I’m sharing a guest post from my Beloved today. Calvin is sharing his thoughts & experiences with ADD, with helpful- and hopeful!– tips on living life well. Our heart is not to give people with ADD a “label,” but to see people equipped for living healthy, whole lives, glorifying God in the stewardship of their minds & bodies (and many creative talents). Don’t let the fear of a “stigma” of ADD keep you or your child from finding the necessary answers. Please.
It’s often a surprise to learn that most people with ADD are not hyperactive. I was 27 when I finally got the answers to why certain aspects of life were so much more challenging for me than for “normal” people.
There are actually six types of ADD/ADHD. Only two of the types include hyperactivity. The other four include symptoms of sluggishness, inattentiveness, excessive daydreaming (“lost in space”), and recurring depression. While much is written about all the types of ADD, I’ll focus on the type I was diagnosed with. (We highly recommend reading the book Healing ADD for a more detailed look at the different types.)
According to a new study in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the Mayo Clinic has estimated that up to 7.5% of school-aged children are affected by ADD/ADHD. With a condition so prevalent, it would be wise for those of us who believe in natural healing to be educated in what ADD/ADHD is, and how this unique way of a brain interacting with the world can be steered to glorify its Maker.
So what exactly is ADD/ADHD?
The acronyms stand for Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The two are actually two separate sets of symptoms which overlap enough to be combined into one field of study. While people with ADD have a wide range of symptoms and “quirks”, here are some of the core symptoms:
- Short attention span for routine tasks
- Easily distracted
- Problems being organized with space and time
- Problems with following-through
- Poor self-supervision
I could never seem to get organized, it was way too easy for me to be lost in brain space, I found it hard to concentrate on what people were saying during conversations, and I couldn’t really be motivated to do anything. Because I wasn’t really tuned in to the world around me, I didn’t remember much of what others said and did, or even what I said and did. I lived in a fog full of static.
Those who know me in any measure may still detect some of this in me. But the difference is how I’ve learned to manage ADD using tools and diet. Ultimately, one must accept the beauty of how God has made his brain, and then move forward to sift out the causes of undesirable behavior.
ADD isn’t a disease; it’s a way a human brain interprets and responds to the world around it. This difference in brain signals and chemistry can be both a blessing and a curse. The secret to thriving is to manage the curse and allow the blessing to shine.
Many people (often unaware of their ADD) tend to manage their brain chemistry with various unhealthy “self-medicating” coping mechanisms (often which help stimulate the neurotransmitter brain pathways that are deficient), to help bring back the “out-of-control” or depressed feeling to a more stable emotional state. These may include:
- Sugar/Energy Drinks
- Addictive Behaviors (drugs, alcohol, lust)
- TV/Movies/Video Games
To naturally manage ADD, there were a few basic dietary rules I had to learn to follow (which are standard aspects of a “real food” diet, anyway):
- Avoid simple “white” sugars and other simple carbs such as candy and white bread (very strong cravings are likely to occur for these initially, as you remove them from your diet!)
- Drink caffeine only in moderation (and none at all, at first)
- Eat a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fats, such as avocados and fish.
- A diet of additional foods to avoid/increase were tailored to this specific form of ADD from suggestions in the book Healing ADD (which focuses on the amino acid and sugar content of foods, such as peanuts and carrots, for example). We included many meals from the SCD diet, as well.
- Also, a high amount of physical exercise (at least 3 times per week)
In addition to foods, there are natural supplements that I learned about to help manage ADD. The main supplement for me was L-Tyrosine. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid used by the body to build dopamine, a neurotransmitter deficient in people who have my type of ADD.
Other good supplements were grapeseed extract and St. John’s Wort. These natural herbs are a powerful antioxidant and an antidepressant, respectively. The tendency for depression was especially noticeable during the seasonally “dark” winter months, and the dosage adjusted accordingly. My supplement dosages were designed by consultation with both our counselor and our physician.
While food and nutrition go a long way toward managing ADD, one must have tools to thrive with ADD. Here are a few more of my “life management” tips:
- Write things down.
- Tell the significant people in your life about your ADD and how they can help you. Don’t be dependent on people, but don’t keep people guessing why you act the way you do.
- Build routines in your life, and consciously put things away in their place as soon as you’re done with them.
- Be aware of your thought patterns, whether they are negative and depressing or positive.
- Consciously keep yourself from mentally jumping ahead in conversations. Engage people and listen in the present.
Trust me; all of this gets easier the more you practice. But you must purposefully practice what others take for granted.
Finally, be thankful. Historically, people with ADD were some of the most gifted and astonishing people, responsible for many of the inventions and ideas that bless countless lives. ADD lets you think outside the box. I had to come to a point where I accepted the fact that God made me this way on purpose. I’m not diseased, I’m blessed. Everyone else may find that hard to believe, but be patient with your growth. Give God control and the glory for successes.
You only have one life. Live it well.
Feel free to leave your questions in the comments section. If necessary, we can do a follow-up post.