Reply To: How do you cope?

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Hi Nicole!

I just want you to know that you are not alone at all. I was diagnosed about 4 years ago, and it was a revelation. I had good benefit from my medication, but it isn’t a silver bullet and it didn’t fix everything. I have been through plenty of ups and downs where I feel exactly like you describe – a walking disaster, even with my meds.

Here are some things that have helped me when I am in that place.

1) It’s completely normal and expected for your symptoms and your feelings to go up and down. My doctor said, “the only consistent thing about ADHD is inconsistency.” You are having a bad time with your symptoms right now. Remember that — these are SYMPTOMS. They don’t define you as a person.

2) This is a temporary bad spell. The way you feel will change, whether you do anything about it or not. Of course, if you can make some constructive steps, it will get better sooner and stay better longer.

3) The feeling of overwhelm or “I just can’t even, I don’t know where to start” is a lack of dopamine in your brain. You need dopamine to help you get started on tasks and feel like you can succeed. Good news – medications are not the only way to get a dopamine boost.

Anything that gives you a sense of reward, accomplishment, fun, winning, or happy anticipation can create a “hit” of dopamine. Give yourself star charts! Give yourself rewards! Take a few minutes to enjoy something healthy and nice – smells, textures, sunshine, playing with your son, music, intimacy with your husband, or even checking things off a list – whatever puts a smile on your face.

(Sometimes I write things on my list after I already did them, just so I can check them off. Hooray!)

Cultivating little habits of fun isn’t irresponsible or lazy. It’s an important part of self-care. And it works.

4) You don’t have to do things the same way other people do them, in order to create a happy, healthy home. It’s great to get ideas for systems or methods that could possibly work for you. Try stuff. If it makes you happy, keep it. If it makes you stressed, scrap it. Do not buy into anything that says it’s The One Right Way To Be. It’s a lie. There will be ways that work for you, and they will probably be a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and 100% you, because you are unique. I saw the recommendation upthread for FlyLady. I have had some benefit from her methods – especially the way she breaks things down in small steps so you can get a quick win, and really celebrates each little thing.

5) Are you sleeping okay? Getting enough sleep, and enough quality sleep, is absolutely vital for your brain to function. It’s important for depression & anxiety as well as ADHD. And there’s more and more research showing that the majority of people with ADHD also have sleep issues – up to 75%. Personally, I have sleep apnea. I thought I was losing my mind before I was diagnosed. I was in bed plenty of hours – but my brain was completely stressed and sleep-deprived because it wasn’t **good** sleep. Try working on your bedtime and getting enough hours. If the hours aren’t helping, see if you can get your doctor to prescribe a sleep study. It could be a game-changer for you.

6) Get outside. Research shows that time in nature (even just being able to see nature) makes an immediate improvement in mood, concentration, and mental resilience. Leave the dishes and the laundry for another half-hour (it’s not going to explode) and take your little one for a walk. You will feel better immediately, sleep better at night, and get an ongoing benefit the more you do it.

I know this isn’t really about specific methods. But I think those are very individual. When I feel overwhelmed and disastrous, I can’t even use any of the systems anyway. It’s all too much, you know?

You asked, how do you cope? I cope by doing things that make me feel better. And when I feel better, the other stuff gets easier. SO MUCH EASIER.

I hope you feel better very quickly!