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5 traits I never realised are related to ADHD until I was diagnosed, and how I manage them.

The more I accept my ADHD traits and stop pushing and hustling, connecting with my highest vision and allowing myself to act from there, the more calm and relaxed I feel. This is an enormous leap of faith. I go up and down with it, some days the old habit kicks in hard, to doubt myself and to hustle, out of fear that I am not going to be able to live an independent, fearless and powerful life. That I will not achieve what I want to achieve and will forever be not seen. These days are rough, and all the old pain comes up. Often I spend a lot of time in tears on these days, and I can’t do much at all, which makes me feel even more inadequate.

But I am seeing that even this is a gift, to be still and give the time to myself that I need, and that the deep pain I feel within is actually drawing me to really listening to myself. To see myself, first and foremost. To allow myself to see the old patterns of not accepting myself and to release them. This is relevant to anyone, because we all ignore ourselves at times, and abuse ourselves for not living up to some external standard. But it is particularly challenging for those with ADHD traits, and also the traits of CPTSD or trauma. We can be so unkind to ourselves as we try to achieve the success we see others around us achieving in so many areas with ease. We can be left wondering why is it so hard for us, as we try to push ourselves to be like everyone else, abusing ourselves again.

Understanding that I do this, and recognising it when it happens, allows me to start to feel empowered again. When I find acceptance within myself and love for for these traits which can make ‘success’ feel so much more challenging, I start to find things flow again in ways that are surprising. With this deeper understanding of myself, and with the help of some teachers, and mentors, I am understanding not see these traits as a disability, but rather as a blessing, which if I allow to be what they are and don’t try to push myself, I can actually slow myself down, live more fully, and create a life the way I want it. A life which is truly magical and fucking free of the rules and timelines of others. And most importantly a life where I can say what I feel needs to be said, express what needs to be expressed, and create love and beauty in the world.

So here are some examples of traits that I experience which can be a real barrier in ‘normal’ world, and some of the unhelpful ways I have negotiated them, and how I negotiate them now.

1: Difficulty transitioning. When I was a child I would spend an hour or more in the bath, then sit with a towel around me for an hour, sometimes shivering, before I finally got dressed. Waking up was always extremely difficult and still now I have to coax myself to get up out of bed, usually after some time laying awake. Any new purchase or technical adaptation is incredibly challenging for me. It takes me a long time to a-climatise to the new process, so often I will stay with the old thing for as long as I possibly can. That is why I am typing on a 2013 mac book pro! The examples are endless. Probably relating to low or unstable dopamine levels in my brain. This can lead me to freeze up and end up not doing anything. It can mean my productivity level is lowered. And yet in so many instances through my life, I have also managed this by forcing myself to push through. Literally shutting down my heart and making myself do something with no sensitivity towards myself and my needs or self care. Abusing myself basically. But ironically, ending up spinning my wheels not really achieving the results I desire and alienating people along the way. Ugh.

So how do I negotiate this now? Well, one of the biggest tools I use, and probably this is also very helpful for CPTSD too, is that I sweet talk myself. I talk gently and kindly to myself, ‘OK darling, good job, you had a good sleep, well done! Time to get up now. That’s the way, up you get. You’re going to feel good if you get things done. That’s the way. Up you get! Good girl!

Yep. That’s what I do. And it works. I guess it gives me perhaps a dopamine hit from recognising the achievement, and also retrains some serious programming where I was very very hard on myself. As part of this, I really try to listen to myself, and leave an activity when I feel in my body it is enough, and I also acknowledge myself when I have completed something. ‘Good girl you did a good job darling, go you, yay!’ Then I strike it off my to do list, which gives a dopamine hit. I then give myself time to prepare for the next transition towards the next task. This might be a cup of tea, or can often be taking a walk before I move to the next item on my to do list. ‘Ok, go for a walk now darling, then you can do the next thing… good girl…’

2: Distraction. I don’t know how I didn’t pick this up earlier. I guess I tried so hard to pretend it wasn’t happening. I masked it, trying to pretend that I am efficient and get lots done.  Masking is a trait I will also talk about here also. But in truth my brain ping pongs around all over the place. I am writing and I will suddenly stop and check facebook. Someone has tagged me in a comment. I will respond to thus comment. Then keep checking as the comments flow, responding and getting emotionally involved in something I had no intention of doing. I get up repeatedly as a write and pace. I check emails half task and you know where that vortex goes. The distraction can be any fucking thing. A noise in the street. A thought which suddenly leads me to look up something on google. Something which catches my eye and takes me completely in another direction.

Yeah we all do this, but I tell you, like other ADHD’ers, I do it more than most people. How do I know this? Because of the level of results I have been able to consistently achieve in the past, and from my observations of how others work. I used to feel quite ashamed of it, when others would say ‘oh, no I never look at facebook while I am working’ hehe. I used to be so hard on myself about it. What the fuck is wrong with me that I can’t just focus?

So how do I negotiate this one now? Well, since I started wearing headphones a lot, this has helped enormously. Because it cuts out sound distraction. Sometimes I don’t have anything playing, but still it helps. But there are things I listen to also which can be very helpful to keep focus. Meditations, affirmations, subliminals, depending on the task I am doing. And also, I am kind to myself. I give myself leeway. Sometimes the distractions are productive too. I try to write down ideas or if I get a flow of writing come out of nowhere, I try to capture it. So much bloody writing in bits and dribs but sometimes it is useful, or even a seed for a new work. So I try not to block it when it comes. And once again, I talk to myself. ‘Ok darling, that’s enough now. Bring your focus back. That’s right. Good girl. Now where were we?’ Yup. That’s what I do.

3: Masking: Oh gawwwwd I made myself so exhausted doing this for so long. Working so hard to keep focussed on a conversation in a busy environment, say for example a networking environment, but finding myself disassociating. Would I excuse myself and say ‘sorry I need to get some air’? No, I would stay and tried so hard to keep focussed. Only I would no longer be focussed on the conversation, I would be focussed instead on my intense effort to stay focussed. And trying to appear normal and look like I am focussing. Maintaining eye contact. Responding at the right moments. Then, if there’s a hook I could relate to, I’d quickly share that, to stimulate myself to stay engaged. Which might have come across that I was bringing the topic back to myself. This wouldn’t happen with all interactions, but many, many times over the years, this was my experience, and probably still as I learn to live in a different way and not fall into this pattern. I am aware I have left people feeling not heard by me, or even alienated by me, which is not what you want in a networking environment right?

Or a socialising environment. I have to say I am blessed with many friends who don’t judge me. But still, I can feel that I am masking and it is painful and exhausting. I am not masking I talk about very serious and intense topics which can just be too much for other people sometimes. So I try to tone it down, so I don’t overwhelm others, and there I am masking again!

So how do I negotiate this one? Well this is still evolving, but one reason my diagnosis and recognising the ADHD traits in myself is so helpful is because it has allowed me to more and more let myself off the hook. In fact I am less interested in networking or socialising now and more interesting in connecting deeply with myself. So I can be in a busy place, theoretically, and in my own connected space and quite OK. And then, some people will approach me, and it feels natural and it’s coming from a place of ease. I may even talk about this topic with them. Whatever comes up. As my behaviour is more in alignment with my truth, it’s getting easier, and I am getting less intense about it also. And afterwards, yes, I sweet talk myself. Good girl, you did well. You did a good job at just being yourself. That was challenging for you, and you did brilliantly. You even had a great conversation with that person and they are interested in your work. Yay darling you are a goddess. Ooh look at the moon!

4: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: When I first heard this term, I cried. So that’s what that is. The presumption that others won’t like me, like my ideas, be open to my processes, don’t trust me, ridicule me. I thought it was from trauma. Because I definitely had these things instilled within my family life (which was indeed neurodivergent, but also, like many of you, had major intergenerational trauma patterns being re-enacted). But viewing this propensity of mine as an ADHD trait has been incredibly helpful because it helps me to not believe it, to see it just as a trait, and to be kind to myself about the fact that I think that. In certain situations I can make a joke about it:

Hahaha, my rejection dysphoria means I feel a little anxious sharing this with you hahaha.

Ya, it’s a tough one because if our thoughts and feelings create our reality, as many, many amazing spiritual teachers tell us, the ADHD trait of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is a real handicap. Not everyone on the spectrum experiences it but I sure do. I will write a detailed blog about this down the track. But, for now, and up until now, how do I negotiate it? Well, I talk to myself. Kindly. Yup. Hey darling, that is your rejection dysphoria talking. Don’t believe it. Don’t take it seriously. It’s just trying to keep you safe. It’s just your brain trying to protect you. Thank you Brain. Thank you for trying to protect me. But I am OK. And I care less and less care about what others think of me now. I don’t rely on them for my survival. In fact I need to free myself from the opinions of others if I am to not only survive, but thrive. So it’s OK. You express your self in just the way that comes naturally to you. And see how you feel afterwards. That’s the way. Ahhhhhhhhh, good girl. You are doing great. Now switch on that affirmation hypnosis track through your headphones.

5: Stimming. Well, for as long as I can remember I have scratched away the labels of drink bottles and jars, rolled them up into tiny little balls then arranged them in patterns on the table. I shredded paper napkins up, rolled each shred into a ball or spiral and then placed it carefully in a pattern. I have always turned everything into a song, just to keep myself stimulated, which probably drove my kids nuts but now they laugh about it. Henry, a young man on the autism spectrum who I mentor says he notices how I do it with my hair. I twiddle it and roll it. I plait it and un-plait it. I pull at it and twirl the curls around my finger. I always thought it was because I wasn’t happy with my curls. That I was just grooming, hoping they would finally do what I wanted them to do. But no. I am stimming. With a lack of dopamine in my brain, these little actions are an effort to give stimulation to myself.  To keep myself engaged in the conversation or event. And how do I negotiate it… well, I don’t worry about it to be honest. There’s way more important things to worry about. If I did, I guess I would be masking. Probably the thing I can say is, I just let myself off the hook. I walk around the garden if I need to. I take leave when I want to. I try to observe myself and my actions more and more so I am not unconscious. And, well, when I can, I talk kindly to myself. And to others. We talk about these things. Because I am around people more and more who I don’t have to hide these traits from. I can just be myself around. Because I am free to choose. To choose my life. To choose to accept myself. To not choose situations which aren’t loving. Where there is judgement. Or competitiveness. I choose me, and that, my dears, is how I negotiate all of these traits. I don’t need the approval of anyone to share my truth.

And now that I have finished this article, I am going to speak kindly to myself. You did a great job. Good work, you did it, yayyyyy good girl.

Big love

Oh, above is my ADHD Boss Babe T-shirt. You can see that and other items in my shop on Etsy. I really appreciate any support.

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