Back in the Game: Nutrition, ADHD, and My Burnout Recovery

I hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s kitten video.  The sad fact is, I’ve gotten up every morning, sat down in front of this machine, and stared at the unforgiving, back-lit screen, fingers resting on the keyboard, in hopes that, somehow, I may think of some string of words that might work as a published post.  Which never happened, because the human brain never functions even close to capacity where chronic, severe dehydration is involved.

Meet my new best friend, the filtered water bottle!

Did someone say hydrate?
Did someone say hydrate?

See, I’ve realized a few quirks that, for many years, I wrote off as me being picky, may actually have something to do with the fact that I’ve got ADHD and am prone to migraines.  Now hear me out, here.  How many of you have ever put on a piece of clothing, and within five seconds had to remove it because you felt like you just put on something made of green kitchen scrubbers?  I’ve done that.  What about …and there goes my train of thought.

YouTube, what have you done?

Oh, well, back to writing.  This was intended for yesterday, but I’m sure we all know the old cliche about intentions.  Anyway, this past week has shown me the reality of daily life with ADHD in a way I never noticed before, and to understand, we’ve got to go back in time for a moment.  I don’t know how many of you remember my post about the amazing Jenny Ulrich, but give that one a read real quick, because it’s the semester we roomed together that I’m talking about.

That semester, I was active.  I’m not talking a 20 minute jog every day.  I’m talking three university dance classes, gym half the day Saturday, and at least a one hour work out every night.  I’d never felt so good in my life, and my energy levels weren’t going EVERYWHERE.  I could sit in the one lecture class I did have without too much trouble (though it would’ve been easier if I’d actually cared for the subject.)

The point is, I did life differently that three-month span than any other time of life.  I ate enough, took care of myself, had a strong team – because that’s what my roommates were – and had friends I could count on.  After graduating, that changed.  I moved into a less-than-ideal situation, and completely lost track of any of the positive habits I’d managed to build.  After a move across country and two years of craziness (really, one major life event a month?) my health crashed at the beginning of this month, and I’ve been working to pull it together.  The process has brought some interesting things to light.

1.  I’m not as picky as I thought.

ADHD (and migraines) comes with its own set of nervous system quirks.  One of them is sensory sensitivity.  I’ve been sensitive to sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations for as long as I can remember.  Never thought much about it until recently, when my I described some experiences to my sister (who’s been treated for ADHD since grade school) and she said my experience is consistent with sensory overload experienced by others with the diagnosis.  And yes, I do have a diagnosis.  It just came when I was 19, rather than as a child.

In part, it’s this sensory issue that’s caused some other troubles as well.

2.  Nutrition’s not just a good thing, it’s everything.

One part of my routine that semester was a daily vitamin pack.  Well, a while ago I stopped taking it.  Three days ago, I started taking them again, and even in the last two days, I’ve noticed a major energy difference.  My sleep is better, and I’m starting to actually wake up in the morning.  I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m on top of my game again, but maybe these may shorten the road.

And you met the filtered water bottle.  That’s the other part of the sensory issue I mentioned.  When you live in a city where the water tastes like a pool for several years, you do something about it?  Well, I got a filtered pitcher that when I moved back to my hometown, I gave to a roommate.  Then I moved across the country, and never truly adapted to the taste of the water, since, for some reason, even in the small city I’m living in, no two water faucets taste the same.  Solution?  Filtered water bottle.  Tastes the same no matter what tap it came out of, and I’m drinking water regularly now.  Speaking of…  Mmm.

Also, eat breakfast.  Somehow.  It does help.  Seriously, it does.

3.  I can’t accomplish anything when my body doesn’t work.

Part of my body working is my brain cooperating.  Actually, it’s them working together, really.  And when they’re not?  Well, it just doesn’t go over well.  For several months I’ve had to choose whether my energy powers my brain or my body, because I didn’t have enough for both.  No more.  Now it’s time to build the habits I need to power both, but time to start small, and start with what I know works.

TL;DR  ADHD can be tough, but we can do things to keep ourselves going.  Eat right, and include extra if needed (vitamins, protein, whatever.  Talk to your doctor.)  We’re not as picky as we sound.  We just don’t want to walk around on higher alert than necessary all the time.  We all have what works for us.

Those reading this with ADHD, you likely know what I’m talking about already.  What’s the best way you’ve found to cope?  Those who don’t have it and may know someone who does, what’s the most confusing part about it for you?  Leave a comment and let me know.  I’m curious!

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