I'll be honest, I've always been pretty pro-medicine for my ADHD. I went through a few years in college and post-college where I took myself off medicine and let's just say it wasn't pretty. I was an anxious mess. So much of my time and energy went to self medicating. I was literally walking for like 2 hours a day just to be able to sit still through my classes. I wasn't sleeping and couldn't turn my mind off. I was constantly rehearsing things for my life and worried that I was going to mess something up.
I tried several different things but in terms of prescription medicine, I've found that a mix of Cymbalta and Concerta are the right mix for me. I'm no doctor so please talk to your physician about what they'd recommend. I tried several things before finding the right mix. The stimulants are easier to tell if it's working but the anti-depressants take a little more time. I found that as an adult my ADHD looks very much like anxiety and the anti-depressant is an important part of the plan for me.
But it doesn't end there. I wish it did. Taking a pill and calling it all hunky dory would be pretty great. Am I right? But no, my brain is much, much more complicated than that!
ADHD looks a little different for each person. It can manifest itself in so many ways and most of us with ADHD have some kind of second presenting uniqueness about us. (Side note: if you haven't read Driven to Distraction, order it ASAP)
I've found it helpful to think about my own personal owner's manual. We each have our own unique owner's manual and part of ADHD is writing my own. I'm constantly learning what choices enable me to show up fully for my life. Here's the key elements, beside medicine that have significantly improved my mental health.
1. Regular Exercise. This one's kind of obvious but for me I'd add that I benefit from trying new things on the regular and getting good cardio. I love doing weights but a good sweat sesh really does the trick for managing my anxiety.
2. Abstaining from Alcohol. I really wish this one wasn't true. I've fought it for years. I like wine. And yet, it's just not good for my mental health. I'm not emotionally present when I'm drinking and it isn't good for my anxiety or depression. I'm in a better mood when I'm not drinking consistently.
3. Eating whole foods and avoiding dairy, gluten and sugar. Man, this is really a buzz kill! I'm not there 100% but I at least see that these things impact how I feel and how my brain functions big time. The cleaner my diet, the better I feel and the clearer I think.
4. Proper supplementation. I take fish oil, high quality collagen powder, a total body detox, and a brain supplement called Brain Activation. They all work synergistically to help my body function well but the brain supplement has been a game changer. I really needed help with the emotional regulation piece. The extra dopamine has really helped me make the dietary changes and forego the alcohol.
5. Using my gifts in a meaningful way is necessary for my mental health. If my brain isn't actively engaged in fruitful, productive work, it is NOT good or healthy. I obsess about dumb things that don't matter and my anxiety sky rockets. I always thought that I'd be a stay at home mom but have found that mompreneur life is a much better fit for my brain and temperament.
For those of us with ADHD, if we fight our hard wiring towards what we find interesting, it's going to be so futile! I felt so much shame when I was trying to be content and enjoy just being at home with my little boy. I wanted to be content but I was so restless. I needed to work. Maybe starting a business isn't your thing but I'd encourage you to make time for whatever gets you excited.
6. Finding a support network of like-minded people. I'm so thankful for the internet! Hashtags and Facebook group have opened up this amazing new world. I didn't know anyone like me growing up but now have several dear friends that think like me and are amazing, driven, ambitous neuro-diverse rock stars. It's so important to feel known and understood by others who get my unique brain. If you don't have a tribe, we'd love for you to join our Facebook community at the Activated ADHD Mamas.
7. Learning about my brain! Learning more about ADHD has been so liberating and encouraging. There is so much shame out there especially for moms with ADHD. The more I dig in, the more empowered I become to be fully ME. I'm less apologetic and more gracious. I'm currently reading Women with ADHD and highly recommend it! It's been such a breathe of fresh air. The authors tackle shame head on and I'm learning so much. I also highly recommend Additude. I just read this article on the ADHD Nervous System and found it so helpful.
8. Getting good sleep! This one is BIG and it's complicated for people with ADHD. For me, I get in bed early and have to wind down. I take a bath with epson salt, essential oils and a luxurious ritual cleansing bar most evenings and then stretch with a massage stick to wind down. I then usually read for 30-60 minutes before I turn the lights out. If I watch TV before bed, I never sleep as well. Having a good book from the library is so helpful! If I don't have something I WANT to read then I'll likely turn on Netflix. If I do opt for TV, a movie is always better than a show! I'm prone to addiction and Netflix binges are just not helpful or productive for me. I also charge my phone in my kitchen over night and plug it in before I start to unwind. This one small change is so helpful!
So there's my owner's manual. I'm constantly learning and growing. What's one small change that's helping you improve your mental health? I'd love to hear about it! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.