ADHD Voices: Kristin

Photos courtesy of Kristin Paulson

I have always had this “I don’t care what anyone thinks” but also, “why does it seem like no one likes me” internal struggle as long as I can remember. I was a generally happy, active kid. I did dance, scouts, sports, etc. I did average to well in school. I struggled with friends, I had trouble “fitting in.” I had big ideas. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, President of the United States, or an author, to name a few of my elementary career choices.

Life in school

Middle school was okay. Same issues, just more hormones in the mix. I remember my biggest struggle academically in elementary and middle school was being assigned something to read that I did not particularly enjoy. It was so hard to read it; I found it literally painful and unable to be completed. I often got caught up in gossip in middle school amongst friends. My intentions were to be a peacekeeper but I seemed to have a knack to cause turmoil amongst my social groups.

High school was fun. I was in the marching band, I had some boyfriends, and I had a core group of friends throughout high school. One moment that sticks out in my mind is at band practice, we were practicing our routine and needed to freeze at a particular spot, like literally freeze and not take another step….I couldn’t do it. I always took one more step. The instructor was livid. Everyone was cracking up, and I had no idea why I could not freeze when I needed to. It literally felt like I had no control.

I struggled in school a little more. Things that did not interest me were awful. I struggled, resisted, and tried to make it work. At some point, my mom pondered if maybe I did have ADD and took me to be evaluated. I went to a psychologist or something and in one session, they concluded I did not have ADD so that was that.

Again, I had friends, I graduated high school with honors, I was accepted at Michigan State University. When I reflect on my childhood at home with my parents and 3 younger sisters, I was an asshole if I did not get my way. I would attempt to make everyone miserable if I was miserable. I would trash the house, yell, scream, etc. My mom could generally keep her cool, my dad, a fellow ADDer, would not always remain level headed. I was grounded quite a bit.

I did have the oldest child thing going for me, I had such an urge to attempt to do everything my parents asked me to do, that I did not often challenge major decisions, and usually respected rules and such. I often was accused of “parenting” my younger sisters. My next sister and I basically hated each other from middle school until we were adults. It was a working hateful relationship but we definitely did not respect each other until much later.

Finding my niche in college

My freshman year of college was really hard. I went away to school so I was learning how to manage my own time, going to class with 300-400 other people, and not having to show up if I didn’t want to. I struggled the first two years, netting a 2.0 GPA, and then I found my niche and became a Social Work Student—the program that required the least amount of science.

I graduated with honors, had an amazing internship in the Mayor’s office in Lansing, MI, and I got a grant job at the College of Nursing that had social work students and nursing students working together. I liked what the nursing students were doing better. I joke I went to college the first time to learn how to be an adult learner. I started chipping away at my science classes I needed to apply for Nursing school, they were so hard, but I wanted it, so I made it work. I graduated with my BSN in Dec. 2007 and have done well as a nurse…for the most part. 😉 You know, ADHD struggles.

Adulting

Here I am hyperfocused on my school story, during that time, I also got married and moved back to my hometown. ER nursing was my career choice. As my primary care doctor says, “I think most of you that work in the ER have ADD/ADHD, you can’t sit still!” As a nurse, there is always an opportunity for overtime, I could easily work 50-60 hour work weeks.

I burnt myself out. I started thinking about having kids and not wanting to be pregnant and working 12 hour shifts. I had a vacation request denied, and well, ADHD, abrupt decisions based on one heated feeling. I got a M-F nursing job at the same hospital in informatics, I helped build, train, implement, maintain the new Electronic Medical Record application for the inpatient setting, it was an amazing experience.

But I missed the ER and hated the Monday through Friday monotony. And I popped out two kids in 4 years. It was so mundane to get the kids to daycare, go to work, pick the kids up, go home, make dinner, put them to bed, do laundry, etc. (my husband was present and supportive, but this story isn’t about him). I kind of hated life and wanted to go to grad school. So I went back to the ER part time, and 5 years later made it to grad school!

I found out through parenting

My son struggled with school in 2nd grade, falling behind for the first time. After the first half of the year, his teacher was always redirecting him. I took him in for ADHD evaluation. Then I read it.

OMG, I am him, this is me, I have ADHD.

This explained so much: impulsivity, over-emotional response, ability to hyperfocus, messy house, hating cooking dinner or taking the time to eat, and so on. I got myself some Adderall and connected with some online resources like ADHDSurprise, ADHD Alien and much of the ADHD Twitter community. I also enjoy The ADHD Mama, Dank ADHD Memes and Authentically ADHD on Facebook. It feels so good to know I am not alone, the struggle is real, but it is not impossible to manage and be successful. The kids and I have all started counseling to give us the tools we need to be successful in life. I am getting my daughter, who is in first grade, evaluated this summer. I’m often tempted to toss one of her brother’s Adderall tablets in her mouth just to check. 😉

ADHD is a superpower if you can make it work for you and embrace your differences. It feels so good to know I am different and that is okay. Instead of feeling like I am wrong, I just acknowledge I am different and that is okay. I also feel like in the last few months with the Adderall, I have been able to slow down, not be so quick to respond, while letting stupid things go instead of getting fired up and firing off.

I feel like now that I recognize my thought process is different, it allows me to pause and reflect that whoever I am working with is often taking a different path. It is so important to recognize that because it allows me to have flexibility and not be upset if they don’t get my idea and also recognize why I may not understand their idea or thought process. I feel like my future is so much brighter and I will succeed with some of my big goals since ADHD gives me guts to dream big and go for it, and Adderall helps me think about it and make an effective plan!

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If you’d like to connect with Kristin,
she can be found as @EDRN_Mommy_KP on Twitter 

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ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @ gmail.com

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Looking for more great ADHD content?
Check out all of Jamie’s platforms:

Working from Home with ADHD: Setting up your Workspace and Schedule

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Covid-19 continues to increase its impact on the lives of everyone I know. Or perhaps it’s better put that we as a people are increasing our response to the virus by the day. Where a few weeks ago this was something I’d heard of that was on the other side of the world, it’s now turned my entire life upside down.

I work in public education in Washington state. As of last Tuesday all of our schools have been ordered closed for six weeks by order of Governor Inslee. My staff and I continued to work at our site for a few days, but as of today, we are all working from home. This is such a drastic change in how we operate. I can’t tell you how little thought I had ever put into possibly doing my job from home.

So that’s why I’m here. I’ve now been forced into figuring out what this looks like. How do you set up your workspace? How do you schedule your time? How do you stay motivated and avoid distractions? I don’t have the experience yet to say I’m an expert, but I’m happy to share what I’ve come up with so far.

Setting up your workspace

Whether you’ll be working from home for a few days, weeks, or long-term, you will need to find an appropriate workspace. If you actually have a full or partial office with a desk in your home, consider yourself lucky, and you may be able to skip this step. But more than just a desk to work from, there are a few things you should consider before settling on any workspace in your home.

  • What types of work will I need to accomplish at home? Does this space allow me to adequately carry out all of them?
  • Does the space lend itself to video chats? Remember to look behind you to see what others in your chat will see.
  • Is the workspace somewhat stimulating, but not so far as to be distracting?
  • How close is it to some of your regular distractions? For me these would be food and television.
  • If you live with others, is the workspace in a heavily trafficked area or is it somewhat secluded?

Start by considering all spaces with a flat surface large enough to accomplish your work. In my own home, I can consider a built-in desk in the kitchen, the dining room table, the living room coffee table, a small desk in a bonus room upstairs, and a sewing table in a guest bedroom.

The built-in in the kitchen seems ideal, as there’s already a computer with webcam and ample desk space to get work done. But it’s also in a heavily trafficked area and very close to one of my main distractors, food. The dining room table and coffee table both fail the traffic and distraction tests. The bonus room desk is close to passing but is somewhat small and right outside my daughter’s bedroom.

By elimination, the sewing table in the guest room wins. The table itself may be inadequate, but I have a folding table I can put in its place if needed. There is a beautiful view from a window in that room, but no one will be coming through, and it’s far from television and food. This all bodes well for me making it work.

Having chosen it, I will organize the space as much as possible as I did at work, making sure I have all things at-hand so I can do my work without leaving the space. I’m thinking computer, pens, post-its, journals, contact lists, schedules, etc. And please, maybe most important of all, make sure you have a comfortable chair.

Scheduling

Especially if working from home is a change, you will be operating on a new schedule. It’s okay to change. Build something new that works for you. Elise Kumar wrote about why this is important on her recent post about changing gears.

Make sure you block out time on your calendar for all tasks you intend to accomplish for the day. Schedule each one longer than you expect it to take, so that you can account for transition times. You may even find that you need to schedule transition times separately, or operate on a timer system so that you keep yourself moving between tasks. If you’re plagued by time-blindness like me, you may find that timers are life-saving.

As you’re scheduling your work, try as much as you can to switch to different types of activities. If one task requires high levels of concentration while working at the computer, try following it up with something different like checking in with someone by phone. You should also be mindful and intentional about scheduling breaks, so if you do have two or more similar tasks to accomplish, you can at least make sure you get a break in-between.

As you consider breaks, remember that not all are created equal. Here are a few different ideas you can try.

  • Get up and dance to an up-tempo song or two
  • Watch a funny YouTube video
  • Go for a short walk
  • Get a snack
  • Call a friend or relative, but make sure they know your time limit
  • Read a chapter from a novel
  • Lay down and rest for a few minutes
  • Play a level or two of a retro video game

With any of these, you want to consider what task you’ve just finished, and what task you’re going into next. For any of them, you might consider a timer or alarm to remind you when it’s time to transition back. But do make sure you break as needed.

What next?

Once you’ve got your workspace and schedule set up, it’s time to get to work. But maintaining focus and motivation to do work at home is another great challenge to overcome. Originally I was going to include motivation tips in this post, but that grew into a big enough topic to tackle all on its own, which you can now read here: Working from Home with ADHD Part 2: Staying Motivated.

Have you set up a workspace and schedule using any of the tips above? I’d love to hear how it went! Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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ADHD Voices: Deighton

Photo courtesy of Deighton Heath

It’s hard to articulate after so many years, but I remember noticing I had attention issues my first year of middle school. I had noticed something was off earlier, but I had never heard the term. I got good grades, so it was hard to make my family understand. I remember going home once I learned more about the disorder and trying to tell them, but they said, “your grades are great- you don’t have ADHD.”

I didn’t officially get diagnosed until I was fifteen, and my problems had gotten noticeably worse. I was self-medicating a lot. I had a lot of trouble with school, but I maintained good grades by shutting myself off and spending hours forcing myself to finish assignments and teach myself the material. I hardly slept during high school, and I felt like I was walking on eggshells in almost every situation. The lack of sleep took a huge toll on my mood; I was exhausted with racing thoughts constantly, and my temper got ridiculous. I felt like a ticking time bomb half the time, and the other half, I just felt like I was alone. 

After getting diagnosed and prescribed medicine, it got a lot easier to quiet my thoughts in general. I used to (and sometimes still do) get scolded constantly for all sorts of things that I didn’t realize were symptoms; things like fidgeting or moving all the time, talking rapidly, being loud, and blurting out answers in class.

This all has made me a very reserved adult. I get self-conscious and scared to speak in groups, and I bite my tongue a lot. When I am feeling more energetic, I tend to talk a lot, and I have trouble realizing how loud I can get when I’m excited. A lot of people have made me feel like it’s a negative trait and even though that is now the idea that it’s bad is ingrained in my brain, that’s not something I agree with.

I think it’s kind of cool to still have the ability to get excited like a child. I’ve noticed a lot of people I know don’t seem to have that ability, but I still get anxious about those qualities showing themselves to people. I feel like others are going to react negatively and make me feel like I should be ashamed about how I am.

I’ve found ways to cope and try to keep my symptoms in check, but it often feels like I have to give up a lot of myself to appease others. I find that I tend to avoid situations where I have to be in crowds or around strangers because a lot of the time, when I try to be social or make friends, they seem overwhelmed with me or appear to do things that make me feel like I’m being scolded again or being “too much.”

I get uncomfortable when I get into conversations at work because I’m in customer service, and I can be kind of all over the place with conversation. I overthink constantly, and I often feel like when I try to vocalize my thoughts to friends, they don’t understand me or what I’m saying. I feel like people who know me tend to tune me out when I talk because they’re used to me talking so much, and it seems so random to them that they don’t seem to care or listen to what I have to say most of the time.

I feel like nobody understands me a lot of the time–when I talk, what I mean, or just in general. It makes opening up and connecting to others very difficult because it makes me sad when I feel that way, so a lot of the time, I don’t even try. At this point in my life, it takes me ages to actually open up and make friends, and I think people get tired of trying well before I get there. It’s difficult for me to process things and articulate what I mean in a way that others understand, so it’s easy for me to feel lonely when the few people I am close to are busy or aren’t around.

I think my life has gotten easier by knowing what to look for in my behavior and how my brain works, but it’s far from easy. It seems a lot of people don’t have much knowledge of ADHD, so they don’t know how to be present or helpful. Having the knowledge has helped me because I can find support from other people who also have ADHD, and I can research general symptoms and supports myself. It’s helpful because I have a place to start. I wish people were more educated and understanding of neurodiversity, so people like me could feel more comfortable and more accepted in general. 

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If you’d like to connect with Deighton,
she can be found as @DeightonHeath on Twitter 

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ADHD Voices is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of folks like you and me who have ADHD. Posts in the series are written by guest authors, sharing windows into their lives and struggles, written by them, for you and me. If you’d like to share your story, please contact me on social media or through my email, ADHDsurprise @ gmail.com

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Looking for more great ADHD content?
Check out all of Jamie’s platforms: