I was speaking with a friend recently and we were talking about how our 20s just seem to be getting tougher instead of easier. She said to me, “literally is anyone actually happy?”.
We are bombarded with so much information nowadays, and social media means there is literally no escape from the horrible things that are happening in the world. From Elections, to Wars, to Poverty, to Cyber Bullying we see it all and I don’t think many people in their 20s are really mentally prepared to handle it all.
Bursting the Bubble of Happiness
For me as I trundle through my life trying to understand and control my brain and ADHD, I feel that every so often I reach a stage of happiness and then a bubble bursts, I discover something new about myself, and have to start all over again. This feeling is exasperating as I just never know when it will end. How many more bubbles are there to burst?
The more I learn, the more confused I get, the more issues I find out about myself, the harder it is to live my life knowing these things. Sometimes I feel that I am burdening myself with too much at once, but then other times I feel like it is the only way.
I am determined to overcome my addiction to everything, my “addictive personality”. I want to be able to relax and enjoy stimuli like a normal person, but I know this will be a long process.
Not Knowing How to Handle Emotions
Having spent my whole teenage years and early 20s drinking and taking drugs as much as possible I feel I never learned to handle emotions. Any time I felt any pain, hurt, rejection, shame, guilt – I turned to the bottle.
Untreated ADHD made it absolutely impossible to understand and know how to deal with emotions. It is a constant bombardment of every sound, every feeling, every thought all at once. It is completely overwhelming and unbearable at times.
Avoiding Pain or Negative Emotions
After I quit drinking and spent some time sober – self reflecting and analysing – I thought I was “cured”. I felt happy and fresh, I was distracted, and I was living in a beautiful city. What I didn’t realise was that this pattern of pain avoidance continued. I continued to avoid my pain or negative emotions from my relationship break-up with any possible stimulus.
Sex, drugs, exercise, dating apps (validation), or anything else that would give me a little buzz. I was much more cautious of drugs and had this under control but the other stimuli which fed my addiction to pleasure were still rife and I was oblivious to this.
The feeling of addiction is essentially just an addiction to Dopamine. We can experience this Dopamine rush from any stimulus that is exciting to us.
Addiction to Video Games
Interestingly enough, my Psychologist mentioned to me the role that Video Games have with people with ADHD and Addiction problems. She explained that a lot of people experience the intense Dopamine rush from video games at a young age, and this can actually change the brain chemistry.
Although they can be very beneficial in many ways, they can feed an addictive personality and lead to the quick reward system behaviour of addicts. Studies have shown that people with ADHD have no problem sitting and concentrating on a video game because of this quick-reward system.
I realised that when I was young, before I had a chance to become addicted to alcohol or drugs, I was insanely addicted to video games. I spent every second playing or thinking about video games. This is just another coping mechanism to hide from your brain, and a way to feed the pleasure system.
ADHD & Nicotine Addiction
After quitting alcohol, I hopped straight on to nicotine and started smoking shisha alone for at least 2 hours a day. My whole day revolved around smoking and getting this massive hit of Nicotine.
I was too naïve to understand the power of nicotine and after a few months I started to feel sick all day every day, until I smoked, due to the withdrawals. I was angry, irritable, negative and obsessed. Having this addiction to anchor me meant that I could avoid my emotions still, as this had taken over my life.
I had to quit smoking shisha after a year and when I went cold turkey, I decided to punish myself by quitting caffeine at the same time. The withdrawals were horrible – I had no energy for weeks, gained a stone (6.5kg), had the horrible feeling of loss – which I can only describe as the feeling of a friend dying – and was majorly depressed.
ADHD & Addiction to Work
As I overcame this and saw the addiction unrolling and my life returning back to normal my brain began to rapidly search for any new distraction and I started working insane overtime hours (by choice), 7 days a week. Working 70+ hours a week in an office completely drains you mentally and physically, so I had no time or energy to deal with the emotions I was experiencing.
As I never learned to deal with pain, rejection, guilt, shame, or any of the other negative emotions that people learn in their teenage years, I feel like these are all things that I have been intensely experiencing recently.
I am sick of running, self-medicating, acting selfishly and hurting people around me. It is time now to accept that sometimes I will be miserable, sometimes I will be depressed and that is okay!
I am also sick of letting ADHD control me and not being in full control of my mind. I am sick of searching for quick fixes and quick highs.
Learning to Live In The Present
In a recent meeting with my Psychologist we spoke about living in the past and future. She explained to me that living in the past causes depression, whereas living in the future causes anxiety. This made total sense. The regrets of the past can only bring us pain, and living constantly in the future causes us to panic, fear failure, and try and protect ourselves from any potential pain.
The real struggle, and what I am trying to learn to do now, is to live in the present. Question my motives for doing everything, question how my actions will affect other people and question if what I am doing will have a positive effect on my life.
This may seem obvious and simple for some people but I really struggle with this. ADHD generally makes you think of a million things, sometimes very abstract and unique things, but often this means that you can miss the obvious. Sometimes its easier to think of the bigger picture but impossible to think of what´s directly in front of you.
I am trying to avoid anything that does not make my life better, and anything that is a quick easy high. For normal people that is the obvious things like drugs and alcohol. For an addict with ADHD it is absolutely everything, from Whatsapp messages to over-exercise. It will be a tough learning curve but with the new year coming up I know it is time to take the plunge.
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