Caring for Someone with Mental Illness: Saving Your Relationship

We’ve been talking recently to lots of families that are caring for someone with mental illness. We’ve discussed a wide range of topics from ADHD, to Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Self harm, suicide, BiPolar Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. We want to share some stories from these talks, as everyone has their own struggles and their own perspectives, and sometimes we can gain some insight from others. Sometimes, we can just nod our head in agreement and say wow, they deal with that too? I thought it was just me! Mental Illness does not define a person, and stigma has no place in society today. If you or a loved one struggles with some type of mental illness, feel free to share a piece of your story or some advice in the comments. We’d love to hear from you and want to build a community of caring individuals that promote compassion, empathy, and hope.

Here is One Such Story:

Our household has been a hot zone lately. Things can be sailing along when out of nowhere it’s like a hurricane of emotions flying everywhere, destroying everything in their path. While ADHD is part of our lives, we also have a child that not only has ADHD, but other mental illnesses. This child is a beautiful, talented, amazing gift that we are thankful every day to have, but honestly, I can’t imagine living one single day in the pain that is their normal. My heart breaks that I am helpless to make it go away. They deserve to live a happy, normal, drama free life, and yet, I fear that it will never be in the cards for them. Oh, yes, they can thrive and have a life of their own, but it will never be without difficulty. It will never be a life free from the mental illnesses that shroud them like a dark cloak.

I have ADHD (so I’m sure the kids can thank me for that lovely trait) and I also have Anxiety and Depression. My anxiety is mainly social and has never really been under control, but my depression has been relatively under control for years. And by under control, I believe that I concentrate so much on caring for my child and making sure their needs are met and worry so much about their mental state, that I ignored my own well-being and pretended it was fine.

Some circumstances of late have caused my depression to rear its ugly head and I have to say I’ve struggled far more in the past few months than I have in a long time. I’ve tried to hide it as best I could because I know my child will feed off of negative emotions. They will soak in what is around them like a sponge, and if it’s worry, depression, or anxiety, their own will be tenfold. I’ve felt empty, lost, and alone. I cry myself to sleep every night, and can’t stand the thought of dragging myself out of bed. I’m overwhelmed, and can’t decide if I’m in the crying stage or the numb stage.

So it’s safe to say that it’s been tense at home. My child has been struggling with their mental health for several months and just when things started to get a bit better, another wave hit and knocked us to the shore, skidding on the sand.

My child cannot help behaviors that are caused by mental illness. I cannot help that my depression has left dark spots in my soul of late (Yes, we are both getting regular help medical and therapy.)

Still, how do you make a teen aware of behaviors that may be caused by a mental illness, but behaviors that are harmful just the same? How do we teach them that actions have consequences, even when they don’t understand why what they did was wrong? How do they learn social cues that they don’t understand, how to curb impulsivity and manipulative behaviors when they aren’t trying to be manipulative and have no idea that their behavior is seen as such? How do we make them aware of the fact that they do not remember details when they dissociate, even when they think they remember everything? How do we stop the anger and resentment that comes from trying to tell them no, or trying to help them see one of their behaviors? It’s walking a tightrope while juggling. And the tightrope is on fire.

We love our kid with everything inside of us. We ache for them with every breath. I’ve even been known to ask God why, and I know this isn’t a question I should voice.

I had enough today. We’ve had some sort of fight every day for over a week. Some mild, some almost more than I could bear. Every single day. This cannot be my new normal. This cannot be how it is going to be for the rest of time. I won’t accept that. We’ve been close. We’ve always been able to talk and share. We’ve never given up on this child and we never will, therefore, there has to be a better way than the fighting, the anger, the animosity, and the silence. This will be a work in progress, but we made some promises. We set some boundaries and talked in a way that I hope got through. We made concessions as parents that weren’t easy to make, but hopefully those concessions will help our teen see that they matter and that their opinions and desires are heard and taken into consideration. Hopefully we can all work on coming to a place of compromise and building a better relationship. It was time to find ways to help save our relationship before things get out of hand.

We were on our way somewhere when our child asked something and was told no. Now because they didn’t understand the reason for being told no, they started pestering us. No explanation is good enough when they get fixated on something and the standard because I said so doesn’t work either. They get fixated and it becomes like an obsession and all they can talk about. It’s very tiring. With my anxiety and depression being what they are, this leads to me getting unnaturally irritated. I start to lose the calm I strive to maintain and even though I know it’s impossible, I start to wonder why my child can’t “just” stop. The incident was beginning to escalate into an argument when I decided that I was just too tired to continue with this. Instead of going where we were supposed to be going, I pulled the car into a space at a local park, turned in my seat and told my teen that it was time we all had a talk.

I opened up to my child about my depression. I told them that even though I was an adult, I felt all alone, and the one person that I thought would understand what I was going through was the one person that seemed hell-bent on giving me an even harder time lately than usual. I told my child that I know it is not their place to take care of a parent and that I never wanted that, but at the same time, I needed support sometimes too. They knew I was struggling but in the past few weeks have even made comments that were so insensitive that they seemed to come from someone that had never felt the dark grip of depression for themselves. I told my child how hurtful their behavior was, and how it made me feel. I told them how disrespected I felt lately and how their actions, even unintentional, were not okay. I told them this in an open, honest way, and even though we all shed many tears during our time in the car hashing out some things, it was all done from a calm place of love and wanting to move forward.

It’s a difficult thing to talk openly to a child with a mental illness about negative behavior. There is a fine line between what they can understand, and what feels like being belittled and hated. We kept reassuring our child that we loved them very much and wanted only the best for them, but also for our family. We tried very hard to make a point to separate our child and the amazing person they are from the harmful behaviors that come from mental illness. We asked for ideas and input on what we can do as we move forward to stop the cycle of escalation. We wanted them to know that their ideas would be appreciated and considered. We also made sure they knew that we weren’t just picking on them, that we were willing to listen to their side of the story about how we could improve too. What traits did we show that we could do better?

We talked and cried, and then I went by myself to a local fast food place and ordered a soda (something I rarely have) and I sat at a table all alone sipping my drink and scribbling ideas in a notebook. Our child does better with a plan. We needed some sort of control journal for how we can operate as we are all, in essence, caring for someone with mental illness, but also to find helpful tools to save our relationship.

I came up with a few ideas that our child actually embraced.

  • Notebooks: We all get a little notebook. When we have something we want to talk about that might be a hard topic to bring up, we write it down and then say whether we want a response via text message or to talk face to face. We have to honor whatever means is chosen to discuss the topic. We all have a designated spot that our notebooks can be left for us when there is something in them for us to see.
  • Time out word: We designated a word that can be used at any time during a conversation to abruptly end the conversation if emotions start to run too high to continue.
  • Household responsibility: Right now I need some extra help. My child has been angry in the past at me for never asking for help, but I am also largely ignored when I do. Each week we will divide up different duties and everyone completes a task or two to the best of their ability.
  • Discussing behaviors that are due to mental illness: Our child loathes discussing some of their more difficult diagnoses. They do not want to admit to certain behaviors and have a hard time dealing with them openly. We agreed that if any of us see a harmful behavior that we will write our concern in the notebook and then follow up with printed articles on the subject, including tips to deal with the behavior. Our child has to come to terms with their illness in their own time, but they also need to learn the coping skills they will need. We didn’t want them to feel picked on however, so we made sure they knew this went for everyone. If my depression is out of control and my child is worried or wants to talk about something I’m doing, they know it’s okay for them to write it down in the notebook for me. There is acceptance in knowing no one is being singled out.

We still had to address some of our child’s recent issues with severe mood swings and even anger. I wrote down on the paper various ways I was going to start making self care a priority. I was going to exercise more, meditate, eat better, and work on getting back into hobbies that I love but currently hold no interest for me. I was going to try some alternative approaches to treating my depression. I asked my child to do the same. They were to make the same commitment to some level of self care, whatever felt right for them and write it down. Make a contract with themselves to take their health into their own hands, instead of just relying on the medications to make things bearable.

They also had to be aware that giving in when things got hard might have been something we’ve been doing to avoid the effects of them being angry and unable to regulate their emotions. When they get upset and get so angry at us when they don’t understand a decision it can lead to self harm and loathing. As a parent it’s hard to watch your child go through that, but giving in to what they want isn’t a solution either. We asked them to try to come up with ways that will help them accept that sometimes an answer is no, and that fixating on a subject and obsessing over it could not change a no to a yes. We needed them to accept our parental authority but we also need to keep them safe from harm. Our child cried as they said they didn’t mean to be a brat that got angry and acted out to get their way, they didn’t mean it like that at all, and didn’t even mean to do it, they just didn’t know how to stop the anger and frustration when they didn’t understand something. They agreed to try to help come up with a solution. I’m not sure exactly what the solution is to stopping emotions from getting out of control and leading to rage and self harm, but I’m researching it. I hope I can gain some insight from others who deal with this.

Above all, we told our teen that we would try to compromise. Of course some things were going to be a hard no, but the fact is, they rarely ask to do anything that would lead to that kind of response. Their biggest problem is understanding why we might not want them hanging out with someone in particular, or when we see behaviors that are harmful but they don’t see the behavior.

It’s a work in progress, for sure, but our family took steps today to start to mend relationships that were unraveling due to mental health. I don’t have all the answers and I will willingly accept any advice anyone wants to share. I just know my family is too important to me to let mental illness come between us.

 

We all have our struggles, our victories, and our pain. We are all different, yet we share some common bonds too. Our stories unite us, I think, and make us stronger. Our stories let us know it’s okay to talk about mental illness. It’s okay to share what is real and true in our worlds. Let’s keep the conversations going. Let’s not be afraid to talk about the hard stuff.

Keep climbing those mountains, people. We are all gonna get there!!

Essential Oils for ADHD: My Review of Monq Personal Diffuser

I love using essential oils. I keep a diffuser in my bedroom using lavender for sleep and eucalyptus or peppermint when I’m not feeling well. I use tea tree oil in cleaning solutions as well as deodorants. Lavender and lemongrass create a wonderful insect repellent. Sometimes I will put a few drops of something in the diffuser just because I like the way it smells. 🙂 Although essential oils have been used for centuries in other countries, it seems here in the United States we are just becoming aware of the benefits.

I’m always looking into the best essential oils for ADHD. I’ve bought roll on blends in the past and while they might have helped with focus, I can’t use them because if I smell the scent for too long it will make me sick. Vetiver is common in focus blends, as is frankincense. Both of these have very strong scents and I imagine they are the reason I am not able to use them topically.

While doing some research recently on using essential oils for ADHD, I came across an item I had not heard of before. Personal essential oil diffusers. I was intrigued, but skeptical. Once I saw it though, ads were everywhere.

These essential oil blends come in a small tube, and you take in a light breath and then exhale through your nose. You don’t inhale into you lungs. You sort of suck in like you are drinking from a straw, then breathe out through your nose. I do not smoke and I do not vape. At first, I wasn’t sure about this method of using essential oils because it seemed a bit like vaping. I kept reading and kept doing research until I was satisfied that it was safe, there were no chemicals or additives, and that it is absolutely nothing like vaping.

Monq makes many different blends and they all actually look appealing. Since one of my main areas of interest is essential oils for ADHD, I was pretty excited when I saw they had a brand new blend out called Focus, for clarity, vision and productivity. Yes, I absolutely need some of that. I ordered the Monq r which is a rechargeable diffuser that you can interchange pods on. I got the Focus, which comes with three pods, and then I ordered one each of Happy, Vibrant, and Health. Since anxiety is also an issue for me, I got a Zen too. The Happiness is a blend of fennel, thyme, and vanilla, while the Vibrant is ginger, lemon, and spearmint, the Zen contains orange, frankincense, and ylang-ylang, and the Health has cinnamon, marjoram, and turmeric.

When I received my package I wanted to try them all! As it was afternoon, I settled for the Zen. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first used the Monq personal diffuser, but I was actually surprised at how mild the taste of the Zen was. I had really expected it to be distasteful. So I sipped the end of the device like a straw, held it a moment then exhaled through my nose. It wasn’t as difficult as I was afraid it would be. It was really easy to not inhale. I will admit I didn’t really think it did much in the way of relaxing me with that first use.

So over the course of the next couple weeks I used the diffuser daily. The Focus blend is amazing. I absolutely love it. It works for me like the roll on did, but without the lingering smell that makes me sick. I’ll use it in the morning when I start my day and then again at lunchtime. I was surprised when I actually felt more productive and got some things done.

I haven’t had much of a result either way from the Vibrant. Well, it doesn’t make me feel vibrant…or anything really. The taste/smell is okay, not my favorite. The Happy has a pleasant taste/smell and while not a strong effect on mood, I do see some benefit to this one. The Zen is nice. Once I got the hang of using the diffuser, this blend actually does have some calming effect. The Healthy is another I could do without.

Bottom line is I’ve been wondering where these have been my whole adult life. When searching for essential oils for ADHD, nothing like this has ever entered my radar until recently. I was hesitant, but I am glad I took the plunge. Monq makes it easy though, with a thirty-day money back guarantee. If you don’t like your product, all you have to do is print the return form, fill it out, pay for the return shipping, and Monq will issue you a refund. Easy.

They have a Sleepy blend that I want to try next. Not sure if it will work for my sleep issues, but it’s worth a try.

Remember, even though essential oils are natural, consult your doctor before using. It’s just the smart thing to do.

Productivity is my huge ADHD mountain. So many days I feel like I accomplish so little. Monq’s Focus blend is my new secret weapon. 😉

*As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Exercise for ADHD – Body Groove Anyone?

I’m going to be really honest about a few things. First of all, if there was an exercise fad from the 1980’s to somewhere in the early 2000’s I tried it. I went from taking aerobics classes in high school to any videos I suddenly “had” to have. There were the certain body parts of steel collection, dancing and sweating to oldies, step videos, walking away pounds, boot camps, you name it, I bought it. Second of all, I really didn’t enjoy most of it and I am really, really bad at making exercise not only a priority but a habit.

I will go even further to say that over the years, especially as my child developed mental health needs, I let taking care of myself go. I haven’t gotten enough rest, eaten properly, exercised, or nurtured my own needs in any way. I don’t regret anything I have ever done for my child. She needed me, and it’s my job as well as my privilege. I just sort of forgot myself along the way. I ceased to be me and saw myself only as someone’s mom. I gained weight, was often exhausted, and while I longed to live with joy and find that magical formula where I finally figured things out — it all eluded me. I knew that among other things, it is crucial to use exercise for ADHD management.

A while back I decided that I needed to change things. My daughter needs me, yes, and I will always be there for her, but you also can’t give someone else your best if you are empty. I was stressed, worried about her constantly, anxious, and getting crabby. Depression was slowly eating at the fringes. Something had to give. Our life was a good one, I could just feel the neglect of myself starting to take its toll. My ADHD symptoms were raging almost out of control. The forgetfulness was bad enough, but my lack of focus was astonishing. Short term memory was nearly non-existent as I struggled just to keep up with my day.

I started taking some time each day to spend quietly alone. (Meditation, anyone?) I began watching what I ate, limiting meat and processed foods. (most of the time. I still struggle with this sometimes. More on that later.) I practiced being grateful, keeping a gratitude journal and looking for the good in each day. These were just a few of the things that I started doing to set myself back on the right path. I still balked at using exercise for ADHD. I made excuses like I didn’t have time.

We know that exercise is a critical component of managing ADHD. Exercise can help us to release pent-up energy, as well as increase focus, and quell depression and anxiety. I know how good exercise is for me, and yet I still struggle to incorporate it into my daily routine.

One day, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw an ad. It caught my eye, but at the time, I have to admit I scoffed at it. It looked like just another scam fitness product. Exercise videos. I’ve spent a small fortune on exercise videos and they have all ended up at the bottom of my DVD collection or donated. I kept scrolling.

Over the next few days, I kept seeing this particular ad. The people were dancing, hair flying, looking like they were having the time of their life. Yeah, right. Kept scrolling.

Another few days of seeing this ad, and one day I hesitated over the video. I clicked on it and watched it. First, I didn’t see how just dancing around was exercise. Okay, I know. That is a little hypocritical of me because I have often said that it doesn’t matter WHAT you do as long as you move. And it doesn’t. I guess what I mean is that I didn’t see the point of PAYING for videos just to dance around. I can do that to the radio. (And I sometimes do.) So what was the gimmick? What was the catch? How was this video different from every other video? What was it going to promise me?

I also knew that exercise could be anything at all, but I still believed that if I was out of shape and overweight, that I still had to torture myself in some way to get fit. I could tell others that all they had to do was find some movement that they enjoyed, but I felt I could not take my own advice. Why? Because I was missing my joy. I was missing the desire and the love of my body, just as it was.

Something about that ad though, maybe just because it kept persistently showing up, got me to looking. On the surface, it looked somewhat absurd. Then I started paying attention. I visited the Body Groove website. I started reading. The rest is history.

The minute I visited the Body Groove website, I was hooked. The minute I clicked on the blog and read and watched videos and really listened to what Misty Tripoli was saying, it felt like she was speaking directly to me. I wanted to find that joy, that love of life and love of my body that she spoke about. I wanted to feel that happiness bubbling up inside of me. I wanted to feel alive again.

And do you know what? Misty doesn’t make any wild promises. She does not guarantee you a quick fix. What she does tell you is that you deserve to love your life and to be gentle with yourself. These things might be simple, but sometimes the greatest truths that smack you right across the face when you need them the most, are the simplest.

I ordered my first set of DVD’s. Yep, I ordered more exercise videos. And while I felt a little silly at first as I danced and hopped around my living room with all my jiggly parts, after the first few days I noticed something. I had been so embarrassed by my own self, the way I looked, my lack of coordination, that I was embarrassed to dance in my living room by myself. Can you imagine? But after a few days, that was melting away and I was flitting around the room like I knew what I was doing. I was gliding, twirling, whirling, and jiggling. And it was glorious.

What I was learning was to be comfortable in my own skin. I was learning acceptance of myself. I was learning that I could still be strong, and that I was beautiful. I won’t say graceful, because I am so clumsy that I could never, and would never, say I was graceful. But do you know what? For a little while I could pretend I was. I could have looked like a water buffalo trying to jump hurdles, but alone in my living room I was free.

The meditation came easier. The desire to move came easier. The nutrition came easier. The gratefulness came easier. You see, it is all a mindset. It’s all connected. Once I started to take care of myself, I craved all the things that were good for me. I stopped being so crabby. I could hold my depression at bay. I slept better. I had more energy.

Oh, I do remember Misty Tripoli from the old days when she was, as she says, abusing her body to look a certain way for the fitness industry. But looking at her now? She glows with an inner light. Her smile is infectious and to me, she looks better than ever. Her truths are not mind shattering new knowledge, but some of us need to hear them. We have lost our way and need to remember that joy and happiness are within our grasp. We need to remember that we are in control.

I am so happy I finally clicked on those ads. I have since purchased a second set of DVD’s and I am currently waiting on the arrival of my at home workshop. I am ready to feel better and transform my thinking.

ADHD and Anxiety as well as Depression can take a deep hold on us. Even without co-morbid conditions, ADHD can wreak havoc on our bodies as well as our self-esteem. Having something to help turn that around is priceless. My anxiety keeps me out of the gym – I just cannot exercise with strangers. I like to walk, but I also like having a variety of things to do.

BodyGroove definitely delivers variety. Misty is motivating and fun. She dares you to get out of your comfort zone and not take exercise so seriously. This approach might not be for everyone, but I was actually surprised at how good of a workout I was getting with these videos. The emphasis is on the dancing and doing what you can do, but the workout is still there, hidden in a sneaky way that you only realize later.

I have become a huge fan of Body Groove and of Misty Tripoli too. I enjoy the workouts and feel so energized when I get done. I’m still working on finding my joy and vitality, but I know it’s out there for me. I still work on incorporating daily movement, as some days I am still prone to procrastination as well as avoidance. But I know that movement helps my ADHD. I know that being mindful and taking care of myself both mentally and physically help me manage my ADHD.

We all deserve to live our best life. Life is not a chore. It isn’t something to be muddled through. Looking for something different? Give BodyGroove a try!

I want to start hiking again next year, but know I have a way to go in my fitness before I’ll be there, but come spring, I plan to be back in hiking shape, enjoying the mountains, and Body Groove and Misty Tripoli are helping me get there!

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Meditation and ADHD

My daughter was in therapy the other day and the therapist told her to download some meditation apps onto her phone and try them out. I was reminded of how many times I have said I was going to be more mindful, how many times I have looked at apps and YouTube for mindfulness apps and videos, and how many times I have actually started to use meditation, only to begin and then to forget until it’s just one of those things I “used” to do.

Honestly, I enjoy meditation. When I remember. I try to be mindful each and every day, but there is something about starting out the day in a mindful manner; of sitting with myself and my thoughts and feelings that can make a world of difference.

But I HAVE ADHD, How can I Meditate?

If you’re anything like me, your brain is a minefield of activity. There are explosions going off all over the place. It certainly isn’t quiet in there long enough to meditate. (What is ADHD? Read here to find out the basics.)

Well, that’s true if you are thinking meditation is some lofty altered consciousness, gained only through contorting your legs and perching on a cushion. If you are into that sort of thing and it works for you, awesome! There are many of us, however, that know that is an unrealistic goal.

That doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. Well. We are all entitled to some inner peace, and it isn’t unobtainable, even to the most chaotic of minds.

Tips to Get Started

  • Get comfortable. It doesn’t matter how or where you sit, or even if you lie down or stand. Just be comfortable.
  • Know that your mind will wander, especially in the beginning. When this happens, gently take note of the thought, then return your concentration to your breathing.
  • Guided meditations are great for beginners. There are many apps available, most offering guided meditations. These can be a great place to start.
  • Try concentrating on an object. You can focus on something such as a candle. When you feel your mind wandering, notice the thought, then turn your attention back to the candle.
  • Start small. Don’t think that you will be up for a meditation marathon when you first begin. Start with five minutes, and add length as you feel more comfortable.
  • Focus on your body and how it feels with each breath.
  • Practice. Give it some time! Don’t give up before ever getting the hang of it. It will take time and patience, but it will definitely pay off!
Image by brenkee on Pixabay

Benefits of Meditation

Why meditate?

  • Stress reduction
  • Gain a deeper understanding of self
  • Increase attention
  • Better sleep
  • Can help improve memory loss
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Improve focus

There are many reasons why meditation is such a benefit for those of us with ADHD. If you want to reduce your stress and anxiety, feel more in control of your emotions, improve memory and focus as well as sleep better, meditation can help.

Apps

As I mentioned, there are many apps out there available for meditation/mindfulness. We’ve given a few a try so I thought I would share my thoughts on a few.

  • Let’s Meditate – This free app is easy to use. That is always a plus for me! The feature I like is that you can download the guided meditation and then you have it to use on or offline. There are thirty meditations to choose from, download only the ones you want and enjoy them any time anywhere! There is a mix of male and female voices. They were both relatively pleasant to listen to. I think we all will have differing opinions on which voices we like and which we do not, so it’s always a good idea to test an app, especially if it’s a paid app, see if there is a free version or a free trial to make sure you will like the voices enough to actually use the app.
  • Guided Meditation – This is another free app, but be aware that there will be ads at the bottom of the screen. This does not take away from the app for me because if I’m meditating my eyes are closed anyway. Some reviews I read there were people who deleted the app because they didn’t approve of what was being advertised, but I usually don’t notice them anyway. This app is visually pleasing. It groups the meditations together in categories, such as meditation for sleep, or anxiety relief, motivation, or weight loss to name a few. There are usually several meditations available within a category. There is also a mix of male and female voices. There are guided meditations as well as white noise and nature sounds.
  • Waking Up (Sam Harris) – This app gives you 50 days trial with a guided meditation each day, and then it is a subscription (currently $14.99 USD monthly) and in my opinion, worth every cent. This is, hands down, my favorite app for mindfulness/meditation. It was recommended to me and the very first time I used it I knew I’d found the meditation app I would be using regularly. This app is made up of daily meditations (you can access the daily meditations at any time, so you can go back and do them again) and there are also lessons. The lessons can be listened to in any order and topics range from gratefulness to solving problems. My daughter, who was actually balking at the idea of meditation, loves this app. If you are ever thinking about paying for just one app, make it this one. Sam Harris gives a straightforward approach to meditation that can be used by anyone. His voice is pleasing and he leads the beginner into meditation as a way of life. The lessons are also very informative and helpful.

I’ve been on again off again with meditation for a long time now, but am at a point in my life where I am striving to feel my best as well as be my best. I find that meditating daily helps me to achieve my goals of living with joy and gratitude. It helps my focus and memory Meditating first thing in the morning sets up the day for me, increasing my positivity.

Do you meditate? How has it benefited you? What have you noticed about yourself since beginning meditation?

My goal? Meditate on a mountaintop at sunrise, of course! 🙂

Image by cheifyc on Pixabay

Weighted Blankets for ADHD

A few years ago I began hearing about using weighted blankets for ADHD. At the time, I had no clue what these were. It took me more time still, before I decided to purchase one. Ok, in all honesty, first I looked at tutorials on how to make one of my own. For about five minutes I was convinced I could take on this project, but then I came back to reality and faced up to the fact that my ability to sew a straight line resembles a drunk person trying to ride a unicycle on a tight rope, so I figured it was best if I purchased a quality made weighted blanket instead.

 

What is a Weighted Blanket?

If you are interested in using weighted blankets for ADHD, it is important to know what the blanket actually is.

These blankets usually have compartments sewn into them like pockets, and those pockets contain glass beads, polypropylene pellets, or steel shot beads, and some may use sand or beans, rice, or barley, but the last four are primarily for DIY projects and all come with obvious drawbacks, primarily the inability to wash in any way because you couldn’t get those fillers wet.

The weight is divided equally throughout the blanket and they come in different weights based on the user’s body weight. A good rule when choosing a weighted blanket is 10% of your body weight plus one or two pounds. However, it is important to note that it is still much a personal preference. Some people will enjoy a bit heavier blanket while others will want one that is a little on the lighter side.

Cotton is a popular choice for the blanket as it is a breathable material. You can also get duvet covers to go over them that will help in keeping them clean, and you can find covers in soft, even fuzzy, materials for those that enjoy the sensory effect of a nice, soft blanket.

How Does the Blanket Work?

Weighted blankets for ADHD are based on the science of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP.) DTP is any gentle, evenly distributed pressure on the body. Think of a hug! We all feel better after a good long hug, right? This pressure calms the nervous system, and releases serotonin as well as melatonin.

Serotonin is a chemical important for focus, regulating mood and sleep, and for feeling calm. ADHD brains are low in serotonin. (Serotonin is also an issue in other mental and mood disorders including, but not limited to, anxiety and depression.)

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake patterns. Since most people with ADHD have trouble sleeping, melatonin can be beneficial for helping those with ADHD fall asleep and stay asleep.

That’s the technical reason why this blanket works for ADHD as well as for other disorders. On  a sensory level,  wrapping up in the blanket can feel like wrapping up in a cocoon. As its weight settles on you it’s as if a feeling of calm settles over you.

What’s the Verdict on Using Weighted Blankets for ADHD?

When I finally bought a blanket for my daughter, I bought the Weighted Comforts brand. No, this is not a sponsored post, I’m just disclosing which blanket I purchased initially.

I used the formula of 10% of her weight plus a pound and at first she liked it, but after a few days using it, she came to the conclusion that the blanket was too heavy for her. She said after a little while it no longer felt comforting, but like suffocating.

I wasn’t sure if she was just someone who did not like the weighted blanket or if it was too heavy, so I sent it back and decided to try again with a lighter one. I got one a few pounds lighter than the weight targeted for her size, and this time, she loved it. Since she also has Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD, the blanket really helps to calm her when she is anxious and panicking, it comforts her when she is having flashbacks or other PTSD symptoms, and alleviates her mood. It also helps her to sleep better.

Many afternoons after school the first thing she will reach for is her weighted blanket.

Later on, I decided to try another weighted blanket and purchased the Sleepah blanket from Amazon. While my daughter enjoyed the Weighted Comforts blanket, she preferred this one. I liked that this blanket had a cover included. The removable cover is a soft, fuzzy material, and zips on and off for washing. At first, from the photos I thought the blanket had nubs on it, and was thinking they would be rough, or stiff. When I got the blanket however, this was not the case. What appeared to be nubs in the photo are more like bumps in the material. You can push them with your finger and flatten them: they are hollow. This provides a texture on the blanket, but still remains super soft, so there is no sensory issue with stiff nubs rubbing against your skin.

When I used the blanket for myself, I was genuinely surprised at how good I slept. I’m pretty claustrophobic, and eighteen pounds worth of blanket can be heavy and unwieldy. At first I thought maybe I could stand to have it on my lap for a bit, but didn’t think I’d like it, or be able to really snuggle up in it. It felt nice on my lap, actually, but one day I tried getting underneath, and let me tell you, in a few minutes I fell asleep and slept hard for about four hours. This is unheard of for me.

It’s important to know that it can be a pain to move these blankets around, especially an adult sized one. It’s also not so easy getting it back into its cover, but that is a minimal inconvenience.

Bottom line is that I am glad I finally tried a weighted blanket for ADHD. I am also impressed with how the weighted blanket helps with anxiety and depression too. It was definitely a purchase I do not regret.

I am convinced these blankets are a life-saver! We love ours and I am currently looking into one of the soft, smaller lap sized ones that my daughter could take to therapy with her, or even school.

We might even carry our blanket while visiting the mountains!

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What is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

Recently, my daughter had a conversation with one of her teachers that led me to the importance of writing about the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. Often, the terms are used interchangeably, and the truth is, they really aren’t the same. It is also true that people can experience both in very different ways.

What is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense, overwhelming fear. Physical symptoms can include racing heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, and nausea.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks and categorizes them as expected and unexpected. Unexpected panic attacks occur without an obvious cause or trigger. Expected panic attacks are triggered by external stress.

One of the most important things to note between panic and anxiety attacks is that panic attacks are recognized in the DSM-5 and anxiety attacks are not.

 

This is not to say Anxiety Attacks are not real, there is just more to it than a simple definition. Let’s look at the two separately.

Panic Attacks

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack must have four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Dizziness, feeling light-headed or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Feelings of being detached from oneself or of unreality
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

(It should be noted that it is possible to be diagnosed with limited panic attacks that do not show four symptoms).

Panic attacks will typically reach their peak intensity within ten minutes and then the symptoms will begin to diminish. It is possible to have panic attacks back-to-back. They can occur when someone is in a calm state, or during an anxious state.

Anxiety Attack

Since anxiety attacks are not recognized in the DSM-5, there is no official definition of what an anxiety attack is. However, the term is typically used to describe a period of intense, or extended anxiety that is more intense than feelings of anxiety, but not as intense as a panic attack. An anxiety attack can lead to a panic attack.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive and unrealistic worry over a period of at least six months. At least three of the following symptoms must be present:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or explosive anger
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Personality changes (such as becoming less social)

(There are other types of anxiety disorders, but we won’t be discussing those for this article)

Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can constantly be in the background as a person lives their daily life. Anxiety is usually related to something felt to be stressful or threatening.

What Does This Mean?

So, what is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?

Many people, even professionals, believe the terms panic attack and anxiety attack refer to the same thing. Even those who have anxiety or panic attacks can use the terms interchangeably.

The problem this creates is that without an understanding of the terms, their similarities as well as their differences, it could be difficult to receive an accurate diagnosis and get the right treatment. It could be especially dangerous, or at the very least not useful, to be prescribed medication that isn’t right for you.

Gather all the information you can to help understand what you are feeling and experiencing, and seek health professionals who specialize in anxiety and panic disorders to help with proper diagnosis and therapy that will truly benefit you as an individual.

Everyone feels anxiety from time to time. Times of stress are normal and will happen to us all. It is important to realize that extended periods of excessive and unrealistic worry can point to an anxiety disorder. Getting the proper diagnosis and treatment can be life changing!

While this type of worry usually points to an anxiety disorder, having a panic attack does not necessarily point to a panic disorder. Many people experience a panic attack at some point in their life, particularly during an extremely stressful time.

Extreme anxiety can lead to a panic attack, and the fear of having a panic attack can cause someone to change their behaviors (for example, due to my social anxiety causing panic attacks, I would avoid places I believed could result in my having a panic attack). The fear can also result in an escalation of panic attacks.

Panic and Anxiety in our House

I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as well as Social Anxiety Disorder. There are periods in my life, especially if things are very stressful or hectic, that my anxiety is increased a hundred-fold over what is my normal. These periods are my anxiety attacks. During these times, I am also more prone to having panic attacks. The heightened anxiety can feel like life is crushing down upon me and I find that the panic attacks can catch me completely unaware, or sometimes when the feelings are so intense, it’s almost as if I can feel the panic attack brewing. I know it’s coming. Every little thing sets me off and I feel like I’m spinning out of control. I try to avoid going anywhere I don’t have to go out of fear of having a panic attack.

Since my daughter has Depression as well as PTSD, feelings of anxiety and panic can overtake her in very different ways than me. She becomes so afraid of having a PTSD episode that she will have a panic attack. She can sit in class, heart pounding, unable to concentrate, feeling dizzy and nauseous, shaking, and terrified that she is going to lose control, all the while trying to hide it so people around her don’t see it. She can end up running from the classroom before she gets sick. She also usually has multiple panic attacks back-to-back. While experiencing symptoms of PTSD, she can be more at risk for panic attacks, but it also works in the reverse. Having panic attacks can cause her to feel helpless and trigger PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks.

I hope if you are asking, “What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?” That this article gave you just a little insight. If you need help, please see a healthcare professional. I do not claim to be an expert, and I’m certainly not a doctor. I just want to share our experiences in the hopes of raising awareness, reducing stigma, and giving a helping hand to others like so many have done for us.

 

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks can indeed feel like mountains that are impossible to climb, but if we all just try to give one another a little boost sometimes, we will all make it to the top!!

 

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Parenting Teens With Mental Illness – it’s all About Support

In this household, we live with more than an ADHD diagnosis. I am also parenting a teen with mental illness. This challenges me in two ways. As an adult with ADHD, my chaotic nature can sometimes wreak havoc on our household. And when my anxiety is kicked into high gear? I even feel sorry for the cats. I can be scattered and forgetful, yet at the same time I have to be fully present in each and every moment so I can be in tune to my daughter’s needs.

Parenting teens with mental illness is exhausting. It’s frustrating and, if I am truthful, I have had moments where I questioned the will of God and complained to Him that this wasn’t fair. I know He has a purpose and a reason. No, he did not create the trauma that resulted in multiple mental and mood disorder diagnoses for my child, but I do know that He has a plan for her. And for me.

Yet if it is exhausting and frustrating for me, I can’t even imagine how much that is magnified for her. She is my hero. She is the strongest individual I have ever met and I am proud of her each and every day. There are many days she does not feel like carrying on. She has thought about (and attempted) to end it all many times, but she is still here, fighting her fight, and learning to use her struggle to support others.

What can Parents Do?

If you are parenting a teen with mental illness, the most important thing you can do for your child is to be there. Learn all you can about their diagnosis and do whatever you have to do to keep them safe (or yourself or other loved ones) but make sure they know they are loved and supported.

  • Code words – My daughter has a code word that she uses when she needs immediate attention or help. This is different than just wanting to be near me or to do something together. When she uses her word, I know to drop whatever I am doing and go to her. She doesn’t necessarily want to talk about why she needed immediate attention, but it could be the urge to self harm, suicidal thoughts, or maybe a vivid flashback. At any rate, creating a code word gave her a way to let me know she is in need without her having to explain why if she does not want to.
  • Provide supportive feedback – When your teen makes good decisions, reinforce those decisions with positive feedback. Let them know you are proud of their choices. Sometimes a teen with mental illness needs the positive reinforcement to feel connected and loved. Sometimes they have a tendency to self-sabotage or self-harm through their actions. Providing supportive feedback helps them to know that you are paying attention and that you are proud of their effort.
  • Let them know they belong – Even in our small household, my teen can feel like a burden. She can feel like her mental health needs are a drain not only emotionally but financially and she will question whether she is worth it. We have had so many conversations where she justified her suicidal thoughts and plan by saying that if she were gone, I would be free. Making a point to let her know how much I want her here and how my life would not be changed for the better if she were gone is important.
  • Encourage being a helper – My daughter is drawn to others who are also struggling mentally. Sometimes she is not in a good place to take on the problems of others, but I know how important it is. I try to help her find balance, and we often disagree on how much she can handle, but at the same time, it is through helping others that she learns she is not alone, and also gives her a sense of being needed.
  • Don’t always concentrate on mental illness – When my child isn’t doing well, I have a very hard time letting go. I am wary of new friends, of letting her go places, of being afraid of what “might happen.” One day she sat me down and told me that I can’t always treat her like someone who is ill. I have to treat her like a normal teen. As much as I did not want others to look at her and see mental illness instead of her, I was using her illness as a reason for excessive worry and over-protection. I know that she will not learn to take care of herself and manage her illness if I don’t allow her to live, make mistakes, and learn from them just like any other teen. It’s a hard one though!
  • Make sure they have a support system – Being a caring parent is one of the best things you can do for your child, but parenting teens with mental illness will take more than just yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and admit when you don’t know what to do. Acquire and trust doctors, therapists, and other professionals that will not only assist you, but who have been trained to help your teen.

There are so many more things you can do to help and support your child, but these are just a few that come to mind when I think about it.

My child and her health are the most important things to me. Letting her know that I see her for the wonderful gift that she is and do not see her mental illness as a disability or something to be ashamed of, allows her to feel safe and secure at home, and, hopefully, gives her the confidence to face the world.

Are you parenting teens with mental illness? What coping strategies do you use to help them as well as yourself? What do you think is important for them and the world to know?

Some days the mountains are a bit harder to climb; let your child know that you are hiking along beside them.

 

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ADHD and Anxiety in Adults – Tips to Calm the Storm

 

We know that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) usually doesn’t travel alone. There are oftentimes other conditions that will walk hand-in-hand with you whether you want their company or not. I’d like to spend a little time on a common struggle; ADHD and Anxiety in Adults.

As an adult with ADHD, Anxiety is, by far, my biggest hurdle. Anxiety also causes my daughter huge amounts of stress. Anxiety and fear can literally bring my life to a screeching halt at any given moment. I become overwhelmed and panic, lost as to how to stop it. Let’s look at what Anxiety is, why it often travels with ADHD, and what we can do about it (or at least do to live with it.)

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is basically fear, apprehension, and worry that interferes with daily life. This is different from stress. We all have stress, and yes, it is important to manage that stress for your mental health, but anxiety is just a bit different. Anxiety can feel like a crushing weight that makes tasks of daily living virtually impossible. You can become immobilized; unable to function out of fear.

Why Does Anxiety and ADHD Often go Together?

ADHD with Anxiety in adults is very common. Why? Let’s take a moment to think about all the ways ADHD affects our daily lives. Being an adult with ADHD means we are often late, disorganized, miss deadlines, forget important dates, don’t return phone calls, forget to pay bills on time, and we can have issues with anger, aggression, and taking over the conversations and ideas of others.

That being said, we face criticism at home, in the workplace, and most of all from ourselves. I doubt we face many critics worse than the one in our own heads. The constant noise inside our brains as we are unable to filter out the important from the unimportant, the zoning out, the hyperfocus on things we enjoy, and the procrastination cause us a great deal of heartache and rejection. Worrying constantly about not messing up can end up paralyzing us until we take no action at all. We can’t do it wrong if we just don’t do it at all, right?

My fears lead me to be unable to make phone calls, unable to go to events where I do not know people, or walk into a room if I don’t know exactly what is happening inside that room before I get there. I stay within my comfort zone out of fear of not only rejection, but of what will happen if I screw something up after someone gives me an opportunity. I imagine everyone is watching me and judging me as much as I am judging myself.

 

See how harmful this can be? Let’s add another layer to this anxiety. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

I think it’s important to take just a moment to discuss this because while it is well-known that someone with ADHD can be hypersensitive, I think the idea of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is something we don’t hear of all that often.

While I am concentrating on ADHD and Anxiety in adults in this article, I will mention that my daughter has RSD. She’s close enough to an adult that I think her experiences are relevant here.

But first, what exactly is RSD? ADHD expert, William Dodson, MD defines it as “extreme emotional sensitivity and emotional pain triggered by the perception – not necessarily the reality- that a person has been rejected, teased, or criticized by important people in his or her life. RSD can also be triggered by failing to meet your own, or others’, high expectations.”

Why is this important as we discuss ADHD and Anxiety in adults? I’ll tell you. As a teen, there are so many behaviors that are normal ADHD behavior that others just don’t understand. Teachers, peers, and parents alike, can fail to realize how hard you are working and yet you still keep losing things, forget homework, you blurt things out at inappropriate times, miss social cues, are highly hypersensitive, mess up personal interactions (hugely embarrassing when you turn conversation with a potential crush into something extremely awkward because you don’t know what to say and your mouth just blurts something out. It might sound like an internet meme, but I’m pretty certain my daughter, after meeting a boy for the first time, as the introductions faded into awkwardness, piped up and asked him if he liked bread.) You belittle yourself for your behaviors and peers belittle you too. The important take away of this is that this starts a whole cycle of self loathing that is carried into adulthood.

That self loathing turns into anxiety over every new thing you try and every new person you try to meet. You can spend a lifetime convincing yourself that you will never be good enough and you fail at everything. Fear wins. Anxiety wins. You become an adult wrapped up in your cloak of anxiety wearing it like a familiar blanket. It’s hard to shed once we wrap ourself up in its familiarity.

Tips to Help Alleviate Anxiety

What can we do as ADHD’ers to reduce the amount of anxiety in our life and the extent we allow it to rule over us? It definitely takes patience and practice adopting the changes and coping skills necessary, but if we work, we may never be completely free, but we can live our best life – a life that does not revolve around anxiety.

  • Get educated. Seriously. I’ve mentioned how important this is before. Education is our best defense against ourselves. Learn about your diagnoses. Ask questions. Read books. I recently got a copy of Dr. Hallowell’s book Worry. I haven’t started it yet, but I am excited to read Dr. Hallowell’s suggestions and insights.
  • Simplify. When we get rid of excess “stuff” in our homes and lives and cut down on our commitments (learn to say no!) it can really take the weight off our shoulders. I am in the process of decluttering my home and while I am not enjoying the actual process because well…can you say procrastinator?? I will enjoy the end result. Less clutter leads to less stress for me.
  • Seek help. Don’t try to go this road alone. Find an ADHD coach or therapist that can help you deal with your ADHD Anxiety.
  • Humor. If my daughter and I didn’t use humor as our primary coping mechanism I’m not really sure what would have become of us. Laugh at yourself. So you put a hairbrush in the freezer? Lost a pepperoni roll? (Both things literally happened in this house.) Find the humor in those situations instead of beating yourself up over it.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Okay people, self medicating with things that might dull your anxiety for a while but then cause even more problems? Never a good idea. Make choices that aid your well-being, not work against it.
  • Meditate and Breathe. This sounds simplistic, but taking time out to breathe or spend a few minutes in meditation can really get your mind back on track and put the worry back in the box where it belongs. Take a few moments when you feel you are getting overwhelmed; just breathe, calm your heart rate and re-center yourself. It takes practice, especially meditation, but the benefits are amazing!
  • Exercise. Move. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety and releases chemicals in the brain to enhance our moods and rev up our energy levels. Find something you enjoy and give it some time! Exercise has so many benefits for your mind and body.

 

Be Your Best Self

As any adult with ADHD and Anxiety, all we can do is practice being our best selves. Part of having ADHD, I think, is taking the good with the bad. Most days the good outweighs the bad, even though I do wish I had a better handle on my anxiety. Practice patience with yourself. Give yourself excellent self care. Remember that you are good enough just the way you are. Sometimes we all have our ADHD mountains to climb, but the view from the top can be worth it!

 

I hope you enjoyed the information you found here today regarding ADHD and Anxiety in adults. What are your thoughts? What are your favorite coping strategies for dealing with the anxiety in your life? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

 

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ADHD Kristi

Welcome! We are excited to launch our new site – some of you may know me from over at ADHDKristi.blog 😉 I’m looking forward to expanding our platform just a little bit in the hopes of providing more informative articles, lots of new tips and tricks, and a few new ideas. Don’t worry – the chaos and mayhem will be coming along for the ride too!

Please check back often as we work to get this new site up and running and full of useful information. We have so much planned for the future – can’t wait to share it with you guys!

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