’s my hands that are bored and not so much my brain. My ADHD brain is never board and never stops. I always thought I would be good in solitary confinement because I would still have my brain and I would just run through scenarios of escape, write stories, think through concepts etc. Like I said my brain never stops. Now when I have down time I usually watch Netflix and do something with my hands like make things. Sewing projects, cardboard and hot glue projects, color pictures, crochet, study different things like now i’m studying for my upcoming math class. I also do non-productive things like play games on my phone, paint my nails, write blog posts lol etc. Some how the combination of Netflix and thinking through whatever I’m doing takes enough of my focus up to be relaxing to me. Now ask anyone in my family, I am sill chronically bored (and complain about it daily). Surprisingly I get bored doing the same things so I often need to switch it up. I usually take suggestions on tasks from my family and somehow find something to do with my hands. One piece of advice to the chronically bored, is this. What you do in your leisure time does not have to be productive. It’s your time. You don’t have to make something. You don’t have to complete something. Write a short story for the hell of it, you don’t even have to correct the spelling or let anyone read it just wrote it for the sake of something to do. That being said being productive feels good too so if that’s your fancy clean, do the dishes, laundry, something. As long as tour moving you will be satisfied so just stay moving. If all else fails, Pinterest.
- Disorganization/forgetfulness/lateness: I feel like the three things listed here are all related, therefore I am going to talk about them together. Up until the 4th grade I was a textbook disorganized/forgetful person which lead to being late. In the 4th grade I got so sick of people telling me that I was disorganized, losing things, forgetful, procrastinator etc. That I decided to be the opposite of all these things. I took all the things that teachers and my parents where saying to me to heart. I take everything to heart actually, I don’t know why but I do. So people calling me lazy, disorganized, and all those things hurt my feelings to a point where I decided that I was not going to let that happen any longer. So I choose to change, and over compensate for my down falls, sadly at an expense to my anxiety. I became the most organized person you have ever met. I actually used for a label marker for my birthday. What happened over time, obviously non of this was instant, was that I started seeing results. My grades got better mostly. I took pride in my work and I was deriving satisfaction from near protection, it didn’t matter to me that I was killing myself to do better, it only mattered that I wasn’t being called lazy anymore. I was not lazy, I didn’t have the natural ability to be organized. Here is how I stay organized and don’t forget thing and never show up late. First of all I use a planner like its life support. I write EVERYTHING in my planner. From dates, and work schedule, car payments, birthdays, reminders, tasks, ideas, lists, TV shows, everything. Work and personal life. I have become the master of the stick note. I write everything on stick notes and put the notes on the appropriate day in my planner. Now, to keep from losing the planner I keep it in my purse with my keys (can’t leave the house without keys, therefore can’t leave without my planner) Now I also keep my purse in my room right next to my laid out outfit for the next day therefor I can’t get dressed without seeing it. I also got in the habit of doing a check list before I leave, Wallet, Keys, Phone, med, planner. Helps that all those things go in my purse. So no purse, no go. Now for this to work you have to put things back where they go. Planner goes in purse, therefore it must go back in the purse after i have used it. That training took time. But it’s now extremely rare that I forget things. Second thing, I write things down as soon as I think of them, yes this takes longer but its worth it. My favorite thing is to send my self a text message and don’t open it till I have done it. Because I look at my phone so much and it hard leaves my hand I look at it and think “Oh a message” go to look and you can see it without opening it and then I remember. Once it’s been done I open the message. Works good for things you need to remember in the morning, like “Feed the cats” or “pack a lunch”, or even “Grab your planner” IT seems like a lot of extra work but again I am a trained professional in going the extra mile to compensate for my forgetful/disorganized nature. As far as the late thing, try this. Add extra time to every process. So Example) In the morning I set my alarm for 1 hour before I need to leave even though I can shower and get read in about 40 min. I also give my self 45 min to get to work when in reality it takes 28 min. Also try telling your self you don’t have snooze. You have one opportunity to get up and so you have to take it or you miss work. And if you don’t wanna get out of bed in the morning after your alarm has gone off, say a quick prayer for your day with your eyes OPEN. OPEN eyes, repeat OPEN eyes. This way you don’t fall back asleep but still buy 5 min of laying there time.
- Depression: This is hard for me to talk about. But I will try my best. It’s really easy to think “Ugh, I’m not getting this and i’m making mistakes and forgetting things and I’m bored and anxious and ugh poor me” I am here to tell you that this is a trap. Now I am a person that puts on a front and pretends i’m just peachy and everything is fine, when inside I’m beating my self up for the small mistake I made. I have lived periods of time in my life in total depression and having ADHD is hard, so its easy to get down on things. You can’t let yourself do this. You have the authority to feel what you want to. You have the authority to change your outlook. Now this is hard. Here is an example. Yesterday I made a mistake at work and didn’t scan a drivers license and a had to call a customer and ask them to come back in so I could scan their drivers license. I felt horrible. I was so mad at myself for forgetting and causing such a huge mess that affected other people. I was driving home and I was beating my self up. I continued to beat my self up till I talked to my Mommy. She reminded me that I’m new at work it was a simple mistake and that I needed to let it go. She was right (don’t tell her I said that, just kidding Mommy, you were right ) So once I talked to her I decided I get the rest of the night (it was close to bed time anyway) to feel sorry for myself and beat myself up but as soon as I wake up the next morning I’m done. It’s over and I have to move forward. The mistake was corrected so I was not to think about it any further and make an extra effort to not make the same mistake again. You have the power, don’t forget that. Being depressed is hard. But you can choose little manageable steps that bring you out of it.
- Trouble concentrating/focusing: This is my own personal nemesis. I am the queen of distracted and lack of focus. I have to say that the number one way I manage this is though mediation. More on that later. Second way I focus is caffeine, don’t tell my doctor I said that but caffeine is a huge help. Though I don’t recommend it. It calms my brain down to a dull static of thought and allows me to concentrate better. Third thing I do do focus is constantly remind myself to focus. Kyra, focus. Oh look a cow, cows say Moo, I’m allergic to milk, KYRA, Focus. Over and over. Yes that’s what its like in my brain. Driving is the time I need to focus the most I think and I struggle with that so to help I play music that I know and sing along. Some how that keeps my bring busy enough that I can focus on driving without all the thoughts taking over. Try it, taking up focus helps.
- Impulsiveness: So I am hesitant to include this in my post. Yet, it’s such a problem for ADHD people that I feel I have a responsibility to talk about it even though I don’t have an answer. I have no answer for this one. I am extremely impulsive especially with buying things I don’t need. It’s cost me tons of money. The best thing I can say is find your weak spot. Mine is shopping, so I take people with me that can tell me no you don’t need that, usually a second guess is all I need to see clearly.
- Trouble Sleeping: I have a one word fix for this one. Melatonin. This has changed my life. I use to take hours, no exaggeration, hours to fall asleep. Then if I woke up in the middle of the night I was doomed to be up all night. Now thanks to my little buddy melatonin, I pop three before bed hit the pillow and 20 min later I’m asleep and out cold all night. If I do wake to like go to the bathroom or something I can easily go back to sleep.
Tools of the trade:
- Fidget Toys: I love fidget toys. Something to busy your hands when you are trying to focus.
- Planner: Already talked about this. I buy most of my fidget toys from stimtastic.co. My favorite is their spinner rings. I have the infinity one.
- Emotional Support Animals: Lulu and Grayson are my saving grace. They are a constant reminder that I am okay and that everything is okay.
- Anxiety Medication: I actually take two meds for it. One to help the physical effects of anxiety (heart racing, heightened blood pressure, etc.) and one for the psychological part of it. If you are curious the meds names specifically let me know I’m happy to share, just not publicly. Meds changed my life, through finding the right drug and the dosage took over a year, of trial and error I think I am finally on a med that is changing my life for the better. Been on it for about 2 years now.
- ADHD Medication: I have been on ADHD medication for about four going on five years now. I know its a touchy subject but I am pro medication, in the right situation. Meds make it so my brain stops running so fast. It helps me focus and allows me to pay attention to details without trying so hard. I have been through three different mediations in my few years and so far I like the one I am on now the best. How it works is you take it when you get up and it works for about 4-6 hours. Then you take a second dose and then you go to sleep and do it all over again.
- Melatonin: See Above under Trouble Sleeping.
- Thyroid Medication: Did you know that an overactive thyroid can cause attention problems? When I was being diagnosed with ADHD my doctor actually suggested we check my thyroid to make sure that it was really ADHD and not a thyroid problem. Turns out I had an under active thyroid but thats beside the point.