November's Winds of Change
I am new to ADHD. In retrospect, I always had ADHD, but awareness of my neurodiversity began just over two years ago with my diagnosis at age 43. Since then, I spent time absorbing anything I could about ADHD (hyperfocusing on it, if you will). I have learned various coping mechanisms and have found new systems and workarounds for things that ailed me for decades.
One of the most powerful experiences since my diagnosis was the sudden realization I was not alone. I wasn’t the broken, lazy, ineffective shell of an adult I always believed myself to be. There are so many wonderful, kind, and nonjudgmental people willing to share their experiences and suggestions. For the first time, I began to feel like an actual functioning adult.
This has been a heck of a year! In March, I began a new career as an infection prevention nurse, which has tremendous responsibilities even if you are not heading into a pandemic. I've lost four people: my uncle to COVID, a childhood friend to complications from meth, a cousin who killed herself, and a friend who was hit by a drunk driver in her own driveway.
In April, I had what I have dubbed "The Mysterious Illness". My MD thought it was a sinus infection, but antibiotics were unhelpful, it became more severe, and dropped into my chest. With a new diagnosis of pneumonia, different antibiotics, and prednisone, my health slightly improved. Almost immediately after that, I developed sudden chest pain and complications with my lungs, a heart murmur, and female issues, resulting in a lot of time in doctors’ waiting rooms. Then my knees decided they were left out and threw a tantrum, which almost rendered me completely unable to walk. This year, I have been diagnosed with several "maybes". Maybe asthma. Maybe inflammatory arthritis. Maybe osteoarthritis. Maybe a torn meniscus.
Since April, I have tested negative for COVID eight times.
When you read this, I will have had a hysterectomy. Because of a potentially life-threatening complication, my surgery was rescheduled - I suddenly had only a week instead of a month and a half (!) to prepare my home for maximum accessibility during the lengthy healing process (appx 45 days).
During this time, I cannot work and cannot lift anything heavier than a normal sized coffee mug (my coffee mugs are so not normal sized). As there were post-surgical complications after my appendectomy 2.5 years ago, I am concerned 45 days is a bit optimistic.
Because I have been at my job for only seven months, I am not eligible for FMLA, and my position will end when I leave for surgery. This adds buckets of extra stressors that hadn't been in my original calculations. Do I have enough in savings? What if I can’t find a job when it’s time? If I have complications and need additional medical treatment, what will I do for insurance?
I wallowed in a deep four-day funk, complete with mild panic. My ADHD brain scrambled to find a solution, which is extremely difficult when there are so many unknowns. After frantic soul searching, convoluted math, and a few deep breaths, I know things will be okay. I came up with a game plan to help manage stress:
Identify what I can control vs. what I cannot.
What I CAN control
Continue preparation (surroundings, mental, and physical) for the surgery.
Strive for quality sleep every night, which is important to recovery and reduces stress.
Complete my employment on a positive note.
Foster my relationships with others with ADHD as they have brilliant minds and may have mechanisms for handling these sort of things.
What I CANNOT control
The job market.
Identify what is concrete, known information, vs what is unknown and nebulous.
Concrete, known information
I am currently employed.
I know my surgery date and have a timer to assist with awareness of the finite number of days/hours/minutes until I check in at the front desk.
The first two weeks post-surgery will be the most physically difficult.
I don’t have to do this alone.
How my body will react to the surgery or how long recovery will take.
What job opportunities will be available in December or beyond.
Now that my fears are sorted into neat little boxes, I can reassess the future. There is nothing I can actively do to affect things I cannot control or that I don’t know. Does this help the anxiety? Sometimes.
Separating things into smaller lists helps prevent overwhelm and inaction. I then take it a step further and write each thing onto its own index card, and place those I cannot affect out of sight. ADHDers sometimes have the object permanence of a toddler, so keeping the list out of sight/out of mind increases the chance my energies will be focused elsewhere.
So, I shall march forward in time, strive to make beneficial decisions each day, and reassess my world in a few weeks.The next few months will definitely bring tremendous change, so I continue to find great comfort, acceptance, and support with others with ADHD. Because of new understanding of myself and support from my neurodiverse family, I head into this new journey with hope, optimism, and kindness for myself, and that’s a very powerful thing.