I’m finally starting to figure out what’s what after a lifetime of ADHD and anxiety.
Anxiety has always been part of my life.
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, dirt, 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 shit when she saw me.
And she did. There was screaming and name calling and craziness. 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. And he never came to the door to get me 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 shit 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.
Just like you, I have the rejection sensitive dysphoria.
Yes, you could argue that trauma played a role in how my brain developed.
But I choose hold the anxiety and ADHD together as part of who I am. Both conditions are highly heritable, and might have happened even without a troubled childhood.
Lessons Learned from a lifetime of ADHD & Anxiety
The chicken or the egg?
I am unsure as to whether my anxiety preceded my ADHD, or vice versa.
My childhood memories are certainly not going to clarify that question for me, so I thought perhaps I should read up on anxiety in children in case my son starts to show any signs of it now that he is in kindergarten. I was definitely dealing with anxiety by the time I was in first grade. My parents were so busy hating each other I am certain they had no clue how much it affected the children involved.
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
Ideas for Talking to Younger Children
First, don’t talk them out of their feelings. This is one of those reflexive reactions that parents have, like when we say, “you’ll be fine.”
[ctt title=”We should try to relate to the feelings of anxiety instead of discounting them. http://wp.me/p60iCk-oq” tweet=”We should try to relate to the feelings of anxiety instead of discounting them. http://ctt.ec/Fblrc+” coverup=”Fblrc”]
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 causes the body to release adrenalin and 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.
Anxiety in 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 at my lack of academic success. It was the stupid luncheon club.
I would sit in class before lunch, my face flushed with worry, my heart pounding because I didn’t want anyone to see me go into the guidance office. I had planned an extra long route around the school, stopping at my locker, so that the hallway cleared.
Then I made up an excuse when my friends asked me where I was at lunch.
Adolescence is a tough time in a kid’s life. It’s hard to figure out who YOU are when there are so many outside pressures. 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. For example, teenagers have a well-developed sense of intuition. This gut feeling can be useful when they are faced with a tough decision.
Reassure them that the increased testosterone/estrogen circulating through their body may leave them feeling emotional or restless. This is totally normal and can be harnessed into positive activities such as sports or music.
Finally, educate your kids about why they should avoid alcohol and drugs. Emphasize the good feelings that can be gained through experiences and safe lower-risk activities.
[ctt title=”Prioritize sleep. The teenage brain needs sleep. http://wp.me/p60iCk-oq” tweet=”Prioritize sleep. The teenage brain needs sleep. http://ctt.ec/9rW3J+” coverup=”9rW3J”]
While on the subject of adolescents and anxiety I recently had the opportunity to read Anxiety Sucks by Natasha Daniels from Anxious Toddlers. Actually, I emailed her and begged her for a copy so I could read it and absorb as much information as possible.
Visit Natasha’s website, I promise you won’t regret it. Every single page is full of information. I have been a fangirl/cyberstalker of Natasha for quite some time.
When I contacted her she sent me a copy of her book. Yes, she is that nice!
Because I also have it digitally I am thinking I might give it away. If you have an adolescent in your life who is dealing with anxiety issues this is a fabulous resource. Enter the giveaway below.
At this point in my life I am aware of my ongoing issues with anxiety. 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 (or lessons learned from a lifetime of ADHD & anxiety) for dealing with all this crap is a conglomeration of stuff I have tried, and stuff I want to try. I learned about anxiety from 4 sources; ADDitude, Anxious Toddlers, Hey Sigmund and a counselor that I had in my mid-twenties.
I am constantly harping on exercise. Until you try it you will not understand what I mean. Exercise does amazing things for your brain and emotions.
Some ideas that are particularly good for anxiety: swimming, walking listening to a podcast/book recording, and yoga.
Ok. I am so so not good at the hippy dippy stuff. But more and more research is showing that mindfulness meditation has a variety of health benefits.
Meditation lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels. And really, it only takes about 10 minutes per day. I spend more than 10 minutes per day wringing my hands and complaining about my stress. True story.
As in get a manicure or a massage, or fill-in-the-blank.
A recent study found that when patients were treated to a Swedish massage a couple times per week, their cortisol levels decreased, while their dopamine and serotonin levels increased.Check it out
To put it simply, they had less anxiety and more feel good hormones circulating in their brains. YAY! I love dopamine!
Massage are a luxury and I certainly cannot afford one on a bi-weekly basis. But maybe once a month. I wonder if I could talk the hubs into that?
I do have a manicure every few weeks. My manicure is my time out of the house and away from the boys. I enjoy the company of the other women as much as the manicure itself.
Take Some “You” Time
This is another area that I harp on all the time. We all need time to ourselves. God knows, I can barely pee by myself let alone get a few hours to myself. But I am trying to prioritize this in my life. So should you.
Hop on over to this article from Hey Sigmund to read more from one of my favorite sources of information. http://www.heysigmund.com/living-with-anxiety/
Put simply, life and maturity is something of an advantage when you are dealing with ongoing anxiety. For those of us with ADHD there will be periods of time when we are functioning quite well – and then there will be times when we are not functioning at all.
All we can do is educate ourselves and support each other. Join our Facebook Group and we can work through this ADHD life together.
Has anxiety played a role in your life? (ADHD or not)
Do you believe ADHD increases anxiety, or that it exists separately from an ADHD diagnosis?