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Sanity Savers for ADHD Parents

Posted on July 25, 2015

SanitySavers

 

Homework battles, meetings with teachers, fielding calls from the principal or IEP team — it doesn’t take long for moms and dads to burn out once school starts. If you also have ADHD, burnout happens even sooner. Use these tips to step back, stay calm, get help, or treat yourself.

Read the rest of the article I wrote for ADDitude Magazine……  HERE.


10 Top Tips for a (Mostly) Stress-Free ADHD Vacation

Posted on July 25, 2015

travel 1

 

I’m on vacation! I’m on vacation! Isn’t that just how you feel when you finally get yourself (and your family) packed and ready to head out of town?

It takes me hours and hours to prepare for a trip, even if it’s only for a few days away. My anxiety begins to kick in, as I worry about forgetting something important, whether it’s medication or contact lenses- things not easily replaceable when you’re away from home.

I dream of all the things I want (or don’t want) to do and can’t wait to get to my destination. I arrive at our little cottage in Canada, just 2 hours from home. Since Michigan summers are so short, every weekend away is cherished like a rare gem.

But then something odd happens. The lack of structure, the close quarters, the wide-open space of nothingness begins to make me feel funny. I suddenly can’t tell if I’m happy, sad, or bored! The lack of stress (did I mention my ADHHHHD daughter is away at camp?) makes me feel disoriented. There’s no yelling, cupboard slamming, tumbling through space or…heaps and heaps of…stuff on the floor waiting to trip me. I listen to the incredible QUIET and am stunned. The sensation of peace and quiet is foreign to me.

But something is bothering me.

You see, many of us with ADHD thrive on structure, predictability (even if it’s boring at times) and caffeine-driven brain activity. We need to be- if not physically, then at least mentally active- even those of us with inattentive ADHD. I kid you not- even the most sluggish of inattentives have brains on steroids. So, here I sit, in the deep dark purple shade of nighttime, wondering…what the HELL am I going to do tomorrow? Everything is a double- edged sword. I can walk the beach. Head out to the provincial park and explore the trails. Drive through the glorious farmlands in this remote rural area of Canada. I can lie on the hammock and read the newest Anne Tyler book. But…will that bore me? Will I adjust to this floating sensation? No deadlines? No projects?

Enough about me. I will venture to say that many of you also feel torn about vacations. The stress of planning the trip, packing, preparing the house, traveling, and the sometimes disappointing moment when you arrive but feel so….lost…can make vacations terribly disorienting.

We sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment, as we visualize all the things we want to do. As the days tick away like minutes on a clock, we race through each day trying to hold on to each second.

Take solace in knowing that it’s not just you. Of course, there are many who jump into vacations feet first and are exquisitely happy. But if you’re one who feels lost during the transition (transitions are a common problem in general for those of us with ADD), here are some suggestions.

 

10 Top Tips for a Stress-Free ADHD Vacation

 

  • Make a list (I know, I know) of things you’d like to do. Do your research beforehand. Have a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  • Change your expectations. Don’t go forward thinking you’ll have the best time of your life- go with the idea that you’re going to get away from the routine, period. Or perhaps, look at this as a time to simply kick back. One of my problems is that my expectations become so high and unreachable, I get too upset if things don’t pan out. I need to see these mini- trips as simply down time- time away from daily stress, period.
  • Move out of your comfort zone but don’t leave it completely behind. If you find out you hate scuba diving and would much prefer reading a book under a shade tree…that’s fine, too.
  • Brain storm with your family/friends so that everyone has the opportunity to do what they enjoy. Rely on others, if needed, to help you organize the trip.
  • Start your packing and to-do list early enough so you don’t find yourself stressed out at the last minute.
  • Don’t obsess about how few days you have left of your vacation. You’ll only lose the pleasure of the moment. Do it the Buddhist way and live in the moment- because all we really have is now.
  • Build some structure into your days. Maybe it’s meeting your friends/family for lunch each day at a specific time/place. Or maybe it’s a ½ hour swim every day at noon. Build around that daily plan so that you don’t feel lost the rest of the time. Take a tour with a guide, who will structure the time for you.
  • If you’re taking a highly active trip, make sure you have down time so you can re-charge and not expend all of your energy.
  • Express your needs. Let others know when you need more time to rest (or conversely, need more activity) and negotiate with each other so that everyone is happy.
  • Recognize and accept that it may take you a day or two to get into the swing of things.

Everyone needs a break from work and other routines. But it’s not always as easy as it seems.

What works for you? Share your experiences in the Comment section below.

 

** Like this post?  Get notified any time I publish a new article like this one, and get instant access to my e-book “Tips for Women With ADHD.”  Go to addconsults.com/tipsbook and sign up right away!

 

 


The Queens of Distraction: Dog Days of Summer Special Rates!

Posted on July 14, 2015

Facebook Graphic QueensAllCrowns

 

 

“I know exactly what I need to do, but I just can’t get myself to do it.”


Sound like you?

Then join me and the other Queens of Distraction and enjoy group coaching online in a private, secret room where we Get Things Done. We use teamwork, emotional support, pragmatic tools and the wisdom of being women with ADHD who struggle with things, just like you do. We “get” it.

Want help in getting the papers filed, the tabletops cleared, dinner on the table, work/school projects started and finished…and more?

Well, what are you waiting for? Join me today at www.QueensOfDistraction.com to enjoy this special discount. Hurry! Special rate ends July 23.

Register HERE!

 


Succeed with ADHD Telesummit Starts July 13, 2015!

Posted on July 12, 2015

TelesummitBanner2015web

 

Attention! This starts tomorrow- don’t miss it!
Join the Succeed with ADHD Telesummit July 13-17, 2015. Over 20+ world renown ADHD professionals and experts come together to share their strategies for succeeding in all areas of your life with ADHD. Click below for details. Oh, did I mention- it’s FREE!

Register NOW Right HERE!

 


How to Control your ADHD Temper

Posted on July 12, 2015

mad woman

 

  • You are stuck in traffic or someone cuts you off. It’s annoying to just about anyone, but you fly into a rage and literally want to kill the driver with your bare hands.
  • You’re talking and someone repeatedly interrupts you. Or you’re working intently, hyperfocued on a project (or are on the phone) and your child keeps pestering you for attention. You physically have to control yourself from lashing out physically or verbally.
  • You’ve lost your keys- again- and you take it out on your partner or your kids. After you let loose a barrage of F words and more, you finally find the keys and feel so embarrassed by your behavior, you wonder why anyone would ever have wanted to marry you.

Does this sound like you?

Adults with ADHD often struggle with temper outbursts, just like children with ADHD. Or children in general, for that matter.

But why?

Having ADHD means having difficulty with impulsivity, distractions and keeping your mood stable. It’s part of your neurobiology- and it definitely is not a character flaw. But that doesn’t mean you can go fly off the handle at any time just because that’s part of your ADHD.

 Nope. Sorry, Charlie.

It means you need to better understand what your triggers are and find ways to avoid the stressors that lead to outbursts… and also learn how to manage the anger you feel when you are triggered.

Looking at the first example, above: anger on the road- if you know this is an issue for you, teach yourself new strategies for calming yourself down VS reacting with anger and hostility. When road rage hits, it’s the perfect time to immediately begin deep breathing or find that station on the radio that calms you down, whether it be a talk radio program or classical music.

I’ve often used the term: “See it coming and have a plan” and the tip above is one great example of utilizing this tactic.

The second example is a good illustration of the various ways your symptoms manifest themselves. If you are interrupted, you lose your train of thought and get de-railed. ADD brains get easily de-railed because we’re prone to getting easily distracted, and find it hard to get back on track. When these external distractions occur, we get all stirred up. It can be incredibly hard to keep our emotions stable.

We also have a tough time transitioning, ie if we’re talking about one topic and someone wants to talk about something else, it’s often hard to make that transition (unless it’s YOU who gets bored with a topic and jumps to another one!). To help manage your anger over these kinds of interruptions, try telling the other person (use a hand gesture if necessary), that you need to finish your thought.

Another ADD symptom is poor memory. If you can’t get your thoughts out, there is a fear that you’ll totally forget what you wanted to say, which can lead to embarrassment, irritability and worse.

Being interrupted is often more problematic if you have children and are constantly being interrupted in general. In that case- and especially if your child is very young- hold up or point to a little sign with a reminder not to interrupt you, so you don’t lose your train of thought. This will help you from getting unglued while working on a project or when talking on the phone. Always discuss with your child beforehand of your strategy.

The third example shows how easily frustrated we can get. Tiny triggers that others seem to deal with in stride, can- to us- feel like the end of the world.

STOP THINK REACT

Or come up with another mental signal that works for you. By getting all worked up, you are less likely to accomplish your mission, whether it’s finding your keys or whatever it is that is making you furious with yourself- and thus, taking it out on others.

Try this:

Picture yourself through the eyes of your loved ones during these episodes. That alone could stop you dead in your tracks. Or try putting your face on the other person, as if you were yelling at YOU. How would YOU feel?

Of course, make sure you apologize if you do lash out and explain that it was your fault, not theirs, for behaving this way.

What are your triggers? Hot buttons? And how do you manage? Share your experiences and/or tips in the Comment section below.

 

 


Terry’s Top 15 Sensory Nightmares

Posted on June 29, 2015

tinnitus-s1-photo-of-woman-covering-ears

 

I’ve written a number of articles and posts in the past about my hypersensitivities. I never knew (before my ADD diagnosis), that this is commonly seen in kids and adults with ADD. I’ll write more about what this is actually about, but first…

Here are some sensory experiences that push me over the edge to the point of wanting to scream or move to a quiet cave. Do you share any of these quirky sensitivities?

 

Terry’s Top 15 Sensory Nightmares

 

  1. Sticky floors, doorknobs, any type of “goo” that touches my skin. (I even refused to finger paint in nursery school).
  1. Any loud or unexpected noise. The worst offenders are lawn blowers, vacuum cleaners, noisy restaurants.
  2. Hearing a TV or radio when I’m not the one using it. Even worse: when two TVs are on in different rooms.
  1. Perfume. If someone at Macy’s tries to spray me, I glare and run. Better than punching them out!
  1. Scratchy fabrics. Forbidden in my closet. I also hate wrinkles on my sheets or feeling strangled in a bed that’s been made up too tightly.
  1. Tight waistbands. Ok, let’s just get down to it: give me cotton or give me nothing at all.
  1. Tight shoes/heels. Shoot me if I inadvertently put on uncomfortable shoes when I’ve already left the house and can’t turn back. (note to self: time to de-clutter closet).
  1. Cold weather. Anything below 75 is cold weather. Living in Michigan is a sick joke.
  2. Smelling bacon or other strong odors when I’m waking up in the morning. Gag.

     10. Stringy vegetables. God help me if I find corn silk strings or peapod strings in my mouth. Oranges are out of the

question.

     11. Speaking of mouths, dental appointments are nightmares, even if it’s just a simple cleaning.

    12. Getting caught in the rain. I HATE the sensation of splattered water on my face and that cold, drenched feeling in

general.

    13. Massages. They hurt, no matter how gentle they are. They hurt. But a scalp massage is wonderful.

    14. Repetitive noises, like a faucet dripping or clock ticking. Ok, just shoot me and put me out of my misery over this                  one.

    15. Amusement park rides, sitting in the back seat of cars, flying…anything that makes me move without my consent.

Ugh.

Goodness! Is it any wonder that people who feel assaulted by normal sounds, textures, etc., would become anxious and/or depressed? Daily living situations can be torture when you are sensitive to certain kinds of textures, lights, smells, noise, etc.

Ok, so this is just a small sample of what bothers me. But what is this all about? I used to think it was simply having an ADD brain that can’t filter out sensory experiences, but I’ve since learned that there’s another explanation for all of this, and it’s called:

Sensory Processing Disorder

“…a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses…One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold.”

(Read more about Sensory Processing Disorder at The SPD Foundation at http://spdfoundation.net ).

Though much is written about children with Sensory Processing Disorder, there is sparse literature that discusses SPD in adults. What we do know is that there is commonly an overlap in ADHD and SPD.

I recently met (virtually) an extraordinary woman who is working hard to change all that. Rachel Schneider, M.A., a psychotherapist and adult with SPD, writes about SPD in adults extensively. Check out her website and blog at http://www.rachel-schneider.com and http://www.comingtosenses.blogspot.com .

If you’re short on time, then definitely read her article, “10 Tips to Help Neurotypicals Understand Sensory Processing Disorder” .

So…what does all of this mean to you?

If you feel constantly bombarded by the things described above and in the articles, maybe you should begin to explore the possibility of having SPD. It could be part of your ADHD, an explanation for your anxiety or depression, or as Rachel told me recently in a phone conversation, something that might “look” like ADHD but not “be” ADHD. In her work, she’s found many adults with anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD, etc. who really are battling SPD.

One way to find out if this is true for you is by searching for an occupational therapist that understands SPD in adults (unfortunately, they are hard to find!). The links above will give you more information about how SPD is treated.

In the meantime, I’ve addressed hypersensitivities in my book, The Queen of Distraction- in fact, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to it, though it doesn’t discuss SPD specifically, as I’m just learning more about this myself.

Just know that you aren’t alone if you avoid loud concerts, parties, malls, certain types of clothing, food and more. Currently, our understanding of SPD in adults is where we were years ago when learning about ADHD in adults. In time, more will be understood and hopefully, treatments to help those of you/us with these hypersensitivities, will be more available.

How about you? What makes your skin crawl? What sounds drive you over the edge? Share your experiences in the Comment section below.

 

 


5 Steps to Keep Your Sanity This ADD Summer

Posted on June 13, 2015

MomKids

 

We look forward to the summers when schedules change, often giving us and our kids more time to relax and unwind from the stress of the school year. Many of us book annual family vacations and/or enroll our kids in camp and gratefully we find ourselves with less structured days with more free time on our hands.

A time to rejoice, right?

Well, no- not always.

My personal experience has been that shifting schedules, for myself and/or my daughter, often leads to a semi panic attack, even if the changes are positive ones. Why?

Folks with ADHD thrive on structure; it’s how we get things done with less anxiety. It offers our brain a road map for getting from A to B. Lack of structure can make us feel like we’re floating in a black pit of scatter- checking emails too often, daydreaming, and just getting off track in general.

No more 7am breakfasts and “beat the bus” schedules. No more firm 8:30pm bedtimes and 4:00 homework sessions. No more M W F soccer practice.

What a relief, right?

Wrong.

For many with ADD, this transition into summer can be almost as stressful as the school year. We’ve forgotten to sign our kids up for camp or basketball school and are horrified that our kids will be sitting home all summer in front of the TV. We then realize that we’re trapped without a babysitter and wonder how we’re going to get to work.

This is fun?? What’s a mom with ADD to do?

 

5 Steps to Keep Your Sanity This ADD Summer

 

  1. Try to keep bedtime schedules the same for now, and gradually allow for later bedtimes and wake times. This will ease their internal clocks into the new routine and help to avoid crankiness and sleep disturbance. Still…keep them on some sort of a sleep schedule if at all possible.
  1. Start searching NOW for structured activities for the kids: swim class, camp, volunteer work, etc. Too much unstructured free time for kids (and adults) with ADHD can create stress. You may find some acting out, as kids will search for stimuli and often not the good kind!
  1. Engage the entire family with summer planning. If a vacation is on the horizon, discuss ahead of time where you’ll be going and what everyone will be doing. When you open this up to the kids, they will appreciate the chance to participate in the planning, thus avoiding arguments or tantrums. If a trip is not possible, talk to your kids to see what they’d like to do with their free time. Find compromises so that everyone is happy.
  1. Be aware that change is hard for you and your child. Try to prepare the kids ahead of time so they have time to acclimate. If family is coming to visit next month, don’t wait until the day before to discuss it and how it will affect schedules, sleeping arrangements, etc.
  1. Don’t forget YOUR needs. As moms, we are always working at setting up schedules, meals, entertaining, holidays and much more. Maybe this is the summer YOU spend time away by booking a weekend away with girlfriends. There’s nothing wrong with going solo- finding a B & B in a cute town, giving you a chance to have leisurely mornings while exploring shops and attractions.

What about you? What can you do to get away and re-charge your batteries or explore your interests and talents? Share your ideas in the Comment section below.

 

 


Organizing Myths and ADHD

Posted on June 01, 2015

Organizing myths

 

Do you like to travel but hate and I mean, really really hate preparing for trips? I’m leaving town in a few days and generally, it takes me a week to get it all together: choosing outfits, making sure everything is taken care of while I’m away, then the actual packing. Ugh. So instead of writing my bi-weekly blog, I’m instead going to share with you two articles from PsychCentral.com that quoted me heavily. They’re about organizing myths and ADHD. Isn’t that a hoot? Here I am, all flustered as I try and get myself ready, and yet, I can quote boldly all kinds of helpful tips. Ready or not, check them out below.  Now where’s my umbrella….?

 

 ADHD and Adults: 3 Myths About Getting Organized

 

Below, ADHD experts set the record straight on three stubborn myths about organizing — and what works instead.

1. Myth: You should handle paper only once.

Fact: “I cannot count how many times I’ve read or heard about this so-called life-saver of a technique for getting and keeping things organized,” said Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, a psychotherapist and ADHD coach.

Continue reading HERE

3 More Myths About Organizing for Adults with ADHD

 

Recently, we shared several common myths about organizing when you have ADHD. The problem with myths is that they stall your progress and steer you in the wrong direction. You might wonder why a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t working for you. And you might resign yourself to believing that you’ll never get organized.

But as an adult with ADHD, you may need to try different strategies and approaches. You may need to switch up strategies more often because the novelty wears off.

Below, ADHD experts share three more organizing myths along with what does work.

1. Myth: You’d be organized with the right storage.

Fact: “Magazine articles [rave] about the fabulous storage containers you have to have if you want to get organized,” said Dana Rayburn. Rayburn is a certified ADHD coach with group and private coaching programs. She helps guide ADHD business owners and professionals to get organized and manage time so they can live more successful and effortless lives.

Continue reading HERE

What’s your take on ADD and organizing? Share your thoughts (and tips!) below.


Who is the Real Terry Matlen?

Posted on May 20, 2015

Terry Child

 

Recently, I was reading an article written by a woman on a topic dear to her heart- an area of study she is so passionate about, she made it her life’s work.  It covered a lot of mental health related material that fascinated me, and I learned a lot. I visited her website and after reading more on her topic, clicked on the “About Me” page, wanting to know more about her life and what brought her to study and become an expert in her field. What I found was information on her education, her work experience and just a bit about her family. But what I really wanted to know was more about her. What was it in her history, in her life experiences, that made her want to dedicate her life to her particular studies? I found no clues.

Which got me to thinking. Do you wonder how I got into the field of ADHD? Are you at all curious about the person behind these newsletters, my websites, The Queens of Distraction, my books, etc.? If not, that’s ok! Just toss this in the trash bin and go back to what you were doing. If you are a bit curious, read on.

For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to tell you more about me- my early life, what led me into wanting to learn about ADHD and helping people with ADHD, and what else is behind the Terry Matlen behind the curtain.

Besides learning more about me, I hope this will give you the incentive to open up more to others- even complete strangers, if it’s safe to do so. I think when you do that, it does make you feel more vulnerable, but it also opens up another whole world of ways to not only understand yourself better, but to find new ways of connecting with others. So here goes.

 

Who is the Real Terry Matlen?

 

I was born in the 1950s, which makes me old enough to be a grandmother, even a great grandmother. But I am neither. (By the way, my birthday is this Saturday, so feel free to send a Happy Birthday shout-out). I was the second born of three and the only girl. This had its advantages. First, my older brother got to be the guinea pig, so that by the time I came along, most of the mistakes were already made (and hopefully, my parents learned something from them). As the only daughter, I held a special place in the family instead of getting lost, like many “middles” do.

My mother was a gifted tap, ballet and modern jazz dancer and before her marriage to my father, was on her way to becoming a professional. She had her bags packed, ready to move from Detroit to California to break into show business, when she met my dad. At which point, she promptly dropped her suitcase and fell madly in love and subsequently ended her professional career to become a full time wife and mother. To my younger readers, remember that back in those days, that’s what most women did: they put their husband and family’s needs before their own, letting go of their dreams. In my mother’s generation, few women pursued college, let alone a career.

My father came from a family that owned a slew of department stores. His dream was to become a doctor, but that was shot down when he entered the military during WW ll where he became a medic and did something with zeppelins. What he did with those, I don’t know. He was also an actor in the military shows.

Fast forward to my early life. I was a fearful, shy, introverted child with a huge imagination. Unfortunately, the stories I conjured up were always frightening and dark: was that shadow really a killer waiting to grab me by the throat at bedtime? Do I dare swing my feet over the side of the bed, when someone underneath will surely grab me by the ankles and drag me down to my death?

Will I really kill my mother if I step on a crack?

Oh, it went on and on like that for many years. The fears suffocated me until I developed a fear of suffocation. I developed school phobia because I feared if I didn’t stay home, someone would kill my mother or worse, she would leave and never come back.

When I was seven, hypochondriac Terry got violently ill with what the doctor insisted was the stomach flu. I lay in bed for well over a week, unable to eat. As the family story goes, my lips turned blue and the only way my mother could hear my whispered calls for help was if I rang a bell my father rigged up on the wall next to my bed. The doctor berated my mother for constantly calling him, until she screamed on the phone for him to come to the house immediately. Good thing he finally listened, because as it turned out, I had a ruptured appendix and needed emergency surgery.

I survived, of course, only to have my neurotic ol’ self become, well…more neurotic, in part because my mother was not allowed to stay beyond visiting hours and also because I was assigned to a sadistic, mentally unstable nurse who scared the crap out of me.

Being sensitive and easily frightened and overly stimulated, those 10 days in the hospital were horrifying.

Around that time, my dad became jobless when the family business went bankrupt as malls became more popular than mom and pop department stores. He scrambled to make ends meet.

Three years later, when I was ten and he was 43, my father dropped dead in the middle of the night from a probable pulmonary embolism or heart attack, or both. My mom became a widow at age 36. The night he died, my first thought was that I would be taken directly the next morning to an orphanage. Of course, that didn’t happen. But I was given more responsibilities at a young age to help manage the household and help care for my younger brother, 5 years my junior.

What saved us was our creativity. My mother taught dancing for a while. My brothers and I were drawn to playing music. My mother scraped enough money together to buy or rent instruments for us. We all had a safe haven to explore our music. Later, for me, that expanded into art, where I later studied painting as a college student.

In elementary school, I’d always been an excellent student. I don’t know how, as I couldn’t focus on the teacher. In those days, in Detroit, our class sizes averaged in the mid to upper 30s. And often, we had what was called a split section. Half the class was 6 months older and learned entirely different material and at a faster pace. I could not filter out what they were doing in order to focus on my own work. Yet, I got by with all As and Bs (except for handwriting, where I always earned Cs).

We moved to the suburbs when I was in 6th grade and my status as the smart popular kid morphed into the socially backwards “dumb” kid who dressed 10 years behind the times. These suburban kids were children of professionals and light years ahead of me in every possible way. I was lost. I was humiliated, teased, bullied. My self-esteem plummeted. And as the schoolwork was so much more advanced than my previous school, my grades slid straight down into the toilet. I could no longer get by through listening in mini bites. I did not have the attention span to stay connected with the teacher. Plus, I had a full blown anxiety disorder that also prevented me from staying focused. I just wanted the day to end so I could go home and feel safe.

Middle school was a disaster, like it is for most young people, so no need to discuss that. Let’s move right into high school, where I started off as a lost soul wanting desperately to shed my “loser” status. That skin was hard to shed, so I decided to put my efforts in the things that interested me in school, which basically was art. Academically, I was a loser, due to the anxiety and undiagnosed ADHD. And I didn’t care, for I had discovered Mrs. Cowan and her art department and spent every possible minute in her class, learning the mysteries of drawing and painting.

In those days, the kids were in one of three groups: hippy types, greasers, and pre-college preppers. Since I was then a fairly accomplished guitarist with musical friends and had begun to play small local clubs (ok, just a few times, but still..) and was also getting fully involved in art, I fell into the hippy group. Well, sort of. As an introverted outsider of sorts, I had few friends and most of them were also artist types. One of my friends worked in the school office and at the end of my senior year, all of the students’ files contained a letter from the counselor, describing the future paths of the senior students. She told me that mine was stamped: “Not College Material.”

 

I’ll never forget that.

 

My mother was too entrenched in making ends meet, that she couldn’t advise me on what to do once I graduated high school. In fact, I didn’t even think about what happened after high school. I only saw a huge blank space that made no sense. Thankfully, a friend’s mother guided me and helped get me into the local city university “on probation”, as I’d have to prove that I could succeed even with a pitiful GPA.

I signed up for some liberal arts classes, avoiding math and science (unaware I most likely had a math disability) and found that I loved English. I chose classes that only held interest to me. Surprisingly, at least to me, I soared. When I was allowed to enroll in my first studio art class, I fell in love with college. And more so, with art and psychology. I earned a degree in Art Education. The idea of teaching appealed to me. Again, in those days, girls weren’t encouraged to explore careers outside of the stereotypical ones. In my forth year, I started student teaching and that’s when my life bottomed out: I HATED it. My (undiagnosed) ADD made it impossible for me to manage a room full of children, scattered everywhere, climbing on desks, throwing things and worse. I had no idea how to tame a classroom. I learned too late that I was not born to be a teacher. I wanted to make art, not teach art.

I graduated with top grades and a teaching certificate but never set foot in a classroom other than to substitute teach in order to earn money. I spent the next two years studying only painting, but became depressed and confused about my future. Few artists can make a living doing what they are passionate about.

Around that time, I met my future husband and fell hopelessly in love. He was in medical school with laser vision on becoming an orthopedic surgeon. And I was floating in indecision, with no idea what to do with my life.

Since I loved psychology classes as an undergrad, I decided I’d go into mental health. But psych classes meant science and math, and those were my weak links. I instead chose social work where I could bypass most of those kinds of classes. It spoke to my strengths, which was writing and working with people. I earned full academic scholarships and completed my MSW degree in 1½ years, then got a job as a therapist, working with young people struggling with severe mental illness.

If you’ve gotten this far, please email me and tell me this wasn’t all for naught, because my intention was not at all to go into such detail about this, but, well…that’s where it landed.

 

Fast forward. 

 

My other passion was to become a mom. I loved children (though I hated classrooms) and after seven YEARS of trying to have a child, we realized that wasn’t going to happen. I was terribly depressed. But then I realized that what I really wanted was to be a mother, period. It didn’t matter if I gave birth to a child or not. I wanted to be a mom. And that happened on what was to be one of the happiest days of my life: June 1, 1985, when our daughter was born to another woman who needed us as much as we needed her.

Kate was a precocious child who kept me on my toes both literally and figuratively. Since she was so bright, I had to be “on” all the time, keeping up with her- answering her constant questions, keeping her safe from her somewhat impulsive behaviors, but also keeping up with her physically, as she was unbelievably hyperactive. In those days, I never knew the term ADHD, but when it got to the point where I was worried she’d be in danger by her climbing, jumping and running without a care in the world, I sought out the help of mental health professionals to find out why my girl was so different from my friends’, whose kids could sit in their laps and loved being read to. My girl was swinging off Coke machines.

As it turned out, she didn’t have ADHD- she was labeled “gifted”, so we worked on stimulating her hungry brain.

Then along came baby #2. She made Kate look like acentenarian.  Mackenzie, too, rushed through her milestones earlier than her peers. But then something dreadful happened that turned our world upside down. She had a drastic, life threatening reaction to the MMR vaccine and went into seizures. She was on life support as her brain began swelling from the live virus that was eating away at it. We didn’t know if she’d make it. The doctors put her into a drug-induced coma for 4 days to try and stop the seizures. It worked. She survived. But the toddler we knew and loved was no longer- she became a stranger to us. The illness left her completely impaired. She lost all functioning, including her memory of who I was. Her speech was gone. She couldn’t walk or crawl. She couldn’t even suck from a bottle. 

After three weeks in the hospital, we were finally able to bring her home, though she was unable to even hold her head up on her own. After months and months of therapies and interventions, my little Mackenzie began to show glimpses of progress. She began to move her right arm (the brain damage affected her entire right side and she looked like she’d had a stroke). She learned to move Cheerios on a tray, finally able to sit up in a high chair (with straps holding her up).  She showed even more progress- she began to crawl! At 2 years of age, there was no speech, though, and the neurologist told me we’d have to teach her sign language. I shook my head and said no- she WOULD learn to talk again.

She was now walking! But she couldn’t sleep and I’d have to lie on her body, in her crib, so that she’d stop flailing long enough to have 20-minute naps throughout the night.

 

It was hell. For her and for us.

 

But it taught both of us determination. She was a fighter and so was I. And slowly but surely, she began to talk!

By this time, Mackenzie became severely hyperactive, due to the brain injury. With two very active small children, I had to get help in making sure Mackenzie would be safe. It took two adults to look after her and I soon became more than exhausted. Daily visits to various therapists to get Mackenzie better as best we could, took its toll on me. And I still had a preschooler to care for as well.

The stress of all of this made me question my sanity. I couldn’t understand how people could have four children and not go completely nuts. I thought I was losing my mind.

Mackenzie is now in her late 20s and still has residual problems she’ll live with the rest of her life. But she has resiliency.

Years after her initial illness, I continued to fall apart. Then one day, as I was talking on the phone with someone, I realized why I hated the phone so much- I couldn’t hear what the person was saying! I figured my hearing was going, so I went for an evaluation and found my hearing was actually better than most my age.

During this time, I was also trying to learn as much about ADHD as possible, so I could better help and cope with Mackenzie. In those days (late 1980s), little was written on the topic, believe it or not. But I read everything. For some reason I’ll never understand, I found and read a book on adult ADHD- the first that had been written (I believe); it was by Dr. Lynn Weiss. I devoured it, my mouth gaping, as it described my nuclear family- the family I grew up with. I won’t name names, but my family tree is dripping with ADHD, but I didn’t realize that until I read this book.

 

And then it dawned on me: it described me to a “t.”

 

That’s when I went to get evaluated for possible adult ADHD and passed with flying colors. Meaning, I had a classic case of inattentive ADHD. The confirmation was liberating: it explained the many difficulties I had growing up (anxiety is often seen with ADHD).

The pieces fit. I went to counseling. I tried medication. My life changed in ways so significant, that not many years later, I decided to dedicate my professional life to helping other adults with ADHD.

I went to conferences. I volunteered. I became the local coordinator for my CHADD chapter. I was offered a spot on the ADDA board of directors and later became its vice-president. I read. And I read some more. With my social work background, I decided to open up a private practice dedicated to working with adult ADHD. That didn’t last long, because my daughter’s needs were too great and she needed me home. Getting calls from her school in the middle of therapy sessions was unfair to my clients, so I shuttered up my practice.

I wasn’t sure how I could continue my professional work. People from all over the world were emailing me, asking for help. Remember, in those days, few professionals understood adult ADD. So I decided to open up a virtual ADD clinic where anyone with a computer could access me and get help. In the year 2000, www.ADDconsults.com was born.

Five years later, I wrote my first book, “Survival Tips for Women with ADHD.” I began presenting at large national and international conferences. My second book followed. “The Queen of Distraction” was published October of last year (2014).

I’m still as passionate about my work as I was back in the mid 1990s. I love seeing men and women “wake up” and learn how to put their lives back together again in the context of having an ADHD brain.

Throughout all of these years, I continued to make art and music and have had my paintings shown in galleries locally and out of state. In fact, if you’re curious, you can see some of my work at www.TerryMatlenArt.Homestead.com .

As I look back and read all of this, I’m not quite sure why I chose this topic for my newsletter today, other than my own curiosity about a woman I’d never met but whose writings inspired me. I wanted to know more about her.

I hope knowing a bit about me will inspire you to look more deeply at your own life experiences and learn how those shaped you into the person you are now. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel comfortable in opening up more to others and sharing your strengths, your challenges and offering up more acceptance of yourself.

In the spirit of all this self-disclosure, please do feel free to ask me any questions you might still have about me, my life, my work. Or better, tell me about you! Just post your questions in the Comment section below and I will respond.

 

 


7 Tips to Help you Become a Better Listener

Posted on April 20, 2015

blabbing

 

Your best friend just came back from Brazil and is eager to share with you all the sights and sounds she encountered on her 10-day trip. She calls you and begins to unwrap all the wonderful experiences she had, like tiny gifts to share, excited to pull you in to her recent adventure.

You’re happy for her, glad she had a fabulous vacation and you try to hear every word she says, from the flight in over the jungle treetops, to the exotic side trips, to the luscious meals she had in this foreign place you know you’ll never get to experience. But something strange happens and it happens often:

After 5 minutes, your attention span flies right out the window- straight to the pretty blue and white bird that’s singing right to you. You catch a word or two, then notice the click click zzzt of the refrigerator in the kitchen. You try and will yourself back in the conversation but before you know it, you’re remembering your clothes sitting in the dryer from 3 hours ago, composing an email in your head…and more.

As much as you want to hear your friend’s story, you are unable to stay connected. What can you do?

ADHD isn’t about a deficit in attention- it’s about having control of your attention. It’s roping it in so you can hear your child’s story about school that day. It’s listening to your partner share a funny story heard at the office. It’s sharing the excitement of your mom’s great find at an antique store. But try as you might, these daily verbal interactions might as well be as invisible as the sound waves themselves.

             How to Stay Connected in a Conversation

             Here are some ideas to help keep your attention during a conversation

  1. Remove obvious distractions when you’re on the phone (turn off the TV, take care of minor chores, etc.). Tell your caller you’ll get back to him as soon as you’ve done that, as you want to be able to concentrate on the conversation.
  1. Keep a notepad near the phone and take notes! Just like in school, writing down major points will help you stay connected. Doodling also helps.
  1. Make sure the conversation is two-sided. Don’t let your caller take over. If that is difficult, ask questions to get more information- that will help you to stay curious.
  1. For in-person conversations, meet at places that are quiet so you don’t get too distracted. Find a cozy corner in a quiet restaurant; position yourself so you’re not looking out the window or into the larger area of the room.
  1. Keep your eyes on the mouth. When we utilize more than one of our senses, we pay better attention. Listening while looking at the person’s mouth helps!
  1. Repeat in your head what you are hearing. That helps to “hook” you in.

       7. Pretend you will be quizzed later.

 

How about you? What helps you to stay connected when your mind wanders while chatting with someone? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comment section below.