Going Back to Uni

During the February – June 2017 Semester, I took a ‘Leave of Absence’. I was struggling with depression, (performance) anxiety and in April, I got my ADHD Type 2 diagnosis. I only just got back to uni, and decided to only follow one course, to just get things started again, and see how I am doing. So here I will tell you a little bit about my medication, my wellbeing lately & the past few months of being back at uni.

Firstly, for a month now, I have gotten medication to help with my focus & my general inatentiveness. Haha, boy was that fun. First mistake I made was drinking a cup of coffee right after my second methylphenidate pill of the trial. Caffeine and meds are NOT a good combination, let’s just say I found out the hard way. I sat in the library spacing out like never before. I could no longer read what was on my screen, my legs felt very tingly, my heart was racing & beating very loudly in my experience & I had a bit of trouble navigating. So then all I had to do the rest of the past month was simply explain why I was a sucker & drinking decaffeinated coffee, which was a small price to pay for both functioning properly & having an easier time focusing ;). Aside from the caffeine mishaps, (I also once thought chocolate covered coffee beans were chocolates, and got slight palpitations) I experienced barely any side-effects, which was nice, and I seemed to find it easier to focus & drag myself to the library to study.

Aside from medication, I am more aware of my own boundaries due to AD(H)D. I loved doing a thousand things at a time, but I finally realized that is no longer possible. I use 2 big planners, a weekly one on A3 format, & a monthly one on A4, still pretty decent :). It just helps me see how, what & where I have commitments, I need to take time for me & generally get an overview of things, and thus peace of mind (YAY!). This also means going to bed on time, which is something I still struggle with. I still tend to be like “sure I have time after dance practice, I’ll come & have a drink” after I have spent all day studying and it’s already 11 at night. However, I’m working on it. Last week I said yes to the drinks, now I said maybe ;). Accepting my boundaries is still a tough one as you may have guessed.

The library is my favorite place to study by the way. The environment causes for me to feel like I am socially obliged to focus. This helps, plus then I get happy about my focusing well & I push through. Also, I take breaks with friends, which helps me rest my brain a little, gives me some low-key social interaction, and I am kinder toward myself, & hence I study better when I return to my spot, win-win-win all around! I counter these long days in the library then with 4 nights a week of ballroom dancing, or so I try. I generally make 3 of them. This sounds like huge amounts, but seeing as one of those nights I assist someone who has only just started the beginner course, it’s not that much, plus it’s fun!

It is only recently that I started to struggle somewhat though. I notice my exams are coming closer, the pressure is building (or so I think in my head) and I am 1. afraid I’ll give up between now & exams, but also 2. afraid I can’t do it. In general I am very happy with my decision to go back to uni, I am passionate and super intrigued by the material, as well as happy simply have gotten things started again. I was doing so well in my opinion, but now I’m seeing flashes of my old self where I started to avoid, and just gave up right before a big test/ deadline, and I get really really scared. Also, meds are not magic. Once I am focused, I find it easier to maintain focus & not get distracted. But for information to capture my attention enough to get me to focus is still tough. If I am either not really interested, or if I already am starting to avoid, it is still a big power struggle inside my brain. So yeah. Fun times. I am working on it, once again.


Choosing You Over Others

One of the most difficult things I find is setting boundaries. Not in a way that I don’t know wrong or right or don’t have any morals or values, but in the little things.

I have been on a number of committees and organised a bunch of events, and combining that with a social life, academics and until recently a relationship, has been really hard. Before my ADHD diagnosis, I didn’t recognize when I was overwhelmed, and even if I realized I wasn’t feeling okay, or worse, getting anxious, I didn’t feel like I should be and just kept going. The result of that would be that my body would eventually pull on the emergency brakes & I would get migraines, because I had just pushed myself way beyond my limits. 

My diagnosis allowed me to cut myself some slack. I learned to recognize the signs of feeling overwhelmed & learned to pace myself (a bit) better. One of the ways is just by scanning my body sort of, where I pause, check if I’m feeling tense, breathe deeply, and then 9/10 times, if I am tense, this helps. 

Furthermore, planning. I know, from personal experience, Planning alone can be tough & overwhelming, especially for someone with adhd, but my psychologist recently put it this way, “see it as you have 8 spoons of energy, wouldn’t you rather you knew you were gonna spend those 8 spoons okay, rather then be already 2/3 through your energy by midday with a party still happening tonight??” I admit it sounds easier than it is, but I genuinely spend a spoon less energy if I’ve spent time in the morning just checking my agenda & knowing carefully what I will spend my energy on, rather than just going in head first, worrying if I’m going to have a breakdown at dinner time today, because I’m just. all out. 

& my very last piece of advice?, which I also struggle with like crazy – don’t hold on whatever you’re feeling. I was the person that would tell myself constantly “I’m not going to let this affect me, I’m fine, I’m going to keep going. But then I would suddenly have 2 days where the littlest thing would make me cry, or agitated or sometimes even make me really really angry for no reason at all! So feel. Let yourself feel & it won’t be as bad as you think. (I need to repeat this to myself more often than you realize). 

I know this sounds like basic self-care, and maybe you already know this or already do this (good job!!) I don’t, & I guess I’m also trying to help myself here. If you’re interested in why I have so much trouble with this, look forward to my next post! It’ll be a bit deeper perhaps on why and how. Either way, lots of love and until my next post! 

Part 1: Getting My ADHD Diagnosed

Hello hello & welcome to my blog!

My name is Myrthe, that’s a Dutch name, which anyone outside of this tiny country is almost guaranteed to have trouble pronouncing (thanks mom & dad!), Haha. I have started this blog as somewhat of a journal for myself and my A.D.D. , a subtype of A.D.H.D, but also to share my experiences openly and publicly, as I couldn’t find that anywhere yet. I found loads of tips & tricks, but no personal experiences or struggles, and that it was normal how I was feeling. So here goes I guess…

At age 22, on April 24th 2017, I received the diagnosis Attention Deficit Disorder. Yay me?  I tested positive, but I felt negative. This is now just over a month ago, and I still have no clue what I should think of it. So I guess I’ll just try to chronologically take you through how the process was for me. Before ADD came up however, I was already in therapy and taking medication for depression and anxiety, but that’s a story for another time. Below the story of how my ADD was diagnosed.

On april 3rd 2017, I was evaluating the side effects of the depression medication I was using with my psychiatrist. When I told her I was having trouble falling asleep at night,  because I couldn’t stop worrying, she started to look a little quizzically. She then started asking me a bunch of questions, whether I was impulsive (… yes), whether I got bored easily (…yes), If I had trouble staying organized and misplaced things often (… yes x1000). Yes, I had trouble with all those things. She made a note and told me she would discuss this with the psychologist, she then looked back at me and told me there might be a chance that I have either ADD or ADHD, and that might be the reason why I couldn’t get peace of mind and was often quite restless. She saw that I was startled by this a little as she then proceeded to explain it was no big deal, it was something I could live with just fine, and learn to work with! Now I looked quizzically at her, didn’t having AD(H)D mean that there was something wrong with me, that I was kind of… broken? That things weren’t wired correctly in my head and that I couldn’t sit still, ever? She told me that that was not always the case, as it shows differently in different people, but also not something I needed to worry about right then & there, as nothing was certain yet. She’d discuss it with my psychologist & suggest a test. I left more curious than anything, but also anxious, it would explain a great deal, but would it fix anything at all?

I am a naturally curious person, and hence, for my brain to be different & special, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? It meant I could maybe stop trying to be like everyone else! A week and a half later, I had my official test, which here in the Netherlands is like an interview. I had to answer a number of questions about my daily life, but particularly my childhood, because that is generally where AD(H)D is most evident. For this reason, my parents were also interviewed. The psychologist wanted to double check some of the examples I had provided, how they experienced them and also to get clarification on issues I didn’t know whether I struggled with them or not. These were for example if I was easily distracted from tasks or whatever toy I played with when I was 6 years old. For my part of the interview, I was surprised more that anything by how often I answered yes to the questions in the test, which were all statements in some form or another relating to AD(H)D. For a number of them, I also had to provide examples, which made me realize that maybe it wasn’t just me not trying hard enough all that time, but there was something else that influenced my behavior. As my parents were only interviewed or contacted after I was done with the interview, I had no idea what the outcome would be and left with an idea that there was a good chance the test came back positive, but that it wasn’t definite yet. .

Soon enough my next appointment came around, and with it my diagnosis. I had just sat down when my psychologist explained I do indeed have ADD, one of the three subtypes of ADHD. At first I was relieved, no wonder I struggled with planning, organization, staying focused and impulsivity, my brain is the issue, not me! Then came sadness, I wondered why no one ever wondered before? Did people think I was really too lazy or not working hard enough? And last but not least came buckets and buckets and buckets of frustration. At this point I had been battling depression and anxiety for 3 years, and I felt like so much pain and heartache could have been prevented if I had gotten help for my troubles sooner, if only a couple of months. Furthermore, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to function, or get my life together basically. Basically I felt like everything had changed, and everything had stayed the same at the same time.

All in all, getting diagnosed provided me with directions on what help to get, but also really confused and frustrated at the same time.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re going through something similar, don’t hesitate to send me a message!