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Millions of people live with ADHD–Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. According to this article on WebMD, 4-5% of adults in the US live with ADHD, but few of them get the diagnosis or treatment for it.
Each person has different ways to cope with how ADHD affects his/her life. Each person has to decide the best ways for everything to work together for him/her to get everything accomplished that day/week/month/year.
MY ADHD Story
I have lived with it my entire life, but I did not receive my diagnosis until I was in college. I was not only in college, but I was working on my MASTERS degree.
Yep! That’s me. I didn’t know I had ADHD until after I had graduated from high school (with a 3.96 GPA) and college with a Bachelor’s degree (same 3.96 GPA).
I worked as a Sign Language Interpreter in the public school system in NC for 5 years before I started my Masters degree program, in 2008.
I was taking classes to become a high school English teacher. We had to go through some of the tests that students take to determine “disabilities,” but I hate using that word! We had reading tests, math tests, vision screenings and hearing tests.
I had already learned the extent of hearing loss in my left ear when I was studying to become an interpreter, so that wasn’t a surprise.
However, when they “tested” us, we did not know we were going to get actual diagnoses.Yet, we did.
I learned that I have ADHD, and the doctors started asking if I wanted to be medicated.
My personal decision was no medication. I had completed high school, 7 years of college (that’s a story for another day), 5+ years of working in the school system, and a year of graduate school.
I had apparently figured out what I needed to do for my own success.
NOTE: I do NOT think that medications for ADHD are bad. I probably would have considered it had I found out at a younger age.
But, one thing about my ADHD is that I do not do well with change. I absolutely hate it, even when the change is my own fault.
I have developed several coping skills for dealing with ADHD in my life.
Coping with ADHD in my life
I have a list for just about everything. Then I have lists that spawn from those lists.
I tend to have 1,001 ideas in my head all the time. In order to get those out, I create lists. I have sticky notes full of lists. I have journals with lists. I have composition books and spiral notebooks with lists.
I’m pretty sure I have made lists on anything I could get a pen or marker to make marks. Then, I make lists of things that another list has mentioned.
For example, if my To Do List includes shopping, my next list is a Shopping List.
Growing up, my mom called her lists and notes her “paper brains.” I have a lot of “paper brains” around my house.
The worst thing is not being able to remember where I put the list I need to take care of at a specific time. There are days I have 4-5 lists running of things to click off during a certain time.
In the mornings when I wake up, I do the exact same things in the same order every day. If I don’t do that, I end up forgetting things.
Funny example, the other day, I was getting ready. I had my clothes on, teeth brushed, and was combing my hair. My phone rang, and I answered it. After hanging up, I forgot to go back to the bathroom to put on deodorant.
The good thing this time is that I was at home all day, and it was cool in the house. But about 4 hours later, I remembered, when I saw a deodorant ad on YouTube. (No, for those of you wondering, I was not on my 4th hour of YouTube.)
When I’m listening to people, typing on the computer, reading a book, or watching TV, I have to be moving. Right now, typing, I’m moving my fingers obviously, but I’m also tapping my foot to the music in my headphones. By doing this, I can remain more focused on the thing I need to be doing…. Writing.
I connect things to one another so that I can remember them for later.
When I was in high school, I was in the marching band. We would get tapes (or CDs) of the music for the show. I would listen to it so many times that I could literally see my score in my dreams.
I would listen to that music while I studied my other subjects. Then I would create “songs” in my head with my notes from Science or History as the words. That was how I studied, but it worked for me.
When I am completely unmotivated to do something, I have to create a reason for it. I have to give myself a deadline. It has to be a “do this or look ridiculous” type of reason, too.
This blog post, for example, should have been written a week ago. Instead of writing it, I worked on posts for Instagram. I did things that were more fun for me.
I planned out a week or so of posts for Instagram. I realized that I have an Instagram post coming up about dealing with ADHD in my life. I knew I had to get this blog post completed in order to be able to link it to the post.
I have another post about Time Management coming up, and I will link it here when it is completed. However, one of my time management tricks is that I set timers and alarms for just about everything.
If I start watching TV and don’t set a timer to stop, I will binge watch 3 seasons of Dance Moms in one day.
If I start focusing on something, and don’t take breaks, I will continue working until I am forced, by a situation or person, to stop.
My daughter, who also has ADHD, was homeschooled for high school. On Sundays, we would go through all the work for the previous week and plan for the upcoming week.
Once I had the assignments written down for each day, I would put a time beside it. Usually, it was no more than 30 minutes. Sometimes it was 45. That was how long she had to work before taking a break.
Once the timer sounded, she could restart it or take a 5 minute (with timer) break. One break at time was the limit, but two work sessions in a row was the max.
It worked out well, and she graduated with a 4.12 GPA!
PLACEMENT Have you ever heard the saying “A place for everything and everything in its place”?
For me, with ADHD, I have to put things in the same place so I can find them again.
For nine years, my family lived in a 2-story house. The stairs and banister were at the front door. I hung my purse on the banister facing the same direction every time I carried in the door for nine years.
Now, we live in a different house, and we’ve only been here a couple of months, but I have a place for my purse already.
My shoes go in the same place every day and face the same direction as well. I have to be able to know where they are at all times.
The same is true for my car key, sunglasses, and anything else that I could possibly lose. If I don’t put it in “its spot” I will spend an hour looking for it.
I repeat things.
I repeat things a lot.
I repeat things a lot more than I should.
Ok, you get it!
If I ask a question about something I feel is really important, I will ask 3 more people the same question.
I will check my car 4 times at night to see the lights blink when I lock the doors.
I also read things over 200 times when I write. Sometimes I change things. Sometimes I leave it as written. But, I always read it…over and over.
As I mentioned earlier, I hate change.
There are times when change is good. Even in those times, I hate change.
Change is often required, but it does not mean I like it.
I changed colleges 3 times before graduating with my 4-year degree. Each time was a challenge, but it was needed for where I was at that point in life.
I have moved 10 times in my life. I know that’s not a lot. Some people move every year or two, but I lived in one house for the first 20 years of my life. It is hard for me to pack up my life and move.
We recently did this to move to a house that is a better fit for us, and it’s closer to my parents. Now that I am in the new house, I love it, but changing (moving) was horrible.
Many people with ADHD struggle with multitasking. I do as well, at times.
I know my limits, usually.
I know that if I am going to be writing, I can listen to music. I plug in my headphones to my computer and turn on Spotify.
I don’t sing along, but my foot unconsciously taps. It’s unconscious until I think about it, like now.
The music helps to block out all the other noises that would distract me if I were not plugged in.
Another thing I’m doing as I write this is that I am adding things to the list of blog posts to write. I have already taken my ADHD list and written this post, but I have at least one more about ADHD from that specific list. Then I have other topics that have come out of the list as well. (See? My lists cause me to make more lists!)
I sometimes eat while I’m working on writing. That is an easy thing I can multitask.
One thing I can not do while I’m writing is watch TV. If the television is on, it will cause me to have “shiny object syndrome” and keep looking away from my writing.
Wrapping up Coping with ADHD in my Life
There are so many other ways that people handle ADHD in their lives. Some people take medication, and, as I said before, that is not a bad thing. If it helps them, then it is the right choice.
I did not think that was the path for me since I had already, apparently, come up with so many coping strategies.
I didn’t even know I had coping strategies. I learned that is what I was using when I sat down with the counselor at UNCC after my diagnosis.
She was great and asked me, what felt like, a million questions. As I answered, she realized that I had learned to cope since elementary school. I had learned then that I had to behave at school or get in trouble.
Then, when I got home, I would be off-the-wall because I had held onto my energy all day at school.
When my parents attended Parent-Teacher conferences, they would ask my teachers if they were sure they were talking about me. My parents saw the “can’t sit still” side, but my teachers saw the “never gets in trouble” side.
My teachers didn’t believe my parents were talking about the same kid, either.
Making sure I followed the rules and didn’t get in any trouble was one of the biggest coping strategies I managed in my younger years.
As I got older, I developed my studying strategies and other things I learned to live with ADHD.
Do I wish I had been diagnosed earlier? Maybe.
I don’t know what life would have been like with an earlier diagnosis, so I can’t answer that.
Am I glad that there are early interventions for students/children today? Definitely!
I think it’s amazing that there are so many tips, tricks, books, workshops, doctors, and counselors available to help students/children who are diagnosed earlier than me.
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