July 2017
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how I cope with my ADD-PI (other than meds): supplements, caffeine, music, water, book, food, sleep


icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

[a brief history of my ADD and of supplements I have tried]I didn't get diagnosed with ADD as a kid, like many who have ADD-PI (attention deficit disorder - primarily inattentive). But I grew up with an unsympathetic, controlling, abusive parent who also had ADD and had learned ways to cope with it. I was not allowed to forget things I was told to do, and when I said that I couldn't help it my parent told me that I must either do it immediately or find some way to remind myself (if I did not obey I was hit with a belt). So, though it was cruel and gave me some deep fears that attached my memory problems to my self-worth, coping that way got me through many years. I had many coping skills set up, but the main thing I used to get everything done was self-judgement, fear, and panic. If I forgot a plan with a friend, I was a terrible person (judgement) who everyone would hate (fear). If I didn't get an assignment done for school my world would collapse (panic). Not only were these things detrimental to my mental health, when my adrenal system got worn out they just stopped working. I could still work myself into a panic, but instead of getting things done I would start crying and hyperventilating. My biggest coping mechanism, writing literally everything I needed to remember in my google calendar, stopped working because I couldn't remember and stay on task long enough to put things in my calendar. When I nearly crashed my car three times in a month due to spacing out while driving (snapped back in just in time each time), that's when was certain that I could no longer cope without medication.

Near the beginning of this collapse of my coping skills, I began meeting with psychiatrists to try and get medication. But when you haven't been officially diagnosed via very expensive testing, nobody wants to prescribe a stimulant. It was nearly a year from the time I started trying to the time that I was actually prescribed something, and that was my psychiatrist sticking their neck out for me. During this time I tried so many things that are supposed to help with ADD and/or memory. Omega-3s didn't have an effect. Acetyl L-Carnitine has a mild effect and wasn't worth the price. Huperzine A had no effect. Lecithin (sunflower or soy) had no effect. Alpha GPC had a mild effect and wasn't worth the price. DMAE I am unsure about as I was changing medications when I tried it, and haven't tried it in a controlled way -- it seemed to have positive effect (as it has in rats). Ginkgo Biloba didn't seem to have much effect but I may have been taking too low a dose. Coconut Oil was too annoying to take in doses that would help (MCTs are supposed to help). Lean CLA helped moderately with my memory (as it has in rats) but was just too expensive (a 1-month supply is about $20). I am planning on trying Curcumin and possibly other suggestions from this list after that (I almost never try two new things at the same time because that is bad science).


Two supplements did have significant effect, and I now take them daily: choline (which I take at 900mg per day) and vinpocetine (which I take at 30mg per day) The brand and dose matters! some brands are ineffective or unclear about how much is in each pill. Of all the choline available on amazon right now I'd only recommend KRK Supplements (unless you can afford to spend significantly more, because there are better ones but not better ones for under $15). For vinpocetine I'd recommend Puritan's Pride or Swanson's. Both of these help so much with memory that if I run out, I can tell because my memory and focus gets noticeably worse within 3 days. Choline is helpful because it is one of the building blocks of the memory molecule acetylcholine -- and it is particularly helpful for vegetarians or anyone who avoids fatty meats or eggs, because that is the highest natural source (you'd have to eat 5 eggs per day to get the amount in my supplements, unless you ate them raw...). I had been vegetarian for at least 3 years when I learned this, so I think I had a significant deficiency. Vinpocetine increases blood flow to the brain.

I also take caffeine. When I did not have medication, I took caffeine pills (one in the morning and one halfway through the day) -- they're cheap, they really help and since it's just a pill, there isn't the block of having to go find coffee/soda/energy drinks AND they don't carry the sugar crash that a lot of drinks do. I either have a caffeine pill or a coffee every day.

And also, pretty much every single one of my coping skills is discussed in this book: Your Life Can Be Better -- which is written by a person who has ADD, so it is easy to read and absorb for ADD people (at least I think so). Most chapters are about 5 pages long. It is miraculously useful.

When trying to focus, listening to wordless, complex but steady music is very helpful. Also, taking breaks can be damn impossible, so drinking loads of water is actually helpful because eventually I HAVE to pee.

Eating regularly is very important. I'm sure there are additional factors, but one reason is that stress makes ADD worse, and not eating regularly means that your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. This does all kinds of negative things to your body. I am really bad about remembering to eat (which is a huge problem for ADD people since ADD fucks up your memory/focus and ADD meds reduce your appetite) so I try to carry some crackers or a food bar or some nuts, and eat according to a schedule rather than waiting for body signals which always come VERY late. I eat a fairly natural diet, but I know that MSG and artificial food dyes can cause ADD to be worse, so I'd recommend avoiding them.

Last but not least, getting enough sleep is vital. I had to train myself into regular sleep using melatonin (which should never be used in doses higher than 0.3mg (300 MICROkilograms) or for more than 3 months at a stretch! I learned this the hard way.), but now I can go to sleep easily 99% of the time and sleep for 7 hours and wake up rested. I am convinced that sleep is even more important for people with ADD than it is for neurotypical people. It's like a sleep-deprived neurotypical person has about as much focus as an ADD person does on a decent amount of sleep, so yeah, very important!


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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.