mental health

Insomnia and My Groundhog Day Scenario

Megan's Easy Go To Sleep List 1990

Megan’s Easy Go To Sleep List 1990: 1. 20 names beginning with a letter in the ABC. 2. Count backwards starting at 100. 3. Listen to tape. 4. Think about the next day. 5. Try.

It’s almost 1:00AM on Sunday night/Monday morning and I work at 8:00AM…and, like most nights, sleep isn’t coming easily.  I stumbled across this gem just a few days ago and, with the whole Groundhog Day post, I thought I’d take this opportunity to make an example out of my struggle with insomnia.  A lot of people with ADHD face sleep issues at some point, so I thought maybe you guys could relate.  Either way, you can at least laugh with me.

Backstory?  I’m pretty sure I was born with insomnia.  When I was a baby, there was a saying about me, “You wake her, you take her,” because I never slept.  My mom would put me down for a 20 minute nap and come back to crooked pictures on the wall, a ripped up diaper and me wide awake, staring back at her.  I was apparently born with ADHD, too.

The issue has persisted, despite my million attempts to fix it.  I have tried just about everything and I will continue to try.  That’s not to say that there aren’t days…er…nights when I just say screw it…because there are.

But the point of this post is to show you how much my 11 year old self suffered with the same sleepless nights that I do now.  While I can definitely laugh at it, I feel a little sad about it, too.  I think the biggest thing that gets me is the final item on the list, “Try,” and how enthusiastically I underlined it.  Even then, I felt responsible for my insomnia, like I should’ve been able to will myself to sleep or something.  I know I was beating myself up over it…and that makes me a little sad.

Guess I’ll put my computer away now, so I can give this sleep thing a solid effort…again…ha ha

Every Day is Groundhog Day When You Have ADHD

Every Day is Groundhog Day When You Have ADHD

As I was sitting here trying to figure out what my next blog post should be about, I noticed (thanks to my Facebook feed) that today is Groundhog Day.  While Groundhog Day is a national holiday, and one that usually gets a decent amount of news coverage, I immediately thought of Groundhog Day, the Bill Murray movie, instead.

Living with ADHD is seriously just like that movie.  This very day is a perfect example.  I’m here on the couch binge-watching some random show on TV in the background, trying to make myself decide on a single topic to post about, trying to make myself actually DO IT…and one of my best friends, who is also extremely ADHD, is sitting next to me trying to make herself work on her dissertation.  Both of us are pretty paralyzed by the fear of starting and not creating perfection.  That fear, in and of itself, is a post for another day (or later today), so I’ll try to stay on topic here.  The point is, we have, in so, so many ways, lived this same day so, so many times before.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the comparison was totally spot on.  So spot on, that I knew there was no way I was the first to consider it.  It just made too much sense, so I Googled it.  Turns out, there were plenty of people writing about how the ADHD life resembles Groundhog Day.

Here’s a sample of what I found:

Obviously this is a common theme among people (adults and kids alike) with ADHD or people who love people with ADHD or, you know, anybody affected by ADHD in general.  As I mentioned in my first post, the world isn’t structured in a way that’s suited for the ADHD brain.  If you have ADHD, chances are you’ve spent a good deal of energy trying to, often unsuccessfully, find ways to fit your out-of-the-box self into this pretty rigidly structured world.

You’ve probably told yourself (a million times…and with some pretty strong optimism) things like:

“I won’t be late again.”

“I’ll finish what I’ve started.”

“I won’t forget my keys, my phone, my debit cards, etc.”

“I’ll tackle that one project that I’ve been putting off for so long.”

“I’ll have more patience with other people.”

“I’ll stop being impulsive.”

“I’ll get more sleep, eat better, learn to relax and take better care of myself.”

These are just a few of the things we ADHD-ers tell ourselves on a frequent basis.  A diagnosis of ADHD is helpful because it tells us that there really is a reason we’ve been having so much trouble keeping up with the rat race.  However, a diagnosis, while helpful, definitely isn’t a cure-all; nothing is.  Medication, exercise, therapy, education, etc. can help certain people cope with and manage their ADHD.

Too often, something seems to work at first and you get super hopeful, but then you wake up one day and you’re back at square one.  It was one thing to struggle as an undiagnosed child, adolescent, even young adult with ADHD because everybody else around you was struggling to find their own way and grow up, too.  As an adult with ADHD, it can be really painful to look around knowing how hard you’ve tried and seeing that you haven’t really gotten that far.  The same stupid issues seem to always find their way back to the surface, no matter how much of a roll you seem to be on.  It can be really frustrating.

Your past is decorated by a lifetime of failures, not the professional, familial and various personal successes of your peers.  There are so many basic life skills that you struggle with, that seem to come so easily for everyone else.

It’s not like you haven’t tried a million different things to try and fix your persistent issues.  You’ve tried so much you don’t even know what’s left to try.  You’ve spent decades problem solving things that most people never have to think twice about.  …oftentimes to no avail.

But you pick yourself up and dust yourself off…because that’s what you’ve always done.

As someone with ADHD, you owe it to yourself to figure out what works for you.  Once you figure that out, you can start implementing those tactics that work, so you can get busy being awesome.  It will likely be a long road, at least for certain things…and it probably won’t all sort itself out at once.  You’ll have to stay in survival mode for a little while longer, meaning you’ll probably have to live through quite a few more Groundhog Days.

The world won’t stop for you to be able to figure out what works for you.  It’ll just keep spinning…and you’ll keep spinning with it.  You have to keep living the best you can until you can find the solutions that truly fit with your brain.  Be proud every time you discover a new solution, even if it seems insignificant.

Solving a small problem will actually clear out a decent amount of real estate in your brain.  And with that new real estate, you will be free to focus on whatever you want.

People with ADHD have to keep learning and relearning basic living skills and we usually have to try a lot of different things before we get it right.  This doesn’t make us any less than our “normal” peers.  To be fair (and unbiased), it doesn’t make us any better than our “normal” peers either.  It just makes us different.  And there are definitely some things that come easier for us than for them.

Once we conquer the day-to-day living skills, we can embrace those things, that we’re innately good at, and get on with the business of saving lives (or whatever it is that floats your boat).  Hang in there.  One day you’re gonna wake up and it’ll be a new day…and it’ll be awesome.  I mean, seriously, Groundhog Day can’t go on forever, right?

Crap, I feel like I’ve said that before…

5 Positive Traits of ADHD Adults

5 Positive Traits of ADHD AdultsAt 26, I was diagnosed with ADHD.  After our first hour together, my psychologist said “I don’t usually recommend medication after the first visit, but I think you’re an ideal candidate.”  Shortly after that, I went to a psychiatrist who confirmed the diagnosis: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type, meaning I’m both inattentive and hyperactive.  Go me.

Honestly, the diagnosis came as no shock, as you’ll come to understand if you read my blog.  I was pulling all-nighters in first grade and I’d spent the rest of my life knowing I was smart, but struggling with everything in me just to keep up.  That said, I did manage to keep up.  So many of my struggles occurred because of my ADHD brain and its differences, but I only managed to keep up because of that very same brain and its rockin’ problem solving skills.

So many people focus on the negative side of having ADHD, but I think the ADHD brain is pretty awesome.  Sure, there are plenty of struggles and I’ll talk about those in this blog, too.  But let’s go ahead and face it, the ADHD brain is super powerful.

The thing is, certain things were always really hard for me.  While I was aware that I struggled more than most, the struggle was all I ever knew, so it never occurred to me that there might actually be a reason for my difficulties.  I never looked for an excuse and I never gave up…I just kept fighting and coming up with new ways to try, try again.

We’re all different and we all struggle with our own issues, but a diagnosis like ADHD, that is so closely linked to specific struggles, means you are not alone.  There are other people who have struggled with the same, or similar, issues and, just as importantly, there are other people who have similar strengths, who get your sense of humor, who understand the way you think and who totally get how painful it is to sit still and be quiet.  There’s comfort in that and relief, that you don’t just plain old suck, despite what you’ve been feeling all these years.  Somewhere in there, there’s the ability to forgive your younger self for never having been good enough and there’s even the epiphany that perhaps you’ve actually always been more than enough.

The ADHD brain is not like most of the others.  Society isn’t built to cater to the ADHD way of thinking.  Yet, society could learn a lot from the ADHD brain.  And that’s what this blog is all about, the trials and tribulations of living with an ADHD brain AND the triumphs of it.  We spend our lives coming up with creative solutions to everyday problems, so we can survive.  I’m pretty sure there’s a thing or two that “normal people” could learn from us and I’m pretty sure there are things they already have…

Without further adieu (or extensive ramblings), I give you the 5 Positive Traits of ADHD Adults because, yes, my friends, we are awesome and we are also:

1. Determined – Because giving up isn’t an option.

2. Creative – Because when your brain is not like the others, you have to be.

3. Intelligent – Because how else would you have gotten this far?

4. Resilient – Because you always bounce back.

5. Courageous – Because you fought like hell and you’re pretty much a super hero.

And with that, I’m going to wrap up this first blog post.  It’s taken me about a month to post it and I’m afraid if I don’t just do it, well, you know, it’ll never get done…