This week I’m doing something I’ve never done before on this blog!
I’m sharing a special guest post with you guys. This article was written by Sophia Rose, and in it she shares about her own experience with ADHD and some helpful info and advice she’s learned throughout her journey.
If you enjoy her article as much as I did you can find more of Sophia online at her website www.sophiaroseroams.com where she shares about her journey with Veganism and travel.
You can also find her on Instagram at @sophiaroseroams
The longest relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.
We shouldn’t be scared to talk about our mental health. I remember the first time my mom suggested I see a therapist, and my gut reaction was full of resistance. Isn’t therapy for crazy people? I thought, naively. I felt there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until college that I finally got an ADHD diagnosis. The lessons I learned and changes I’ve made along the way were out of necessity. I still continue to learn, but now I know that taking care of my mind is just as important as taking care of my body. The journey has been oh so twisty turny, but I’m grateful to be able to share it with you today and hopefully help you with what I’ve learned.
Optimizing school for the ADD brain
I did well in school in the subjects I enjoyed. Our ADHD brains have our own rules. We focus on what’s most stimulating and important to us, personally. Things that others label as important (math, for instance) just doesn’t stimulate our brains the same way it would a neurotypical. So I excelled in English and Art and struggled with Math. I survived. I see it as a blessing that I was able to focus on what I’m actually passionate about. When it came time to apply to colleges, I already knew what I was good at. I went for my creative writing degree. A lot of people with ADD end up in creative fields, excelling at coming up with creative outside the box solutions.
College was a whole new beast. It is great because once you get to choose the classes you’re most interested in, it’s a lot easier to focus and excel. In college there are so many exciting things to do, all the time. However, now that there’s so much you might find stimulating, it can lead to overwhelm and FOMO.
Someone once told me you can excel in high school if you work hard. To excel in college, it’s all about time management. Well, this wasn’t exactly my forte. On the day of the student clubs fair, I put my email on almost every sign up sheet. Invitations to meetings, events, and fundraisers constantly poured into my inbox. Checking my email filled me with anxiety.
If you’re about to start your college journey, do yourself a favor by sticking to a couple clubs, and attending those regularly. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, find those groups of people doing the things that really spark excitement in you. It’s okay to try a bunch out at first, but don’t get down on yourself once you realize:
you can’t do everything.
It’d be easy to leave it at that. However, I learned a lot more from my experience in college that’s not as easy to talk about, but worth sharing. I partied a lot. I was in the mindset that college was the time to get all my partying out, “the best four years of my life.” I think this is a dangerous notion. I took having fun to the extreme.
I was always looking for that escape. I’d drink too much, blackout, and wake up with no memory of my nights. I was taken advantage of. People would recognize me and I’d have no idea who they were. I started losing focus in school and stopped going to club meetings because I was hungover. I fell into the worst depression. All I’d do was lay in bed and watch Netflix for hours with a terrible headache. I started to have suicidal thoughts.
If it weren’t for the on campus counselor, I don’t know if I would’ve ever risen out of it. Mental health is something we shouldn’t feel ashamed talking about or addressing, ever. If you start to feel yourself get in a funk, don’t wait until it’s so bad you can’t get out of bed. There is absolutely no shame in getting help. Having someone to talk through all the noise in your head is extremely helpful.
The excessive drinking in college was also accompanied by a lot of weed smoking. This began in high school. My senior year, I wanted out of there so bad. I’d come to class high as a kite every day. One of my friends describes it: “I was just in this giant cloud of smoke.” I was so checked out and sick of being forced to focus on things I didn’t find interesting. I was so ready to be able to choose my own classes and meet people who shared similar interests.
The Need To Escape
I think this need to escape is a common thread between people with busy minds. I went through phases where I’d be obsessed with various ways to escape. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to do this. Healthy avenues I’ve pursued: lucid dreaming, travel, and writing fiction. I think it’s important to remember though, that however or wherever you escape to, you always have to come back to reality. Having a healthy means to escape doesn’t grant you permission to ignore your mental health.
Just this morning, my boyfriend and I got into an argument because I misplaced my house key. He was upset because it wasn’t the first time, and he feels safe with the doors locked. It’s understandable, but at the time I felt attacked. It brought up emotions from my past, the feeling like I’m not allowed to be human and make mistakes without people in my life taking it personally. The thing is, the frequency at which things get misplaced or I forget little things (like shutting the oven off!) has to do with my brain’s active working memory. It can be hard when relationships suffer due to ADHD symptoms, because it’s not like we intentionally built our brains this way.
I think the best way to deal with these situations is to take a deep breath, and remind your partner / parent / friend that you struggle with short term memory (or organization, time management, whatever it is– people can forget) because of a legitimate disorder. Tell them you’re working on it (because something tells me you are if you’re reading this). This creates understanding where before there was just confusion and frustration. They may still be frustrated with you, but it’s important for them to know you’re trying.
Sleep is so essential to your body and brains daily functioning. My nightly relaxation routine has become my saving grace. I’ve struggled with insomnia since I was a kid. Those nights where your mind just refuses to shut off and you end up missing a lot of sleep are just the worst.
Exercise & Restorative Yoga
My favorite way to relax is restorative yoga. I usually do this after working out, which also really helps me sleep. Getting your heart rate up, followed by time to intentionally relax the muscles leaves me feeling so good and ready to sleep when my head hits the pillow. There are tons of yoga videos on YouTube you can try. I do anywhere from 15-45 minutes of a deep breathing and full body stretch routine each night, or target areas of my body that are sore. You can also just look up relaxing bedtime yoga. Even if you just devote 15 minutes to stretching out and letting your body wind down, it’s super beneficial.
Shut Screens Down Early
The creative juices just flow at night. It seems like it’s always as soon as I relax in bed the ideas just start popping up out of nowhere. I used to use my phone notepad for ideas but the blue light of the screen would wake me up. Actually, the light that screens produce messes with melatonin production. I like Brittany’s tip to keep a notebook by your bed. Before bed, try picking up some easy reading instead of that extra hour of Netflix. Magazines are my favorite because I can usually find something that’s not super thrilling to read that won’t stir me up.
My personal experience with medication wasn’t helpful. For a while I took sleep medication, but it only made my anxiety and depression worse. It wasn’t until college when I was diagnosed with ADHD that I started taking Adderall. It really explained a lot of my struggles and tendencies in the past, and I was really excited to try medication to help me meet the demands of college.
Unfortunately, medication just made me more anxious and overstimulated. That said, I wasn’t taking it regularly enough to build up a tolerance. I just didn’t feel like putting up with the anxious side effects to find out.
I like the feeling that Nootropics gave me. While I was waiting for the diagnosis to be official, I was taking one called Neurofuse. It makes me feel clear, focused, and engaged. In conversation, I don’t feel like I have to say everything at once or I might forget something. I’m able to keep more thoughts in my head and then step back and determine which one was most useful in the moment. Conversations flow a lot easier.
I think Nootropics are a great alternative to traditional ADD medication. Although, it is a bit pricey. If you’re in a season in your life where you need a lot of extra focus, I believe it’s worth it. If things are less intense for you right now, there are plenty of other tools you can try to help you thrive.
Medication or Meditation?
These days, the only medication I take is a daily multivitamin. However, I also find it necessary for my mental health to practice mindfulness meditation. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I’ll get out of bed and just sit and focus on my breathing. When thoughts come up, I’m not thinking ugh I shouldn’t be thinking this I should be sleeping (or insert any other obligatory activity). I allow the thought to appear, but I don’t chase after it. I gently remind myself hey, that’s not helpful right now, and bring my focus back to my breath. Training the brain to not only be more present, but to not get frustrated with thoughts, has allowed me to notice when my mind has wandered off and just enjoy the moment I’m in.
When you have five thoughts swarming around in your brain, and you just wish you could pull them straight out of your brain, lay them on a table, and physically organize them… journaling comes in handy. ADHD brains tend to have a lot going on at once. Maybe out of the five thoughts you’re having at once, only one is important right now. It can be difficult to distinguish what’s important, and what’s just needless brain chatter. When you write down what’s in your head, it gives you a better sense of what’s most important. Just do a brain dump. The space in your journal can be whatever you want it to be. No rules. It can be free thought association (my favorite) which is basically just your flow of consciousness on paper. If there’s something in particular that’s bugging you, writing about that is super helpful too. Sometimes trying to write about everything at once can be overwhelming and less effective than just processing one thing on a deeper level. Sometimes even just writing a list of things on your mind really helps clear your mind. Whether they’re to-do’s, things that happened that you want to think about (or meditate on) later, or your brightest ideas, a brain dump list clears the clutter in your head, leaving space to focus on the here and now.
Once I was fired from a job because I was distracted. I was working at a gas dock, filling the boats of summer vacationers out on the lakes with fuel. I made good tips, so I was always focused on making good conversation with customers. One day, a giant boat comes in with 6 different tanks. I start filling the first one chatting it up with its owner. Soon after we realized I had been syphoning gas into their water tank. It cost the dock a lot of money to then pump it out, and needless to say, I lost my job. Another work environment that was hard on my brain was waitressing. My active working memory had a hard time keeping up with everything I had to keep in my poor prefrontal cortex at one time. These days, I’m going after work that I find truly engaging, where I can focus all the energy into one thing at a time. There is something out there for you, too.
ADD can be the cause a lot of struggle, but I see it as a beautiful thing. After all the hardships in my life, I’m only grateful for all the learning and growing I’ve done because of them. I’ve learned to be more mindful and self aware, treat my body right, and how to get help when I need it; and you can too. I wouldn’t change who I am. Now go out there and let your freak flag fly and show the world how unstoppable you are!