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Dealing With ADHD and Anxiety And Becoming a Happier Me

“My immune system became very weak and I was sick nearly every week. Then, when I did feel better, my resting heart rate was so high I could hardly workout without worrying about my safety. On top of that, I started having issues with anxiety around people and new situations and began having panic attacks at night.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hello! My name is Rachel Eileen and I live in Portland, Oregon.

I am currently a college student and am studying to be a Registered Dietitian. My goal is to help people learn how to eat in ways that nourish their bodies and keep them feeling good and energized all day! After college, I hope to start my own Dietetics consulting business. 

Day to day, you can find me going to my college classes or getting a lift in at my gym. When I have free time I love to hike, read, bike, and see my friends. I also am blessed to have an amazing best friend that I get to travel with every 6 months. 

I am so proud to say that I am happy! This isn’t something that came easy though, it took doubling down on my ADHD and processing past trauma with a huge mindset shift, lifestyle changes, and making myself a priority to get there. 

As you will hopefully find out, these huge changes are completely doable – but it takes time and effort, and I hope reading my story helps you as you write yours!

💡 By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. 👇

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I was diagnosed with ADHD quite late, as it often is for women. I had just graduated high school at 18 and was about to start a big chapter of my life at college. 

Right away I was put on Adderall and began trying to find a balance on my medication. The first few months were great – I was more focused than I had ever been and had a ton of energy. 

But, little did I know that over time Adderall can start to impact your heart rate, change the microbiome of your gut, and maybe a cause of anxiety. 

Over time, I became dependent on the medication to get anything done, and these side effects got worse and worse.

My immune system became very weak and I was sick nearly every week. Then, when I did feel better, my resting heart rate was so high I could hardly workout without worrying about my safety. On top of that, I started having issues with anxiety around people and new situations and began having panic attacks at night. 

I became scared that working out (something that I love!) could put me in serious danger and I was so anxious that I was afraid to make new friends or try new things in my new college home. 

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

At my worst, I felt very isolated and lonely. I felt like I was stuck and that I would never get to a place health-wise where I would feel good and be able to focus without medication. I thought how I felt then was forever. 

I often had panic attacks at night and would pace around my dorm or go on long walks in the middle of the night because I felt so anxious. My roommates would watch me pace or leave for a walk and would ask me if I was alright. 

One day, it really hit me that things were bad when I walked on the treadmill at a low speed for only about 5 minutes and my heart rate jumped to 160 (crazy high for someone as active as I was at the time!). After seeing my doctor, I had to start carrying an oximeter around and needed to stop exercising. 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I was home for spring break from college and went to see my doctor. She was shocked when my resting heart rate read 125 from just sitting. As she started listing her concerns about this it really hit me that I was in a bad spot.

I asked myself, was I in actual danger from taking Adderall? The only thing that has ever helped me to focus and do well in school?

The answer was yes. 

I needed to get to a place where I could work out, feel good, not get sick, and focus without the aid of the drug. 

After this point, I changed everything and was desperate to learn about ways I could improve. I would say the changes following this point were 80 percent due to my own actions, and 20 percent chance situations. 

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

The first step I took to make big changes in my health and my happiness was getting off my medication. This included Adderall and my birth control. These were both playing huge impacts on my gut – which is directly related to our immune system and our happiness. 

While my body spent time cooling off from the Adderall (It took 6 months of being off it for my heart rate to return to normal), I spent time learning everything I could about diet and our digestive system’s role in our health. 

I read books, listened to podcasts, spoke to people at my gym, and tried a mirage of supplements. You can find the resources I found most helpful listed later in this interview. 

I also stepped into the world of mediation and spent a lot of time journaling about my struggles, processing emotions, and reflecting on how my journey was going. 

Over time, my health drastically improved. I started seeing big changes in my skin, my gut, and my mood. I felt really consistent and was in awe of life and much more appreciative of the world around me.

I could even start focusing better and the panic attacks and anxiety slowly went away, and on top of that, I haven’t been ‘lay in bed’ sick since I started this journey. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

At first, I wasn’t very open about my struggles and kept it to myself. But as I healed and felt better, I started realizing I had a lot of experiences other people were going through and I wanted to help. 

Now, I make a point to try to speak about my situation despite it being uncomfortable at first. I think that a lot of people have been or are in the spot I used to be and that I have a lot of resources that could help someone. 

If putting myself out there and sharing my story helps even one person, then that is enough for me. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

The place where you started is not the place you have to be. 

Understanding that everything can be improved upon in some way makes a huge difference. If you feel stuck in terms of your health, your body or your mindset, I urge you to spend time reading and learning about whatever you want to improve on. 

Oftentimes, a fresh idea or perspective can give you something new to try that just might help you. And if not, at least you learned something!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Lifespan by David Sinclair – This book is a great read if you want to learn how to take care of your body and gut in the long run. David Sinclair is very knowledgeable and writes well. If you’ve ever wondered why we age, this is your next read. There is also a podcast interview on the Huberman Lab with David Sinclair which is very helpful. 

The Energy Paradox by Dr. Steven R Gundry – If you are struggling to stay focused and energized all day (aka you are just tired and don’t know why your body feels the way it does), you have to read this. Steven Gundry has a ton of medical experience and covers everything about fasting, finding good food, and how to balance it in manageable ways. 

Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch – Another great book about diet and health. This book takes a symptoms-specific look into how to adjust your diet to manage ADHD, anxiety, and numerous other conditions. There are great questionnaires you fill out to see what you should focus on. 

Still Running by Vanessa Zuisei Goddard – A book about meditation in life. Specifically about running and meditation, but applicable to all aspects of life. Meditation did a lot for me on my journey and I urge you to check this book out if you struggle with anxiety.

One Hundred Daffodils by Rebecca Winn – This is a beautifully written book that follows a woman’s story of growth and processing emotions. Very well written and is a great book to induce thought-provoking questions about what’s important in life. 

Where can we go to learn more about you?

With a new drive and love for life, I have been writing everything about my story and tips and tricks about life on my blog

Feel free to check it out and shoot me an email if you have any questions or just want to connect. I hope my story has helped you – even just a little!

💡 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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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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