By Anjelica Garnsey
Wow, okay, this is huge. You’ve stumbled across some videos that you relate to, each one about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). You’re freaking out, questioning everything. What does this mean?
You slump back from your phone, research and research, and you quickly book a psychiatrist appointment.
They affirm your gut feeling: you do indeed have ADHD. So, what now? The short answer: it’s not scary, nor is it because you were vaccinated or had too much sugar as a kid. Long answer: you have a lot of work to do but nothing that you cannot handle. Start with the basics: take a deep breath. Try not to rehash the last decade, pouring over every mistake, trauma, and insecurity you allocate to this new label. Remember It’s only a word, not a life sentence.
You see, my parents had an inkling pretty early on but as a woman, I didn’t present the stereotypical ADHD ‘signs’ that are most common among men – compulsive, aggressive, and energetic behaviours, vagueness and a tendency to ‘bounce off the walls.’ These stereotypes are slowly shifting, but for a long time, they’ve prevented many individuals – including myself – from being able to identify what living with the condition is really like.
Personally, my ADHD manifested very differently. I was the weird, quirky, chatty type. I thought everyone’s inner monologue was a constant cycle of relentless thoughts. I distracted others as much I was easily distracted. I was hyper-emotional and sensory sensitive. I thought I was lazy, unaccomplished, anxious, depressed and stupid.
My diagnosis unveiled the answer to my ‘Whys’. Why I find conversations so draining, why I always seem to be lost in the place I’ve lived for years, why I seek answers for EVERYTHING. Why those lights are so bright and cities are so chaotic. Why my emotions strongly influence every decision I make, and why I rely on others to make them for me.
Initially, I was scared to go on medication. Not just because I haven’t touched drugs in three years, but also the stigma. I feared being an emotionless zombie. I was relieved when this never happened. I started doing great in university – I even colour coded my notes! I felt free and calm and stopped taking five steps that led me far away from the original task that never got completed. I felt intelligent and capable. My anxiety reduced a LOT. We often forget that our minds and our bodies work together, which is why medication and therapy are essential in combination. My therapist also helped me to understand that most of my anxiety was induced by feeling overwhelmed and not having the tools to make logical decisions.
So, what’s next?
Well… it’s complicated. I’m still at the beginning of my journey. But here are some basics that help me stay regulated: eat well with grounding food, root vegetables, antioxidants, iron, magnesium and B vitamins. Surprisingly sugar is necessary for people with ADHD, although mostly the kind in fruits to create energy. Sleep well in order to function and feel less stressed. Exercise is most important of all: we need to release our emotional energy somewhere. Meditation or relaxation is also crucial. If your mind has just run a marathon every day for 20 years or more, of course, you’ll need to take a time out. Tap into self-love, self-care, nature, reading/writing, exploration. I recommend (even though I’ve yet to sign up) yoga. I’ve been told traditional practices such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga work best as they combine both movement and mental wellbeing.
People often speak of the negatives of having ADHD, but in reality, we are some of the brightest minds. If harnessed and allowed to thrive, we can use it to our benefit. Our creative skills are unhinged, we are great empaths, talented musicians and composers, deep, fun and amazing friends. As much as we have been underestimated, our gifts should not be. Need a problem solved? We got it. Want multiple things done at once? Hit us up! My hope is that society will start to view ADHD as a multifaceted and gender-neutral concept. Everyone is unique in how they experience this condition, but as soon as you treat it as the blessing it is, life becomes wildly open and exciting. Yes, there will be hard days, and things may take more time. But you have all the time in the world. Now you’ve got the tools, get out there!
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