It was just over two months ago when I felt like my life was starting to fall apart beyond what I was able to cope with. Deadlines were being missed, balls were getting dropped, my parenting and relationships seemed to be suffering, and I was generally feeling overwhelmed and miserable in ways I’d never felt before.
I have always been someone who strives to be able to do “all the things.” Part of this was a coping mechanism for an under stimulated brain. I tend to go from zero focus to hyper focus with little notice. The best description I’ve ever heard for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is that there are thirty channels but someone else is holding the remote. Doing a zillion things all of the time allows me to switch my focus incessantly while still feeling like I’m “totally normal… nothing to see here….”
It isn’t “normal” though, or at least not “neurotypical” if you want to get all fancy over here.
The truth is, I felt broken. I felt weird. I felt like nobody could relate to the storm that was going on in my head. Every day felt like a tornado.
I’d find myself pacing around my disorganized home, knowing there were a hundred things to do but not being able to even start one of them. Worse yet, my office and business stuff was essentially scattered all over my entire house. Camera equipment in every room, paperwork for the last two years that needed to be organized, unsent invoices.
I called and made an appointment with my family doctor. He’d known me for the past twelve years, surely he’d be able to help. When I went in and told him I needed to talk to him about ADHD, he seemed surprised when I told him it was about me.
After a self-reporting scale was filled out he agreed to allow me to try out a low dose of Vyvanse – a newer stimulant medication. If it made me go bonkers, we’d know that it likely wasn’t an ADHD issue, and then I’d have to figure out how to sort this out a different way.
Before you say, “Why didn’t you try something else before you took medication?!?” I did. I worked with youth with all kinds of diagnosis – MANY with ADHD – for years and years. I have lots of tools and skills, but when your mind is spinning at the speed of sound, it’s extremely difficult to consistently implement anything. I was suffering, and I needed a bigger tool to get me to the point of being able to use the rest of them. Vyvanse was not meant to be a cure all, just another tool in my toolbox that would help get me to the next level of ADHD management.
Day one was epic. I took my medication and noticed an immediate difference. That is the benefit of stimulant meds, the effect happens as soon as it is absorbed. For the first time in my life I could fold a whole load of laundry, empty the dishwasher or have a conversation without feeling like everything around me was also demanding my attention. The tornado had slowed down to a dust devil and I felt a massive sense of relief.
Fast forward to today, I’m on double the dose, and feel like I’m *almost* to where I want to be. I have another medication review coming at the end of the summer, and I am thrilled to go back to the doctor to report such positive results.
Now, I’m not much for pharmaceuticals typically, so I wanted to make sure I was staying true to myself and doing what I needed to do in order to actually use my tools now that my brain wasn’t a flurry of insanity.
I also know that staying on task is still something I struggle with, no matter how much medication I take. Having someone with me to ensure I completed things was going to be key.
In a moment of weakness, I received a friend request from someone named Anna Hopaluk. Now, it wasn’t the friend request on Facebook that got me, it was the request to like her cleaning company page. I looked around at the horrifying mess in my basement and sent her a message.
“Hi Anna, I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and I can’t even get into my office space it’s such an absolute cluttery disaster. I need help. Are you able to do that?”
After some back and forth and a few changed dates (summer is hard – we both have LOTS of kids and I live out of the city limits so she was doing me a huge favour) we managed to get a day scheduled. She showed up at my door and we immediately got to work. I was impressed with her the second I met her. Anna is a kind, friendly person with an incredible work ethic.
Anna did an exceptional job of keeping me on task, and we managed to get through the entire laundry room, set up my office space, sorted out bins that have been haunting me for twelve years, organize my crawl space, my craft storage area and clean the playroom in the basement. This all happened in 3.5 hours. In the end I filled my garbage bin, had a box of donations ready to go and I was actually able to access these spaces! I felt a huge sense of relief. Something that likely would have taken me months, took me 3.5 hours.
I don’t believe for one second that I was born with the amazing skills to do a great job cleaning and organizing things for myself, but watching the process of how Anna did it made me realize that there is truly a strategy and that it was worth every penny to have a professional come in and support me through the process. I learned a lot that day.
I am a fairly ruthless person when it comes to getting rid of things, as long as there’s a plan in place for where it will go. So being able to part with things was relatively easy for me and I was so glad to see my spaces cleared out. We are a family of six, with a new puppy, I don’t have space for clutter as every inch of this house serves an important purpose.
Essentially, the message I’m trying to get across to everyone is, get professional help for the things you believe you aren’t able to tackle alone effectively. I value my time immensely and I don’t want to waste it walking in circles trying to figure out how to complete a task that I just am not skilled enough to do well.
It’s the same reason I work with a personal trainer.
As well as the same reason I work with a business coach.
Anna is accepting new clients for cleaning in the fall, but she also will tackle your organization projects as a one off, and she’s damn good at it. She won’t stand still for even one second “Erinn, let’s get the most of your time, what’s next!” and “Erinn we only have twenty minutes left, let’s get the rest of this done!”
Find her here: www.facebook.com/myfriendanna
I also wanted to share with you the TED talk that prompted me to seek professional help for my ADHD. Her story almost could have been my story, except I coped really well until I made it to University (which I never finished).
You can watch it here: Jessica McCabe, this is what it’s really like to live with ADHD
Don’t be afraid to get the help you need. It may just change the trajectory of your life.