I have comorbid conditions — but they won't take over my life. When depression and anxiety come a-calling, I know how to send them packing.
by Stacey Turis
Our ADHD tribe is no stranger to depression and anxiety. I have a lifetime pass to all three. Yay, me! ADHDers are passionate people, and we have to deal with the predictable pattern of unpredictability, mood swings, highs, lows, and sometimes dropping to the living room floor when someone knocks on the front door. I thought it best not to battle all of them every second. I’ll never win. Besides, I’m a big believer in keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.
I may not choose to battle my lovely comorbid conditions, but I don’t allow them to take over my life either. I let them sniff around and do their thing, but I also keep them in check.
Tune Out the Voices
Sometimes, whether I’m in a crappy mood or not, an annoying little voice likes to clear its throat and say, “I’m depressed.” Since I’ve been monitoring and paying attention to my self-talk, I hear it when it chimes in, and I yell at it, “No, I’m not!” Sometimes it chimes in eight times a day and I say, “No, I’m not. Go away.” Eventually, it gives up and it takes a hike. I feel empowered when that happens. I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve gone into one of my funks because that little jerk-voice told me to.
Our tribe does not like getting told that we need to be productive and accomplish things. After all, we bust our ass trying to make it through regular life. However, it makes me feel good to get one thing done that I set out to do that day. It boosts my mood and counteracts depression and anxiety. Every time I accomplish a goal or meet a challenge, dopamine starts to flow as a result of my brain's positive reinforcement. If you set up small increments of goals to meet throughout the day, you can give yourself a nice natural high that’s cheap and lasts as long as you keep ticking items off your list. You can’t find that in Colorado.
Dump the News
Get the media out of your life, if not forever, at least while you’re in a funk. Few things induce anxiety more than the media. Believe me, taking the news out of your life won’t compromise your intelligence or make you feel like an outsider. You’ll still hear rumblings, and get the gist of things; they just won’t be thrown in your face from the minute you wake up until the minute you go down. Do you wonder why we can’t sleep? Could it be the constant barrage of murder, wars, kidnappings, natural disasters, and bird diseases? Once you disconnect from the frenetic chatter and accompanying images of the news, you realize that the world is different than the one you’ve been following in the media. I’ve taken a lot of hits for going media-free, but the difference it has made in my life is priceless and worth every ignorant comment made from the peanut gallery about me not living in the “real world.”
Set Up Mood Zones
Since most of us don’t have the space to designate an entire room to the mental health of our ADHD brains, the next best thing is to set up small spaces around your house that you can rest your eyes on. When I’m feeling funk-ish, I look toward the peppy spots I have set up with my favorite energizing colors, treasures, whatever. In other words, things that make me feel good. When I feel anxious, I gravitate to the spots I have set up to calm me down. Sometimes the glow from a candle and the scent of woodsy incense burning is enough to ground and calm me. Music works, no matter how I’m feeling. I play music at my house every second I’m home because it has an energizing and/or calming effect on my family, depending on what I pipe through the speakers. It’s like brainwashing them, but in a good way.
Give Yourself Respect
Beating yourself up constantly is so yesterday. Enough is enough. Like every other person, we have strengths and we have struggles. Neither one of those things defines who we are. What we put out, what we give, what our intentions are — those are qualities that make us people. Pay attention, and when you do something that deserves respect, don’t be shy with yourself. Give it to yourself often, and you’ll start to believe what you’re saying.
Living with ADHD is challenging. Adding on depression, anxiety, and whatever else we might have simmering in the pot makes it more difficult. Finding healthy ways to cope with the madness is a lot more productive and easier on the psyche than going to battle every time it pops up its head. Remember: When the voice says, “I’m depressed,” you say, “Go away.”