My bedroom has been a mess my entire life. I just find housework very incredibly dull, so I struggle to do it. But I also get very stressed out when my room is a mess, the saying tidy room, tidy mind really does ring true for ADHDers. Our minds are already chaotic so it is important that your bedroom is a calming space or you will simply never get anything done whilst in it.
In truth, the way that I keep on top of this is by having a cleaner who comes every couple of weeks to help me keep everything organised. There is absolutely no shame in needing help like this but it also is not always an option. So it is important to have tactics in place for keeping as tidy as possible. See the blog post ‘Doing Things’ for my top tips on this.
It is also very important to remember that ADHD tidy might not look like a neurotypical persons ‘tidy’. Having ADHD means that your object permanace is not very well developed. Object permanance is a stage of development where you become aware that objects still exist even when you cannot see them. When your object permanence doesn’t function correctly, having all of your things tidied away into cupboards simply causes you to forget you even own that stuff. Therefore, things end up scattered around various shelves and surfaces as the brain attempts to combat this. To an NT this will look cluttered and disorganised but an ADHDer functions much better when everything is visible.
Therefore, when setting up your bedroom it is important to keep this symptom in mind and purchase more shelving than drawers
Uni halls is a right of passage for many. Your first time living away from home, having to do all the things that up until now have been done for you. It’s a new world to conquer, and for an ADHDer the word new conjures a feeling of fear that bubbles up from deep within. New is terrifying.
When I arrived I thought I had it in the bag, having been at boarding school I was used to being away from my parents and making friends quickly with flatmates came naturally as it felt just like a boarding house. However, I soon realised there was more to taking on uni halls than knowing how to get on with flatmates and doing my own laundry. I suddenly lost the structure to my days that had forced me to keep a fairly regular sleep schedule, I lost the disciplinary processes that forced me to stay on top of work and I lost everything that held me accountable for looking after myself. By second term I was essentially nocturnal, not going to lectures and struggling with my mental health in ways I had never before experienced.
This had its impacts on my academics, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about a non academic part of my uni life, my flat.
In first year, I was in a flat with eight lovely people. I was very lucky in this sense, as many people find themselves in flats with people they do not get along with at all. Two of the eight I rarely saw, they kept to themselves and I expect simply had lives outside of the flat. For a first year flat, our shared space was pretty clean if I do say so myself. But maintaining this was certainly not easy. I had luckily picked up the habit of washing up as soon as I was done eating from school (although this did not come easily to me), but having the motivation for such a tedious task is not easy. But in my experience, if something like this is not done right away it will be left until it poses a health hazard. So the cleaning got done.
Another difficulty when sharing a space was the differences in sleep schedule. I would often be awake past 4am, while the rest of the flat slept soundly. This meant needing to be aware of my volume levels as to not upset anyone by keeping them awake. Volume awareness doesn’t come naturally to ADHDers. It is a habit you must force upon yourself until it becomes second nature. We especially get louder when what we are talking about is something that excites us. This is not ideal past midnight.
To cope with this I began to place post-it note reminders in places I would see them in my room when I was talking on the phone. They said things like ‘VOLUME’ or ‘SHUSH’. I would love to say that I now don’t need these reminders and am perfectly aware of how loud I am at all times, but this simply isn’t true. It is therefore also important to have an open dialogue with your flatmates, once you feel comfortable, to explain aspects of your ADHD that may also end up impacting them. Especially in second year, I have found the best thing you can do is say to the people that you live with that it is okay to ask you to quieten down when you disturb them. You can’t become aware of something without being informed of it in the first place.
Having this open communication with the people you live with is genuinely the best advice I could ever give to an ADHDer about to move into uni halls. Sometimes, ADHD symptoms can negatively impact those around us and especially those we live with. Therefore, them being informed on ADHD and being able to talk to you about it will prevent tension from building up over these grievances and allow peaceful cohabitation.
TLDR – be open about your ADHD symptoms with flatmates and it will make everyones lives much easier.
According to a 2016 publication by the Mental Health Foundation called Fundamental Facts About Mental Health, ‘almost a quarter of individuals who screened positively for ADHD were receiving treatment for anxiety (23.8%) or depression (22.9%).’
It is a scary reality to face that having ADHD means that you are this much more likely to have to battle other mental health disorders, but it is a reality none the less. In my experience, ADHD can also amplify these disorders and make it even more difficult to deal with. For a really great summary on ADHD and Comorbidity, check out this TikTok from @peterhyphen who creates loads of great short (and therefore ADHD friendly) videos about ADHD.
My personal experiences with comorbidity came in the form of depression and extreme insomnia, I have been on sleeping medication for years and anti depressants are something I started more recently. It was shameful. I felt like I hadn’t done well enough and it took me a long time of having the pills to even be able to take them. They have helped a lot but having this alongside ADHD is a struggle.
My brain is always going at a million miles an hour, so it feels like the spiraling dark thoughts associated with depression must occur at a much faster rate than in a neurotypical mind. All my normal thoughts occur faster so these ones do too.
Something I associate with my depression, but find difficult to express in a cohesive way, is the intense sensation I get every so often that my mind is shouting. It is like the volume of my thoughts is amplified a thousand times and there is nothing I can do to drown them out but wait. I can sometimes go months without this feeling only for it to return every few hours for days at a time. I have never found anyone else, with or without ADHD, who knows what I mean when I describe this sensation so if you do please do contact me, it would be lovely to know that I am not alone and I hope I can make you feel the same.
I was depressed before my ADHD was diagnosed, I know that much now. I look back on my 14 year old self and what little I can remember of that time is painful to recall. There was a period of a few months where I stopped going to school and eventually had to move away to boarding school as a result of those circumstances. My first secondary school was incredibly academically competitive and I partially attribute my descent into depression to that environment. It was very much a system of if you do not fit into the mould of the perfect student that we have created then your bones will be snapped and bent until you do.
In four years of being at that school, not one teacher ever thought to maybe check if the reason I didn’t pay attention in class, the reason I interrupted, the reason that I was too mentally exhausted to do my homework after having to focus all day, the reason I just wasn’t fitting into the mould, not one thought to see if perhaps I wasn’t just a ‘bad kid’. Within a week of being at boarding school, my house mother who also worked in the schools learning disabilities department, told my parents that they should have me checked for ADHD and she changed my life forever.
It was still a long struggle after that with the depression that so strongly had gripped my psyche, but without that diagnosis I know that I would have been far less likely to win. In order to overcome my depression I first had to gain an understanding of my own mind and the way in which it worked. This involved reading a lot of scientific papers for me and talking to other ADHDers, but everyone has a different journey to understanding how their ADHD makes their brain different, I am certainly still learning. I hope this blog will be able to assist some, but even if no-one reads it, its helping me a lot.
I am now at university. I am no longer being forced to snap my bones to fit in but instead I am changing the shape of the mold. I want to be a better version of myself, but still myself. I will never be always on time, organised and tidy but I can be less late, less disorganised and a little less messy (the last one is a big maybe). With antidepressants, some great friends and a hell of a lot of will power I know that I can overcome the depression and use my ADHD to change what a ‘perfect student’ is in my, and hopefully others, minds.
If you are struggling with anything alongside your ADHD my number one recommendation would be to talk to a doctor about it. I know that it’s difficult most days to pick up the phone, make the appointment and then to actually remember to go to to it, but trust me when I say that it is worth it. I am also easily reachable via social media if you ever want a listening ear.
One of the wonderful things about having ADHD is that when you care deeply about something, or find it incredibly interesting, you are able to complete that task in record time without breaking focus. The issues come when a task is mind numbingly dull. You have to do that maths homework when you could be playing violin? Or maybe you have to practice violin when you could be doing the maths extension work. Whichever task is more interesting will be done first, resulting in an overwhelming backlog of dull tasks. While this can happen to people without ADHD too, the extent to which it happens in someone with ADHD is far more severe as we simply can hardly ever bring ourselves to complete those boring tasks.
I have devised a list of my top 5 most helpful tips for dealing with this, some I have developed myself over 19 years of life and others were given to me by either the internet or another ADHDer. I am sure these can be of use to people with ADHD, and probably for those without it as well.
1) REWARD REWARD REWARD
When you feel rewarded, your brain releases Dopamine. This is one neurotransmitter that the ADHD brain lacks, and so, even more than a neurotypical person, the ADHD brain craves reward. Did you just pick up all the dirty laundry in your room? Awesome! Have a piece of chocolate. It is important to find a reward that works best for you. Personally when I complete something dull I will reward myself by having a small sweet. It is also important to reward yourself for the small stuff, picking up all that laundry is a task in itself. You do not need to wait for the room to be totally pristine before having a reward.
2) Little, but often
This issue is at its most powerful when the tasks become so numerous that its just too much to even think about. To combat this it is important to stay on top of the tasks to at least some extent. I find it easier if I break it up into super small 5 minute mini tasks and between that put half an hour or more of things I actually want to do. That way I can keep the boring stuff to a minimum length that my attention span can actually manage.
3) Make it interesting
Something I seriously struggle to do is tidy my room. Its just so dull and really, what does it do for me? Well, actually quite a lot. I am much happier and at peace when the space around me is tidy. There is far more truth in the phrase ‘Tidy room, tidy mind’ than I would like to admit.
So how do I make this dull task interesting for me? Music. I absolutely live for music. I put on one of my carefully curated playlists for each mood I have and I dance around my room, making up harmonies and singing along. Suddenly, the laundry disappears, books appear on shelves and bins empty themselves. Find something you can do simultaneously that you find interesting so that the task becomes interesting to you. A podcast on biology or musical theatre (check out my list of podcasts on EVERYTHING that I have made to make it easier for you to find one that will interest you), or you could call a good friend, or like me you could put on a great playlist of songs and have a little boogie. There are so many things that can work, you just have to find the one that works for you.
4) Get help with the task
Its ok to ask for help. Personally, I find that having someone come in and help me tidying up my living space makes me feel a lot more on top of life overall. This can be a friend or you can hire a cleaner. If you cannot bring yourself to file your taxes, pay someone to do it for you, It may be an extra expense but it will be worth it in the long run if you feel more on top of life, because you will be able to tackle the other tasks that the looming one was preventing you from getting to. There is absolutely no shame in needing occasional help.
5) Find a reason
Going back again to the example of tidying up, if you can’t find the drive to do it then create one. Invite over a friend who you wouldn’t want to see your room in the state that its in. If it is homework that you are struggling to do, ask a friend to post an embarrassing photo of you if you haven’t done it in two hours. Your friend will almost definitely enjoy the opportunity to publicly embarrass you and you will be MUCH more likely to finish that dull essay. I am sure that there are more ways to motivate yourself to do stuff, so go find them!
Methylphenidate is the most common drug prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, but there are four other drugs which are used (dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine, atomoxetine, guanfacine)
If you don’t come from a background of studying chemistry, these names can be quite intimidating. Methylphenidate is more commonly know by its brand names, such as Ritalin and Concerta, but both of these brands provide exactly the same chemical. The chemical formula is C14H19NO2, this means that the molecule contains fourteen carbon atoms, 19 hydrogen atoms, a singular nitrogen atom and two oxygen molecules.
The image seen above is the skeletal formula of a methlyphenidate molecule.
So now we know a little about the molecule itself, how does it actually affect your brain?
The way that a brain transmits messages across the gaps between different neurons is via chemical transmitters such as Dopamine and Norepinephrine. In order for the signal to be transmitted, a certain amount of these chemical must be in these gaps. For people with ADHD, this ‘threshold’ of these chemicals cannot be reached naturally. Methylphenidate, and other ADHD medications, work to combat this by interfering with the systems that clear these chemicals up after each signal is transmitted (a bit like a hoover), allowing enough to build up that signals can be properly transmitted. Essentially, for someone with ADHD to be able to hoover their room, the hoover in their brain needs to be switched off.
If you have started taking ADHD medication, you may also be aware that it can come in both a short acting and long acting form. The difference between these is in the structure of the pill, but the active ingredient is the same. There can be differences in the way this affects you throughout your day and it is important to discuss these with your doctor to find the type and dosage schedule that is most suitable for you.
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