They’re not a panacea, but they sure have helped in a lot of ways
I was diagnosed with ADHD and started medication in October 2019, so I’ve been taking them for a little more than two years now (cautionary note: I take stimulants in consultation with my doctor, and take them exactly as prescribed).
While I have made clear that ADHD meds are not a magic cure-all (nor do I want them to be), for some people, they can improve the quality of our lives.
I was reflecting ways my life has changed over the past year, and I discovered five things I am able to do now that I wasn’t fully able to do before.
This will not come to a surprise to anyone who knows me: I am most decidedly not a patient person. I freely admit to this.
ADHD meds haven’t really changed that, except I can often enjoy quiet activities that may require long periods of concentration. For example, I now enjoy working on huge lego sets with my son, or putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle.
5) Arts and crafts
This one genuinely surprised me. I’ve always thought I hated art and would avoid it at all costs, especially crafts. Similar to my previous experiences with puzzles, the fine motor skills, patience, and attention to detail required drove me nuts.
It turns out I like some forms of visual arts, like painting. I will never be a famous painter, but I enjoy it now. I actually find it relaxing rather than boring or tedious. Sometimes I even make something that looks half decent!
4) Increased self-awareness
I remember reading that for people who are both Autistic and ADHD, they sometimes recognize their autism only after their ADHD has been treated.
Researchers have posited that inattentive and hyperactive symptoms might be camouflaging (masking) social and communication difficulties or repetitive behaviours and interests. It would make sense then, that if inattentive and hyperactive ADHD symptoms are reduced, autistic traits may become more apparent.
I also find that my internal hyperactivity — racing thoughts, like mental popcorn, with my ideas and train of thought bouncing all over the place — has calmed down somewhat. This has allowed my brain to slow down enough to notice things I previously missed, and to become more aware of myself.
For example, I previously had little idea that I have sensory issues and sensitivities. I would become irritable after socializing or being in a loud or busy environment for a period of time, and thought I was just a person who became irritable easily — well, that may be the case, but now I know why!
I get overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, which is what was causing me to feel cranky. Now that I understand that about myself, I can usually take steps to reduce the impact, or prevent this from happening. I have noise-cancelling headphones and recognize that when I start to feel annoyed or grumpy, I need to take a break.
3) Strategy games
I used to think I didn’t have the attention span for games requiring long-view strategy. My husband has always enjoyed playing strategic games such as Catan and chess, and over the past couple years our son has developed a keen interest as well.
I would try to play, but would lose interest halfway through, or make impulsive moves and end up getting my butt kicked.
I’ll never be a chess master, but I can now sit through a full chess game without losing interest or losing focus. I still make some bad moves, but that’s more a lack of practice than anything else, I am much less impulsive.
I honestly had no idea that I stimmed, or that my body wanted and needed to stim. I did little things that most people do, including many neurotypicals, like biting my fingernails, cracking my knuckles, and chewing on pen lids.
Since my ADHD has been treated, and I’ve begun the conscious process of unmasking, I’ve noticed myself stimming a lot more and finding it very pleasurable and calming.
I do a lot more tappy fingers, cricket feet (rubbing my feet together), hand flapping, and finger wiggling. I also notice myself swaying or rocking. I tend to sway when I’m feeling anxious, like when I’m overstimulated and can’t leave the environment, and tend to rock gently when I’m feeling relaxed and am concentrating.
I don’t know if this change is because I was self-conscious about stimming before and suppressed it, or that I was in such hyperactive overdrive — both physically and mentally — that I didn’t realize my body needed to move in these ways.
Probably a bit of both.
1) Research and write consistently
I’ve been writing since 2017, mostly blog posts for my businesses. I would go a long period of time without posting anything, and then write a series of blogs in a short period of time.
I wrote, but inconsistently. I was also more impulsive. I would finish a rough draft and post it immediately, without taking the time to read over it, edit, and publish a polished version.
I also do more research for my articles. I have always loved reading, but again, I would go through dry spells where I would only read fiction and not academic texts. Then I would hyperfocus on research for a while, read a ton of journals and books, and then lose interest again.
Since I’ve started writing on Medium eight months ago (36 weeks to be exact), I’ve published 175 articles. That’s an average of 5 stories per week, and most of them are backed by extensive research.
The only “dry spells” I had were planned breaks I took, like when I went on several camping trips with my family over the summer.
View the Table of Contents for my stories here.
Please note that I share my experience as my own personal story, and it is not intended to be medical advice. If you suspend you have ADHD, or are neurodivergent and want to explore options, please speak to a professional.
© Jillian Enright, ADHD 2e MB
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Kentrou, V., de Veld, D. M., Mataw, K. J., & Begeer, S. (2019). Delayed autism spectrum disorder recognition in children and adolescents previously diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Autism, 23(4), 1065–1072. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361318785171