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I used to think that being distracted was normal. That going from thought to thought and one project to another was part of normal living. Yes, I thought being chronically late and unprepared for most appointments was just part of my Latin roots. But as it turns out — it’s all part of living with a mind that suffers from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and in my case Type 2 Inattentive ADD.
If you’ve never suffered from any type of ADD then what I’m writing may not resonate with you. But if you do or have loved who does — what follows may be highly beneficial for you.
Identifying the Type 2 — Inattentive ADD
As I go about my day I am more aware of thought patterns that derail me from staying focused and getting deep work done. I can see how my natural tendency is to go from one thing to another. But the discovery of knowing that I have symptoms of Type 2 ADD, is helping me to see and understand how my days get derailed so easily and why I make little progress in the projects that matter most to me.
Maybe you can relate? Are you chronically disorganized? When you look in your purse, at your house, at your work space — do you find clutter everywhere? Or does clutter seem to follow wherever you go?
I have big dreams for my life and while I have been able to achieve some dreams — the ones I’ve had to write a book, to go back to school and to start my own business so I can stay home and contribute to my family’s income have relentlessly evaded me.
And I have to say it’s not for lack of trying or planning or goal-setting. The number one culprit that’s kept me from achieving my dreams — has been having a mind that is easily distracted and one that is not able to assess time and manage it well.
Negative Emotional Impact of Inattentive ADD
I can see how I’ve set up a vicious cycle in my head where I berate myself for not staying focused, for not doing my work. Somewhere along the way, I bought into the belief that if I engage in negative self-talk and criticize my actions, I will actually change my behavior.
Now I understand doing that just sets off a rewarding dopamine in my brain which ultimately disables my ability to change. I know because I’ve repeated this pattern again and again all my life and nothing seems to change day to day, week to week and on and on it goes.
I’ve experienced a lot of emotional pain in some of my closest relationships this past year. And now that I look back, I can see how living with an ADD mind has really impacted these relationships. Not being able to create and maintain structure and order in our family life has had painful consequences.
So this past week, after listening to the audiobook, Healing ADD by Dr. Daniel Amen, I’ve begun taking supplements and have replaced my daily walks with running. Running or other exercise that gets your blood circulating faster apparently enables the front side of your brain called the prefrontal cortex to receive neurotransmitters it needs to function properly.
At its core, ADD in the brain is marked by lack of sufficient activity in the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Amen and researchers who have been studying the brain using SPECT imaging say that people with ADD show decreased activity in their prefrontal cortex. For most of my life, I’ve depended on caffeinated drinks like coffee throughout the day to stay focused and alert. Thankfully, I’m learning there are better, healthier ways to help my distracted brain.
5 Things you can do to heal from Inattentive ADD
Most of the ideas listed here are taken from Dr. Amen’s book, Healing ADD.
- Eat healthy. Eliminate all forms of sugar — including most carbohydrates which when broken down in your body turn into sugar. I believe this is hard if not nearly impossible for most of us. This summer I participated in an online 40-day sugar fast which has kept me on a predominantly sugar-free diet. Eating healthy foods full of proteins and vegetables is also supposed to help you.
- Get supplements. Along the lines of nourishing your brain, taking natural supplements targeted at healing ADD, can be life changing. Having personally visited the Amen Clinic in Washington DC, I’ve come to trust Dr. Amen and his work. And this is where I bought my supplements. I’m no doctor and what I’m sharing here is just my experience with Inattentive ADD. I’d encourage you to start by going to a trustworthy psychiatrist.
- Exercise. As I’ve mentioned earlier, get moving enough to get your cardio up so that the right neurotransmitters are able to reach your prefrontal cortex. The easiest and the most enjoyable way for me has been to hit the trail.
- Use a time journal. The problem with me is not that I’m not able to plan my day or week or to even craft well-intentioned routines. No, the biggest problem for me is that I’m unable to implement, carry out and simply do what I set out to do. I use this daily planner to write down my key tasks for the day and then I write down what I’ve done each hour. This helps me to get back on task if I’ve been derailed by a fleeting thought that’s taken mw to an interesting Web article or video.
- Drinks lots of good water. I recently bought a hydrogen water bottle and I’ve begun drinking hydrogen water. I have to say it does taste better, and I’m hopeful that my body and brain will benefit from it. But even without a hydrogen water bottle, you will benefit from drinking 8 glasses of good filtered water daily.
- Work with a personal life coach. I have an awesome life coach who’s helped me get unstuck at key points in my life. Now I realize how much I’ve needed a life coach to help me develop and maintain good life habits that will help me succeed.
In addition to Type 2 ADD, there are six other types. The most commonly one identified in people is Type 1 or ADHD — easily seen because of the hyper activity. If you think you might have ADD, why not take a quick quiz developed by Dr. Amen here. If that proves affirmative, go make an appointment with a good psychiatrist and get further evaluation. In the past, the only solution most doctors offered patients with ADD was medication but thankfully now we know we can do so much to help our brain to its full optimum.
I am still in the beginning stages of fully healing from ADD the natural way. And while I am open to taking prescribed medication, I’m finding that making these simple changes is helping me. One of the most significant ways has been the elimination of negative self talk and feeling hopeless that try as I might, I won’t be able to change my habits. There is such a huge relief in knowing there is help and that change is possible.
Note: Before I sat down to write this post — I had actually planned to share with my writing group what I was working on and instead started writing this post. This is what happens daily in my ADD mind. What’s your experience been with an ADD mind?