A year ago, I found out I have ADHD. It has been a journey finding the right balance of sleep, medication and caffeine. Inside my ADHD brain, among the ping-ponging ideas and the screaming that is coming from somewhere, here’s what a day looks like for me.
Disclaimer: This is not the experience for everyone and it doesn’t have to be for you. I have the combined ADHD type–though it may not be the same for everyone with that either. So enjoy a look at a day in my life, and take from it what you will!
Hear the 6th alarm go off in the morning
Around 8 am my first alarm goes off.
Half-asleep I set it for another 20 minutes.
I stare at my phone then try to sleep more.
Then I contemplate my life.
I roll over and finally wake up when I have 20 minutes to get ready before work. In that time, I run around eating and making coffee and then find my place at my desk.
Since things went online, I find it hard to get out of bed unless there is an impending meeting. I’ve found a good hack is to schedule meetings early (only do this if you can wake up that early) to help me get out of bed. With an ADHD brain the time I have is the time I will end up taking, so giving myself less time helps!
Forget to eat (and take my meds) until noon
I work until lunch time and realize I forgot my medication. There are two sides to this in my defense:
For my medication to work, it needs to be taken on a full stomach. If I forget breakfast I will be bouncing off the walls with jitters. Hence, food and medication goes hand in hand.
On good days, I will take my medication and eat something quickly, then follow it up with a lot of coffee. Is this a good idea? No. But does coffee help me feel good? Yes.
A way to prevent this is for me to leave my pills out on my table the night before or right as I wake up. This reminds me to take them when I come back to my room after breakfast.
Work in a frenzy for 2 Hours (task selection not unlocked)
Once the medication kicks in, whatever task is on my mind will go into full motion (even if it is a nap). I choose carefully where I am when I take my medication and stay in place until it kicks in. This may sound extra but trust me, it works for me.
If I start online shopping in this period, I will spend two hours intensely searching for the best deal on tall boots only to leave them in the cart.
This also means some days are incredibly productive and I will catch up on weeks worth of assignments in one evening. This could be emails, errands, going to the gym and extracurricular commitments.
Something that helps me not miss meetings is setting reminders on my Google Home for five minutes before every meeting so I know something is coming up even if I am not looking at my calendar (thanks to the 40 tabs I have open).
Take an impromptu nap (then wake up cranky)
Or worse, with a migraine. Then I make some chai or matcha and pretend I can salvage the day (“after a 6 to 9 pm power nap,” I say to myself).
Okay this one is not a great idea unless you have the discipline to actually take short power naps. I have found a better alternative to get a boost of energy is to go for a walk, take a shower or go to the gym.
Today I was yawning in the gym, but the workout helped me break up my day and come back to the last of my tasks for the day!
As a student who works, I know my evenings are precious times for other tasks. Pairing my new set of tasks with a cup of good tea or a small snack really helps. This means I have something to look forward to as I get the last of my day’s tasks done.
Make an optimistic to-do list for tomorrow
ADHD and mental health is a learning journey. I plan my next day with all the optimism of a six year-old hearing the ice cream truck.
It is important to learn to believe in yourself when your identity changes with each diagnosis (to some extent). I am now someone who doesn’t wake up at 5 am and doesn’t run every single day, but I am also someone who cooks more, spends a lot of time in the sun and finds time for loved ones on weekends.
As a fresh new adult with new challenges amid a pandemic, learning to start over and take a deep breath when things fall apart has been the most rewarding lesson.
Now, if my morning doesn’t go as planned, I try to reset with a shower, a walk or cleaning my room a bit. You can restart your day at noon, 3 pm or 9 pm and still make the most of it.
Cuddle your cat, call your mom or get that assignment halfway done! Even as I write this article, I am coming out of a depressive episode that started two weeks ago when I got sick.
If your mental health is suffering, I hope you find the ice cream truck.