Overcoming Depression: One Step At A Time

I started writing this blog post a few weeks ago when I was really in a low place. Some days it took me until 2:30 p.m. to get out of bed. I spent all day watching TV and I barely ate. Night after night, I was plagued by insomnia. Almost all of my groceries went bad each week because, even though I normally love to cook, I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it. I felt anxious and reclusive and just plain sad.

I’ll say upfront that I much prefer to write about my triumphs on the internet than my struggles. But it’s important to admit that some days (and even some weeks or months), depression and anxiety can smack me in the face out of nowhere. And it’s confusing, exhausting, frustrating and really sucky.

As a very achievement-oriented person, it’s hard not to feel ashamed when I slip into a depression like I did a few weeks ago. I struggled with thinking that if I just worked a little harder or had more discipline, I would be able to fix it and feel better. It’s so easy to be consumed by embarrassment, loneliness and shame. But I slowly committed to a few things that helped me make it through.

  • I made an appointment with my psychiatrist as soon as I recognized the problem and I got a new medication that has helped dramatically.
  • I went to therapy more.
  • I took melatonin at 10 p.m. each night to ensure I was getting enough sleep, which is especially crucial for people with bipolar.
  • I dove into self-help books.
  • I dragged myself to a coffee shop each morning to give me a reason to get dressed and leave the house.
  • I tried to create something each day, no matter how small (more on that later).
  • I reached out to friends as much as I could to keep from isolating myself.
  • I finally cleaned my disaster of a room and forced myself to keep it that way.
  • I spent as much time as possible outside and in nature.
  • I did yoga.
  • I started writing down things I’m grateful for every morning

And little by little, I started to feel better.

Now, a few weeks later, I’m happier than I have been in a long time. I feel like myself again, I’ve re-established my positive habits, I’m exercising, and my drive and motivation are back (I’m finally finishing this post!).

I get really caught up in all the things I’m not doing when my mental health is in a bad place. But I’ve found that I have to be proud of the progress that I do make on bad days, even if it’s just getting out of bed and leaving the house before noon. If I can hold onto that pride, it helps carry me into doing a little more the next day. And then a little more the next. Overcoming depression is all about baby steps. But slowly, one day at a time, I promise it gets better.

Nature Heals!

Exercise has never been my friend. In fact, one of my first blogs talked about exactly this issue — how hard it is for people with ADD and depression to get out and move (even though it’s so important).

However, I’ve been in a strange season of life recently that has forced me to change some of my habits. I’m waiting for a new job to start and, without anything to do, I’ve been bored out of my mind. While navigating this transition, the strangest thing happened.

I fell in love with hiking and with nature. Who woulda thought!

Last week I hiked 11 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain up to Mount LeConte, one of the highest peaks in the Smokies. And I’m not going to lie — for a lot of the hike I wanted to die. It was exhausting and draining and at some points deeply challenging both emotionally and physically. However, when I got to the top, I felt a euphoria and pride I haven’t felt in a long time. After being bored all summer, feeling like I had achieved something once again inspired and exhilarated me.

In the last few weeks, I’ve walked and hiked more than I have in years and I’ve spent at least three days a week out on a trail. Mount LeConte was actually my third huge hike this month. And the more I’ve hiked and exercised, the more motivated I’ve become to keep it up.

People have told me to exercise more for years, but I had no idea how healing nature and movement could really be for my mental health. It forces me to quiet my brain, find time to be grateful for the world around me and gives me something I can continuously work to improve. I’ve started to understand how people can get so addicted to endorphins. Hell, this is probably the first time I’ve even exercised enough to even feel endorphins.

During a time of depression, it can be incredibly hard to get out and move or exercise. And this is not to say that time outside can take the place of therapy or medication. But I’m finding each day more and more that nature heals when I’m at my lowest. In fact, I’ve felt too unmotivated to even blog recently, but I felt inspired enough while out on the trail that I sat down on a bench and wrote this post in my iPhone notes. I even ran a mile this today and I don’t think I’ve done that since middle school PE.

So even if it feels extra hard, get outside. I absolutely know how tough (and sometimes miserable) it can be, but I’m learning that a little exercise or a walk in the woods each day really can turn things around.

What keeps you motivated to exercise? Let me know in the comments!

What To Do With Nothing To Do?

When I graduated college, I decided I needed a little time off to rest and recharge. After so many years of hard work, a couple months of doing nothing seemed like an absolute dream. And at first, I loved my newfound freedom to sit in bed and watch The Office all day or take a long road trip on a whim or cook something elaborate and experimental just for kicks.

But after two months with no structure or real responsibilities, I am practically bored to tears. The novelty of an empty calendar wore off quickly and when my ADHD set in I had nothing to use my excessive energy and imagination on.

I can’t remember the last time in my life when I had more than a week or two with nothing to do. If I wasn’t in school, I was in camp or working or interning. And as much as I craved a break during those times, it turns out staying busy is a crucial part of maintaining my mental health. I desperately need things to do, think, and talk about.

Because, honestly, with nothing I need to get out of bed for, some days I just don’t. I’ve spent far too much time on my phone and on social media. I stay up too late and waste half the day sleeping. I get bored and lonely and sad. Instead of enjoying my time off, it’s started to feel like I just waste day after day after day.

So I’ve learned a big and very important lesson: those of us with ADHD and mental health issues need routine, structure, and things to occupy our wonderfully active and creative minds each day. I’ve found this to be true both for myself and my family and friends with ADHD. But since I still have few concrete responsibilities right now, it’s hard to implement and stick to a routine of my own accord even though I know I need to.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve found a magic fix. But a few things that have helped me so far!  Yoga classes have been a great way to re-center myself. Instead of watching hours of TV, I’ve tried to re-direct my attention to reading and picking back up old hobbies like playing guitar. It’s also been important for me to make a conscious effort to meet up with friends regularly to get me out of my house. This phase of my life is definitely challenging, but each day I find it more and more important to learn how to entertain myself without a busy schedule.

What do you do during time off and how to do build routines? Let me know in the comments!

Surviving Summer Road Trips

Hello friends!

A lot has happened since I last posted. I graduated from college and I’m very proud to say that despite all of my learning disabilities, I was able to graduate Cum Laude with Honors.

This big transition has meant awkwardly navigating adulthood and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. But more on that later!

I took May and June off to recharge after a stressful year, so I’ve been visiting friends around the country a lot this past month. But with ADD, a three-hour drive can feel as tedious and draining as a nine-hour drive (and the nine-hour drive I took felt like a trillion years.) So, the 40 hours of driving  I’ve done in the last few weeks felt pretty brutal. Obviously sitting still for a long time is not my biggest strength and I don’t handle prolonged boredom well. So there were certainly a few meltdowns and moments of hysterical laughing along the way. 

But I’ve learned a few tricks to get through it with my sanity intact. If you have a summer road trip coming up, here are some ways you can get through it too!

  1. Play the alphabet game! I know this may sound a little strange. But my boyfriend/road trip buddy and I played the alphabet at least 10 times during our trips and it really helps pass the time. In case you’re not familiar, have each player make their way from A to Z by finding words along the road that start with each letter in order. Whoever gets to Z first wins! It’s definitely a silly game, but I’ve found that getting competitive energizes me and keeps my brain occupied for a while 
  2. Try a podcast. I’ve actually never really been into podcasts, I usually prefer to just listen to music. But after 6 hours in the car, I had pretty much run out of songs. Since I was driving with a hockey enthusiast, we turned on the “Podcast Off Ice” interview with Lindsey Vonn and following her story gave me something with substance to focus my attention on. 
  3. Take enough rests along the way. If you think you can get to your destination without stopping frequently, you’re lying to yourself. It may make the trip a little longer, but the worst thing you can do is keep yourself cooped up in the car without a chance to stretch and let out a little energy. Stop at a gas station once in a while, run around, do some jumping jacks and get a crunchy snack. You’ll be very glad you did and so will whoever you’re driving (pun intended) crazy in the car.
  4. Bring lots of snacks. This may be an obvious one but light snacking in the car always helps keep me present. When I’m in the passenger seat, it also gives me something to do with my hands that isn’t biting my nails (they are the unfortunate victims of my trips). I particularly like crunchy snacks because it’s a little more fun and textured to help expel some energy. 
  5. Sing in gibberish for a while and have a mini-meltdown if you need to (I did a lot of both of these). Let’s all be honest, I will never be an easy, low maintenance road trip buddy. No amount of games or rest stops can re-wire my brain to be good at sitting still for hours. But make the best of your time on the road and try some of these tips to make it more doable. 

Do you have any road trip tricks? Let me know in the comments! 

5 Ways To Stay Sane Through Health Issues

Over the last two years, I faced a lot of physical health problems that at times, have really devastated me and taken a huge toll on my mental wellbeing. But since I’ve been dealing with health issues for so long, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to cope with it.

  1. Treat your body kindly. It’s saddening to think how many times over the last year I’ve cursed my body for not functioning the way it’s supposed to and leaving me going from doctor, to doctor, to doctor. But no matter what’s wrong, our bodies still do so much good for us and it’s important to continue being kind and compassionate with ourselves.
  2. Go ahead and cry. While it’s definitely important to remember to stay positive, sometimes you just need to sit down and let yourself admit that it really sucks. It’s okay to feel those feelings.
  3. Find an outlet. Whether it’s writing, yoga, hiking, painting or screaming into a pillow, find a healthy medium to cope with your frustration.
  4. Find someone you can talk to. At times, I’ve felt like I burden my loved ones. I worried that I was annoying them talking so much about my prolonged sadness and frustration toward my body. But if you talk to the people who know you would be there for them if the roles were reversed, they will help carry you through.
  5. Meditate. I’ll admit upfront that I’ve always been bad at this one simply because I forget. But when I’ve committed to meditating regularly, it’s definitely made me feel better about tackling my health. It’s important to continue feeling centered in your body when you have a chronic problem and more important to minimize stress, as that makes everything worse.

How have you stayed sane through health issues? Let me know in the comments!

Do You Hate To Clean Too?

Over the last two weeks, my room slowly devolved into complete and utter filth. The floor was totally buried in clothes and I had to step over piles of papers, shoes and purses to get around. There were leftover wrappers, empty Amazon boxes and some even some unwashed cups and dishes. Please don’t judge me too much, but the state of things in my bedroom was pretty grim.

Now I can assure you that this is not my preferred my way of living and I swear, in the rest of my life I am not a total disaster. But as many of you with ADD may relate to, I just couldn’t will myself to focus on cleaning it up. I had put it off for so long that the mountain of stuff in front of me had become too overwhelming for me to even process where to start.

By the time it became intolerable, I knew I had to conquer my mess. But I kept starting in one area of my room and then switching to another area, then getting distracted again. When the biggest problem was folding and putting away my clothes, I got bored and cleaned my sink instead — a much less urgent task.

So I turned to my American Shaman CBD Oil to help me focus and the biggest strategy I landed on was really committing to cleaning one thing at a time, whether that’s a certain corner of your room or tackling all your clothes at once. It was hard to stay focused long enough to clean the giant mess I had created, but by the end, it was so worth it. A clean room did wonders for my mental health and ended up helping my focus going forward.

My mess mission now is to follow the advice I read earlier in the year and commit to taking care of my clothes and messes right in the moment. I still find myself tossing a shirt on the floor when I get home and I know my habits won’t change right away. But little by little I’m learning to fold right when I get home.

How do you keep a clean room? Let me know in the comments?

Loving Someone With ADD

Last year I found myself saying to my boyfriend, “sometimes I forget things, like my keys and that you love me.”

So I will be the first to admit that it can be a bit of a wild ride dating someone with ADD because our personalities have some special quirks.

I will always be more forgetful than most and may need a little help finding my keys. And my phone. And my sunglasses. Sometimes I will get all wound up and energetic at inconvenient times. I may be a little hypersensitive, but that gives me greater compassion. I will probably be more anxious than most people and maybe even a little needy once in a while. But it’s because I love deeply and fully.

Despite these “challenges,” I reject the idea that dealing with all these unique tendencies makes us difficult to love. In the past, I’ve had people get angry at me for being forgetful or a little spacey from time to time. But I’ve come to embrace that my ADD also helps me bring so many wonderful things to my relationships. So I refuse to feel ashamed.

Those of us with ADD offer something special in our dating lives. We will be more fun, more spontaneous and more willing to adventure on a whim. Our hypersensitivity makes us more open, loving, emotive and caring. While sometimes our hyperactivity may flare up at the wrong moment, it will surely be entertaining to watch. Knowing more about our own mental health helps bring a rare level of self-awareness to our dating life and having overcome some adversity because of our ADD in and out of the classroom, we are more empathetic and compassionate when others are suffering.

So find a partner who can learn to love all of your quirks and embrace the fun and joy that comes with your ADD. And if they’re really the one, hope that they also have a knack for finding your keys.