The Structure of Chaos: On Living Well with ADHD. (Guest Post)

The structure of chaos: on living well with ADHD | esmewang.com | sunny office

When the doctor told me that I had ADHD, my first instinct was to laugh. It felt preposterous… But as she went on to ask me about my tendency to daydream and become easily distracted, the unshakeable feeling of being in constant motion as if driven by a motor, and my lifelong battle with hypersensitivity, I felt as if I had put on glasses for the first time. Suddenly, all the details came into sharp focus.

This post comes to you courtesy of Off We Go: Entrepreneurs & Mental Illness, a guest post series. Today’s post is by Amelia Quint

Listen to me read this piece below:

 

When people ask me what I do, I tell them, “I wear a lot of hats.” Professionally speaking, I’m an astrologer, tarot reader, blogger, writer, musician, and most recently, project coordinator for a global initiative at a major research university.

Inevitably, the first question will be followed by this one:

“You must be a busy woman. How do you do it all?”

This makes me cringe every time I hear it. I’m flummoxed by the idea that someone might actually believe I have it all together. And perhaps I do today, but it wasn’t always this way.

You see, I was diagnosed with ADHD during my last semester of college. At the time, I was failing two classes and was three months behind on rent. My days had become a carousel of lost car keys and late arrivals, and it was a miracle if I could remember to go to the grocery to buy food for the week. My nights were spent either wondering how I’d strayed so far from the archetypal “smart kid” I prided myself on being, or self-medicating. Alcohol, cigarettes, or anything else that could numb the sting of being a chronic disappointment to others was a welcome distraction.

Recognizing the vicious cycle into which I’d fallen, I sought treatment for what I thought to be anxiety or depression, both of which I’d struggled with before. When the doctor told me that I had ADHD, my first instinct was to laugh. It felt preposterous. I didn’t fit any of the stereotypes: I was a high-achiever who obeyed rules with religious adherence, never causing unnecessary trouble (that is, at least until that point). But as she went on to ask me about my tendency to daydream and become easily distracted, the unshakeable feeling of being in constant motion as if driven by a motor, and my lifelong battle with hypersensitivity, I felt as if I had put on glasses for the first time. Suddenly, all the details came into sharp focus.

vintage perfume bottle with mandala and crystals

I spent years after my diagnosis trying to find a medication that would suit me, but the side effects always outweighed the benefits. Though I wanted desperately to find a magic pill that would make all my symptoms disappear, I knew the path to healing wasn’t that simple.

I spent years after my diagnosis trying to find a medication that would suit me, but the side effects always outweighed the benefits. Though I wanted desperately to find a magic pill that would make all my symptoms disappear, I knew the path to healing wasn’t that simple. On the days when things were particularly tough, I’d remember how that same doctor used to say, “Everyone has a plate that they carry their shit on, but yours is just a little smaller than everyone else’s.” And she would remind me, with the utmost care, that there are things you can do to increase your capacity to carry life’s responsibilities. I knew if I wanted to keep things from falling off of my proverbial plate, I needed to create infrastructure for myself.

What does infrastructure look like in my life today? I have three sets of spare keys just in case I lose one (and I probably will). Google Calendar saves me from missed appointment purgatory daily. I make sure to practice good sleep hygiene. Most importantly, I manage my expectations. No matter how many systems I implement, the ADHD is never going to go away. I am never going to be one hundred percent normal, and that is okay.

It’s easy to say this now, but when you’re trying to manage ADHD for the first time, the idea of setting up and maintaining new structures seems like a Herculean labor. How do you create a spreadsheet to track how you’re spending your time when you can barely remember what time you’re supposed to wake up in the morning? The answer is: you don’t. Start where you are. Take care of as many little things for yourself as you can, when you can, and the stress will start to lift.

I started this journey four years ago, and now my notes and systems are a survival mechanism. I realize that without them, life as I know it could very possibly implode, and so I’ve grown to love and embrace structure. It’s a beautiful irony that my limits are what give me freedom. Entrepreneurs know this all too well. Despite the endless demands on my time and energy, I must respect the fact that my bandwidth is limited.

As a small business owner and intuitive worker, my boundaries have become my greatest ally. The ADHD mind is noisy, but good habits and healthy boundaries can help turn down the volume. I have to be able to quiet my thoughts in order to access my creativity and intuition. It’s difficult to hear your inner voice over a pile of unpaid bills or an empty pantry, so having systems for the basics gives you the space you need to spend quality time with your muse. And if you’re an entrepreneur, more quality time with your muse means more money in your pocket!

Finally, let me be clear: I don’t in any way mean to suggest that people with ADHD suppress their non-linear ways of thinking and become curmudgeons. To the contrary, I simply believe that we need to find a channel for our chaos. How you channel it is up to you. Not a Google Calendar type? Maybe Filofax is your thing. Or, perhaps you can structure your life in such a way that your schedule is flexible. In the modern workplace, the possibilities are endless.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Gustave Flaubert. He says, “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.” When it comes to dealing with ADHD as an entrepreneur, this is the key, I think. Even if it seems impossible to you today, know that you have the capacity to build your own infrastructure, and in so doing, create space for your dreams to grow wild and free. My wish for you is this: may your boundaries be strong, your mind quiet, and your inner voice clear.

amelia quint midheavenBio:

Amelia Quint is an astrologer, tarot reader, and writer empowering modern mystics to take charge of their destinies. Her website, The Midheaven, is full of practical magic tips to help you shove fate against the wall and show it who’s boss. When she’s not busy divining, you can find her singing Led Zeppelin covers and watching Stanley Kubrick movies on an endless loop. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google Plus.

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