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Living With ADHD (Part 1)

Happy ADHD Awareness Month! Our peer support specialist, Quinn, is joined by Emily Stainton to talk about living with ADHD. Topics include late diagnosis, tools and systems, medication, and advocacy. This is part one of a two part episode, so stay tuned for part two, coming next week! 

Music by Oleksii Kaplunskyi from Pixabay

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Mental Health, Goals, and an Adventurous Little Finch

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month, y’all! One of the ways I take care of my mental health is by using an app called Finch. I use this app to track progress on goals, see changes in my mood over time, reflect on my day, and to send uplifting messages to my friends who also use the app. The Finch app is the brainchild of two friends (Nino and Steph) who both struggle with anxiety and depression. They wanted to make self care accessible after noticing that many other folks shared similar struggles. 

My Journey with Finch

Every morning while I drink my coffee and start my daily routine, I power up my finch, Pluto, to go out on their adventure. When Pluto returns, they share what they discovered for the day. Sometimes it’s a new food or a song, other times they share a joke they heard. Each day is different, and each discovery helps to shape Pluto’s personality and likes and dislikes. So far, Pluto loves Yesterday by The Beatles, Finding Nemo, pineapple cake, Over the Garden Wall, and snorkeling in Maui. 

Tracking my progress on goals like staying in touch with friends, nourishing my body, taking time for personal joys, and building my confidence as I navigate a new chapter of my life is incredibly easy. More importantly, I have so much fun interacting with Pluto. Incentivizing progress towards my goals has not only motivated me, but has also encouraged me to get out of my own way. Using Finch has helped me give myself permission to pursue the life I envision for myself. Historically, that’s been difficult for me. But I’ve noticed quite a difference in the way that I show up for myself and for others since I started this journey.

What I love about Finch

There are so many things that I love about the app. As someone who struggles with ADHD, I love that it allows me to gamify my day by rewarding me with rainbow stones for completing goals and sending good vibes to friends. I can use these rainbow stones to “buy” cute outfits and home decor for my finch. During moments of high stress or anxiety, I use the in app breathing exercises to help regulate my nervous system. When I need to focus, I use the soundscapes as timers to remind me when I need to switch tasks. There are so many useful features, including quizzes, reflections, journal prompts, goal progress reports, mood tracking, and more. 

For folks who would like access to the paid version of the app but don’t have the means to purchase a subscription, the Finch team hosts a raffle every month for a free month subscription sponsored by one of Finch’s guardians. Every month, over 1000 Finch plus subscriptions are awarded to raffle winners! 

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I’m Autistic & Misdiagnosed with ADHD

All my life, I knew I was different. It showed with the way I thought, did things, and just knew certain information as common knowledge. People treated me like an encyclopedia, however, they never understood my behavioral patterns. Almost 14 years later, I now understand that I am autistic with autistic problems!

Where it All Started

I was informally and misdiagnosed diagnosed with ADHD; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. A caregiver gave me that diagnosis without any formal testing for ADHD. All it took was for them to ask a family doctor of 20+ years for an ADHD prescription. I didn’t really resonate with that diagnosis and was very conscious about it at a very young age. Growing older, I stopped taking the ADHD medication because I didn’t think I had ADHD. At the age of 22, I understand why there was a misdiagnosis of ADHD when my behaviors fell under Autism. Many people do not know the difference! AND are not aware that there are more diagnoses than ADHD.

What’s the Difference?

This is a Venn diagram of some ADHD and Autism differences with some overlapping similarities. Image found here.

This is How I Knew I Didn’t Have ADHD…

People with ADHD often have a hard time paying attention for an extended amount of time and may get distracted easily. Which wasn’t my issue. I had a limited scope of interest that didn’t show to be just one thing as it correlated with my academic performance in a positive way. It was the mask that greatly hid that I was autistic. My personal struggles with language also served as a mask that explained the negative impact of my reading scores. I only spoke Spanish but understood English when I came back from Puerto Rico in 2008. From my perspective, I was able to read the material and understand it. I just didn’t know how to write it down in English.

As a complex factor, another result of my impacted academic performance was how uninterested I was in reading certain things. I absolutely had no interest in reading anything besides ghost stories, Shakespeare plays, and/or poetry. When it came down to independent reading, I never read! SORRY MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS, but I was acting. I wasn’t the best actor and broke character a lot. It interpreted as ADHD because I would have rather looked outside than read something I didn’t have an interest in. That gave off that I was easily distracted.

This concludes the reason why I appeared to have ADHD and not Autism. But it doesn’t conclude this blog series!

– Dez 🙂

Interview With Robyn About Life With ADHD

**this episode contains explicit language

Looking for more ADHD content? Read Stephani’s story about her life with ADHD here.