What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can manifest in slightly different ways depending on factors such as age and biological gender. Common symptoms are difficulty concentrating, fidgeting, forgetfulness and impulsive decision making. Statistics suggest that around 2% - 5% of school aged children have ADHD while the numbers for adults are between 3% and 4% although many are undiagnosed.
Many symptoms of ADHD overlap with symptoms of other mental health conditions which leads to people getting misdiagnosed with problems like depression, anxiety, or personality disorder. This may lead to the ADHD remaining untreated and the person getting frustrated with the lack of improvement in their condition which triggers the actual mental health aspects.
People who have ADHD are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, substance abuse and sleep problems. And sometimes we are in denial of it and then find ourselves reading random articles at 3am. You realise you haven’t done anything worthwhile and ask yourself why you can’t be like those people you see online who get up early in the morning and accomplish so much before noon. Top that up with ADHD symptoms like poor listening skills, zoning out, and time-blindless and you have built yourself a house and set it on fire. A vicious cycle.
A conflicting conversation with my ADHD brain
“I should take a nap. I haven’t slept all night.”
“Have you finished your project yet?”
“No, I’ve started it though.”
“But the deadline’s in two days.”
“I know. I’ll get around to it eventually. There’re other things I need to do first.”
“I haven’t sorted out my wardrobe in a while.”
“That’s not important right now.”
“Have you seen the state of it? There’s also this new story I want to write.”
“What about the last three?”
“I got bored with them and lost interest.”
“The other people on your course already have finished projects and published work.”
“You’re right… What if this isn’t for me after all? At this rate I’ll never accomplish anything in my life.”
“Have you tried using a pomodoro timer?”
“Halfway through I got up, started cleaning, stopped, made something to eat and then sat around for two hours because I froze.”
“It’s fine, let’s try again tomorrow.”
“How am I supposed to keep up in life when I barely remember to brush my teeth?”
The ADHD brain works in wonderous ways
In situations like this it feels like urgent work is not going anywhere. Self-doubt kicks in, anxiety, insecurity, low self-worth. You look up ways to become more productive, you try it for a few days, then forget about it. Just like those endless journals rotting away in the drawer. You feel bad about it, you overthink it, your brain feels like it is being sandpapered.
From my own experience, I believe the key is to realise and accept that the ADHD brain works differently. There are different needs that need to be met. It is important to be patient with yourself. The most common tips for looking after yourself with ADHD are eating well, physical activity, getting enough sleep, reducing alcohol. Sometimes these still are not enough though. A few methods and ways of thinking that have helped me in the past are:
1. Writing detailed to-do lists for each day (and I mean detailed. Every small step including brushing your teeth)
2. Giving yourself small rewards for accomplishing your tasks, no matter how small they are
3. Accept and be kind to yourself if you have negative emotions. Your emotions are valid, feel them and allow them.
4. Don’t feel like you have to stick to one uniform method. Your needs will change, don’t be afraid to adjust them and try new things to improve.
5. You are not less intelligent. If your excitement to share information clashes with your anxiety and you end up sounding like a mess it makes your knowledge pool not less valid. You are equally not less intelligent just because you take longer to learn and do things. The ADHD brain matures slower.
6. Declutter your screenshots and saved Instagram and TikTok videos. I know you think they are useful and important, but you have already forgotten about them anyway. Thank me later.
7. An overwhelmed ADHD brain can lead to anxiety or panic attacks. If you are able to, remove yourself from the situation or place that is causing you distress. If you can’t, noise cancelling headphones usually do the trick.
Helpful resources if you are struggling with ADHD