At times, I love being part of a generation that has grown up with Internet access. An all-you-can-eat buffet of information is available 24/7. I come early and often and hungry every time. There are podcasts, eBooks, articles, videos, infographics, and data graphs by experts and enthusiasts in your choice of field and shade of values. I could lose myself here. I have lost myself here, stuck in a loop of information consumption.
But endlessly consuming information is not how I want to spend my life. I also want to create. I want to be intentional with the information I take in, prioritizing what supports my ability to create and lead the life I want.
I subscribe to many podcasts and have paid for multiple online educational program memberships. Realistically, I can only consume a fraction of this content. So I’m taking a step back to consider more intentionally what information I want to take in. What matters to me?
Practicing and honing my writing skill
Maintaining and expanding my French language skills
Improving my gentle parenting techniques
Organizing and decluttering my home
Exposing myself to new ideas and perspectives (Ok, I wrote this one almost specifically for Simon Sinek’s “A Bit of Optimism” podcast.)
Writing this list is a good start… but I need to go one step further and identify 1-2 primary sources of this content. In podcasts alone, I could subscribe to ten each related to writing, French, parenting, decluttering, and mindset. Then I get overwhelmed and try to keep up with all the content instead of taking in important bits and bites and doing something with what I’m learning (like actually writing instead of learning about writing). I need to be more ruthless.
I cut out writing podcasts because I attend a monthly workshop, and for now, I want to allow that to be my main source “of truth.” I cut down to ONE French podcast to practice my listening skills (which is where I’m weakest). I chose two parenting podcasts that I resonate most with and feel I get the most out of. I unsubscribed from all decluttering podcasts since I’m currently in a program with its own content (that I need to keep up with). And, of course, I’m keeping “A Bit of Optimism” because the perspectives, respectful discourse, and Simon’s optimism are soup for my soul.
Last time I wrote, I discussed the possibility that I may have borderline ADHD. Today, I’m taking a step back to explore if it might actually be the result of a life spent under chronic stress (note that I am not suggesting that all folks diagnosed with ADHD are simply stressed, I am merely pondering whether I am just stressed).
I do not know if I have ‘true’ ADHD. What I do know is this:
I don’t know if I have ‘true’ ADHD. Here is what I do know:
I routinely have 7 hours between when I start trying to fall sleep and when I’m woken for the day
Between the these 7 hours, I am often woken 2-3 times for 20-60 minutes at a time
Since childhood, screens have been part of my bedtime routine, where I watch a movie or show until I can no longer keep my eyes open
I always feel tired and often irritable when I wake up in the morning
I have a hard time starting tasks that I don’t find very exciting
When something truly interests me, I struggle to focus on anything else
I struggle with completing projects
I often feel overwhelmed by my ‘to-do’ list
I have to set reminders for myself for anything outside of the usual routine
If something feels important enough that I worry about forgetting it, I tend to fixate on it (often anxiously) so that I don’t forget it
The most effective way to get me to do chores is to assign to me another more pressing task that I don’t want to do
I regularly drink about 16-24oz of fluids in a day, which frequently includes 8-12oz of coffee. And I don’t love fruits or vegetables
The idea of “drink when you’re thirsty” just isn’t helpful to me. My thirst drive either isn’t strong or I’m very well practiced at ignoring it
I spend hours on social media every day
I use my phone often in the presence of my children, as a ‘break’ from my children
I’m not as patient of a person as I’d like
I often feel cold when everyone around me is comfortable
My bloodwork almost always shows I am borderline anemic and insufficient in vitamin D
I rarely spend more time outside than what it takes to get from building to car
None of this is due to a lack of motivation — I would love to change
Looking at this list, I feel like I’m coming full circle to some of my earlier blog posts where I tried to set goals related to setting a baseline of personal care. If not ADHD, I have at least had a lifelong relationship with sleep deprivation, dehydration, anemia, and vitamin D insufficiency.
I took a brief pause here to get myself a glass of water and drank some of it. It may not sound like much of an achievement for most people, but here I am tooting my own horn. Toot toot. Good job, Kay.
A quick dive into the Internets (making sure find multiple official sources supporting these to be true) helps me tie my struggles with my symptoms.
Sleep deprivation, dehydration, anemia, and vitamin D insufficiency ALL are known to increase:
pain (such as headache, muscle cramps, joint pain)
Clearly, whether or not I have ADHD, my current habits are fueling my fatigue, irritability, concentration and memory challenges. So the question becomes.. how do I change this and make those changes stick?
A philosophy I’ve tried to live by lately is that any new habits must super easy. I can’t leave any room for my brain to talk myself out of doing it. If I try to adopt a habit and it’s not working out, that probably means my habit is not easy enough. A the same time, I’m trying to stop living by throwing every possible solution at a problem at once.
Choose with something that has high impact potential and boil it down to a small habit of low effort with brief time commitment. I’m already taking a multi-vitamin so my next idea is to get outside for a 1-minute walk. 1-minute may not do much, but I need to make sure the bar is low enough that I’m willing to go out and do it at all. I can build the habit over time.
Have you ever felt different from everyone else and try as you might you couldn’t pinpoint what that difference was? Have you ever expressed what you thought was a very good solution to a problem, only to have everyone around you stare at you like you’ve just sprouted a new head? Have you often found yourself in a social situation where everyone seems to know what to do or say but you feel completely lost? Have you ever tried to figure out if there was some sort of science to building relationships? Have you lived your life feeling almost-but-not-quite “normal”? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all of the above… you might be me.
The road to discovery…
Late last year, I started seeing a therapist and through that I learned that one of the screeners I took flagged me as possibly having ADHD. This really caught me by surprise. Me? I was the most self-composed child you’d ever have met. I followed rules and I did well academically. There’s no way I could have ADHD…. right?
After discussing it further with my therapist, we decided to put a pin in the idea–not dismissing it entirely and also not giving it focus right now. Well, we may have stuck a pin in the idea in therapy, but as far as my brain was concerned, this was a boulder of a notion that was just pushed over the edge of a mountainous hill and I’m riding it all the way down.
Books, articles, podcasts, online communities. I became consumed with a desire to learn more to definitively answer whether I have ADHD (I know, I know, the obvious answer is to continue talking it through with my therapist or find a new therapist who can offer better clarity). The more I learned, the more confusing it seemed. On the one hand, I do hyperfocus (see first two sentences of this paragraph) but I’m not impulsive. While I have always been one to zone out and daydream regularly (common in inattentive ADHD), I’m not especially forgetful.
Then, an interesting realization struck me… among a group of six friends from college that I still maintain relationships with, three of them have been officially diagnosed with ADHD (one as a teenager and two in adulthood). Odd coincidence or classic instance of birds of a feather flocking together?
During my research, I noticed that a number of resources to support individuals with ADHD also market themselves for those with autism. This had me wondering, what is the connection? Well, it seems there is a decent amount of overlap in how ADHD and ASD brains work: struggling with executive function, difficulties making friends, being distracted (by thoughts or external events), and inability to appropriately take turns in conversation. Additionally, it’s not entirely uncommon for individuals to have both.
So I redirected my attention to learning more about autism. Again, I never really would previously expected I had autism. After all, my brother is autistic with low support needs (pretty much checks every box for the previously used diagnosis of Asperger’s). If my brother is on the low end of the spectrum, surely I’m not on the spectrum? After all, unlike my brother, I don’t struggle with eye contact (except in high stress situations like when I’m giving a presentation), I don’t specifically avoid being touched, and I can understand sarcasm and idioms.
And yet… the more I dived into the topic of autism, specifically on autism for people with low support needs, the more I see myself in the descriptions (and sometimes also, my mother). I also took multiple online self-assessments and all of the results so far have suggested that I may be autistic.
So what now?
Oddly enough, I’ve not yet discussed the possibility of my being autistic with my therapist, so I suppose I will start there. If she doesn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about autism, I may look to switch to a therapist who specializes in individuals with ADHD or autistic spectrum disorder.
If my case is mild, does a diagnosis even matter? I believe so, yes. First of all, I have invested so much time over my life trying to understand my brain and how it works and how other people’s brains work. I’ve been on the hunt to find “my people” and I think if I could say with confidence and without imposter syndrome that I have an _insert diagnosis_ brain, I would feel less like someone who just can’t quite do things right and more like someone who has always done her best in a world that isn’t well designed for how her brain works.
And last, but definitely not least, there is my son, now almost age 4, who I have increasingly come to suspect is neurodivergent in some manner. People with low support ADHD or ASD may be able to more easily walk among the “neurotypicals” but commonly at the cost of mental health resulting in anxiety and depression (both of which I have been diagnosed with by more than one therapist) so even if he wouldn’t get much benefit from occupational therapy for ADHD or ASD, I expect he could use support for anxiety (which I definitely already see signs of) and depression.