Improve Your Self-Care With the #10for20Challenge

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The #10for20Challenge is all about self-care. The concept was initially shared by Dani Donovan three years ago, when she proposed it as an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. When I discovered the challenge on Twitter last month, I was immediately interested because I absolutely hate New Year’s Resolutions. Let me explain.

Whoever decided to say that the first of the year is the ‘perfect time to set new goals’ has obviously never been inside my ADHD brain. Sure. I went through the motions of setting New Year’s resolutions for many years, because it’s practically an expectation. But that also meant for me that every year I was expected by what…society? to come up with a list of goals to improve myself.

So for several years, yes I made the damn list and for each and every one of those years I did little to nothing to work towards the goals on the list. But it certainly was fun to tote it around for a month and tell everyone all the great things I was planning on doing.

Of course then came the feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, and shame around having not measured up yet again. But that is part of the problem. New Year’s resolutions feel like something that is forced on me from the outside. And that’s a great recipe for this ADHDer to say “screw it” and move along with my life.

The #10for20Challenge is different

10 for 20 is about you. It’s about taking back some of your time each day—20 minutes—in order to focus on something that already makes you happy or something that you want to do more of. Start by making a list of ten things that fit that description, and then pick any one of them to do each day. It’s as simple as that.

My 10 for 20 Challenge list looks like this:

1. Talk with someone about something that matters
2. Write
3. Move my body
4. Listen to music
5. Organize something
6. Help solve a problem
7. Play a video game
8. Sing
9. Play with my kids
10. Learn about something new

When I look at that list, I don’t get worried about not measuring up, I get excited by seeing things I love and things that make me feel better after I’ve done them. It looks like a list of friends waiting to greet me at the end of a long day, as well as a few acquaintances who make me feel better the more I get to know them.

How the challenge improves your self-care

Where it really shines is when taken in the context of the following illustration I found on Twitter. It shows how all too often we try using just one thing for all of our self-care. And when that one thing gets stale we are left without, and end up just providing more fuel for anxiety and depression.

The strength of the #10for20Challenge is in its flexibility. Its a menu of “can-do” items rather than “to-do” or “must-do” items. And when you are able to make this time for yourself, odds are good that with a list of ten you’ll have something to do that’s also available at the time you want to do it..

As someone who has struggled with self-care for most of my adult life, I implore you to explore this idea. Try it out. Make a list. Post it where you can see it or have easy access to it. And then set aside 20 minutes a day to do something on that list. For you.

And screw the fact that it’s already February—these aren’t your mom and dad’s New Year’s resolutions. There is nothing that says it’s too early or too late to start anything. With ADHD you’ve got to strike when the iron is hot, not when some arbitrary date rolls around. So get started now and enjoy the positive change that comes to your life.

Have you tried the 10 for 20 Challenge? Are you going to try it now? Feel free to reach out and share your experiences with it by commenting below or sharing on social media using the hashtag:



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Why I Didn’t Get Diagnosed With ADHD When I Was a Child

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One of the most difficult things I’ve been dealing with is this question: Why didn’t I get diagnosed with ADHD when I was younger? My older brother was diagnosed with ADD when we were kids. If this had happened in 2020, the doctors would have looked into the rest of our family, at the very least to parents and siblings. That little check would have significantly improved the lives of at least three of us.

The fact is, I was not diagnosed as a child. And as far as I understand it, Adult-onset ADHD isn’t a thing. However, ADHD often isn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, and there are many, many ADHDers who live their entire lives simply never being diagnosed.

So how did I make it for so long?

One of the factors is that I have ADHD-Inattentive, the classic “ADD,” without the big H of hyperactivity. The lack of hyperactivity has left many boys and even more girls undiagnosed in childhood. On top of that, many folks with the inattentive sub-type do well enough to get by in the early years of schooling. And they continue to excel until they “slam into the wall” as described by Dr. Amen in his book, “Healing ADD.” Where this wall is differs from person to person.

Elementary School

I was one of those who excelled early in school. Reading and school itself were both early fixations in my life and my super power of hyperfocus was actively at work in both areas. It’s basically a perfect setup for an ADHDer to do well. In elementary school my love for reading propelled me to near the top of the class academically and kept me there until middle school. I had few friends, though I got along well enough with my classmates. I self-isolated through reading, and even at recess I might be found sitting alone reading rather than playing.

Since I loved school, I adored teachers. I always tried to be my teacher’s best friend. When I did schoolwork and took tests, I wanted them to be proud of what I did and I thrived on positive feedback and recognition that I got in return. I was also natural friends with the librarians in my schools and frequently spent extra time in the library.

Middle School

But by middle school I could no longer compete with the top of my class. I struggled with coursework that I found boring like language arts where we were learning parts of speech and syntax. This was the first time I can remember not being able to read and learn from a text. I still did very well in math and literature and was also active in band and choir…though I never practiced at home. Because I had already developed a reputation as a top student, I did everything I could to maintain that. I frequently lied about my academic progress and never shared my struggles with anyone because the prospect of admitting to that struggle was too embarrassing.

High School

I did fine through high school. I tested well enough to overcome my problems with homework and I relied on impressive procrastination skills to get through classes where late homework was accepted and long projects were staples. I filled my high school days with working in my parents’ store, playing in sports, bands, choirs, plays, musicals, and just about anything else I could join. I got good grades in classes I liked with teachers I liked, and I struggled in the others. I wouldn’t “slam into the wall” until my first year in college. But that’s a tale for some other day.

Another factor that worked against me getting a childhood ADHD diagnosis was that my family moved frequently. Between preschool and 12th grade my family moved ten times. Three times these moves involved changing schools in the middle of the year. The moves made it all the more difficult for any teacher to have enough time and data to see through my mask and find the struggling child beneath.

So why wasn’t I diagnosed as a child?

TL/DR: I was born in the wrong decade. I have ADHD-Inattentive, and without hyperactive symptoms you don’t often stand out. I absolutely LOVED school and reading throughout my elementary years, which set me up for many years of success. When I started to struggle I was too embarrassed to talk about it and lied to cover up all signs of struggle that I could. Moving ten times during my school years also prevented educators from having enough time to really get to know me.

Having been diagnosed as a child could have dramatically changed my life. My diagnosis is still new and I’m struggling to manage the grief I have over all of the time and opportunities that I lost to ADHD when I didn’t even know I had it. As I work on moving forward, I am trying to take to heart a quote written on a small plaque I was given by a teacher when I was just seven years old: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. 30 years later it has more meaning than ever.


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Why I Went to Therapy

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There’s a huge problem in the world today. Okay, so there are several. But the one I’m going to address today is the stigma surrounding therapy. Out in the world, shall I say the neurotypical world? Out there, going to therapy is seen as weakness. You go to therapy because you’re not enough, you’re broken, you can’t handle this life the same as your neighbors and friends do.

So why would anyone go to therapy?

Certainly it doesn’t feel good to admit defeat. In a world where success is measured by how we individually stack up against those around us, going to therapy is a clear admission that you simply can’t do this alone. And if that’s the case, you have failed. You might as well raise the white flag and call up each and every person who ever intimated that you didn’t or wouldn’t measure up, and tell them that they were right.

But going to therapy doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re ready to begin.

This last August I began my third job in as many years. I had left both previous positions feeling like I had failed as I grew farther and farther behind due to lack of organization and increased pressure from management that focused solely on my shortcomings and on none of my strengths.

As I took on the new job I was in the midst of a major fixation on a mobile game. One of those exciting collection games that include battles and teams in various modes. What began as a fixation turned into a major addiction for me. I would spend 4-6 hours daily in the game with an additional 1-2 in chats, stretching to 10 or more hours on the most intense days. It came before work and family and everything else.

I finally realized just how out of balance my life had been made by the game. I had set alarms to go off throughout the day to participate in various game modes and even though I had little time with my family, I found myself playing the game through dinner and barely giving my wife or children any notice at all. I gave up the game the next morning after realizing it.

But I knew this was just the latest in a long line of fixations that had led my life out of balance. It had driven away family and friends, caused problems at work, and taken over nearly every waking thought. And I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to control the void it had left. I knew I didn’t have the strength or knowledge to make lasting change on my own. Years of repeated failure had taught me that.

I decided it was time to get help. It was time for therapy.

As I prepared for my first visit I created a list of things I wanted to talk about. Things that I’d put off dealing with or which I had simply not been able to deal with on my own. On top of work struggles and addictive behaviors, I wrote down the following areas where I needed help: Improving relationships with family, getting over my grandmother’s death, friendship struggles related to introversion, feeling isolated, self-esteem issues related to my weight and other struggles, and my tendency to get in ruts.

I went to therapy not because I was a failure, but because I was tired of failing.

From my first visit my therapist was able to help me talk through issues that I’d never before shared with anyone. It felt liberating. She was able to remain objective and share proven strategies that would help me deal with emotionally charged events and situations. And very quickly she was able to pull the common thread from many of my problems as she became the first person to talk to me about ADHD.

Since beginning therapy I have been significantly happier. I have made many improvements in how I spend my time at home and at work. I have begun to mend relationships by reaching out in meaningful ways to family and friends who had been held at arms length for years. I have connected with a wonderfully supportive community of ADHDers. I’m taking charge of my life.

So despite what you’ve been told about therapy, it’s not about giving up. It’s about getting help. And getting help when you need it is not a sign of weakness. When you are able to admit that you don’t have all the answers and you love yourself enough to be humble and accept the help you need, that is true strength.


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