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Breaking habits

The experience of recognising and treating ADHD has been a weird one in many ways for me. I’ve always been masking my “imperfections” with rigid perfectionism and so the full scale of my struggle has been practically invisible for the most of my life. The hallmark signs of attention deficiency and hyperactivity such as impulsivity and poor academic performance were never present. Quite the contrary actually, I’ve always been viewed as a responsible, smart and mature person.

So, when my treatment began, two things happened simultaneously: I experienced a relief in my symptoms and I started to appear more like a person with ADHD on the outside. In fact, I probably seem more hyperactive now than I ever did before, and you might wonder how this can be called successful ADHD treatment.

This is how I see it.

  1. Acceptance - instead of expending vast amount of energy to mask traits that I feel society or my friends and family would disapprove of, I’ve started to accept that maybe I’m not supposed to be the golden straight A’s girl forever. Sure, I am smart and academic but being a good student, quiet and demure, isn’t a mould that has to fit me, especially since I haven’t been in school in over a decade. I’m still very perfectionistic in terms of whatever I do but I’m starting to let go of thinking I must also be a certain type of person to be good enough.

  2. Confidence - as the effects of the medication have kicked in and enabled me to actually focus on whatever I need to be focusing on, my perception of my own abilities has skyrocketed. Feeling capable and not at the mercy of my whims and irregular motivations has done wonders for my self-esteem and self-confidence. The realisation that I can plan a schedule for a day or a week and stick to it was mind-blowing. Actually wanting to plan ahead - outright ludicrous! I told my psychiatrist, that I feel like now I can trust myself. I can trust my future self so my present self no longer has to do everything all at once and burn out.

  3. Support - from the start I’ve had my friends’ and family’s unwavering support, and as I progress on this journey of self-discovery, they have remained accepting, engaged and encouraging. I have multiple people reminding me to take a break and eat when I get so engrossed in a project that I lose track of time. Some of my more annoying traits like zoning out mid-conversation, being late or suddenly needing complete and utter alone-time, are hopefully less annoying now that I can talk about them in the context of ADHD and the Autism spectrum.

All of this has allowed me to break up with some unhelpful habits and routines that I’ve unwittingly developed to maintain an illusion of control in my life. For example, for a couple of years, my daily routine has been like this: wake up, work, exercise, more work, go for a walk, curl up on the sofa to do something creative or play video games, sleep.

But a couple of days ago, after work and a quick snack, I went down to the beach and went swimming. I know this is such a tiny thing, but it felt huge.

I think what it boils down to is that increasingly I’m trying to do things because I want to and not because it’s what I’m used to. And funny enough, that feels more like control than following those old habits that I subconsciously put in place to trick myself to thinking I was in control.

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