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The Queen of Distraction: Building Community For Women with ADHD

Posted on August 03, 2018

 

Healthstoriesproject.com wrote a nice article about me and my work:

Before she was diagnosed with ADHD, Terry Matlen spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was wrong with her. “I felt like a failure,” she says. “I wondered how come I couldn’t do what every other woman I knew could do without thinking twice.”

Read the whole article HERE.

 


Girls with ADHD

Posted on August 02, 2018


When Your ADHD Child Refuses to Go to Bed: 10 Tips for a Peaceful Bedtime Routine

Posted on July 22, 2018

There are many studies that show the difficulties children with ADHD – and their parents- face at bedtime. Typically, the child’s ADHD medication has worn off, causing his symptoms to reappear, often with a vengeance. As he becomes more hyperactive and impulsive, his body needs just the opposite: rest

What is a parent to do?

 

 ** 10 Tips for Getting Your Child to Bed **

 

1. Insist that all electronics and other stimulating toys and activities stop one hour before bedtime.

2. Have a schedule and stick to it with rare exceptions. Post the schedule (in more than one place). For younger children, use diagrams or pictures from magazines.

Clearly state each step of the bedtime routine:

  • What time the child must stop playing
  • Any chores needed to be done (i.e. putting toys away)
  • Snack time, if needed
  • Wash up, brush teeth, shower
  • Change into pajamas
  • Lights out

3.  Warm milk, warm bathes– they really do work.

4. Even older children love one on one time with parents, whether it’s reading a book together, or sharing the day’s activities. Even many teenagers find this time together calming and special.

5. Reward your child for every positive move in the right direction. For younger children,  keep a jar and add coins to it every time he follows the bedtime schedule.

6. Remember that children with ADHD get bored with routines quickly and though you want to try and make them the same each night, you’ll need to be creative in making that  happen. Once, I was so desperate to get my child to bed, I turned it into a Scavenger Hunt. I wrote each bedtime step on an index card and hid them. Each contained a clue where to find the next card, plus instructions on what needed to be done to get ready for bed. Another parent wrote all the bedtime routines on her child’s bathroom mirror using whiteboard markers. Think of other creative, novel ways to keep your child on track.

7.  Get help! There was a time when things were so difficult in my home, that I hired a sitter a few nights a week to help me. It truly saved my sanity. Insist that your spouse/partner also help. Consider trading off bedtime and morning responsibilities with your partner so neither of you becomes burned out.

8. Sometimes the child seeks out stimulation by engaging parents in bedtime wars. Change YOUR habits- try different tactics that remove you from the scene as much as possible. You might be surprised that your child actually gets sleepy when the conflict with you disappears.

9. Try sensory products (there’s a bunch HERE) . When my daughter was very young, I purchased a special tent that sat on top of her bed. She loved to curl up with her stuffed animals. The security of the tent encompassing her had a calming effect. You can also purchase a weighted blanket- these, too often have a calming effect on children with ADHD. Or…pile a lot of regular blankets on her.

10. De-clutter your child’s room so that he isn’t stimulated visually by all the “stuff” in there or tempted to start playing with toys in the middle of the night.

Many children with ADHD simply cannot unwind at the end of the day. When their daytime meds wear off, their behaviors often become unmanageable and sleep impossible. Discuss with your child’s doctor whether a bedtime medication might be needed to help ease him into sleep.

Remember: you can’t force your child to sleep and you should never suggest that. But you can insist he stay IN bed and rest. Then let nature take its course.

 

** What works for you? Share your experiences and tips below.

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12 Tips on Taming Your ADHD Eating Habits

Posted on July 06, 2018

 

Like most everything else in our lives, staying on track with a health and fitness plan can be overwhelming. Procrastinating, losing interest, being forgetful, and other ADHD “traits” come into play big time. Typically, ADHD symptoms worsen when they’re attached to areas in our lives where we have little motivation or interest, and they lessen when we’re engaged and interested. For example, managing paperwork can be excruciatingly boring, so we tend to procrastinate on getting it done. On the other hand, if you love to garden, cook or play golf or video games, well…that can grab our attention so well, it can be hard to force ourselves to stop.

For many, starting and maintaining a diet and exercise routine falls under the “boring, hard to stay motivated” category. Thus, many with ADHD are faced with failure as they try to change their life styles. However, I’ve known many people with ADHD (myself included) who have found that changing their lifestyles can (and usually will), improve ADHD symptoms. So what are you waiting for? Let ‘s get started

Below are 12 tips to get you back on track on improving your health.

1. Assess what it is you need to change. Do you need to lose weight? Eat more healthfully? Begin exercising? Make a doctor’s appointment? Get your cholesterol checked? Write down all the things you would like to change about your health and then prioritize them by number.

2. Start small, start slow. Start with #1 on your list. Ask yourself what you need to do to get started. If it’s, say, to exercise, ask yourself what activity you would most likely be apt to stick with. Write down what you need to do to get started, i.e. join a health club, purchase appropriate equipment, etc. Once you’re prepared to begin, spend only 10 minutes in the given activity and build up from there. If you bore easily, consider choosing more than one activity to switch back and forth from.

3. Write it in your planner! If your goal is to begin exercising, write in the days and times you’ll be working out. If it’s starting a diet, write your start date with your current weight, then list what you will be eating that day. Or consider using a separate notebook to track your foods.

4. Be mindful of how your ADHD plays out. For some, the thought of cooking special foods is overwhelming. If you have the resources, look into companies that do the cooking for you. Companies like Nutrasystem and Seattle Sutton are examples of programs that measure, cook and even deliver your foods. Remember that the cost may seem high, but it is a temporary measure until your weight is down and more manageable. Other weight loss programs are very helpful; they teach you how to make healthy choices and often offer support groups. In the long run, you’ll save lots of money by avoiding expensive health care for weight related health problems.

5. Many people with ADHD self-medicate with food. For some, it’s a way to self-calm. For others, it’s stimulating. Take note of when and why you find yourself reaching for the Oreos or potato chips. What could you be doing instead? Catch yourself and note what your triggers are, then substitute eating with a healthier alternative.

6. ADHD and poor planning often go together. Do you rush out of the house with little or no time to eat breakfast? Do you come home too late to plan a healthy dinner? As hard as it might be for one with ADHD, work on setting up an eating plan. Breakfast, especially one that contains some protein, is imperative for people with ADHD. Pack something the night before to eat at work or wake up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself time to eat.

Plan your dinners out, as well. Take index cards and write out a menu for each day of the week, including items needed at the market. Choose a card the night before so that you don’t have to deal with meal decisions at the last minute. When you are at the grocery store, take your cards with you so that you can be sure that you have the needed ingredients for the week.

7. Eating disorders are often seen with ADHD, as is anxiety and depression, which can also cause over or under eating. If you’ve struggled with this, consider working with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

8. Make sure your ADHD is properly treated. Once the ADHD is better controlled, the need to self-medicate with food often decreases.

9. Give yourself some slack. Many people, ADHD or not, fail to stick with their diets and exercise programs. It’s often better to think about “making better choices”, than putting yourself on a diet. Don’t throw in the towel if you find yourself slipping. Tell yourself you’ll get back on track tomorrow.

10. Change your shopping habits. We often find ourselves buying the same things and are on autopilot at the market, tossing in cookies and other treats in the basket. Start by eliminating ONE thing that you know isn’t good for you and your family. If you are feeling sabotaged by family members who insist on eating poorly and if they are old enough to cook for themselves, allow them to take over their own meals. As a parent, your job is to keep you and your family as healthy as possible. If your children are young and need you to cook for them, gradually make healthy changes to their diets. Engage them in the process by having them help shop for healthy items and by assisting you in the kitchen. Sometimes having fewer dinner options is the way to go. Write a list of seven healthy dinner ideas and let them choose from that.

11. Often times, people with ADHD simply forget to eat. We then get to the point of feeling so starved, we’ll just grab whatever is at hand or rush to a drive-in fast food restaurant. Start getting into the habit of eating three meals plus a few healthy snacks in between. Keep granola bars, whole wheat crackers, etc. in your purse/car/office and strive to eliminate after dinner snacking.

12. Pair up with a buddy. Your spouse/partner, child, neighbor…it’s always easier when you have someone who understands and shares your goals.

Remember that your goal is to improve your health. But breaking old habits can be very hard, so start small and start slow. You can do it!

What has worked for you? Please share in the Comment section below.

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Letting Go: Embracing the New ADHD You

Posted on June 25, 2018

 

The other day, I was chatting with a friend of mine, who was sharing with me her feelings about her oldest child and how he will be leaving for college in the fall. He is emotionally ready and mature enough to leave home, but she is desperate to hold on just a bit longer. She spoke about how hard it is to let go; to see our children grow up and become independent, which triggered my memory of sending my own daughter off to her first day of college and literally weeping on the drive home.

My friend spoke of the many ways individuals have to experience “letting go.” We let go of loved ones through death, separations, chronic illnesses (Alzheimer’s, for example), adoption, moving to new cities, even seeing our children marry and move on.

It made me wonder about ADHD and letting go and it brought me back to the early days of my post-diagnosis and thinking back of what life could have been, had I been diagnosed earlier and gotten the appropriate treatment. Could I have learned more in school? Could I have been a better mother?

In talking to hundreds of adults with ADHD, I hear over and over again the sadness, the loss of what “could have been.”

Part of the therapeutic process in working with adults with ADHD is helping people accept the losses felt in a life lived pre-diagnosis, when so much seemed to go wrong. Ravaging ADHD symptoms prevented many from living up to their academic potential. Many struggled with relationships that simply didn’t work out, because the ADHD wasn’t properly treated, causing havoc between them and their partners. Self esteem dropped when the complications of daily living became too much, with houses deeply cluttered, events missed due to time management problems, bills not paid in time, homes lost to foreclosure, and even deterioration of health because distractions and over commitments got in the way of picking up the phone to make a doctor’s appointment.

At work, many struggled because they had no idea that perhaps the job or career path they chose was not a good match for them and their ADHD. Nor did they know that they could ask for accommodations so they could be more productive and less stressed.

Many mothers felt incapable of meeting their children’s needs because they couldn’t take care of their own. The chaos of a young household might have taken  its toll and they shut down, spiraling into anxiety and depression and low self worth.

There are dozens of areas in one’s life that is affected by ADHD. One could suggest that “all” areas are.

We can choose to wallow in that sense of loss- the lost years, as some call it- or…we can choose to move forward. Armed with knowledge about your ADHD, and getting the treatment you know you need to live more successfully, can you make the decision now to start “letting go” of the past? Can you let go of the sadness, the defeats, the relationships that didn’t work out? Can you put the old “you”- the undiagnosed, untreated ADHD person in a box and put it up on a mental shelf, not to be forgotten, but to guide you forward as you blossom into the new you?

This new “you” is now armed with tools and life lessons. Hopefully, you have gotten some counseling to put to rest the hurt you’ve lived with all those years. Now, you have skills, medication and support to help you move forward, navigating new and better relationships, new ways to propel yourself into a better job. Perhaps you’re confident now to even return to school. Or to leave an unhealthy relationship.

Are you ready to let go? Because by letting go, you will have access to all that wonderful energy you now need to nurture all those incredible talents and gifts that were pushed aside all these years, buried under the symptoms that held you back. You can tap into that energy that in the past was spent obsessing about the losses and hurts due to your ADHD. Now, you can free that up and use it to make positive changes in your life. And think how wonderful that will feel.

What has changed since *your* diagnosis? Please share in the Comment section below.

 


The Parenting ADHD Summit Starts Tomorrow (Monday) June 18, 2018

Posted on June 18, 2018

The Parenting ADHD Summit Starts Tomorrow (Monday), June 18, 2018!

The Summit will empower you to help your child survive and thrive when growing up with ADHD. Join 38 experts for the FREE online Parenting ADHD Summit, June 18-24, 2018. Claim your spot at: https://bit.ly/2M25Pcv

There’s a stellar lineup of ADHD and parenting experts, including Dr. Ned Hallowell, Dr. Ari Tuckman, Dr. Mark Bertin, Colleen Kessler, Leslie Josel, Jim Forgan… and me. (And many more experts!).

Sign up now!  https://bit.ly/2M25Pcv


10 Magical Words That Will Help You Get Things Done

Posted on May 30, 2018

 

Today’s message is brief because I’m writing this during the Memorial Day weekend and frankly, I don’t feel like writing, period. Generally, I LOVE to write these newsletters. But sitting at the computer is not something I want to do at the moment. I love writing because each article is new and it makes my brain work in creative ways.

But I hate doing daily, repetitive chores, mostly because I cannot handle being bored. You, too?

I don’t know what I hate more– the ongoing piles of laundry, the dirty dishes in the sink, or figuring out what to make for dinner every night.

A few years back, a friend of mine was conducting a super cool workshop for women musicians, most of whom write their own music. I attended because I am an amateur musician and I thought these women might inspire me to jump in and write more songs. They spoke about how hard it was for them to work as songwriters- to get started and to stick with a song. My friend came up with the most interesting concept that has helped me since, which I paraphrase here:

Don’t do it because you have to; do it because you can.

Or, to make it easier to remember:

I Don’t HAVE to Do it: I CAN Do it

It hit me so hard- how lucky I am that I CAN rinse a dish and stick it into the dishwasher. I have mobility. I can bend. I can see.

I CAN throw clothes in the washing machine. I CAN make my bed every morning.

See if this works for you. Give it a try. Then let me know how you fare by leaving a brief message in the Comment section below.

OK, Time to do that second load of laundry. Because I can.

 


Stop Drowning in Your Own ADHD Quicksand

Posted on May 14, 2018

 

I remember when I was about 13 years old, being teased mercilessly by my fellow schoolmates. I’d just moved from the city (Detroit) to the suburbs and learned quickly that I was socially about 3 years or so younger than these new, fast paced kids. My city friends (and I) were still wearing white ankle socks, simple cotton button down blouses, no makeup (God forbid!),  thought purses were for married women, and, well…you get the picture. This was in the mid 1960s when everything was starting to change.

It didn’t help that I had undiagnosed ADD and didn’t notice or figure out that I looked remotely different from these new kids. I only knew that I was being treated horribly, even though I thought I was a nice kid.

What a target an ADD kid can be, eh? I was inattentive, except when it came to the anxiety that was growing and growing inside of me. I was truly clueless, and the kids saw that and took advantage.

I’d walk home from school, hearing girls behind me laughing: “look at her clothes- oh my gawd, she’s such a joke.”

Being new also made it hard to make friends. I was painfully shy, which made matters worse, and the taunting only made my already fragile self-esteem crumble even faster.

Why am I sharing these painful memories?

Because I know I’m not alone. Girls with ADHD often miss social cues and get lost in the shuffle. We don’t generally cause problems behaviorally in school, so we’re often over-looked. In fact, I was such a quiet, lost shadow in my school, that I walked out of Geometry class after three days, since it was complete gibberish to me, and not one teacher or staffer questioned where I was 3rd hour. For the rest of the year.

These- and so many more- negative experiences took their toll. Though I’d started off as a popular A student in my city school, I dropped to a C student within weeks of transferring into the suburbs. I never studied, never did my homework. High school was even worse. I stopped caring.

Until something wonderful happened. I discovered I had talent in art and music. I took those classes in high school, made friends like me (many who were a little…out there, like me) and finally found my way. A supportive art teacher pumped back self-esteem into my frail ego.

I was lucky. Though I had no clue about college, because my mother was so absorbed with just getting by as a single mom in those days- she didn’t really know how to even pursue college options for me- I was on my own. Luckily, my good friend’s mom took me under her wing, showed me how to fill out a college application, and got me in to the city college, where I took off, embracing the idea of learning and studying hard to the point of earning scholarships- ONLY because I took a course of study that interested me back then.

What’s my point?

Since around 1995, I’ve worked with thousands of women with ADHD, and I hear the story over and over again: “I’m a failure. I can’t figure out my life. I’ll never make it. I’m such a loser.”

We all have our histories to reflect back on. We can continue on the path of feeling misunderstood and embracing the anger we’ve felt all these years. Or, we can acknowledge the hardships, thank them for giving us wisdom, and then move on, carrying our histories along with us for the ride. We can choose to remember that our past can serve as lessons learned, but we don’t have to repeat them moving forward.

With therapy, meditation, self-awareness, and personal growth, comes freedom from the dark stories we carry. We can turn those stories into rich experiences, even if they are hurtful, and use them as a launching pad towards a happier, more fulfilling life.

What’s your next step? Are you ready to take on a new job, a new relationship with the understanding that you don’t have to let your history hold you back?

Share your thoughts in the Comment section, below.

 


Healthline.com voted my ADDconsults blog as one of the 12 best ADHD blogs of 2018!

Posted on May 07, 2018

Healthline.com voted my ADDconsults blog as one of the 12 best ADHD blogs of 2018! Thank you, Healthline!  

https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/best-blogs-of-the-year#4


Do You Have ADD Dreams?

Posted on May 01, 2018

 

Do you have ADD dreams? I do. All the time. Here are a few re-occurring ones that border on nightmares because I wake up from them a bit shaken.

Not Finishing College/Skipping Classes

It happened again last night. I was at my college talking to a professor or advisor. I was telling him I decided I had chosen the wrong major (something to do with animal health), which is why I hadn’t gone to my classes the last 3 ¾ years. We talked about changing my major to something that would interest me and I asked if it was worth returning to my classes to at least complete the end of the semester.

These dreams almost always include not knowing where my classes are and deliberately not going. And often- very often- I cannot find where I’d parked my car.

Fact: When I *was* in college ten million years ago for my B.S., I studied Art Education. I hated the education related classes but loved the fine arts classes. I stuck it out, even through student teaching, then spent 6 horrific months subbing and then ditched the whole teaching profession and instead, returned to college for two years of painting classes, then on to study psychology via social work school. Sound familiar?

Many with ADHD go through a similar school/vocational experience, not finding their passion- or following their passion- until later in life.

I must be school obsessed because another re-occurring dream takes place in a school setting. This one happens so frequently, you’d think my brain would be bored of it, but no…it still makes me super anxious:

I’m in high school (sometimes college) and I cannot find my locker. If I do, I can’t remember my combination. I wake up anxious. Very anxious.

Fact: I actually DID frequently forget my locker combinations in those days and I’d be so worried about it, I’d write it down on my hand. I think there was a time, too, where I’d be unsure which locker was mine. I’ve historically had problems with numbers, so could never remember my locker numbers and would rely on visual cues (third locker past Mr. Cooper’s room).

When I was in college, I had to have the custodian saw through my combination lock, because again, I’d forgotten my combo. I decided the way to deal with all that back then (before I knew about my ADD) was to stop using my locker. At the end of the year, I had to remove my art supplies but couldn’t, so they are probably still sitting in that locker to the left of the archeology department, 40+ years later.

You can see that both dreams reveal anxieties about forgetting things, a pretty common symptom of ADHD.

How about you? Does your ADD follow you into your dreams? Care to share? Good! Just post them in the Comment section below.