Peer recovery worker Amy talks about the ADHD diagnosis wait list, and her self-help journey.
Peer recovery worker Amy has shared her ADHD self-help journey with us...
Due to the current wait being 6 years for an ADHD assessment, as well as ADHD medication being in a worldwide shortage, the need for self-help strategies is so needed and important. I do also believe it is important to raise that even on medication, I still need to use self-help tools daily to manage my symptoms.
When a symptom of ADHD arises for me during the day, whether it be running late for an appointment or getting overstimulated on a Friday evening after a busy week, there are three steps that I use to help me. These steps are self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-compassion and I can safely say these three steps work so well for my ADHD symptoms.
Surrounding yourself with accepting individuals:
I am a big believer in surrounding yourself with people that support you and accept you for who you are rather than the person that is masking their symptoms to try and fit in. Not only is doing this all the time exhausting but it always made me feel never fully accepted, because I felt people weren’t accepting me, there were accepting this persona I had created for them by masking and copying their behaviour to fit in and be accepted.
I realise now that I never felt accepted because I was never being me, whereas now I have a small circle of friends who I can be my true authentic self around and not mask when I am in their company. This has really helped me feel accepted and develop my self-acceptance.
Listening to and reading others lived experience of ADHD:
I have found listening and reading about others lived experience of ADHD so beneficial to strengthen my self-acceptance. I have read books based around lived experience of ADHD (I highly recommend the book ‘Dirty Laundry’) and will read posts on Instagram based around ADHD, which I find helpful as I feel it is so relatable and makes me feel less alone in my own experiences.
Another support would be peer groups as getting to discuss lived experience in person with others who share that lived experience is so validating. Within my job role I have started an ADHD programme in the hopes to help others feel more accepted and use this tool of sharing lived experience as a way of supporting other individuals.
I have found that every time a symptom or a situation I find myself in is starting to have a negative impact it really helps to understand why this happens. Not only does this mean I now understand the reason for what is happening, but also this means I can develop self help strategies to overcome this for the future, which leads nicely into my next step of self-awareness.
Putting in place preventative measures for me not getting too overwhelmed with my ADHD symptoms and the negative impact that these can have on day-to-day life has been effective. There are many things that I have started to implement to prevent my overwhelm, such as journalling, getting fresh air regularly, not taking on too much on at work, or not making too many social plans.
Another method I have started implementing, which has helped with preventing myself getting to the point of overwhelm is a daily check in after work. I will sit down and pause for 5-10 minutes at the end of my workday and reflect on how I am feeling and how depleted my mental battery is feeling.
If it is under 60%, I will investigate this further and write a plan of action on how to increase my battery level that evening, as well as how I can work more beneficially the next day to make sure I do not end up with lower battery levels the next day.
I can safely say it would be unrealistic to say that I would never experience overwhelm again due to the impact of my ADHD symptoms. However, I am now more mindful of what works better for me when I do reach the point of overwhelm.
A lot of the preventative measures can also be used for reducing overwhelm, such as journaling and getting some fresh air. I do feel that it isn’t a one size fits all situation as it can differ so much from person to person, but for me personally when I do reach the point of feeling overwhelmed, I like to go for a walk along the beach and journal to help me regulate my emotions and feelings again. I have learned that when I reach the point of overwhelm it is important to stop and just pause to assess what I am feeling.
Is it anger or frustration? Am I feeling upset or am I feeling anxious? This helps me to know how to help myself to feel better, as for example if I am feeling frustrated, I know going to the beach and getting out in the fresh air makes me feel like my headspace is clearer and reduces my frustration. However, if I am feeling upset and low, I know I need a safe space to let out this emotion and therefore will go to my bedroom and let myself release my emotions in this environment.
Another example is that when I am feeling anxious, I will do some cold-water exposure therapy to instantly reduce the anxiety followed by some breathing techniques to further reduce the feelings of anxiety.
I feel that learning your triggers is such an important part of learning self-awareness. Not only does this help prevent me from getting to the point of overwhelm, but it helps me feel more in control and have a better understanding of myself. ADHD can really make me feel like I have such little control over my emotions and how I am so knowing and identifying my triggers has been such a big help for me.
I have been able to identify some triggers for my symptoms getting worse and my main triggers are:
Not only does it mean I can put in place adaptations to my week such as making fewer social plans and more self-care but having that understanding for why I suddenly feel so incredibly different is so helpful. Having that insight for when it is going to happen and why it is happening helps reduce that self-criticism and me ruminating over how bad I feel, due to me now knowing that it will just be for a few days, and I won’t feel this way forever.
I always feel better after doing this and of course there are so many benefits to mental health for getting outdoors in nature and getting moving so it is no surprise that this one is a trigger for me to feel overwhelmed if I go a day or two without outdoor movement, I can really tell.
Self-compassion is the last step that I take to manage my ADHD. Once I have accepted the symptoms or situation and investigated why I am feeling that way and either worked at preventing it from happening again and reducing the negative impact, I will then make sure to be self-compassionate.
The ways I have found this to be most useful would be:
Reducing negative self-talk and replacing this with compassionate self-talk is such a great form of self-compassion, due to it being beneficial to you in the moment in need, but also due to it being like a muscle and the more it is used the stronger it gets and the more you can use it.
Whenever I find myself starting to feel overwhelmed, I will make sure to speak kindly to myself by saying something simple like it is okay that I am feeling this way, and it is because of my ADHD. Another method I use if I find myself not speaking compassionate to myself, is to think how I would talk to my best friend.
What would I say to my best friend if they were going through the same situation as my right now?
So, I did the love language quiz online and found that my primary love language is ‘Acts of Service’ and my secondary love language is ‘Gift receiving/buying’. I now make sure to implement both and give myself a form of self-love every day. One thing to note is that I don’t buy myself expensive things and will typically buy myself something a couple of times a week, but it could be buying myself a hot chocolate or a low-cost bunch of flowers.
Also, for the ‘acts of service’ I will make sure to do things for my future self and this really helps for things I would normally find difficult such as cleaning and tidying. I know I am doing an act of service for myself as there is nothing more I love then relaxing in a clean and tidy room. Also, I will do things like cook myself dinner, which can be a hard task to achieve sometimes, however I now know I am doing this as a form of self-love by cooking myself a delicious meal to enjoy.
However, for me personally I really enjoy just relaxing and watching my favourite comfort shows on Netflix with a hot drink and snacks. It doesn’t always need to be a fancy bubble bath and an extensive skin care routine, although I do enjoy doing this sometimes, it isn’t always manageable or realistic.
These are all my top tips that I have found to have helped me manage my ADHD better now and due to the medication shortage currently, I have been needing to use these a lot more as I no longer have access to my medication for another month or two.
Also, due to it being different for everyone you may find it useful to adapt and tweak these 3 steps to make sure they are the most beneficial to you as well. Self-help can be difficult to be consistent with, but even when I struggle with it I make sure to still be accepting of that, aware of why it is a struggle and compassionate that I am struggling.
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