ADHD: The Gift That Costs You

Is this a gift that can be re-gifted?

 

Recently a Facebook post came across my page asking, “Can AD/HD be a Gift?” It was posted by an Occupational Therapy group here in Canada. I clicked on the post, read the comments, and instantly regretted doing so.

It is not unusual to hear people proclaim that ADD/ADHD is a gift, however, speaking as a person with severe, life disrupting ADHD, I have never believed this disorder to be a gift. Would we tell a person their cancer is a gift? Would you tell a person who’s only mode of transportation is a wheelchair that not being able to walk on one’s own is a gift? Would you tell a person who is blind that their lack of clear sight is a gift? The answer to all these questions is likely to be an emphatic “no”.

There are people with ADHD who have gifts, this is no different than people without ADHD. Having this disorder doesn’t prevent a person from being born with incredible gifts or developing excellent talents. Those with ADHD experience different symptoms and are effected differently due to circumstances such as one’s occupation, gender, age, family circumstances, access to psycho-social supports, personal beliefs about the ADHD, and socio-economic status.

The Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms of Adult ADHD (2018):

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Problems focusing on a task
  • Trouble multitasking
  • Excessive activity or restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress

Looking over this list, do these sound like “gifts”. If someone wrapped all these symptoms up in a bow and offered them to you, would you accept them. Would you trade your even temper, patience, and self-control for the “gift” of ADHD?

The key to living successfully as an adult with ADHD is managing one’s symptoms. Again, everyone experiences different symptoms and to varying degrees. Some manage successfully without medication, others need high doses of prescribed stimulants in order to maintain a job and look after themselves and their family. It’s important to find out what management methods work for each of us.

What I see as a gift is the fact that I was able to finally be diagnosed as an adult. I was able to find a psychologist who was able to do testing for free and refer me to a medical doctor for an official diagnosis. It was a gift to attend a university where ADHD was viewed as a legitimate disability and I was allowed to have a liaison and academic support; without this I wouldn’t have been able to complete courses and graduate. It is a gift that I don’t have to pay for ADHD medication. Health care is not free in Canada, we have to pay for a variety of services. There are adults who have ADHD and are not able to access free services. Health care coverage in Canada varies according to which province you reside in.

Those who do well despite having this disorder do so because they have been able to find suitable and/or accommodating employment, social and/or family support, the right medication and dosage (if needed), proper diagnosis, and a variety of ways to manage and decrease symptoms. This is the “gift”.

 

 

 

 

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ADHD and Underwhelming Self Care

When I was a child there was a popular commercial on television, the slogan was, “Calgon take me away” and “Lose yourself in luxury”. Calgon was supposed to take you away from reality and into a fantasy world where you were alone in a large bubble filled bath overlooking a cloud filled sky. I didn’t find the commercial and advertising to be calming, instead, I found them to be funny. Maybe it was because I was a child who didn’t quite understand that some adults need to retreat into a fantasy world to escape their current realities.

When I see articles and lists with ideas on how to practice self-care, I can’t help but see some of them as a modern day Calgon commercial. There are times when the suggestions seem to be about escape rather than tending to one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual care and rejuvenation.

Healthy versions of self-care accept the reality of your busy schedule, your lack of funds to do all the things you’d like, the tiredness you feel, and all the other parts of your life that you can’t escape from or ignore for too long.

When you have ADHD it’s important to keep self-care simple otherwise you may end up becoming stressed or overwhelmed with your plans for self-care. Allow yourself the freedom to tend to your own needs on a daily and weekly basis.

Here are some basic and underwhelming self-care activities. These ideas are based on saving yourself time and energy as a way to keep your life somewhat less hectic and more organized, two things are important in managing adult adhd.

Food:

Order take out. This isn’t something I would recommend doing often, but there is something to be said about coming home and not having to cook occasionally. Ordering in means avoiding noisy, crowded places, and instead of standing in line, you get to relax at home while you wait for your order.

 Bagged salads. This is another way that I have saved time. It only takes a few seconds to rip open the bag, and there you have it, a salad. No need to chop greens or wash fruits and vegetables, and you use less kitchen items. Depending on the salad, you might even be able to eat it straight out of the bag.

Make use of household appliances:

Microwave meals. I can’t begin to tell you how much time I’ve saved by having pre-made frozen meals in the freezer. Once a month I make a few meals and they go into the freezer for those days when I know I will be short on time, or when I don’t have the desire or energy required to cook for myself.

Use the dishwasher. Why do dishes by hand when you can simply open the door to the dishwasher and let the appliance do the job for you.

Slow cookers. This item is a classic time saver; throw your food in, place the lid on, push a few buttons and walk away for a couple of hours.

The Body:

Shower before you go to bed. Showering the night before saves you time in the morning. You can use that extra time to do something healthy like sleep longer, eat breakfast, daily devotions/prayer, and anything else that feels like self-care.

Purchase quality hair and body care products. Showers and baths can be used as a time to relax. When you’re in the shower products that smell good and help you to feel calm make a difference to your mind. Lavender has been shown to put people in a relaxed state. If this isn’t your scent, find one that helps relax you. I used to use a peppermint shampoo (I stopped because it became too costly for me to purchase), the smell and the feeling on my scalp felt great.

Regardless of what you choose as your form of self-care, remember, it’s not meant to be overwhelming, if it is, find something else to do.

Adult ADHD: Fail Forward

 

 

 

I started off 2018 with great plans and goals for being an excellent graduate student in my final year of studies. By the end of January my game plan was a failure. I shouldn’t say the plan failed, it was I who failed at it.

I’m not going to beat myself up, play the blame game, or wallow in self-pity. Instead, I’m going to do what is best, and that’s evaluate what went wrong, make corrections, and carry on.

Fail Forward:

John Maxwell’s book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success was the first time I learned as an adult that mistakes and failures were part of the process of succeeding in life. My 20’s were a decade of continuous failures without knowing how to dust myself off and continue with life. My errors were self-paralyzing experiences. I associated mistakes as messages from God that I was worthless, and that I would never produce good fruit in my life, after all, a bad tree doesn’t produce any good fruit; well, at least this is what I was taught as a young adult. Bad things happen to bad people, and nothing good comes to people who are not good. Boy was I ever miseducated!

Eventually I learned the truth, that errors are a part of life and a part of having Adult ADHD. Having this disorder means we have to work harder to accomplish certain daily tasks than others. There is nothing wrong with this fact, it is what it is and if we fight this we will most certainly experience more unnecessary failures.

“If we look long enough for what we want in life we are almost sure to find it. Success is in the journey, the continual process. And no matter how hard you work, you will not create the perfect plan or execute it without error. You will never get to the point that you no longer make mistakes, that you no longer fail.” John Maxwell

 

“God uses people who fail—’cause there aren’t any other kind around.” John Maxwell

This is amazing reassurance. Life is not over, dreams have not ended, and we are not non-redeemable; we know this because God tells us so.

At the end of January I evaluated where I went wrong. I made my classic mistake of over planning, forgetting the value of saying no to things that should have been a priority and yes to things that were not urgent. Most importantly, I thought I could get through the semester without any ADHD medication. According to me, my plan for achieving my goals were so solid I didn’t need any medication. WRONG.

Some how I had forgotten what my student life was like without medication. I was quickly reminded by our instructor that I was being disruptive in class (fidgeting, being late, etc.).  By the end of the course term I accepted that success as a graduate student would not be possible for me without medication. Some adults make it through adulthood without any medications, but for some of us, this might not be an option.

The lesson in this disastrous return to graduate school was this: failure is a part of success, it is a part of life, but for crying out loud, don’t create unnecessary failures and obstacles in your life. If you need medication, take them.

Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit.”  John Maxwell

ADHD and Spring Fever

The first day of Spring in North America is March 20th, but spring fever has already set in. The fatigue inducing time change took place last Sunday March 11th, snow is melting, and the daylight kisses our faces for longer hours. There is excitement in the air as people keep mentioning that Spring is almost here.

The truth for those of us who live in the northern part of the continent is that Winter weather likes to linger as long as it can, we are not free of snow until mid May.

“Spring fever is something that teachers will often comment about starting in March or April.  It’s historically “known” that students with ADHD become more antsy, restless, and unfocused in the classroom around this time.  Adults will feel energized and more playful as well. The daylight is increasing, the weather is starting to warm, we see plants turning green and more animals coming out during the day.  In spring, the natural cycle of life supports us to get outside, breathe deeply in the natural world and become more physically active.” Add.org (click link to read article)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1

Spring isn’t only related to a change in the weather and hours of daylight, it is related to our moods and our faith. Spring equinox is a time to be reminded of metaphors around restoration, renewal, and rejuvenation. There’s a reason Easter occurs during the Spring, and it has nothing to do with any historical basis for the date of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

This new season is a great reminder to bring your hurts, pains, regrets, and any other burdens you carry to the cross. Those trees with dying leaves, the vegetables in the garden that died at the end of Summer, and the brown grass of September will not be the same; the new season makes things new and alive again. Spring reminds us that we need to go through a process of shedding and pruning in order to survive, grow, and be renewed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15: 1-4

 

An ADHD New Year 2018

When the years keep kicking your butt!

Happy New Year! We have all been fortunate to see another year begin. Where I live we have spent the past week enduring temperatures in the -30s (Celsius) with the windchill factor. There were times where it reached -44. This cold weather didn’t slow people down, it was still the Christmas holiday season. I can’t help but think that if people had to go to their regular 9-5 job, many them would have found a reason not to make it into work.

I wish I could say I am excited about the New Year, but honestly, nothing changed for me personally between December 31, 2017 and January 1st, 2018. The start of a new year can lead to people developing grad dreams, unrealistic goals, and the set up for a year of expectations for which we expect other people to fulfill for us. Thankfully new year’s resolutions continue to fall out of fashion. The hectic winter holiday season combined with the mixture of darkness and cold weather doesn’t make for an ideal occasion to develop plans for a more successful life.

This year I continue with choosing one word as my focus for the year. For 2018 I have chosen the word Celebrate.

“a) to do something special or enjoyable for an important event, occasion, holiday, etc.

(b) to praise (someone or something) :to say that (someone or something) is great or important” Webster’s Dictionary Online

 

This verb was heavy on my heart over the past few months. My job had left me not wanting to do much once I got home from work each evening, and with each passing weekend I became more hibernated, not having the energy to do much and instead using days off to catch up on much needed sleep.

A change of employment has left me with much more energy and a greater desire to celebrate the good things in life. I work with low-income populations and those who are struggling with issues such as substance abuse and mental health issues. When one is working in an emotionally draining field, having fun and replenishing one’s spirit is an absolute necessity. I decided it was time that I not feel guilty for engaging in activities that I enjoy or celebrating the mundane things in life which bring me joy.

I didn’t want this to be an entirely religious experience or something to turn into a rigid spiritual discipline. I want to develop the ability to celebrate being alive, meeting simple milestones, and being joyful about whatever I choose. I’m not looking to become selfish, I only desire to be able to celebrate the good things that come into my life. Yes, there are suffering people in the world, but I also need to be realistic and accept the fact that it would be a sin not to express thankfulness, joy, and celebration for what I do have in my life.

With severe ADHD it is important to celebrate those small achievements. It is a cause for celebration when you actually look at your day planner seven days in a row. It is a call for celebration when you make it to work on time every week for an entire month.

Having adult ADHD requires being able to celebrate in order to counteract the damage caused by constantly beating one’s self up for all the barriers that come with this disorder. Celebration allows us to feel emotions that don’t involve self-pity, brain fog, forgetfulness, restlessness, and disorganization.

Unless you already have good time management, success with goal achievements, and excellent executive functioning skills; making new year’s resolutions might not be the best thing for you to attempt at this time. That list you make during the first week of January, will likely end up being something you add to your already long list of things you need to be doing, but aren’t.

Having a personal word for the year is great because it isn’t about achieving goals, mastering a to-do list, or reaching a destination. It is about opening yourself to personal growth and intentionally learning new things about you and the world you navigate. You can’t control how this guiding word is going to affect you, you leave yourself open and flexible to whatever and however God chooses to transform you.

I highly recommend checking out some websites and other blogs to learn more about choosing one word for the year. Each person approaches the process differently, but one thing is for sure, everyone is changed by their word throughout the year. Whether you choose to pursue new year’s resolutions or opt for having a guiding word for 2018, I wish you all the best in this year’s journey, and the wonderful blessings offered to us all from our heavenly father!

Happy New Year!

Myoneword.org 

http://www.faithgateway.com/what-is-my-one-word/#.WksOf2inHIU

http://oneword365.com/

https://margaretfeinberg.com/whats-one-word-2017-free-download/

 

 

 

Break Time: Knowing When to Pause

 It’s difficult enough for people who don’t have ADHD to maintain focus on topics that are of no interest to them; when you have ADHD staying on track with something that requires your mandatory attention feels maddening.

After too many years of struggling to officially finish my masters level thesis, I have decided to heavily decrease distractions from my life. One of those distractions is blogging. I have maintained two blog sites and have fallen behind in writing and posting on both. Each week “write a blog post” and “post blog entry” sits without the triumphant check mark beside it on my master To-Do list.

With every un-checked item on my To-Do list, I feel like a mini-failure. Internal questions such as, “why can’t I keep up with everything on my list“, “when am I going to finally be productive”, “why am I so_______ (insert negative self-image here)” cycle through my mind day and night. I’ve accepted the truth that sometimes a person’s (mine to be exact) To-Do list is a reflection of wishes and dreams and not necessarily a list of the most important things that need to be completed by the end of the day. 

The truth is my attention disorder helps me to be creative. I think of countless ideas throughout the day (and annoyingly, sometimes at night).  I not only think of many ideas, I also begin to plan how I’m going to bring these ideas to life. Not good. One, maybe two ideas are manageable, but when you have an active mind, too many ideas, and too much planning can get one into time management trouble.

Most of the time ADHD daydreaming needs to remain just that, a dream. Not a goal. Not a plan. Not an action. Keep it as a dream that had it’s big moment in your head and went no where.

Focus on a few important and fulfilling things in life and pursue those. Allow other distractions to take a back seat in your life. Being the “jack of all trades, master of none” doesn’t work well when you have adult ADHD. Maintaining a manageable and stable life becomes an unnecessary challenge when you take on too many side projects, hobbies, and interests.

So, I’m going to take my own advice (and the advice of others) by paring down my To-Do list and taking time to focus on the few most important and time sensitive goals in my life right now.

See you in the New Year (January 2018).

 

 

 

 

 

ADHD and Responding during Heated Political Times

This past week has been emotionally tense for many in North America. The murder of a female protester, the injury of peaceful protesters, and the heated debates surrounding the reasons for these protests have revealed the true feelings and ideology people hold regarding race, immigration, human rights, and other crucial topics.

I’ve had to bite my tongue too many times this week. I’m not a quiet bystander whose greatest contribution is creating Twitter hashtags, or clicking “like” on a Facebook post. I’m certainly not a quiet person who doesn’t speak my mind, I speak my mind, a lot. I’m also not a person in denial about what is happening in our country and that of our neighbours in the United States. I’ve had to bite my tongue because I know that if I give in to the ignorant, hateful, ridiculous views and actions of those who support hate groups I will turn into an ugly person.

My ADHD symptoms make it all too easy for me to become angry with people who are ignorant and hateful.

Having ADHD leaves those of us with this disorder extra vulnerable for some of the following reasons:

We sometimes lack focus, trying to address too many different causes at one time and therefore not being well informed as to what is happening at a deeper level beyond media headlines.

Difficulty with emotional regulation. This makes it easier to experience and express intense emotions. Once these emotions begin, it can be difficult to refocus and be open to what is happening in the moment.

Holding on to grudges. Whether having peaceful discussions or heated disagreements, these encounters can lead to holding onto grudges. Grudges create barriers to understanding where others are coming from with their own views, forgiving others, and makes it difficult to work with others we disagree with.

Inappropriate spontaneity can happen due to a mixture of strong emotions and impulsivity. Emotional outbreaks can lead to unnecessary disagreements, making situations worse, and moves people’s attention away from the actual situation.

Having ADHD doesn’t mean that one can’t become involved in meaningful conversations, advocacy groups, and peaceful protests; what is means is that one has to be cautious and careful, taking into account what they need to be most aware of due to their own ADHD challenges.

When you find yourself in the midst of uncomfortable discussions, debates, and disagreements make efforts to be mindful of how you are feeling, your body language, your tone of voice, and what you are saying. It’s perfectly alright to pause, speak slowly, or respectfully end the conversation.

Over the past two weeks I’ve had to remember this popular verse:

If you’ve done wrong by loosing your temper, saying hurtful words to your opponents, or held unhealthy thoughts and feelings in your heart bring them to God. He is our healer. He knows our frustrations and what we go through with having ADHD. In order to fight “the bad guys” we need to remember not to mirror their hateful actions, and words; if we don’t, we will all be losers in this fight for justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADHD and The Princess Bride

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the film release The Princess Bride. This whimsical movie was one of the first I had seen in a theatre. At the time I was young and didn’t fully understand the jokes or the brilliance of the cast and screenplay. With each passing year my enjoyment for the film has grown.

On Valentines Day there was a The Princess Bride Quote-A-Long. For those energetic person’s with ADHD this is an excellent way to view a film. Not only do you get to watch the film but you are given full permission to enthusiastically and openly quote lines from the film.

Inconceivable

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

I’ll explain, and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog-faced buffoon.

As you wish.”

I love events where my ADHD symptoms blend right in. Talking during a movie? I love it! Hold my popcorn please, while I fully participate in this movie!

In my free time I try to include activities where I don’t have to struggle with my symptoms. I spend the work week managing this disorder, during the weekends and evenings I want to be free from having to struggling with controlling my ADHD.

I strongly believe part of developing an ADD/ADHD self-care routine involves choosing activities where you don’t have to worry about your symptoms. It means choosing a few activities where you: don’t have to be concerned with periods of daydreaming; can fidget all you want; talk non-stop about something you are passionate about; forget about the time, and freely lose yourself in whatever it is you are engaged in.

If you don’t give yourself time during the week to be as ADHD as you want to be you are stifling yourself and your creativity. “Letting the ADHD out”, as I like to call it are some of my most creative times. I have noise in the background, a messy desk, snacks within arms length, and all the tools I need for getting things done.

 

When you find that you are stressed out, frustrated, or are not as productive as you feel you could be, carve out some time during the week to “let it all out”. Just be sure you don’t allow this to be at the expense of responsibilities and duties such as watching your children, being late at the expense of others, etc.

 

 

 

 

Adult ADHD and Imposter Syndrome

People who aren’t familiar with ADHD sometimes mistakenly believe that people with this disorder have some sort of advantage; whether it might be the supposed super powers of prescription stimulants, being given special needs status, receiving inclusion education status in college, or some sort of magical mental ability to learn things quickly and exhaustively.

When it comes to getting a head in life, being successful, and achieving personal goals, ADHD provides no advantages. None. Those with ADHD, like everyone else have to put in effort, discipline, determination, and consistency in order to accomplish achievements. What having ADHD does mean, is that for some persons with this disorder it takes a lot more effort to accomplish end goals due to this neurodevelopmental disorder.

When anxiety and ADHD decide to work together in your mind it usually means personal disaster for many individuals. Accomplishments are quickly disregarded and downplayed by anxiety that manifests itself as Imposter Syndrome.

First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud. Though the impostor phenomenon isn’t an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression.” American Psychological Association

Be careful not to let anxiety and Imposter Syndrome rob you of the joy of what you have achieved. You worked for what you have, enjoy it. Humbleness is important, but low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, and depression are not the same as having a humble spirit.

If your achievements were earned without stepping on others, dishonest means, or blatant injustice then you have no reason to embrace your accomplishments.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” Colossians 3: 8-10

Give thanks to God for what you accomplish and thank those who helped you along the way. Gratitude is a great way to chip away at imposter syndrome.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

If you’d like to learn more about Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it, below are a few links to articles on the topic.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2014/04/03/impostor-syndrome/#61d2b31648a9

https://www.verywell.com/adhd-and-imposter-syndrome-3888166

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/your-money/learning-to-deal-with-the-impostor-syndrome.html

 

Prayer Does Not Cure ADHD

Prayer and ADHD

Things That People Have Said To Me About ADHD:

Have you tried praying that your ADHD will go away?

When you’re distracted, pray.

God can heal your ADHD.

Are you sure you have ADHD?

I thought only children had ADHD.

I came upon this blog post by Andy Lee  http://wordsbyandylee.com/how-to-focus-adhd-prayer/.

I’m not sure if she has ADHD, but she titled her post “How to Focus ADHD Prayer.” She listed the following symptoms checklist:

Do you have trouble focusing your thoughts when praying?

Do you pray the same prayers everyday?

Do you get bored when praying?

Do your prayers get lost in your plans or worries for the day?

Her solution: “If you struggle praying, if focus is impossible, there is a very good chance the enemy is running interference. Put on your helmet. Tell Him to go away in Jesus’ name.

She and others who take this approach are certainly people of faith. They have met spiritual interference and battled it with the help of God’s mighty spirit and strength. This is great, but ADHD is not a spiritual battle. It is not a sin. It is not something that can be prayed away.

Those of us with ADHD do need God’s help when dealing with the symptoms of ADHD, but I must be clear in stating that ADHD is not a spiritual disability.

Distraction A Warning

If we keep our focus solely on our disability instead of focusing on our abilities, yes, we will eventually beat ourselves down spiritually. If we don’t keep our emotions in check we can end up believing things that are not from God such as thinking:

-we are not good enough

-we don’t have gifts and talents to offer the world

-there is something wrong with us

-we are less godly or spiritually disciplined than “normal” people

If you have ADHD please know and believe that you do not have a spiritual disease. While spiritual disciplines and faith in God can help you manage your symptoms, it cannot “cure”, “solve”, or “get ride of” ADHD.

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