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ADHD: Mastery

This one is going to be long, so if you have ADHD or suspect you do, tap into that hyper focus. I want to share all I know, and I've edited out every word I didn't think I really needed to explain this to you. My website doesn't offer a weighted font, but you could copy and paste it into something that does if that helps. (It helps me to use OpenDyslexic.)

There's so much more to ADHD than I ever understood when I thought about little boys who can't sit still and interrupt teachers in class. Our brains literally look different in brain scans, and they operate differently. I learned a lot since I first learned my doctor suspected I had ADHD in 2021. As I've researched and tried new ways to manage this diagnosis, I've found some things that really work. I'm not sure that I've actually achieved ADHD mastery, but I'm getting closer.


One of the things that allowed me accept my diagnosis was learning that our response to medication differs from the typical side effects. I take a "non-drowsy" allergy medication that puts me right to sleep. Caffeine is an easily-accessible, legal stimulant that many people with ADHD use in excess because it has the opposite effect of settling us. To me, responding the opposite way to medication than you should is a pretty good indication that you actually have ADHD, but I have no medical training and this topic isn't one I've researched heavily.

Because the way I discovered I have ADHD, I learned how astoundingly helpful the effects of medication can be on my brain. The medication provided such relief. I was able to access my thoughts easily and not constantly let my family down through my forgetfulness. Because I was (unknowingly) self-medicating with caffeine, Vyvanse caused my body to feel very tense. It took a while to figure out what the problem was, but once I switched to decaf, I felt really good.

Welbutrin, and anti-depressant, is also often prescribed for ADHD. Depression is associated with ADHD. If ADHD is untreated, it can feel like no matter how hard we work, we never get things right. We're always letting someone down or not living up to our potential. That can also lead to increased anxiety because we know we're likely to forget something important and we really don't want to.

There are many other medications a doctor can prescribe. If you think you might have ADHD, it's definitely worth checking into medication.


If you're really hesitant about taking pharmaceuticals, I totally understand. Definitely not my favorite thing, although if they're needed, they can be miraculous. Allow me to introduce you to Nootropics, also known as “smart drugs”. They're a diverse group of medicinal substances whose action improves human thinking, learning, and memory, especially in cases where these functions are impaired. Many (not all) of these nootropics are made from medicinal properties in mushrooms. I first learned about them when my son with Down syndrome was younger. We learned that one called Huperzine-A, paired with Luteolin Complex, could significantly improve his cognition and growth. When I saw a massive change in him, I decided to try it myself. I was experiencing trauma-induced brain-fog that was debilitating. It took about a month before I realized how much more clearly I was thinking. I'm not recommending any one company, but if you "search it up" (as my kids like to say), you'll find lots of options.

Unique Abilities

Hyperfocus! The ability to hyper focus on something interesting is extremely helpful. That's what I do when I write! A person with ADHD can get so focused on the task at hand that they lose all track of time and forget about everything else. Attention deficit is really the wrong term. Attention regulation is really more of the issue.

Interpersonal intuition! We're able to tap into our intuition in a unique way to sense what's going on with other people. It can lead to a heightened ability to understand spiritual matters as well.

Creativity! A person with ADHD is typically very creative. When your brain doesn't work like everyone else's, you learn to be very creative about getting things done. That creativity and ability to think outside the box is what really helped me as a special needs mom.

Engaging Communicators! A person with ADHD is typically full of exuberance for life. We're also comfortable expressing our emotions and are excellent leaders. Really, the main time that ADHD is a problem is when a child with it is required to sit at a desk for eight hours a day, raise their hand when they want to speak, and do everything the same way everyone else in their class is doing it. Boring. We often want to be the one speaking, and if we're put in charge of a project, it's highly likely to be FUN!

Unique Challenges

As an adult with undiagnosed, untreated ADHD, problems can arise with impulse control, time-blindness, and inattention. For me, those issues were directly related to the inability to consistently control my impulse to eat, being 5-10 minutes late around 90% of the time, and often forgetting things no matter how hard I tried to remember. For example, I could know someone's birthday was coming up, set a reminder on my calendar, and wake up that morning excited to call them and wish them a happy birthday. But I couldn't call them at 6am, so I'd totally forget about them until I woke up the next morning and realized I hadn't called. The way I describe it is that sometimes there are blank spaces in my brain, and I know it doesn't make sense to most people, but I don't do it on purpose. I promise. I really don't.

Learning to Cope

When I began to understand the way my brain works, and the challenges that can come with it, I finally understood. I do so much better when I have someone else around to help me focus. It's called a "body double." As a teenager, it was my mom who helped me get through school. She was my body double. As a new mom of two babies, our nanny was a tremendous blessing. When I was flipping a house, writing a book, and trying to take care of three children ages six and under, having a personal assistant was my saving grace. People judged me, but no one judges a man for a having a secretary. It was a huge help! I don't currently have a consistent body double, but my husband and mother-in-law really help a lot, especially with pointing out scheduling errors to me. I still make a lot of those.

I had a few counseling sessions specifically devoted to managing ADHD, and they were very helpful. My counselor taught me how to pay attention to what was happening in my body and how it affected my brain. I became a student of myself, because often people with ADHD ignore the signals their body is sending them. I learned to ignore the signals my body sent me because they didn't allow me to fit in with my peers, and eventually there were some very bad side effects of that survival instinct and I'm working to unlearn it.

We can become overstimulated because we don't stop to deal with something that's bugging us (again, detached from our body), then explode because of a seemingly small irritation. In reality, it's actually several "small" things that we think we can manage, layered on top of one another, that bring us to that point of frustration. For example, I can get very overstimulated by noise. The older I get, the more irritated I feel by someone chewing loudly, repetitive banging, a fork scraping across a plate, or just a lot of chatter. I don't like the way earplugs make me feel removed from my environment. I'm currently trying an earplug alternative that reduces annoying noises without blocking out sound. They're hollow, silicone earplugs that help sound enter the ear canal in a different way. I started wearing them yesterday, so I don't have enough experience with them to comment more. I may come back to this post later and update it.

When I studied myself, I learned that my hands are very sensitive. It explains my extreme reaction to things like the skin on peaches when I was a kid. I hated it and would itch for hours if I touched it. I become particularly irritated if one of my nails is jagged or uneven. That seems ridiculous, so I used to tell myself I'd deal with it when I had a minute to sit down with a nail file. That might take days because I didn't want to be bothered to find a file, so I'd continue to be mildly irritated and not know why. As a mom, sitting in my quiet house, writing while the kids were at school, I'd fidget with the jagged nail. Then the kids would burst in from school. They'd be loud and want my attention. The noise and activity after so much silence overwhelmed me. I might yell at them to settle down because I can't handle the noise. Then I'd feel terrible for being a bad mom. All because I didn't stop to take care of a broken nail. I had to learn to deal with the small irritations immediately before they become huge. (There are now nail files and hand lotion everywhere in my house.)

I also learned that transitions can be hard for me. Going from a quiet house to one bursting with energy and the need for my attention is too much. It's best if I turn on some music, start making the kids a snack, and maybe even chat with someone on the phone for a few minutes before they come home. Then, their entry doesn't feel like an intrusion, but a joyful return. Understanding what my brain needs to succeed is a blessing for everyone.

I learned ways to deal with time-blindness, too. I don't always do it, but I'm working to discipline myself to get ready for my day before I sit down to do anything else. If I can just be dressed and have my hair basically in place, it eases my anxiety about where I have to be next. It also allows me the freedom to write. I can set an alarm to remind me that I have to leave in a few minutes. I've also learned to leave a few minutes early, and then I can sit in the car for a moment and prepare myself for the transition into whatever I'm doing next.

Sometimes people with ADHD have a hard time driving because they tend to lose focus and drive too fast. I'm very grateful for a father who insisted I keep my eyes on the road when he was teaching me to drive. I wasn't allowed to comment about anything I saw on the side of the road. I still follow that rule to this day, not giving much more than a glance to anything beside the road as I drive. I also use the cruise control whenever I can so I don't accidentally allow my racing mind to cause my vehicle to race.

A person with ADHD needs to keep 100% of our brain occupied so we can pay attention., so we do things like doodle in the margins of our notes. It may seem like inattention, but it's actually helping to focus on what the speaker is saying. This can be a tricky thing to balance, though. Whatever side project we're doing can't get so interesting that we lose focus on the most important thing, but no relief for boredom will likely lead to total inattention.

I use Google calendar reminders for everything. I literally live by that thing. If there's something I need to remember, I don't trust my brain to do it. I immediately stop and set up a task or reminder in my calendar. Every appointment goes in my calendar, no matter how sure I am that I'll remember it. I also include drive time to and from events, as well as reminders to eat three meals a day. I have alarms set to remind me to take my medicine, then alarms set to remind me that I likely dismissed the first reminder. For important events, I set up multiple reminders ahead of time, as well as ten- and five-minute warnings. I also keep a white-board calendar in the kitchen so my schedule is always in front of me. It helps my family keep up with the plan for the week, too.

Even though I work so hard to keep track of everything in my calendar, there are still times when I fail. Someone might say to me, "You need a better system!"

My reply is always, "My system is good, but when my brain fails to employ it correctly, it causes me trouble."

There have been times when I've entered an appointment on the wrong day of the week or even on the wrong month. At times, I've chosen PM instead of AM. Once I was in another time zone and added several things to my calendar, thinking nothing of it. Google "helpfully" adjusted the time for me when I got home, which caused me to arrive an hour late to several appointments before I figured out what was going on and changed that setting.

Lastly, I'll share about resetting your nervous system using Vagus nerve stimulation. When we get over-stimulated, we look for any way possible to calm down. For me, food worked well to soothe raw nerves. This method caused a lot of other problems though. Once I figured out why I overate and learned some new ways to calm myself, life became significantly better in multiple areas.

When I'm over-stimulated, I can quietly hum to help me relax. That tends to work as a temporary fix. If I can get some ice and put it on the inside of my wrist (where the Vagus nerve passes through), it will reset my nervous system. Other places where the Vagus nerve pass through work as well, like right behind the ear on the neck. If there's no ice, just run cold water over the inside of your wrist. If the over-stimulation is really bad, a cold plunge or cold shower works well. If you research the Vagus nerve, you can also find some less shocking things to do to help.

My title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek today. I'm not sure how much ADHD mastery I have. I'm constantly learning. For instance, I just found out that there's a private clinic nearby that does brain scans on people with ADHD to help determine the exact type (out of seven). Once they figure that out, you have a complete medical exam, checking for co-morbidities like hypermobility. Then, they look at the whole person and design a treatment plan that includes diet, exercise, supplements, and - if necessary - prescription medication. It's entirely out-of-pocket though, so I'm not sure if I'll be having a brain scan any time soon. It sounds amazing, though.

If you have ADHD hacks that work for you, please share them with the entire community by dropping them in the comments! If you think you might have ADHD, I offer ADHD coaching. Just leave a comment or send me a private message. You don't have to go through this alone.

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