I’m finally starting to figure out what’s what after a lifetime of ADHD and anxiety.
I remember one Father’s Day my mom put me in a white sun dress to visit my dad. During the picnic I got grass and food on my new white dress.
As we drove home I looked down at my dirty dress, and had a sudden jolt of panic. My mother was going to lose her sh-t when she saw me. And she did. But what I really remember isn’t the argument itself.
What I remember is that my dad never walked me to the door of my mother’s house again.
He would only pull into the driveway and honk his horn. There was never any resolution.
This was quite literally my entire childhood – screaming fights between adults while I watched.
I developed a sort of hyperawareness of moods. I’d listen to conversations, the tone of voice, looking for signs of an impending blowout fight.
When asked questions, I lied as necessary to avoid escalating anyone. And I never, ever added to the sh-t show with my own emotions. There was no room for that.
I held it all in.
Unfortunately, I carried this habit into my adult life. Now I assume a fight is coming, or disapproval is coming, at every turn.
Like many of you, I think RSD is real (even if a little overplayed).
But I also believe that trauma played a role in how my brain developed.
I choose to hold the anxiety and ADHD together as parts of who I am. Not the whole picture.
But life with anxiety AND ADHD is a challenge. I’ve had to learn about how the two play together, and how to talk about it.
Lessons Learned from a lifetime of ADHD & Anxiety
The Biggest lesson
ADHD rarely travels alone, and anxiety usually comes along for the ride. For that reason, I’ve chosen to educate myself on both topics and talk about them openly.
When you become a parent, it’s helpful to look back and consider your family history and life experiences. Not so you can try to do a better job than your parents, or dredge up the past, but so that you have a choice about how to deal with mental health struggles if/when they arise.
I had anxiety from about the age of six, but my parents were so busy hating each other that they had no clue how much it affected me.
I don’t say that to bash them, I talk about it because there’s much to learn from that.
When my anxiety ramps us, I’m fully aware of how that could impact my son. We talk very openly about our “brain types” in this house which is something I didn’t get as a kid.
According to Karen from Hey Sigmund there are some effective ways to talk to your children about anxiety. I am not sure anyone spoke to me about anxiety until I was an adult.
Karen is a genius, so definitely check out her website here
Talking to Younger Children
First, don’t talk them out of their feelings. This is one of those reflexive reactions parents have. Saying,”You’ll be fine,” will not resolve the feelings and shuts down the conversation
Try to relate to the feelings of anxiety instead of shutting them down.
For kids that have panic attacks you will want to explain some of the physical symptoms and where they come from. You could start by explaining that their brain caused their body to release stress hormones that make their hearts race and their tummy hurt.
Assist them in gaining a sense of control over their anxiety. Name the anxiety and discuss tactics to scare it away. Role play and have fun with it.
You could even give them examples of your own anxiety. Make sure your child knows that you “get it.” Reassure them that lots of other kids and adults live with anxiety and they are not alone.
Adolescents and Teenagers
I remember in 6th grade being part of a Luncheon Club run by the guidance department. My stepfather had died recently and so I qualified as an “at-risk” student.
I’ll tell you what I lost sleep over. Not the death in my family. Not my mother’s anger and depression. It was the stupid luncheon club.
Adolescence is a tough time in a kid’s life. Between parents, school and friends it can become an overwhelming time for the most confident young person.
I was not a confident young person.
Karen at Hey Sigmund has yet another amazing article that breaks down how we can talk to young people about all of the changes going on in their brains during this time.
Talk to your adolescent about ways they can influence the changes taking place in their body and brain.
Reassure them that the increased hormones circulating through their body may leave them feeling emotional or restless and this is totally normal.
Finally, prioritize sleep. I realize this is easier said than done, but set an example. Quiet time starts in my house at 9pm. You don’t have to be sleeping, but you can’t be on devices.
a lifetime of adhd and anxiety
At this point in my life I am fully aware of my ongoing issues.
Research has helped me to understand where the anxiety comes from and how it ties in with my ADHD. I accept that anxiety is part of my life, and for me, medication is helpful.
My nonprofessional advice for dealing with all this crap is to try all the things, and see what helps. If you need to change your approach periodically, it’s fine.
Things that work for me include:
Exercise (it takes a while to form the habit, but it’s soooo worth it).
Light** mindfulness/meditation (or just a few minutes of “you” time per day)
The most important thing is to practice flexible thinking. About yourself, about other people, about life. Perspective will come with time.
Life and maturity is an advantage when you are dealing with ongoing anxiety.
There will be seasons when you are functioning quite well – and then there will be times when you are not functioning at all.
All we can do is educate ourselves and support each other.
After a lifetime of ADHD and anxiety I’ve learned about how the two play off of each other, and how to talk about it.
If you’d like to talk about it consider the Enclave to connect with other women and mothers who get it. If you’re more comfortable 1:1 check out my coaching info page.