Hello! Who are you?
When you live in a small rural town like I have, the isolation you feel can feel overpowering. In those small towns, every action and word is judged, and when you are constantly judged and belittled, you are filled with doubt, hopelessness, and emptiness. Let's step back a few steps, I forgot to introduce myself.
Hi, my name’s Lydia, I'm a young adult who has been diagnosed with Autism and ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety disorder, depression, and C-PTSD.
I know what you're thinking, wow that's a lot of damage, and what I can say is simple. When you get your shiny new diagnosis, they don't tell you about other things like executive dysfunction, imposter syndrome, or that you are prone to other things.
I've had to face my dyslexia head-on more and more as an adult. I'm a graphic designer who specializes in ad design, so spelling is kind of important.
In facing my dyslexia I've had to come to terms with my self-doubts and insecurities of not being like everyone else. It's hard to feel happy when it's your own head calling you a failure.
Since then I've been researching ways to help me feel better, and improve in all aspects of life. I know my journey is not complete, but when you've been dealing with all of this stuff since you were five, you tend to pick things up.
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What is your struggle and when did it start?
For my whole life, I've been struggling with Autism and ADHD. Do you know the scene in Bluey where Jack forgets his hat? That was my entire childhood. Forgetting things and being criticized about them, going through the destroy-build-destroy phase, and having zero emotional control.
Later in life, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).
What I deal with is exhausting. Have you ever forgotten where you put your keys, or what you were going to say? That would happen to me at least 5 times in a morning. It's not a big problem when it's your keys, but it's a major problem if it's a person.
When I got my diagnosis when I was a child, my doctor at the time told me by adulthood I'd grow out of it. I'm here to tell you that's a load of BS. I struggle with my symptoms just as much as I did as a child, the only difference is I had more help when I was younger.
There is just more help out there for children with ADHD. Wanna know something else that no one tells you? The coping system you have as a child will not help you. So not only do you have to work twice as hard as your peers, but you get to learn new coping skills…yaaaaeee (I hope you noticed the sarcasm).
How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?
Besides affecting my time management, my organization, and my work-life balance, Autism & ADHD also affected my social life. I was so lonely as a kid because I was different and weird. You have to remember, I had no impulse control and would just say and do whatever I was thinking about.
When you are a kid in school, your peers don't see someone with a disability, they see a weirdo. What hurts the most is no matter how hard I tried to fit in, it never worked. I had many peers tell me to kill myself in high school (Zack Coble, I'm calling you out), or in middle school everyone would run away from where I was hanging at.
During those years I had friends, but since I struggle with object permanence, I would forget they exist until I saw or talked to them again. Growing up I felt so isolated from my peers, parents, and teachers. In the first grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Hill, she had no idea how to handle someone with my disability.
Instead of researching and trying to find a way to help, she taped a box on the floor. In front of the whole class, she told me that this was the only place I could be, I was not allowed to get up at all.
Not only did my peers now have another reason to pick on me, my needs were not being met and now she had an even better excuse to ignore me. From that point on I never told another teacher I was struggling, cause if abuse is one teacher's response, the rest would be worse.
People knew I was struggling with ADHD and still, I was given no help. I finally was given help in college. So yes people knew, they just didn't care.
I started masking and trying to hide it in high school, so much so that now as a young adult I have no idea who I am as a person.
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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?
College is when it started to turn around. It's only just now realized by schools and parents that we need more help than most. And it's not just that I can't focus, or I'm not trying hard enough. Trust me, we are trying just as hard, if not harder. My struggle is still impacting me, my boyfriend doesn't understand what I'm living with. That the same things he likes, my passion for the small stuff, and how excited I get also comes with the bad stuff.
When you have Autism & ADHD it's not about curing it or getting rid of it, it's about learning how to live with it. Just like if you were blind you have other things that will help mitigate your symptoms like using a whiteboard to remember stuff, keeping things that you need on you at all times, doing tasks by timer, finding an organization method that helps you and caters towards your specific needs.
What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?
With Autism and ADHD, it's not about overcoming it. Trust me, I've tried for years.
It's about learning to live with it. You first have to accept the fact no matter how you try to mask it, it's going to be there. What helped me in the beginning was being faithful in taking my medicine. When I was younger, I was on a new ADHD med each year until I hit 12. Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera, name brand after brand, I've been on them all.
I stopped treatment at 12 because it all felt hopeless, I was either sick, a zombie, or both. I've recently been treating my Autism and ADHD with Vyvanse and that has been the only thing to not give me a negative response.
Now, medicine alone is not enough. Lucky for you, I've got a bunch of coping skills that can help. I've put them in list format to help:
- Set your alarm across the room and make it very obnoxious. Trust me, it will annoy you enough to overpower it. You also can't doom scroll in bed if your phone isn't near you.
- Set your medication by your alarm, coffee pot, or in your car. As long as you're medication is where you plan to be first thing in the morning. As soon as you wake up you're going to remember to take them. Some people say to put them by your bed. I actually don't like that because it makes my executive dysfunction worse.
- Get up earlier than when you need to. I get up a full hour and 30 minutes earlier before I actually head to work to give myself time to settle, time for my medication to kick in, and just for myself to prepare mentally for the day because it takes a lot of energy.
- Have a set time you have to be in bed. People who struggle with ADHD and Autism tend to have DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome). We just tend to wake up and go to bed later than everyone else. If we listen to our natural signs we are going to go to bed super late and get up super late. My set time to go to bed is 10:30 PM.
- No sugar for an hour and 30 minutes before bed. I know the recommendation is an hour but I just recommend adding the extra 30 minutes.
- Always keep your important stuff on you at all times: my phone, keys, headphones, and cups literally never leave my sight.
- The bulkier the item, the easier to find. If you love your slim phone, I'm sorry but you're going to need to get a clunky case. No, neon cases don't work. If it's on a flat surface good luck finding it. If you have a big ass OtterBox on it, it will not blend into the countertop. Same with car keys. The more shite you have on it, the easier it is to see.
- If you lose something, look in the fridge. A good chunk of the time what we are looking for is food. We were hungry when we lost it, there's a good chance that it's nearby food.
- If you can't find it, look in unusual places. I have found my phone on top of the fridge, on the mower, a fence post, under my bed, in my laundry basket, and the weirdest on my grandpa's old tack room. What is common in all these places? My mind was somewhere else.
- Find a job that is best for you and your disability. If you want to be an engineer and you have ADHD, it may not be the best career for you. I'm not going to say you can't because I'm sure there are many people with ADHD that are amazing engineers. It is just going to be exponentially harder. People with ADHD like change. Change makes dopamine go fast.
Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?
I've only shared my struggle with my family and my therapist. Since I faced bullying and public ridicule, until recently I've never felt comfortable sharing it with someone else.
If you're like me and tend to hold on to all of your problems, I recommend talking to a therapist. They're very open-minded. It's a lot easier to talk to someone open-minded whenever you're learning to talk about it.
When I was younger, here's what helped: soup breathing. It's a pretty simple exercise and hell, I use it to this day. I don't use it to calm myself down, but more to treat my anxiety when it gets a little too scary.
The first step is you inhale. Then you just blow out like you're trying to cool some soup off. So take a big deep breath. Hold it for like 4 seconds and then blow out through an o-shaped mouth until you're out of air and keep doing that.
For the longest time, teachers and school counselors would make me uncomfortable talking about my struggles. They would always be quick to pass it off as me not trying hard enough or I'm just being lazy. They never seemed to understand. I was asking them for help. They always thought I just wanted to complain.
I had many teachers tell me that everyone else had it just as hard as I did. They didn't want to learn what it's like to be me. I remember going to the school counselors about genuine issues I'm having with teachers because they weren't respecting my needs and being told that I was simply being overdramatic.
If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?
Don't be afraid of taking medicine. For the longest time, I hated the idea of taking medication. Not only from bad experiences but feeling like I can't do anything without it. It's okay to feel like that but don't let it be the reason you don't at least try it.
Also, asking for help is okay. I know you don't want to feel like you’re a burden to those you love, but trust me, your loved ones would rather help you than follow behind your coffin. If you feel like you’re alone and don't have anyone to talk to, I recommend the Reddit subreddit r/ADHD.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?
Where can we go to learn more about you? (Links to social media, website, etc)
💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇
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