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Lessons for Life: How Oskar Schindler Harnessed ADHD to Change the World

Posted on October 16, 2018

By Kevin Roberts

Editor’s note:

Kevin’s book, Schindler’s Gift: How One Man Harnessed ADHD to Change the World,has just been published. This is a fascinating study on Schindler, making a strong case for his having ADHD, and showing how one can change themselves and transform the world. Get your copy today HERE

 

Oskar Schindler was not a woman with ADHD. I felt I should state that right from the get-go in case there was any confusion, since I am writing this for her Majesty, Terry Matlen’s, blog. Schindler’s life offers all of us with ADHD, however, some wisdom about our own struggles. Oskar hated school. He was frequently yelled at for talking, and during his upbringing corporal punishment held sway as the primary tool of classroom management. On many occasions, he received classroom beat-downs. Oskar was so troubled in school, incidentally, that he lied his way through, only to get expelled for cheating on a major exam when he was 16.

The mundane rhythms of life did not rouse Oskar’s brain. He had a messy room, messy apartments, and struggled with organization. The movie, Schindler’s List, gives us a flavor for this when Yitzhak Stern, played by Ben Kingsley, follows Oskar around, reminding him constantly of his responsibilities and duties. Oskar struggled with planning, organization, time management, and follow-through until the day he died.

Before World War II, Oskar had not found his calling. He struggled, in fact, to even hold a job. He flitted from one place of employment to another, his mind trained on dreams of a brighter and more exciting future. He was a salesman and even tried his hand at chicken farming. But routine and repetition were a plague for Oskar. He was also terribly restless, and rarely stayed in one place for very long.

Oskar, like many with ADHD, suffered from financial woes his whole life. He never seemed to have money to pay all his bills; his energy was often held captive by visions of grandeur. He was convinced time and again that his get-rich-quick schemes would succeed. He and Emilie, for example, moved to Argentina after the war because Oskar saw an opportunity there to raise nutria for fur coats. He assured his wife: “Emilie, behold before you the business of the century. We’re going to be millionaires. All the women wear fur coats.” Emilie ended up doing all the work in this venture because her “husband was always busy elsewhere.” Oskar’s fertile mind had grand ideas, but lacked the executive functioning to bring to bring them into fruition.

Yet, when human lives were at stake, something emerged in Oskar, something he had long suspected he had within him. He had found the great endeavor his heart had longed for, one that filled him with resolve, persistence, and purpose, three crucial elements that eluded him before and after the war. During that magical period from 1939-1945, he pulled some of his workers off of death-camp-bound trains. He bribed dozens and dozens of Nazi officials to keep his workers safe. He was arrested by the Gestapo numerous times because some members of that dreaded organization were upset that he had solid and respectful relationships with Jews. On one occasion in 1942, Oskar drove his car through a cordoned-off area around the Belzec death camp so he could figure out why so many Jewish people had been shipped out of Krakow on trains. He risked arrest and even death if his purpose had been found out. Many scholars believe it was after this daredevil maneuver, and the discovery of the murderous spree happening in this death camp, that his commitment to save his Jewish workers found unshakeable resolve.

The lessons of Oskar Schindler’s heroism apply to all of us with ADHD. During the war, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Why? First of all, he had something that all of us with ADHD need: SUPPORT. He had access to some of Krakow’s most adept Jewish businessmen. They were, in a manner of speaking, his ADHD coaches. Yitzhak Stern, one of Oskar’s coaches, says in the film: “They put up all the money. I do all the work. What if you don’t mind my asking would you do?” Oskar’s answer is what initially gave me the notion that he might have suffered from ADHD: “I’d make sure it’s known the company was business. I’d see that it had a certain panache. That’s what I’m good at. Not the work. Not the work…the presentation.” The “presentation” was Oskar’s façade that he was a true-believing Nazi, a game he played so well that 1200 people survived because of it. The “presentation” was also his grand manipulation of Nazi greed, as he “bought” their help by providing them with an almost constant flow of luxury items and forbidden contraband. But, Oskar had SUPPORT during the war, a factor that greatly accounted for his success.  Without regular interactions with his business “coaches,” however, he failed in every financial and commercial endeavor thereafter. Oskar’s life clearly shows all of us with ADHD to not try to go it alone!  

The horrors of the time gave Oskar PURPOSE, something I believe can be one of the greatest allies of people with ADHD. His brain just seemed to work better during that time period than it did before or after. He functioned poorly when he had just a “job,” but found genius within him when he had a mission. He tired quickly of each and every job he ever had, but when it came to saving his workers, he never gave up, bribing and cajoling some of history’s most infamous psychopaths to help him. For example, he tricked Amon Goeth, the notorious commandant of the labor camp in Krakow, into believing that the two were best friends. Preparing for his war crimes trial, Goeth actually asked his lawyer to contact Schindler, whom he was certain would testify positively on his behalf. The historical record is quite clear, however, that Schindler only saw a “friendship” with Goeth as a means to an end, and had no intention to help him. Oskar was a masterful manipulator.

His sense of purpose also filled him with persistence. Threatened with the closing of his factory, with the impending Russian advance, he did not give up. He used every connection he had amassed during the war to achieve his purpose of saving lives. He travelled back and forth to Berlin to get the necessary signatures. In another one of his grand manipulations, he led others to believe, because they had the same last name, that he was the nephew of the head of the Armaments Inspectorate, Lt. General Maximillian Schindler. Oskar never gave up, yet after the war, with no sense of purpose, other than becoming wealthy again, he failed with reliable consistency.

The war also gave Oskar something that some ADHDers also crave: INTENSITY. While boredom caused Oskar to go into what one might call a funk, even a depression, intensity caused his brain to come alive and allowed him to function at a high level. While he had problems with alcohol before and after the war, during World War II his use of alcohol was cut way back. It is almost as if Oskar did not need the negative intensity of alcohol when he had the purposeful intensity and excitement of the war all around him. Emilie has talked about how engaged Oskar was during the war, a state of mind that was clearly absent thereafter.

Like many of us with ADHD, Oskar did not find his genius in the classroom. His struggles with organization, planning, and follow-through ensured that for most of his life failure continued to haunt him. Yet, with SUPPORT, PURPOSE, and INTENSITY, Oskar saved over a thousand lives. I believe in my heart that there is a fourth element that he did not have, one that if he had had it might have meant success after the war, too: TREATMENT. I believe medication and intensive therapy could have allowed Oskar Schindler to continue to succeed after the war. So, I think the final and most important message of Oskar’s life is the crucial importance of getting diagnosed and treated, whether that involves therapy, social support, or medication, or a combination of all three.

 

Kevin Roberts has spent a good deal of his adult life coming to terms with his own ADHD and cyber addiction. He has a Master’s Degree in ADHD and Addiction Studies from Antioch University. He has trained therapists, students, physicians, nurses, teachers, parents, and school administrators on the perils of overuse of the Internet and video games, as well as ADHD. He has developed a number of innovative programs, such as Training Your Dragons summer camps that empower ADHD children, including intensive training to their families. His “ADHD Empowerment Groups” have been featured on television programs and other media outlets. A sought-after speaker, Roberts has given lectures and workshops around the world, and has recently spoken in the United Kingdom, Canada, Holland, and Poland. He speaks five languages fluently. He has taken groups of young people and their families to Poland to visit Schindler’s factory, Auschwitz, and other Holocaust sites. Roberts has appeared on national and local television stations across the country and the world.

You can reach Kevin at kevin@kevinjroberts.net .

 


The Story Behind My Own ADHD Diagnosis: Stumbling into Self-Awareness

Posted on September 03, 2018

 

It’s a classic story, in a sense. The quiet child who never got into trouble. The teacher’s pet. The sensitive one who had a rich inner life, worrying about the squirrels freezing in winter and dogs getting hit by cars in the summer. The little school girl who gazed out the window, lost in her own secret world, while the rest of the class enjoyed being read to and learning about numbers, state capitals and the life cycle of a chicken.

I was lucky, though. None of my teachers, let alone my parents, would ever know that I got through my early years of school by sheer luck and I suppose, an intuitive method of learning. How I was able to get through without doing homework or listening to the teacher; I’ll never know. But then I hit the famous “ADHD wall”- that’s when undiagnosed, untreated kids with ADHD find they can’t keep up with the academic challenges and then… fall apart. For me, it happened in 6th grade when, after the death of my father a few years earlier, I found myself in a new house, new neighborhood, new school. We had left the city for the suburbs and my new classmates were light years ahead of me in every possible way. Academically, they were at least a year ahead of where I was in the city school. Socially, they were becoming teenagers, while I was still lost in childhood, oblivious to the interests of most girls my age.

I fell behind quickly and, sadly, didn’t catch up for many years. What was the problem? I had undiagnosed ADHD and anxiety.

The rest of my academic career is for another story, another time. What I’d like to do here is to share with you how I discovered my ADHD.

For many of you, that time happens when you, too, hit the wall. It could be in your youth, when your grades slipped, or your behaviors got you in trouble. But more than likely, it happened when you became an adult and found you could no longer juggle all the balls: marriage, work, raising children, keeping up the house, paying bills on time, etc. etc. Or perhaps your child was having difficulties and when you explored how you could help him/her, you discovered that it was ADHD behind it all. In reflecting on the difficulties of your child’s history, you had a rude awakening…”hey, that’s exactly how I was as a child”, and you, too, found yourself diagnosed (and hopefully treated) for your own ADHD.

My case was a bit different.

Let me tell you about my own “aha” moment– the events in my life that led to my own diagnosis of ADHD.

It was June of 1989, when every mother’s nightmare became a reality for me. I found my 16-month-old daughter writhing strangely in her crib in the middle of the night. Her eyes were wide open, but they held a vacant stare. I instantly recognized what appeared to be a febrile seizure. Having seen this same scenario five years earlier at a friend’s house, whose daughter was having seizures, I knew to rush my baby to the bathtub and run tepid water over her to bring down her body temperature. However, in my daughter’s case, it didn’t work. Her body continued to shake and tremble and her body remained hot to the touch.

EMS came, we rushed to the hospital and long story short, my daughter was suffering from encephalitis; a reaction to the MMR vaccine she’d had 8 days earlier. She was horribly ill and hospitalized for nearly three weeks, which included four days in a drug-induced coma to stop the seizures. When she was awakened, she was no longer the child I had known. She had lost all functioning- everything- her memory, her ability to walk and talk. It was all gone. She basically fell into a vegetative state. We were told her future was unclear. The doctors couldn’t predict whether she’d ever walk or talk again. Thankfully, she did both, after much therapy and very long days of hoping, crying and sweating it out.

My little girl, Mackenzie, began to regain her strength. But it was clear that she would have to re-learn everything, and we could only hope she’d catch up. Physically, she did. And more. Not only did she regain her gross motor skills, she also became severely hyperactive and impulsive.

Unlike most people with ADHD, Mackenzie wasn’t born with it (from what I can tell); she “acquired” it from the encephalitis. The following months were a nightmare- trying to keep up with a toddler who went from being a listless rag doll to an out of control warrior. She not only learned to walk again, she became a reckless runner, but with poor coordination- a disastrous combination. In fact, her hyperactivity was so severe, she was unable to sit for more than a few seconds. She was in constant motion; she couldn’t even attend long enough to play with her toys. Worse, she couldn’t nap or sleep- I had to lay on her in her crib in order to stop her limbs from flailing so she could sleep for 20 minutes at a time.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because in trying to learn about Mackenzie’s severe ADHD, I discovered my own. You see, in reading, studying and researching everything I could about how to help my baby, I serendipitously fell upon a book about adult ADHD, titled Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults, by Dr. Lynn Weiss. I nearly dropped the book when I read descriptions of various family members. Then, it happened- the flash of realization that much of what Dr. Weiss was describing also fit me to a “t”. I was floored. My inattention, disorganization, chronic clutter, not finishing projects, etc. etc. were detailed in this book!

I hungrily looked for more information and found Driven to Distraction, by Drs. Edward (Ned) Hallowell and John Ratey. Again, I was amazed that these two men could explain so clearly the difficulties I’d experienced throughout my life. Then came Sari Solden’s Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, which I cried through. Page after page described my inner life in detail. Finally, someone who not only understood ADHD in women, but who could write about it in a way that tugged at my heart, opened it and filled it with hope.

For some, this light bulb moment feels like a knife in the heart. Depression often sets in and there’s tremendous sadness about the many years lost to this “disorder.” But for me, it was a relief that words couldn’t express. It was the answer to WHY I found seemingly simple things impossible for me to handle, like keeping the house clean, cooking a meal, finishing a book, etc. How was I able to earn two college degrees yet unable to keep a closet organized? Why would I enter a supermarket and leave with items other than the ones I had intended to buy? And worse, why was I in a constant state of anxiety in such settings? Malls and grocery stores always left me in a state of panic. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that being bombarded with stimuli and shutting down were part of how my ADHD affected me.

These books gave me my life back and gave me hope. I wasted no time in pursuing the gnawing question: could I really have ADHD? Or was I simply lazy and disorganized; a character flaw that haunted me all of my life?

I found a psychologist in my area who had expertise in diagnosing ADHD in adults. After weeks of waiting for my appointment, I finally had the evaluation and my suspicions were confirmed: I did, indeed have inattentive ADHD.

Perhaps being a psychotherapist, myself, made it easier for me to pick up the phone and find a therapist; someone who could help me fit the pieces together to help me understand what was “wrong” with me all these years.

Therapy taught me the facts about ADHD– that there’s a strong genetic component. That it’s highly treatable, but that its effect of living with it for over 40 years did take its toll on me and my self-esteem. There was much work to do to gain back the confidence I’d lost over the years and to begin making decisions that worked FOR my ADHD instead of against it.

When I saw the dramatic change of learning about my own ADHD, I knew I wanted to help others, too, who were living their scattered lives thinking they were flawed mothers, fathers, partners, college students, employees, etc. So years after my daughter’s illness, when I could begin to focus on my life again, I became very involved in the world of ADHD; from joining the ADDA board of directors (www.ADD.org ), to running my local CHADD chapter (www.CHADD.org ), then opening a private practice, and finally, launching my consulting/resource websites at www.ADDconsults.com   and www.QueensOfDistraction.com .

I began to lecture locally and nationally on ADHD, and in 2005, published my first book, Survival Tips for Women with ADHD. My second book, The Queen of Distraction, was published in 2014.

In addition to raising my two daughters, I also found time to make art and music in my home studios.

Could I have done all of this had I not gotten the ADHD diagnosis and proper treatment? I highly doubt it. And that’s why my mission is to help others emerge from the darkness of distractions, inattention and brain fog, to find their true selves and move forward with their wonderful strengths and gifts.

Do you have a similar story? Are you ready to take a personal journey to find the answers to the questions haunting you about your own procrastination, inattention, impulsivity? Could it be ADHD? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 


CHADD Conference Nov 7-11-2018 St. Louis! Come to my Session- Register Today!

Posted on August 30, 2018

 

The CHADD Conference (now called the International Conference on ADHD), and put on by CHADD, ADDA, and ACO, is Nov. 8-11 in St. Louis! Great speakers lined up, great topics, plus all the fun of connecting with others. Just added: Dr. Russell Barkley keynote.

I’ll be presenting on “The Secret Lives of Women with ADHD: What Your Mother, Grandmother and Teachers Never Told You.”

Register now: https://events.bizzabo.com/207351

 


10 Tips for Parents of ADHD Kids: How to Keep your Marriage Healthy and Alive

Posted on August 18, 2018

You probably know that raising a child with ADHD or other special challenges puts a strain in even the most stable of marriages. Recent studies show that such marriages are at a higher risk of ending in divorce.

All relationships and marriages require diligent work and open communication in order to survive and stay healthy. But add children with ADHD or other special needs and those requirements become paramount in keeping the marriage alive and well.

Below are ten tips to keep your marriage on track when you have a child with ADHD in the mix.

10 Tips for Improving your Marriage

 

  1. ** Remove yourself emotionally** from the child-related problems at hand and focus on your partner. Too often, we get sucked up in the daily dramas of raising our very challenging children and forget the emotional needs of our partners and ourselves. One way to help do this is to think back to the early days of your courtship and marriage and to re-live the feelings you had and what drew you to your partner in the first place.
  2. Spend time with your spousewith the understanding that there will be NO discussion of the children. The focus is only on each other.
  3. Improve communication skills.After a long day at work or a full day of caring for children at home, the temptation is to “dump” all of your frustrations on your partner at the end of the day. Instead, write down your aggravations as an emotional release, then discuss them with your partner after you’ve each had time to settle down, had dinner and feel emotionally ready to handle this. By then, some of the intensity may decrease, making it easier to problem solve without feeling overwhelmed with emotions.
  4. Never finger point and accuse.State the issue at hand as a problem so as not to alienate your spouse. For example, instead of shrieking to your husband that he doesn’t do enough to help you with your son’s homework, state it as a problem needing to be solved, i.e.: “Danny gets overwhelmed with his homework after putting all of his energy into getting through a day at school. After dealing with the school staff and Danny’s explosive behaviors when he comes home, my patience is gone and we’re at each others’ throats. Every day is a battle ground and we both lose. What do you think we can do to make homework time less stressful?”
  5. Make sure that your child’s ADHD treatment is optimal. If he’s on medication,      make sure the dosage and type is best suited for his flavor of ADHD. If he’s having trouble in school, discuss your concerns with school staff and see if he qualifies for special help. If his behavior is a problem, seek out professional counseling or consult with the school psychologist.
  6. Since ADHD is highly genetic, there’s a good chance that either parent might have undiagnosed and untreated ADHD. If you see symptoms, get yourself or your spouse evaluated and treated.  Raising challenging children also takes a toll on ones’ self-esteem and confidence, often causing anxiety and depression. If you or your spouse is struggling, consider counseling to help with the emotions and difficulties you are dealing with. “Special” families have more on their plate and an extra hand in the way of professional support can do wonders for the entire family.
  7. Seek out support groupssuch as CHADD, where you and your spouse can go for education and help. Hearing other parents share similar problems can often help you in dealing with yours, while learning new strategies to help your marriage survive. Find the closest CHADD chapter to you by visiting their website at www.chadd.org .
  8. Dear Abby may not always be right, but heed her advice about getting marriage counseling when things seem to be going off course. Make sure you find someone who understands the challenges of raising children with ADHD and/or other special needs.
  9. Take time awaywith your spouse sans the kids. Your relationship needs to be nurtured and taking vacations, even if for just a day or two, is imperative in keeping your love alive.
  10. Take parenting classes.If you can help keep your child on an even keel, there will be less stress in the family and marriage. You and your spouse need to work as a team and having the right tools to improve your parenting skills will go a long way in improving family life.


When You Can’t Afford ADHD Coaching

Posted on August 15, 2018

PsychCentral did a nice job on this piece. I don’t think I’ve seen any or many articles on the topic of “When You Can’t Afford ADHD Coaching.”

ADHD coaching can be incredibly transformative. It can help you better understand yourself, identify and harness your strengths, achieve your goals and build a meaningful, satisfying life.

But depending on your budget, it also can be pricey. It’s absolutely worth the investment, but you might not have the funds available right now.

Read the full article HERE

 

 


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.