Mental health

I may or may not have ADHD… but the label doesn’t actually matter

I just saw an ADHD coach for the first time.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for years, but this was totally different. After getting my psychological assessment a few months ago (which was inconclusive for ADHD, and indicated severe anxiety and moderate depression), I was told that I would benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

I started seeing a therapist at the same clinic where I had my assessment, and she was great — I liked her a lot — but it didn’t feel like what I thought CBT would be like. And that’s because I found out it wasn’t really CBT. When I asked her about it, she told me that she was providing me with “a personalized approach” — which is exactly what I’ve been doing with other therapists since 2012.

Not that it’s not helpful, because it is. I’ve become quite adept at expressing my feelings, and have even become more introspective over the years. I love spilling my guts to a neutral stranger who is an expert at analyzing people. But I now want something different. I want someone to help me set goals and attain them. I want someone to provide me with concrete tools to achieve the things I’ve always had trouble doing. So I told my therapist this, which was really hard, because I’m a people-pleaser and I was nervous to assert my dissatisfaction. But it turned out great and, of course, she was understanding. It wasn’t even awkward. She recommended someone new at the clinic who she thought would be a better fit for what I’m looking for — her name is Lynda. I saw Lynda today for the first time, and I think it might be life-changing.

I tend to go into hyperbolic mode when things are either good or bad, so I know to trust my feelings on this with a grain of salt. But I get so excited when things feel like they’re going in the exact direction I need. The reason I get so excited is because I’m a pretty particular person. I overthink so much that I develop specific ideas of how I expect situations to turn out, and I end up being disappointed 99% of the time. So when something feels so right, I feel elated.

I don’t have too much to say about it other than that right now because I just had my first session with her. But I’d like to state that I’ve always been skeptical of anyone who refers to themselves as a “coach”. What does that even mean? Can’t anyone just call themself a coach? Is it a regulated industry?

And in the same breath, I truly believe that credentials don’t necessarily matter when it comes to finding the right person to help you. Of course, education and experience matter, and certainly help the person have a wide range of experiences and perspectives to guide their methods. But I don’t think that having a PhD automatically means someone will be a better fit to help me over someone else. There has to be the right combination of factors.

With Lynda, I felt her confidence. I felt her experience. She asked me all the right questions. She got stuff out of me in our preliminary session that I couldn’t believe. The deep level we got to in 55 minutes had taken weeks of seeing my past therapists. I also felt like she got me. The way she spoke and the way she listened made me feel heard. And while I do think this is majorly because of her as a person as well as how compatible we are for the patient/therapist dynamic, I also think it’s because her expertise is directly in line with my issues and what I hope to achieve.

She specializes as an ADHD coach. Now, even though I was technically not officially diagnosed with ADHD (my results were mixed — some schools of thought said my results show that I do have ADHD, while others said I don’t), the conclusion I came up with along with the neuropsychologist who assessed me was that it doesn’t really matter whether or not I technically have ADHD or not. The most important thing is to work on the areas of my life I want to improve — for me, the key areas include my anxiety, perfectionist, procrastination, and thought organization.

At one point during the session with Lynda, she said that everything I was describing about myself sounds a hell of a lot like ADHD (she didn’t say hell, though. Creative liberties!). She proceeded to explain in more detail:

  • I have trouble keeping track of time. Time seems to pass without my consent or awareness. I try so hard to keep track of time, but when I start to focus on something, my focus is lasered (made-up word, I think) to such an extreme that everything in the background disappears — including time. The other day, my hubs asked me to try to take a quick shower so there would be enough water left for him after. I really tried to focus on the time in there. This was not my first attempt at shower time-management. And it was not the first time I failed. This time, I tried to be present in the moment and think about how much time I was taking for each step. One issue is that I have very long and very thick hair, so it takes a long time to shampoo and condition. I start with my hair and by the time I get to body wash, god knows where my mind has wandered. My mind has a mind of its own! It’s like I blackout into the most cliché version of a shower thoughts meme (except it’s a slide show of memes that goes on for about 15 minutes). Eventually I come to and have no freaking idea how long I’ve been in the shower. Sometimes I only come to as I notice the shower is suddenly getting cold. And that’s never fun. (it’s not infrequent that this happens while I still have conditioner in my hair, so I lean my head into the cold stream of water so that none of the water touches any part of me that it doesn’t need to). Well, this bullet point ended up way longer than I had anticipated. And on that note…
  • I tend to go on tangents. I’m always thinking of 10 things at a time. This also applies to goals I have, I always know 10 things I want to achieve, so I decide to achieve them all at once. Go big or go home, right? Well, I always go big, and then go home within two weeks because I fail. I’m terrible at taking small, realistic steps.
  • I have tons of thoughts and ideas, but rarely any action. Lynda explained that the mind produces thoughts, which lead to actions. The ADHD mind functions differently because there’s a lack of dopamine. Because of this, the thoughts and actions are split in the brain. The ADHD thinks of tons of thoughts all day, but doesn’t have the motivation it needs to take action on them. That’s why simple tasks may feel so much more laborious for someone with ADHD.

Honestly, this was the best session I’ve had with any person in the helping profession since I started seeing my first therapist more than five years ago. We already formulated a specific plan that I’m accountable for. My first goal is to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier than I have been lately. Here are the details of my “homework” for the next two weeks until next session:

Wake up at 8am: I am a chronic snoozer. I’ve never met a snooze button I haven’t pressed. Repeatedly. I have had my alarm set for 8am for the past year and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten up the first time it went off. When my son was a newborn, I spent months jumping out of bed half-asleep the second I heard the tiniest peep. For some reason, having a baby changed something in me in that regard. But an alarm has never had that effect on me. My goal is to get out of bed at 8am. I don’t know if I’m going to set my alarm before 8am so I can snooze or whether I’m not going to give myself that option. Unfortunately, if I know there’s an option on the clock, my morning brain will be a complete asshole and say fuck you, morning. Lynda suggested I use my research skills to look up whether an ADHD alarm clock exists. Otherwise, she suggests downloading an alarm app to use instead (there must be an ADHD alarm app). The only issue with that is I can’t have my phone near me due to my next goal…

No electronics an hour before bedtime: We decided on an 11:30pm bedtime as one that’s reasonable, which means that I need to stop using all electronics as of 10:30pm. As I type this, it’s 10:28pm, so I’m going to have to stop writing this post soon and continue it tomorrow. Which kind of sucks because I’m enjoying writing this blog post. Which leads me to my next goal…

Write: Writing this blog has been helping me a lot. It’s been keeping me out of my own head. Even though I’m writing into the blogosphere, there’s something so cathartic about getting words outside of my own brain and visibly on a surface that I can read. And then I can read it back to myself and think, shit, I need to get it together. Or, wow, I had a really good epiphany about that thing.

[my sleep alarm just went off, so that means I’m signing off. I know I don’t need to type this since you would never know otherwise. I’m really weird. Goodbye!]

P.S. It’s now a week later and I forgot to come back to this and see if I completed my thought for this post. I’m now feeling a distance with this post and the thoughts I had at the time, so I’m not going to continue it. After re-reading it, I feel the post is actually complete as-is, so there you go!

Note: I wrote this back in March 2017 for myself, and I’ve decided to post it on my blog because I think it has an important message that others may be able to relate to. It’s a little more on the personal side, and I like that. Authenticity is super important to me, which means I’m going to need to get used to being more vulnerable and step outside my comfort zone. I’m going to start posting more blogs like this as I find it therapeutic for me, and I think it will be good (for me and for others) to connect with people who can relate.

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