My ADHD Story
Since I remember myself I always felt different, not knowing that one day this would be my greatest asset!
During my childhood, I struggled a lot in school, especially while learning things I wasn’t naturally interested in. The only subjects I was particularly good at were sports and art. I wasn’t a loud kid; quite the opposite. I was doing my best to be invisible and not disturb. In my head, the noise was very loud, though. I was constantly overthinking, especially during bedtime, which kept me awake and exhausted for years. I always felt different then my peers having trouble fitting in and doubting if I was doing or saying the “right” things. I was getting emotionally hurt easily. As much as I don’t like to admit it, at the time, I was not feeling very much worthy. What kept me going was the thought that in a few years, I would be a grown-up and free from all these aspects of life that made no sense to me and that I considered fake.
Adulthood and challenges
As an adult, things got a bit better. I suppose that I created coping mechanisms that supported me to achieve different things and “make it work” in what I thought was a hard world for me to live in. I studied a variety of things and had numerous jobs. And what always made me wonder was why I couldn’t settle and always had the need to jump from one thing to the other. So often, I would start a new project and just a few days later lose the excitement, feeling disappointed. Regarding my studies, I managed to finish and get my degrees but the process was very (very) difficult and painful, especially whenener I would have theoretical classes.
It has also been a challenge for me to keep up with regular tasks such as having a decluterred home, taking care of my basic needs, planning my meals, cooking, and shopping, being on time without stressing like a maniac, finding the things I have lost, coping well with my finances or admin stuff, and in general, handling day to day life in a way that I was feeling good about it.
All this time (over 40 years!!) I thought that I was struggling because of who I was and that all these aspects were part of my personality. I thought that overwhelm and stress was how it should be and that I was someone who – if I wanted to achieve anything – had to put in all my blood, sweat, and tears. I believed I was not competent or smart enough to achieve things the easy way like other people around me. Additionally, I was very sensitive, getting upset by almost anything, especially when something didn’t feel fair to me.
The day that changed my life
One ordinary day, at the age of 40, I was having lunch with a good friend. We were talking about random things when out of nowhere, she mentioned to me for the first time that she has ADHD and that she is on treatment. As a natural reflex, I was surprised and asked about her symptoms and what she was experiencing. She started to shower me with examples and struggles that she is facing in her everyday life, which made my heart and brain stop. You know these moments when life freezes, and your ears are buzzing as if you are underwater? Hearing the words describing what she was going through, I started to have a burst of nervous laughter and told her: “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? Why are you describing ME?”
This was the day that basically changed my entire life. I thought, WHAT THE F***??? My whole world got completely shaken. I immediately emerged into extensive research to find out what on earth is ADHD and why I have all the symptoms. By reading and learning more about it, I was sure that I had ADHD. But of course, since self-doubt has been a close friend of mine, I needed the medical proof, so I went through an official assessment which confirmed to me that I have severe ADHD and specifically the combined type.
Soon after my diagnosis, I started treatment. So far, I have tried many types of medication, searching for the most suitable one for my brain.
I started with Methylphenidate, which is a central nervous system stimulant. The first 2 weeks were good, and I felt an improvement, especially regarding my concentration. But then, I had to increase the dose as its effect had significantly decreased. Increasing the dose made me feel very low and have negative emotions. And also, my heart rate was going too fast all day long (90 BPM), making me feel very agitated. All these were signs that this medication is not the right one for me. With the guidance of my psychiatrist, I stopped it and went for another option.
I continued with Lisdexamfetamine which is a stimulant. The effect is much more smooth and natural for my body. It helped me a lot with my focus, I felt more grounded, I had more energy and my mood was good. I had much fewer pikes of intense joy and sadness, regulating my emotions. The only aspect that was still not settled was my heart rate. It was still too fast. After researching the topic, I found out that drinking coffee at the same time as taking the medicine could impact the effect negatively as the dopamine gets too strong in my body. So I decided to have a smaller size coffee early in the morning (as I cannot function without any coffee at all), drink water, and 2 hours later take my ADHD pill. And then no other coffee during the day or else I cannot sleep. And this system helped me a lot for some time.
I was still not fully satisfied with my focus level vs my fast heart rate so I decided to visit a different doctor specialized in ADHD after receiving a friend´s recommendation. I tried Retalin for some time which was not so different from the rest I had tried in the past. Which means not good for me.
Then my new psychiatrist recommended me to try Strattera and to start with 10 mg. I was feeling so much calmer than before, my focus has been very good and my heart rate not as fast as with the other medications. For the moment I will continue with it and occasionally take 18 mg when additional focus time is required and see how it goes!
Finding the right treatment for ADHD – as for many conditions – is something that needs to be tested and see what works best. It really is a trial and error approach.
Unfortunately, ADHD medication does not bring a permanent solution but rather is a supportive mechanism for day-to-day needs. This means that medication can be very helpful if your brain responds well to it but it is not always enough to solve all the challenges of someone´s life while living with ADHD, especially the emotional ones.
My real solutions
For me, the best solutions for a good daily life has been a combination of different things. What has helped me the most has been taking the time to understand better who I am and what brings me joy as a unique individual. Today I know that based on my ADHD brain and needs, joy and pleasure are a crucial factor that not only I want, but I absolutely NEED, in my daily life. Or else it’s not going to work. As simple as that. This self-awareness has saved and changed my life. And now I know that whatever I bring resistance to it or whatever gives me negative emotions and I don’t want to do it, there is the effect of joy, pleasure, and reward that is missing – in simple words, “the dopamine is missing.” So, I keep adding it in a variety of ways so I can make all tasks that I dislike to be more fun or rewarding!
The other aspect that has helped me a lot is to create, in conscious ways, structures and techniques that work for me and support me in getting things done in the best possible way. And this is very much needed especially for the tasks or topics I totally dislike tackling and must do. Because those are the real struggles that need to be addressed, harnessed, and approached differently.
What I am also doing differently than in the past is letting go of the perfectionism on everything. Perfectionism is consuming me and eating me up. There are some stuff in life that I take great joy and pride to do them very well, and many other things that I do less well just so they are out of the way. This was not easy to change but I did it and now I feel more free.
Ok, so I need joy, I need structure, let go perfectionism in everything, and what else should be there? Inner will! This last point is the most important component that keeps me going! Having this inner flame that is pushing me to revisit things that don’t work for me so I can achieve the most fulfilling, productive, and enjoyable life possible.
ADHD and positive mindset
I understand ADHD. I have lived with ADHD all my life, even when I wasn’t aware of it. I know how the different traits show up, how they influence my day, and what to do about them so I can live my life in a way that is fully aligned with my needs and dreams.
The fact that my brain works in a “less common” way doesn’t mean I cannot achieve whatever I want. I simply need my own instruction manual. I am grateful that I found out about my ADHD (even later in life) and gave myself the gift of this awareness, which led me to appreciate even more the brave child I once was and the strong adult I am now.
Realizing my potential and amazing qualities as an ADHD human, I dedicate my life to supporting amazing individuals that are still struggling to see the best parts of themselves and make the best out of their life. Each and every ADHDer deserve that.
What I can do for you
If you need support to redesign your reality, I would be more than honored to be by your side and take you to wherever you want to go. Living with ADHD can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding when we nurture the natural gifts that come along with it!